Welcome back to our month in review at Great School Voices, where we’ll provide you, our readers, with a blast of all of the top education news from the past month.
Since this is our first post for 2022, we’ve also included some of the pieces and authors we’ve been reading on topics facing Oakland and the nation, including school closures, Board elections, and affirmative action since the beginning of this year.
News to Know
According to new data released by the California Department of Education, enrollment in public schools continues to drop more quickly than it did before the pandemic, stirring fears of more budget cuts and long-term financial instability for schools.
Parents, students, teachers, and staff opposed to the closures have organized rallies, marches, and a teach-in over the last couple months to challenge the board’s decision. But OUSD board members who support the plan have remained staunch in their opinion that the closures are needed to ensure the district’s long-term financial health, and have given no indication that they’ll reverse or reconsider their decision.
This June, Oakland voters will help to elect Alameda County’s next superintendent of schools. Over the next four years, that person will lead the Alameda County Office of Education—an institution that’s little understood by many Oaklanders, yet plays an important role in our city’s education landscape.
Two candidates are running: Incumbent L.K. Monroe is seeking a third consecutive term and has campaigned on a message of stable leadership through the pandemic and a continuation of her efforts to strengthen work-based learning and social and emotional support for students. Her challenger is Alysse Castro, executive director of county schools in San Francisco, who wants to see the Alameda County Office of Education greatly expand its support and training offered to school districts.
Paul Quinn College, a historically Black school in Dallas, has launched a committee to explore an expansion to the Bay Area, with a specific focus on Oakland. While establishing a new campus would be years away, the idea is energizing Oakland education leaders about what it could mean for Black high schoolers, who attend college at lower rates than other groups.
At the start of the pandemic, only 12 percent of low-income students, and 25 percent of all students, in Oakland’s public schools had devices at home and a strong internet connection. David Silver, the director of education for the mayor’s office, said people talked about the digital divide, but there had never been enough energy to tackle it. Once the pandemic hit, suddenly everyone was paying attention, said Silver, a former Oakland public school teacher and principal.
Now, two years into the pandemic, Oakland has been able to connect 98 percent of the students in the district. As of February, the city had provided nearly 36,000 laptops and more than 11,500 hot spots to low-income public school students. While some students remain unconnected, Oakland’s effort has emerged as an example of how to tackle a citywide digital divide.
-This was to have been a year of school recovery, but instead has been turbulent, buffeted by waves of Covid infections. Charter school leaders say they have been consumed with keeping schools open, and have put off thinking about growing again. They and districts face the same headwinds: an immediate teacher and staff shortage, rising chronic absences, huge questions about enrollment next year and long-term projections of a double-digit decline statewide over the next decade.
After years of prioritizing English-only classes for students who spoke other languages at home, California is now pushing to expand bilingual programs for all students. But the state has a huge hurdle: It needs more bilingual teachers.
In part, the low number of bilingual teachers is a lingering legacy of Proposition 227, which voters passed in 1998 and then repealed in 2016. Proposition 227 required English learners to be taught in English-only classrooms unless their parents signed a waiver.
Celebrating Earth Day
|Young Oakland climate activists want fossil fuels out of the teachers’ pension fund (oaklandside.org)|
|$3 million from MacKenzie Scott to REACH for more! – The Oakland REACH Celebrations|
A deep felt congratulations to one of our partners, the Oakland REACH, with Mackenzie Scott’s $3 million gift on their fifth year anniversary to further revolutionize the work they do. Enjoy this brief news clip from last month, and stay tuned here. We’ll have our own feature about this amazing team and organization!
On Oakland’s School Closures
School closures in Oakland have been top of mind since they were leaked to the press in late January, while the budget crisis had been known for quite some time. Some voices from within our community opine:
Community Correspondent from Oakland Voices highlights the inequitable impact on many students.
Black Teacher Leadership & Sustainability Institute | May 5-May 26, 2022 Registration | Eventbrite Professional Development Opportunity
Friday, May 13, 12 PM PST The Last Mile – Kennan’s first broadcast on addressing the digital divide, building on the work that Dirk and many of you had started! (More info to come)
Have an event to share? Send us a message.