The Data We Need to Understand Oakland’s Public School Sectors and Why We Don’t Have it

There is some powerful data coming out on school performance and operations in Oakland, often comparing charter public schools and the district schools.  The challenge comes in interpreting it.  Charter school overall outcomes are stronger than the district’s, particularly at the middle and high schools, but is that because charters are actually doing a better job, or is it because they have higher achieving students to start with.

It is an important question, and one I honestly don’t know the answer to.

But I could, we all could.

The study we need

We need a real cross sector study of Oakland students that follows them in their academic careers, and tracks and compares their progress.  A real cohort study.  If a child is in a public school, we know where they went, because eventually that school will collect the per pupil funding from the state.  So charters and district schools should be covered.  But given the 17,572 students that aren’t in either I would try to enlist the private schools as well, and adjoining districts.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done.  We did it in NYC with 1.1 million students, and over a thousand schools.  You could see year to year growth, and compare it to average growth for similar students, and look at real attrition rates.   You can also look at school lotteries, who got in, who didn’t, and then compare the progress of the two groups.   This serves as an imperfect but relatively good randomized trial.

Why don’t we have it

So with 50,000 or so students and less than 200 schools why can’t we do it here?

We have a top university, Cal, a laggard that might be interested, Stanford (Go Bears), on the ground research in Oakland Achieves, and I bet we could get voluntary information sharing, if there wasn’t a way to just do it automatically.

We have big strategic decisions to make in Oakland that will affect the shape and future of the City’s public schools.  And the data we are getting now is in some ways the best it has ever been, but it’s not good enough.   We need to invest in that next step to not only start asking the right questions, but getting the right answers.

There is no good reason this has not been done, except that we haven’t yet done it—and we should.



Inconvenient Truths in Oakland’s Charter School Wars

Oakland has more school aged children that don’t attend a district or charter public school (17,572), than attend charters (11,774).  Further OUSD has only lost 55 students since 2013-14, declining from 36,869 students to 36,814.  These facts found in last week’s Board packets, further challenge the narrative that charters are the problem in OUSD and that declining enrollment is driving the fiscal crisis.  And to get to solutions we need to start with facts.

With all the yelling from a small contingent about charters being “the devil” we are missing what is really happening.  And until we face the facts and the real challenges we will never solve them. Charter schools are not the main area where the district is losing students, and in the recent history, OUSD is barely declining.  Further, that decline is within its control. OUSD has a whole set of structural challenges it needs to reckon with, and until it addresses those, no amount of scapegoating will help.

Where are 17,572 Oakland Youth?

More Oakland youth, do not attend an Oakland public school (district or charter) than attend charter schools.  Check the numbers, of the 65,740 school age youth in Oakland, 36,392 went to a district school, 11,774 went to a charter and a whopping 17,572 students went to neither a district school nor charter.

Smartly OUSD’s enrollment office is reaching out to these parents. But why isn’t the status of these children a priority and subject of debate?

Is Declining Enrollment the Root of Fiscal Problems?

OUSD has decreased by only 55 students since 2013-14 according to the FICMAT report. That is fewer than the number of entering students at OUSD’s newly opened Oakland School of Language. And while some of those students likely would have attended other OUSD schools, some of them would not have.  Check the table below.

OUSD is a smaller district than it was 10 years ago, but to blame the current fiscal crisis on declining enrollment is missing other contributing factors. And until we address those structural challenges in the OUSD budget, we will never right the ship.

Why it Matters

Our current charter versus district narrative misses the larger issues taking place, and will not help us solve them.  Yes charters are a convenient scapegoat, and yes charters may contribute to some of the districts woes.  But the issue is really one of quality and access.  Some OUSD schools are under-enrolled and some schools get 5 applications for every seat.  In many cases families are not satisfied with the schools they have and vote with their feet, or pocketbooks.

