Doing School Improvement Differently- Integration in Oakland

Oakland has a golden opportunity to make real lasting changes at two of its most impacted schools, through a happy coincidence of funding.  Whether it will take the opportunity is to be seen.

Last week OUSD announced  its receipt of the Federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) for two schools on the Havenscourt/Lockwwod Campus; Futures United and Community United elementary schools.  The grant runs 5 years and totals $17,246,920.  Which is serious money.

At the same time the federal education department has issued an RFP for SIG schools called Opening Doors and Expanding Opportunities,  to use economic desegregation as a means to school improvement.

From the rfp,

Through the Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities program, the Department invites interested LEAs and consortia of LEAs to apply for funding to develop ambitious blueprints focused on improving academic outcomes for students in SIG Schools or SIG-Eligible Schools by systematically increasing socioeconomic diversity, and offers the option to apply for funding for one or more Pre-Implementation Activities aligned to their blueprint. The Department seeks to support applicants who will explore and develop voluntary, community-led strategies that will positively impact the socioeconomic diversity in a significant percentage or number of SIG Schools or SIG-Eligible Schools where a substantial number of students are acutely impacted by a lack of student diversity, while also closing historic achievement gaps.

This grant lasts a little over 2 years, at up to $1.5 million a year.  Again pretty serious money especially when combined with SIG funds.

Integration works, hyper segregation doesn’t

There is a deep and wide body of research showing academic and social benefits of integrated schools.  And I don’t need a Ph.D, or to read any research to know that segregating students by race and income—or as is most often the case, hyper segregating them, when we create schools of almost all low income and  Black or Brown students. That is bad for kids, bad for schools, and bad for society.

Over the years Oakland has had a lot of school improvement planning and spent a lot of time and money, with mixed results at best.  It’s time we try something new.   Well something old that we have somewhat given up on.  There is money for it, there is public will for it across many political divisions, and the research backs it up.

Besides a little bureaucratic inconvenience I can’t think of any good reason not to try.


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