The Oakland Ed Week in Review 12/22/23-12/29/23

It’s time for the last Oakland Ed Week in Review of the year!  We’re back with an extended holiday edition of our 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. 

With Oakland schools on break, news was as quiet as the night before Christmas, we have upcoming budget issues in SF, some success in returning Native American remains and artifacts, a return to cursive, and some poignant stories and data from 2023 in Year End retrospectives. 

What did we miss? Hit us up in the comments below. (Photo Credit: Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters)

The State of California

Achievement gap in Berkeley schools has long been among the nation’s very worst

Today, there are some signs the achievement gap in Berkeley is no longer quite so grim as illustrated in the Stanford study. But as the number of low-income and Black students in the school district shrinks each year — Black students make up 13% of the BUSD population today, down from a peak of 43% in the 1990s — the results become more difficult to interpret. A new study by the Stanford team, for example, no longer includes scores for Black students because the sample size is too small. 

Ally Markovich has more in Berkeleyside

Despite an enviable amount of money to spend on their students compared with many if not most of the other 1,000 districts in California – much of which comes from additional voter-approved funding streams and City Hall’s financial support added to state and federal dollars – district officials, including the superintendent and the school board, for years have failed to stay within that flush budget, spending more money than they received annually, using reserves and pandemic one-time funding to backfill.

Several factors, including declining enrollment while maintaining staff sizes and increasing salaries, have contributed, alongside funding many programs including career pathways, art, music, libraries, and wellness centers.  Spending $40M on a new payroll system that still isn’t fully fixed has not helped either.

Jill Tucker writes more in the SF Chronicle

California is pressing universities to repatriate thousands of Native American remains and artifacts. How two campuses are succeeding.

Cal State campuses collectively returned only 6% of the 698,000 Native remains and artifacts to local tribes. UC campuses collectively returned around 35% of 17,000 human remains as of October 2023, according to UC spokesperson Stett Holbrook, with an additional 30% in the process of being returned. 

Two campuses stand out among their peers, however. UCLA has returned 96% of its 58,200 items while Cal State Long Beach has given back 70% of its 9,000 items, the only campuses in their respective systems to return a majority of remains and artifacts back to Native tribes. Strong Native American voices along with allies in campus leadership and academic departments were factors that allowed both universities to lead their systems in repatriation progress. 

Read more from Amelia Wu and Helena San Roque in Cal Matters

California K–8 Students Get Their Hands Dirty to Fight Climate Change

Therapist Jennifer Silverstein says part of helping youth understand the gravity of human-caused climate change is to build their tolerance to new — and sometimes devastating — information. She says during those difficult conversations, it helps to allow them to be outside in nature, and participate in collective action.

Caleigh Wells has more in KQED

How conservative Christians are taking over California school boards

Republicans sought to channel the anger into political gains at the local level — and their strategy took advantage of a state law that Democrats designed.

The California Voting Rights Act seeks to correct the legacy of racism by redrawing the maps that shape power in local government. For generations, many cities, school boards and other independent local agencies have chosen their leaders through at-large elections, where everyone in the city votes for the same candidates. But the CVRA prefers district elections — where neighborhoods pick their own leaders — because districts can ensure that minority voters are represented.

Jason Fagone and Daniel Lempres profile this in The San Francisco Chronicle

Across The Nation

Cursive Makes a Comeback — by Law — in Public Schools

Last month, the California legislature unanimously passed and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law requiring the teaching of cursive or “joined italics” handwriting in grades one through six, joining more than 20 states who have implemented state directives to teach cursive in the past decade or so.

Teaching cursive in public schools waned after the Common Core standards didn’t include cursive in the recommended curriculum. Critics of cursive requirements say time in the classroom could be better spent on new skills such as coding and keyboarding. Supporters recently have had some success in bringing it back, pointing to studies that show a link between cursive and cognitive abilities, including helping with reading and writing disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Read more from Elaine S. Povich in The 74 and Emily Hoeven has more in the San Francisco Chronicle in her article “Here’s one bright spot for 2024 in California’s otherwise troubled education system

Shelter Evictions Will Damage Migrant Children, Schools Warn

New York City is forcing many migrant families to reapply for shelter beds, threatening what educators say is a hard-fought and fragile stability for migrant children, many of whom endured upheaval and trauma on their journey to America. About 3,500 migrant families have received eviction notices that will go into effect starting in early January. They will be required to leave their shelters and request a new placement if they have lived there longer than 60 days. As the eviction notices go into effect, the migrant families will face a difficult choice: Stay in the same school, which could mean a long commute if they’re placed in a distant shelter, or transfer to a new school and start from scratch.

Troy Closson and Liset Cruz write more in The New York Times

Home-schoolers dismantled state oversight. Now they fear pushback.

Today home schooling is legal for parents without teaching credentials, and many states don’t require them to have graduated from high school. In much of the country, oversight of home educators is scant, or nonexistent. Only three states impose mandatory testing on most home-schooled children. A majority of states don’t require any form of academic assessment — and even in those that do, the results are often ignored. 

Surprised and, at times, alarmed by the explosion of interest in home schooling, legislators and education officials in some states are talking about reviving oversight measures that home-schooling advocates have worked to erase. Surprised and, at times, alarmed by the explosion of interest in home schooling, legislators and education officials in some states are talking about reviving oversight measures that home-schooling advocates have worked to erase. 

Read more from Peter Jamison and Laura Meckler in The Washington Post

And finally, here are some great Year In Review articles and compilations. Including from: 


Year in review: California universities get more money, by Mikhail Zinshteyn

Year in review: California schools rebound from COVID, face political fights, by Carolyn Jones

The 74

Best Education Articles of 2023: Our 23 Most Important Stories About Students, Schools & Learning Recovery, by Steve Snyder, including a profile on what Stockton did with $241M in relief funds,  America’s most innovative high schools, suing social media to address the teen mental health crisis, the benefits of social-emotional learning in schools, ChatGPT, and many takes on math, from ditching calculus to Bill Gates to whether there’s a science to math recovery. 

Best of the Year: 14 Charts that Changed the Way We Looked at America’s Schools in 2023, by Kevin Mahnken, including perspectives on virtual tutoring, pandemic catch-up learning hitting a wall, takes on the effects of choice on public schools and that charters aren’t underperforming anymore, and the racial gaps that persist in extracurricular activities and gifted education. 


EdSource’s Best of 2023: Feature stories, by EdSource Staff, including a former inmate now at US Irvine, a teacher who uses jazz to explore California history, an interview with CA’s new Community Colleges chief, and Stockton Unified’s new superintendent as well.

Education Week

10 Education Studies You Should Know From 2023, from Sarah D. Sparks, including more math, virtual tutoring, ChatGPT, and AI, but also strategies to address chronic absenteeism, the impact of extra learning days, and how reducing academic anxiety can be counterproductive. 

K-12 Dive

4 key school staffing solution themes that emerged in 2023, by Anna Merod, who writes about whether the end of pandemic funding has changed anything, creative approaches by schools, and how schools may bolster diversity efforts and teacher pipelines. 

The K-12 Dive Awards for 2023, by Roger Riddell, featuring a number of schools and leaders in North Dakota, Georgia, and Arizona. 

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