Truth be told, you could hypothetically eliminate every charter, and the district would still have the same problems and families in Oakland would have even more.  Nobody can make a credible argument that things were better for Black and Brown children in Oakland before charters, check the numbers.

Blaming charters does not help kids, families or the district.  OUSD needs to take a hard look at its portfolio of schools, structure of its budget, and the familiar areas of overrun.  It also needs to find a productive way to engage with the charter community, and coordinate to better and more equitably serve families.

It is time for us to get to facts in Oakland.  And while scapegoats may rally the partisans, they don’t carry us towards solutions.

They stall us while our real problems fester.

Oakland Education Week Preview 8/28/17

What’s happening in education in Oakland this week?  Several conferences, a board study session, back to school happy hour for Black teachers and more, take a look

8/28 28 at 6 PM – 8:30 PM Educating the Black Child: Preparing for Trump Era Education Charlottesville. Threat of nuclear war. Cuts to social programs that are desperately needed for the common good. A true demonstration of Trump’s America. During all of this, we still need to ensure the future of our young people of color. This edition of Educating the Black Child is a strategy session, bringing together the artist, activist and educators, to strategize on behalf of the Black child and the future of their educational opportunities. We will be in conversation with Dr. Wilmer Leon of Inside the Issues on Sirius XM, Sheryl Davis of the SF Human Rights Commission and LaShawn Chatmon of the National Equity Project. There will be live performance and discussion with former Oakland Poet Lauriette Obasi Davis. Moderated by Candice and Hodari Davis of Edutainment for Equity.

8/30 OUSD Board Study Session – This appears to be a session looking at some of the legal and practical hurdles to bringing county authorized charter schools under OUSD authorization.  Details are scant right now.

8/31 Back to School Happy Hour for Black Teachers-A Black Teacher Project Rejuvenation Space Time: 5:30pm to 7:00pm, Location: Bissap Baobab in San Francisco, Address: 3372 19th St., San Francisco Cost: Free–join The Black Teacher Project for happy hour at Bissap Baobab in San Francisco for an evening of affinity with other Black teachers. The Black Teacher Project has a full schedule of programming coming up, so we will present highlights of our calendar while offering fellowship, network building and appetizers. We can’t wait to catch up!

Further out

September is Attendance Awareness Month. This year’s theme is Engagement = Attendance to emphasize the important role that everyone can play in creating a welcome and engaging school environment that motivates students and families to come to school every day. Teachers and school staff can access a wealth of tools and information at the Attendance Works, including the Count Us In! Toolkitfree webinars, and a way to sharehow their organization or school community will be participating.

Sign up for school work days with the Ed Fund

School Volunteer Fair

From September 5th to 12th, the documentary film Most Likely To Succeed will screen worldwide. Audiences can watch via free online broadcast, schools and community hosts can screen the film at no charge, and anyone can pre-order a copy of the film for their class, library, school system, or community. In addition, virtual panels and Q&As will be hosted with experts from the film and other thought leaders in 21st century education. Throughout the week, organizers will also feature stories of the film’s impact in classrooms across the country, and share new, easy ways to experiment with innovation in your schools. To get more information on how to participate–including how to sign-up to host a screening–complete this sign up form.

9/9-Sanctuary schools conference- Bringing Sanctuary to the Classroom is a convening by Oakland educators, for Oakland educators who are prepared to stand up for our families and empower our students to be allies for each other.-This event will include: Keynote Speaker: Artist Favianna Rodriguez, Sat, September 9, 2017, 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM PDT Add to Calendar LOCATION-Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, CA 94607

9/9Great Oakland Public Schools Block Party— GO Oakland will be hosting its first Block Party on September 9th from 1pm to 4pm at the 100 Block of Linden Street in Oakland. The event will feature food from local vendors, drinks, great music, and kid-friendly activities. In addition, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell will share some of her priorities for the years ahead.

