Happy New Year! As we start 2019, we thought it would be valuable to look back at 2018. It was a year of student-centered progress in Oakland public education, and we can build on that work in the daunting year ahead.
The challenges we must face in 2019 are not new. After all, we are seeking to disrupt generations of injustice for our most underserved students. Our approach, therefore, must learn from our history and innovate with new solutions. We must figure out a way to pay teachers more and empower them with more budget, support, and flexibility at school sites. We must address the fact that Oakland has way too many low-quality public schools and figure out a way to build on the better ones so that they can serve more. We must bridge past political divides and forge a new coalition that will take collective responsibility for all our children.
We did some of this in 2018. Others did, as well. Last year, we were proud to work in partnership with leaders and organizations across Oakland, and we look forward to doing so again in 2019 to improve our education system for our most vulnerable children and families:
1. Community of Schools Policy Passed
After extensive advocacy and hundreds of one-to-one and community meetings facilitated by the GO Public Schools 1Oakland team, on June 27, 2018 the OUSD Board approved the Community of Schools Policy. This bold policy aims to increase access to great public school options for Oakland students using quality, equity, utility, sustainability, and community as its guiding principles. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell stated that the policy “is consistent with our value of putting Students First. We know that we must forge a new path forward to make sure our schools work for all students, in every neighborhood.”
2. Parent-Powered Opportunity Ticket Campaign Launched
The Oakland REACH, a powerful coalition of parents and grandparents fighting for quality education for all kids, worked in partnership with SoBEO (State of Black Education in Oakland) to launch the Opportunity Ticket campaign at the December 12 OUSD Board Meeting, with over 150 parents in attendance to support. This landmark policy would provide low-income students at closing schools priority enrollment preference for any school in Oakland above neighborhood preference.
3. New Student-Voice Policy Proposals Released
In 2018, Oakland student fellows from Energy Convertors produced over 20 written pieces and videos, sharing honest reflections on the issues most profoundly impacting education today. At the culmination of their first academic year they released four policy proposals which, in partnership with the State of Black Education, stand to profoundly reshape the Oakland public education landscape.
4. Improved Teacher Retention & Development Opportunities Flourished
Heading into the third year of our teacher engagement survey and grants through our educator-designed Teacher Retention Grant Program, we’re supporting retention programs at 10 Oakland public schools in 2018-19. Grantees in 2017-18, including Greenleaf Elementary, Life Academy, Madison Park, and Lazear Charter Academy, collectively retained an additional 25+ teachers into 2018-19! Additionally, we are pleased to share that the Alder Graduate School of Education, an innovative and immersive teacher residency program, is on track for accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges this spring. Through partnerships already in place with Lighthouse and Envision, Alder is supporting a vision to grow teachers already committed to and working within school communities.
5. Student-Centered Redesign Initiated
Started by a small group of OUSD principals, a design team of district teachers, community members, and school leaders came together last year to study how to bring more resources and control closer to the classroom. In addition to researching Oakland’s rich history of innovation, they jointly visited two districts in Massachusetts and one in Denver to see the latest version of this sort of in-district flexibility, called “innovation” or “empowerment” zones. In 2019, this work can hopefully become part of implementing the Community of Schools policy.
6. Transformational Schools Progressed
Last year, we created and piloted a robust Transformational Schools Review process in order to help schools identify how best to accelerate student achievement. In Fall 2018, we conducted Transformational Schools Reviews in eight Oakland schools. We gathered and analyzed artifacts and documents, conducted interviews with students, parents and teachers, and spent time in classrooms. Participating schools have used this diagnostic process to set goals and create their school improvement plans.
7. Despite Challenges, Innovative New Schools Persevered
Three innovative schools made strides this school year, all in different phases of innovation: Oakland School of Language (OSOL), entered its second year as a OUSD’s only dual language middle school. Aurum Preparatory Academy kicked off its first year in deep East Oakland as a new charter public middle school with a focus on rigor and character development. Latitude High, a new public charter high school from Education for Change Public Schools, launched its innovative “city as its classroom” model – and their students recently got to visit Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, and were awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the Oakland-based XQ Institute.
8. New Oakland Achieves Report Released
Oakland Achieves released a report showing how all Oakland schools are doing on state Dashboard indicators. It was downloaded hundreds of times and reached tens of thousands more on social media, helping advocates across the city refocus public dialogue on quality for Oakland kids. The state’s new multi-measure system goes beyond academic data to focus additionally on campus culture and climate. This data helped inform the work of The Oakland REACH to push all public schools around better results for low-income African American students.
9. Enrollment Continued Improvement & Partnership
Last year, Enroll Oakland increased applications by 45% to nearly 15,000, reaching more families than ever before through extensive outreach, working with community organizations and connecting with students and their families at schools. Now in its third year, Enroll Oakland continues to deepen its partnership with OUSD and Oakland public charter schools to give parents, especially those historically denied school choice, genuine access to better public school options—and support them every step of the way. And let’s remember the open enrollment deadline for the 2019-20 school year is this coming February 8 for all district and charter schools!
We know that 2019 will bring continued challenges for our most vulnerable students, stress for our educators, budget pressure on schools, and many difficult decisions and tradeoffs for our systemwide leaders. Yes. And. On a daily basis, we are blessed to witness the power of collaboration and community, and we see what is possible when teams of dedicated teachers, families and leaders work together in service of children. Thank you to all of our partners in 2018. Let’s make even more progress for Oakland students in 2019!
– Gloria, Carolyn, Rachel, Sara, David, Maribel, Carrie, Michael, Bela and Isaac