Why Don’t We Have More Paideias


A weird thing happened last night at the OUSD Board meeting.  A real, substantive, solution oriented, question was asked by the Oakland Education Association; why don’t we have more Paideias?

Paideia is the wildly popular and academically successful Oakland Tech program that students actually return from private middle schools to come back into the OUSD (shocking I know).  It’s not new, its success is not new, so why haven’t we worked to develop something similar at Fremont or Mack, or as a stand-alone somewhere in the Deep East or Deep West?

Coming back to Oakland after a decade away, it’s the same crap, same large high schools that are struggling, same types of turnaround strategies, and it seems like the same outcomes more or less.  At the same time we have some very popular and successful District schools and programs, that are oversubscribed, deliver strong outcomes, and basically don’t grow or replicate.

And when you look at the more popular schools in Oakland (that aren’t necessarily in the Hills) most of them are survivors of the New Small Autonomous Schools movement—LIFE Academy, Met West, Urban Promise, Think College Now, Ascend among others.  There is probably another takeaway there for another day.

So instead of these endless dizzying turnarounds—which haven’t seemed to work.  How about a deliberate partnership and replication strategy?  Why don’t we grow another Paideia in Fremont, or a LIFE 2 at Castlemont, a Met Deep West at Mack, borrowing best practices, and developing staff in the initial school who can carry the vision to the new one, with an ongoing partnership to support quality.

Returning to Oakland it’s depressing to see the same mess, hear the same talk over and over, while we see basically the same dismal results for our most deserving students.  So we keep redesigning our “failing” high schools when we have designs that work.

Replication happens all the time in charter schools, and tends to be an effective strategy—why not with the District?

And while recent OUSD meetings have been spectacles of the absurd, with OEA BAMN caucus members ranting and rambling about “Jim Crow”, this was a welcome return to sanity. Thank you OEA for asking that question.

I think I am still waiting for a good answer.

What do you think?

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