9/21Charter School Board Member Training on Brown Act and Conflict of Interest laws
OFQS and Urban Montessori Charter School are co-hosting a charter board member training on the Brown Act and Conflict of Interest laws. Please RSVP to UMCS’ Board Chair, Greg Klein, at [email protected] if you plan to attend.  September 21st from 5:00-7:00pm
Urban Montessori Charter School – Monarch Butterfly Library, 5328 Brann Street, Oakland, CA 94619

9/23Oakland Public Education Fund Gala-:

9/29th-30th Inaugural Northern California Autism Symposium Brings Research, Advocacy Experts to Northern CaliforniaIn partnership with The Yellow Door, Regional & Continuing Education at California State University, Chico will present the Inaugural Northern California Autism Symposium on Sept. 29 and 30 on the University campus. The program will include concurrent sessions and a keynote address for professionals and parents/guardians of individuals and children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Session topics include family relationship building, behavior modification, whole health, incorporating social skills in movement activities, and teaching motor skills at home, among others.

10/17-18-  What is Waldorf-Inspired Trauma-Sensitive Education? by Mr. Bernd Ruf Tuesday, Oct. 17, 6pm – 7pm How To Care For the Care Giver by Dr. Christopher Huditz, MD, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6pm – 7pm at the Community School for Creative Education 2111 International Boulevard, Oakland California

11/1 Decolonizing California History Join us in our November lecture to deconstruct the mainstream narrative about the history California.  Lets examine this narrative from a decolonized lens.  by California Indian Museum and Cultural Center  Sat, November 11, 2017,12:30 PM – 2:30 PM PST Location=California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, 5250 Aero Drive , Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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Great School Voices’ Oakland Education Week in Review August 25th

See what happened this week in Oakland education, the state, and also check out some great causes to support locally


OUSD kicked off the school year – On the first day of school, Monday, August 21, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell traversed the District stopping at seven different schools to see first day learning in progress.

Here is a video made by the staff at OUSD TV station, KDOL showing the excitement of the Superintendent’s tour of the District.

Oakland opens a new dual immersion middle school – Oakland SOL, there was coverage from KTVU, Hoodline did a more substantive piece on it-Oakland’s 8th Dual-Language School Opens In Coliseum District

Enrollment is still happening in Oakland and we covered some tips for familiesImportant Tips For Oakland Families Still Looking for the Best School For Their Child

Gotta love the Warriors coming out to make the start of school special for kids at KIPPWarriors star Klay Thompson donates basketball court to local kids

Our school board president weighed in on the illegal dumping and the need to provide safe, clean routes to schoolsOpinion: Make routes to Oakland schools both safe and clean

At the OUSD Board meeting the student director requested that schools named for controversial presidents be changedShould Oakland Rename Schools with Racist Origins?

McClymonds High has a lead problemOakland High School, District Tackle High Levels of Lead in Water

OUSD Board of Education Accountability Dashboards-Go Public Schools launched Board Accountability dashboards. These dashboards will provide the public with easy access to legislation, Director votes, and Director attendance. Click on the buttons below to explore. Vote Tracker  Attendance TrackerCheck out the blog post outgoing Manager of Data and Advocacy Strategy Ryan Beck Turner wrote about our inspiration for creating these tools.


Dyslexia is finally getting its due attention, though not its due fundingDyslexia, once the reading disability that shall not be named, comes into its own in California

We are finally getting smart about developing our natural human resourcesSpanish-speaking teachers getting special training to meet California’s demand for more bilingual teachers

The 74 looks at why support for charters has dropped in a recent pollBertelli: Why a Recent Drop in Charter School Support Is Not About Charter School Quality

California’s state accountability plan to the Feds was heavily criticized for not dealing with low performing schoolsNational group sharply criticizes state’s plan for Every Student Succeeds Act

Another story of school officials using ICE as a threat to familiesSuit says Pasadena principal threatened to call ICE on parent, guardian

Good Causes to Support

A Grieving Family who Suffered the Ultimate Loss- Support the Lopez Family

The community of Lazear Charter Academy is suffering the devastating loss of two of its students, Ezequias Lopez in first grade and Nixon Lopez in sixth grade. On the evening of August 16th, the brothers were killed in a car accident on International Blvd while riding with their mother, Magda Ovallez.  You can see their Go Fund Me page here to help

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Robot Kits for Innovative East Oakland Middle School- SOL- Help an educator help his students

My students need these amazing and affordable programmable robots to start learning about coding and engineering! Please visit their Donors Choose page

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Should Oakland Rename Schools with Racist Origins?

