What I Learned from Questioning Common Enrollment in Oakland Schools

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From left to right: Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Dr. Frank Adamson and Dr. Janelle Scott, speakers at the forum

Last night a standing room only crowd turned out for a forum on common enrollment in Oakland called Questioning Common Enrollment in Oakland Schools.  I was on a panel with scholars from across Northern California to discuss the idea of common enrollment and specifically, whether it has delivered on the promise of equity as has been indicated by the OUSD administration.

I am still digesting all that I heard and learned, but I have shared some of my biggest takeaways below.  I have also shared the slide decks that were shown, as well as video footage from the event, and you can access them by clicking on the links below.

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I was pleased that so many of my board colleagues were able to attend.  Directors Torres (pictured above, at left), Hinton Hodge and Senn were also there.

It was hot, we ran out of chairs and so many people had to stand or sit on the floor, and people still stayed an hour later than intended, because people were excited to have the discussion.  There was clear demand for more information about the community-based alternatives to the top-down, privatizing reforms, and so I am working with Dr. Vasquez Heilig to hold a second forum soon that will take a deeper dive into those.  Stay tuned for details on that.

Main Takeaways

1.For every top-down privatizing prescription that the ed reformers have, there is a community based reform that can be done in a more democratic way.  You can check out Dr. Vasquez Heilig's slides below to learn more about those.  That is what we need to work toward in Oakland, moving toward community-based democratic reforms and away from top-down, privatizing reforms.

2. We need to reclaim equity as a community concern.  It is not only about the rights of individual parents to have more choices in a 'market' of schools; it is about what our community demands for all Oakland students, not just some students.  Check out Dr. Scott's presentation slides below to learn more about how the right wing redefined equity to advance their privatization agenda.

3. School "choice" in many cases means that schools are picking their students, not that families choose schools.  Students are selected based on neighborhood, test scores, attendance at previous schools, sibling attendance, IEP designation, and history of discipline reports.  The impact of common enrollment in New Orleans has been very racialized, and bad for African American students in particular, who have experienced large-scale exclusion from the better options in the city.

I will be reading the report below that Dr. Scott referenced about how Oakland has been seen as a test case for many of these different top-down privatizing strategies, and may share some reflections on that in a future blog post. 

Access the Presentations

Dr. Janelle Scott's presentation

Dr. Frank Adamson's presentation

Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig's presentation

2007 report from the Center for Education Reform on Oakland as a national model for education reformers (referenced by Dr. Scott)

Video of the presentations given at the forum, courtesy of Steve Zeltzer from KPFA


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  • commented 2016-06-01 15:51:10 -0700
    The stellar presentations shed lots of light on issues that are crucial to the survival of democracy. I was reminded again about how those with money and power shape our thinking by controlling the information we get and the very language we use. I think many supporters of charters, like the rest of us, are not ’free to choose," because access to information and alternative viewpoints is limited. The forum was a powerful step in the right direction. Especially important: the mix of parents, teachers, educators and other community members. The schools belong to all of us. Pubic schools must serve the general welfare and the social good, not only the welfare individuals.
  • commented 2016-06-01 15:17:43 -0700
    Thanks for bringing more light to the issue. I really don’t like the way that the words “equity,” “reform,” and “choice” have been seized and redefined to support the privatization agenda. I just want better schools, across the board, particularly for disadvantaged children. I want solid, working wages for teachers. I want high-quality, well-maintained facilities for all students. I want schools offering full support services for students. I’m willing to pay more taxes to get all of that, and I think citizens of our state and city should be willing to do that too. I oppose the charter school privatization effort, and I hope that my school board representatives will act with the best interests of all Oakland students at heart.
  • followed this page 2016-06-01 14:12:55 -0700