Previous newsletters are archived and shared here.
Good article in the Nation on the teachers' strike in West Virginia and just how far-reaching their wins really are.
Good blog from Steven Singer about how school choice reinforces selfishness, rather than solidarity, among parents.
Great article from The Atlantic on how the Trump changes to taxation in the US undermine public education, but also about how the rhetoric of school choice is misleading. "The very notion of school choice operates under a false pretense—an assumption that every child has the same set of choices to make and the same places to choose from. It doesn’t contend with the host of structural factors including housing, transportation, and low-wage jobs that preclude parents in poverty from taking advantage of opportunities presented under the guise of choice. Nor does it acknowledge that the disparities in school funding and quality are not simply grounded in the different socioeconomic demographics of neighborhoods, but rather are the result of decades of public-policy decisions meant to socially and economically isolate black people and many immigrants.
This makes especially dangerous the free-market logic of school choice, which operates in a paradigm of winners and losers rather than treating quality education as a universal public good with investments that intend to help all children. The new tax provisions will reinforce the misperceptions about school choice and their consequences.
The rhetoric around competition reflects either a misunderstanding or purposeful ignoring of how schools are beginning at the same proverbial starting line, when in fact structural disparities such as property-tax funding continue to stagger these starting lines.
Helpful analysis from David Berliner at Arizona State on the importance of reflecting on student demographics when interpreting performance data. The biggest achievement gaps are NOT between US students and other students internationally; it's between students in poverty and not in poverty within the US. Fixing student achievement requires us to address economic inequality, period.
Good article from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post about improving teacher retention. High turnover is not inevitable! Several American states, including Massachusetts and other New England states, have teacher attrition rates well below 5 percent. It is not surprising that these states also have policies and conditions associated with increased retention, such as competitive compensation, high-quality training, few entrants through low-quality backdoor routes and positive working conditions.
Here is a directory of OUSD departments and key staff.
Fascinating journal article "Outsiders with deep pockets: the nationalization of local school board elections," which sheds light on why there has been so much spending from outside of Oakland, in Oakland School Board races.
Fact sheet about Oakland renters from PolicyLink. None of this should surprise any Oaklander who sees the growing number of homeless encampments, but still useful info on our housing situation here in Oakland.
If you missed our Bringing Sanctuary to the Classroom event, you can see the opening here. I come on at about 9:00.
This is a really well-articulated argument about the problem with school choice. Communities have an interest in public education too, so it's not only individual students and families' choices that matter.
Skyline High School students are national debate champions this year! Check out this video celebrating their win.
Good report from In the Public Interest about how charter school operators can profit from public funds for facilities when schools close. California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. A new report from national nonprofit In the Public Interest has found that much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on underperforming, unnecessary, or discriminatory charter schools. In the worst cases, public facilities funding has gone to schools that have engaged in unethical or corrupt practices.
Well-researched report that details the impact of charter schools on public school students in LAUSD. Many of the same impacts have occurred here in Oakland, in particular the costs to OUSD of dealing with the large number of charter schools, which are not covered by the oversight fee, declining enrollment and dumping of more costly students, in particular Special Education students.
Video from a rally where I spoke against the Betsy DeVos nomination. I come on at about 20:00.
Article from The Atlantic about how charter schools have fueled racial segregation in Charlotte NC and Minneapolis.
Article from NPR about 5 Big Ideas in Education that Do Not Work.
A great article from the East Bay Express that details how many 2016 School Board races are funded. Full disclosure: I am quoted in the article. "How a Handful of Pro-Charter Billionaires Flooded Oakland's School Board Elections with Cash."
New report from the Independent Media Institute on the privatization of public education in America. Check it out here.
I participated in a District 6 election forum on the 2016 ballot measures and how they are related to racial justice. You can see the video here.
Please share widely with the active folks you know in District 6. This is a list of the food distribution sites in our district.
This article in Mother Jones details the impact of privatizing education reforms on black teachers in the US.
This is an informative piece from KQED news about segregation in Oakland schools. We are committed to addressing this issue, but are just getting started. We have a long way to go.
A good piece from Economic Policy Institute on the teacher pay gap, and how to fix it.