The controversies of Charlottesville and confederate monuments are coming home to Oakland, raised by the All City Council, and voiced by our new student director at the OUSD Board meeting.  Looking at some of our school names, and the historic figures that inspired them—should we change them?  Two schools in particular were identified—though I bet if we dug deeper there would be more candidates.

So, let’s take a look.

Theodore (“the only good Indian is a dead Indian”) Roosevelt Middle School

Roosevelt Middle school, formerly Roosevelt High, named for Theodore Roosevelt.

And what does history say about him?  From PBS’s The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow

 The election of Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 heralded one of the first Presidential administrations openly opposed to civil rights and suffrage for blacks. Roosevelt is remembered for inviting the black leader and entrepreneur, Booker T. Washington, to the White House for dinner, the first instance of such an invitation for a black person. Southern Democrats were offended, and were vocal in their disapproval. Though Washington’s visit was distinctive in its novelty, Roosevelt invited Washington not to improve the situation of blacks, but because they agreed that blacks should not strive for political and social equality…. President Roosevelt believed blacks were intellectually inferior, and began to decrease the number of federal appointments to blacks and promised Southerners that he would appoint local federal officials that would not disrupt the accord between north and south.

And even worse, from Indian country today

When Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, he already had a long legacy of animosity toward American Indians. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are,” Roosevelt said during a January 1886 speech in New York. “And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

Roosevelt’s seven and a half years in office were marked by his support of the Indian allotment system, the removal of Indians from their lands and the destruction of their culture. Although he earned a reputation as a conservationist—placing more than 230 million acres of land under public protection—Roosevelt systematically marginalized Indians, uprooting them from their homelands to create national parks and monuments, speaking publicly about his plans to assimilate them and using them as spectacles to build his political empire.

That says about enough for me.

Herbert (the Lily White Policy) Hoover

How about Hoover Elementary, here’s some info from the DailyKos

 W.E.B. DuBois, the founder of the NAACP, saw Hoover as a “sinister enemy of the black race.”…

Up until Herbert Hoover, a majority of African-Americans had supported the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln. Hoover changed all that with his Lily White Policy, a plan devised to get African-Americans out of the Republican Party and bring in the white Southerners. He’s responsible for developing the Southern strategy that Nixon, Reagan and Bush would later embrace. He turned the party of big business into the white man’s party.

Herbert Hoover was a white supremacist. He believed blacks were inherently inferior and wanted to get rid of any blacks from positions of authority and power in the Republican Party. Hoover’s racism is manifest in his response to the great Mississippi Flood of 1927, his Supreme Court picks, and his use of patronage to strip blacks of power. He even fought against anti-lynching laws…

He also indiscriminately deported Mexicans and American Citizens with Mexican heritage, again from the DailyKos

 It was Hoover who deported over two million people, many of which were legal American citizens. Anyone with a Mexican-sounding name had their property confiscated and were shipped to Mexico City.

This doesn’t seem like a tough call either.

Better (S)heroes Needed

There is a Board policy on naming of schools, and we should invoke it.

Like most of what I hear from the student directors, their argument makes a lot of sense to me, and I think it would probably make sense to those school leaders, from what I know of them.

And I get that these figures were “products of their times” but John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Dubois and others grew in those times too, and rose above the racism that these two men embraced and used.  And they ain’t no heroes to me and shouldn’t be figures we celebrate to the very children they worked against.