The Oakland Ed Week in Review 12/2/23-12/8/23

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  We’re back with an edition of our weekly roundup of education news from around The Town, state and nation. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices. 

Here’s what’s going on this week: there was significant coverage over the teach-in by roughly 100 Oakland educators, so we captured some of the coverage below. Those tensions were also on display in Congress, where the Presidents of 3 East Coast universities faced widespread condemnation of their House testimony over whether speech deemed antisemitic violated codes of conduct, while here in the Bay Area, UC Berkeley and others face a discrimination lawsuit from their position on free speech.  

Meanwhile, some initiatives to address our reading crisis are showing demonstrable success. Our friends at the Oakland Reach have shown impressive results with kindergartners through their Literacy Liberators Fellowship, as did schools of all grades that received funds from the Early Literacy Support Block Grant.  What did we miss? Hit us up in the comments below. (Photo Credit: The 74/The Oakland REACH).


Oakland Unified pushes back against unsanctioned ‘teach-in’ on ‘Palestinian struggle’ while educators state ‘This is just the beginning’ in the Pro-Palestinian teach-in held at dozens of Oakland schools

While OUSD issued a statement making clear that it did not authorize it and the school board president stating in an interview there could be possible discipline, educators across the district conducted a teach-in using curriculum available for grades TK-12. 

The teach-in that included about 100 educators began with a video call that teachers who participated streamed from their classrooms across the district, and is the latest action across the Bay Area to call attention to the devastation in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war.  “I think there needs to be trust in teachers. We know how to hold space for hard things without making kids feel bad,” said the educator, who teaches third grade. “We can’t not talk to kids about things because it feels scary to us.”

Read the article by Elissa Miolene in the East Bay Times and their piece in the Mercury News 

Pro-Palestinian teach-in escalates tension in Oakland schools

Oakland is among several Bay Area school districts scrambling to address the anger and activism driven by the Israel-Hamas war that has pitted teachers, families and students against one another and increased concerns that K-12 classrooms have become battlegrounds rather than safe places to learn.

Read the article by Jill Tucker in the SF Chronicle

What did Oakland teachers talk about during the Palestine teach-in?

The educators said they wanted to create a space for students to talk about the conflict, which they’d been hearing about on the news or from adults in their lives. Some teachers wanted to push back against what they say have been pressures on them to be silent about the war in Gaza, even at the risk of disciplinary action. “The teach-in is a way to bring narratives into the classroom because they have been systemically erased from it, not to erase any other narratives,” said Allison, an elementary school teacher in Oakland. 

Read the article by Ashley McBride in Oaklandside

Why Principals Need to Talk About the Israel-Hamas War With Our Teachers

As a high school principal, S. Kambar writes, “What can we do when a difficult topic is brought up by students in classrooms?” Instead of leaving teachers to fend for themselves, school leaders should bring the faculty together and have the courage to share ideas for creating a safe place for students to feel that they belong and their feelings matter. This has been true during any geopolitical crisis in our nation’s history, such as the war in Vietnam or the attacks on 9/11.

Read the opinion piece by S. Kambar Khoshaba in Education Week

Oakland Study Finds Parents as Effective as Teachers in Tutoring Young Readers

The REACH’s Literacy Liberator Model and Fellowship, which recruited nearly 50 parents and community members to tutor small groups of K-2 students who were reading below grade level, produced results last school year where kindergarteners gained nearly an extra year of learning through tutoring.  

Oakland Unified’s model has broader implications for how schools teach basic skills in reading and math. For too long, according to researcher and lead author Ashley Jochim, one teacher has been responsible for modifying lessons to meet the needs of 25 or more students. “This model is clearly failing students and puts extraordinary demands on educators, especially coming out of the pandemic.  Oakland’s tutoring model shows what’s possible when we create the conditions needed to individualize instruction based on students’ learning needs.”

Read the article by Linda Jacobson in The 74 and the CPRE’s report here 

The State of California

Reading scores climb after focus on California’s worst-performing schools

As part of a lawsuit settlement, $53 million in grants to the state’s 75 worst performing schools led to the percentage of third graders meeting state reading standards rising by 6 percent compared to similar schools. Most of the money went toward training teachers, hiring classroom aides and buying books, but districts did have some leeway to tailor funding to their own unique needs. Most districts adopted phonics-based curricula inspired by the “science of reading.”  Others hired reading specialists to work with students in small groups. 

Read the article by Carolyn Jones in the SF Chronicle

Two High School Students were named Representatives for the 2024 U.S. Senate Youth Program

A senior at Canyon Crest Academy in the San Dieguito Union High School District, and a senior at Culver City High School in Los Angeles each received a $10,000 undergraduate scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for Washington Week to meet and learn from high-level appointed and elected government officials in March. To qualify for the program, high school juniors or seniors must be actively serving in an elected or appointed leadership position where they represent a constituency in organizations related to student government, education, public affairs, and/or community service as well as express an interest in pursuing a career in public service.

Read the press release from the California Department of Education 

California faces record $68 billion budget deficit, nonpartisan legislative analyst says

Newsom’s first term in office was buoyed by record-smashing surpluses of more than $100 billion in some years, which allowed him to pay for guaranteed health insurance for all low-income adults regardless of their immigration status and free lunches for all public school students. With more than $37 billion in various savings accounts, Petek, the legislative analyst, suggested Newsom and lawmakers could use some — but not all — of that money to help balance the budget, including protecting public schools from painful spending cuts.

Read the article by Adam Beam in NBC Bay Area News

S.F. State faculty strike Tuesday over demand for salary increase

The one-day San Francisco strike was the second of four planned throughout the week across the state by members of the California Faculty Association union, who say their pay has not kept up with inflation, among other demands.

Read the article by Chase DiFeliciantonio in the SF Chronicle

Lawsuit intensifies spotlight on free speech controversies at UC Berkeley

Tempers are running high on all sides amid the bloodshed in the Middle East which has exposed ideological rifts between students and professors at the law school, and spurred a discrimination lawsuit against the UC system.  It has set off a broader debate over who gets to define the boundaries of First Amendment protections, a drama heightened by Berkeley’s legendary status as the heart of the ’60s student protest movement.

Across The Nation

US university presidents face firestorm over evasive answers on antisemitism

The presidents of three of the nation’s top universities are facing intense bipartisan backlash, including from the White House, after they appeared to evade questions during a congressional hearing about whether calls by students for the genocide of Jews would constitute harassment under the schools’ codes of conduct.  During their appearances, Magill of UPenn, Gayof Harvard, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT all expressed alarm at the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses, some of which have triggered federal investigations by the Department of Education. 

Read the article by Lauren Gambino in the Guardian

AP African American studies adds lesson on sports and racial justice

The Advanced Placement course plan released Wednesday includes history about Colin Kaepernick and his 2016 decision to kneel during the national anthem, alongside many others, and restores some terms and concepts — including the adjective “systemic” and “intersectionality” — that previously had been expunged or minimized in part because they were deemed too controversial. 

Read the article by Nick Anderson in the Washington Post

Math Scores Dropped Globally, but the U.S. Still Trails Other Countries

In the first comparable global results since the pandemic, 15-year-olds in the U.S. scored below students in the Program for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, which was last administered in 2018.  Sixty-six percent of U.S. students performed at least at a basic level in math, compared to 80% from industrialized democracies like the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany, and well behind students in the highest-performing countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Estonia — continuing an underperformance in math that predated the pandemic.

Read the article by Sarah Mervosh in the New York Times

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