Great piece from The Atlantic Monthly about how public schools are actually better now than at any time in US history, despite the rhetoric of corporate school reformers. The point he makes is that school improvement is hard, but that we are getting there slowly but surely, and that the desire to dismantle the public school system is likely to do more harm than good.
Some critics of school choice say that it is charter schools who have choices, and not families. If you have ever wondered about how charter schools get the students that they want, this piece from Reuters may interest you.
This article details how state takeovers of school districts have further harmed students of color, and also defrauded the public of badly needed resources in communities of color.
This is a great infographic that summarizes how state takeovers of school districts rob communities of color of control of their schools, and how they do not improve the academic outcomes for students.
Two good articles on the community schools strategy here and here. OUSD is a community schools district, but not all of our schools have community schools managers, or bilingual staff, or family engagement staff. Understaffing in these positions hinders our ability to build relationships with families and to help parents support their students.
Check out this great piece from the New York Times about how teacher residencies can be used to improve teacher training and retention. I am in favor of us trying this in Oakland. It is expensive, but so is dealing with the consequences of the high turnover rate we have in Oakland, and the need to invest in credit recovery for students who are not well prepared by their inexperienced teachers. This is about what our students deserve, which is better prepared teachers, but also what our teachers deserve, which is to be ready to serve our students, and for us to invest sufficiently in their prepararation.
This article about Detroit illustrates one of our big problems in Oakland, which is the abundance of school "choice," even though most of the available "choices" do not provide students the opportunities they need. For me the main takeaway is that school choice is meaningless unless you have good schools to choose from. The large number of charter schools in Detroit has not improved the choice set that families have, and introducing common enrollment will not do that, either (at least, it hasn't in the cities like Denver and New Orleans that have tried it). That is why I believe the focus needs to be on strengthening our democratic schools that serve all students, rather than bringing charter schools into our enrollment system through common enrollment.
This video is of me and fellow panelists at a May 2016 forum I hosted on the question of equity and common enrollment, Questioning Common Enrollment in Oakland Schools. It features Dr. Janelle Scott from UC Berkeley, Dr. Frank Adamson from Stanford's SCOPE center and Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig from Sacramento State University. And this piece was distributed at the forum. It is from the Center for Education Reform, and is about how Oakland (in 2007) was seen as a model for how other districts could be targeted for top-down privatization reforms.
If you have ever wondered what the big deal is about teacher tenure, this piece by Peter Greene is a good illustration. The bottom line is that tenure, while not a perfect system, allows teachers to advocate for students and to speak up when students are being served poorly, without having to fear losing their jobs.
A great New York Times article about what works to improve schools and what does not. Unfortunately, most of what has been tried in Oakland are the things that have failed in Newark, NJ and other districts, as described in the article.
A good article that explains how the wealth of communities affects the educational outcomes of students in that community. There are people who believe that the amount of resources a given district has is not a determinant of the success of those students. This article makes a strong case (and I agree) that resources are absolutely a critical factor in the success of students, largely because resources drive staffing, both the sheer number of adults that available to students, but also the salaries that districts are able to offer to attract qualified staff.
Video of an interview with KDOL at my Taking Action on Attendance conference in September 2015. See the video here.
A great report from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools about school takeovers and how they disenfranchise communities of color by taking away their control of their schools.
I was on a panel at Netroots Nation 2015 about creating a more reflective democracy. See the video here.
The most influential piece I have read on what we can do to improve schools, called Turning Around a High Poverty District: Learning from Sanger. I encourage everyone who cares about Oakland schools to read this. Bottom line: There are no quick fixes, and we already have everyone and everything we need. What we need is a focus on capacity building for continuous improvement, and TIME (a lot of it) for teachers to plan, collaborate and learn together, over many years.
Meet some amazing Oakland youth! I moderated a panel on what Oakland youth need (and how they benefit) from libraries. You can see it here.
A great tool from the Family Engagement staff at Fremont High School to help parents understand the benefits of being involved in the school, as well as the many opportunities for involvement. Click here to view or download it.
Video interview with Shonda Scott about my priorities for my time on the School Board. Click here to view it.
Video interview with Vicente Cruz of the Oakland Green Party: http://youtu.be/TSOij1hCIKw
District 6 School Board Candidate Forum (League of Women Voters). Click here to view it.