The Oakland Ed Weeks in Review 12/9/23-12/25/23

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  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 it being the holiday season, we are going to focus this entire post on the good that is happening in Oakland, the State and the nation. 

Here’s what’s been going on:  Berkeley High students take a stand; more praise for the Oakland REACH’s Literacy Liberators Fellowship with recommendations on how to support impactful tutoring programs.  AI takes center stage everywhere, while we see more efforts statewide to increase funding for schools in for STEAM and mental health services in CA.  Simplifying forms can more than double the financial aid access for undocumented students, while Lincoln Elementary is showcased by Ashley McBride on how its served immigrant populations for decades.  We see some gains in admissions and student proficiency according to one internationally-administered exam, and if you have savvy kids, be prepared for some holiday gift pitches coming to a boardroom, i.e., kitchen table or living room near you.

Enjoy the holiday season everyone!


Oakland Unified is getting $750,000 to support STEAM internships

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced the Bay Area STEAM Career Accelerator, a $750,000 investment in science, technology, engineering, art, and math internships (STEAM) for Oakland students. The grant, which includes three $250,000 contributions from PG&E, General Motors, and the biotechnology firm Genentech, will support Oakland youth aged 13 to 24 seeking STEAM internships starting next summer.  It will particularly target chronically absent students.

Read the article by Ashley McBride in Oaklandside 

More accolades continue to shine on our partner, the Oakland REACH that we covered last week, including: 

Study of Oakland Unified’s parent tutors finds exciting possibilities and challenges

Through a partnership with The Oakland REACH, an innovative nonprofit serving low-income Black and Hispanic families, the district has been able to mine what the study calls a “pool of untapped talent” —parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, “many of them poorly served by public schools themselves and now brim with passion for addressing systemic problems in public education,” author Travis Pillow wrote in his analysis.  “People within our own community as a whole make the best tutors because we connect directly with the children,” Susy Aguilar, a tutor at Manzanita Seed Elementary, which her daughter attends, said in a video about the program. “Just believing in the children and making them believe in themselves is one of the most important things for me.”

Read the article by John Fensterwald in EdSource

This district figured out how a community can energize tutoring

The linchpin of Oakland USD’s tutoring efforts has been Oakland REACH’s Literacy Liberator Model and Fellowship to train tutors and give feedback through regular observations and coaching sessions. “The fellowship aimed to equip parents and caregivers with the mindsets, skills and support they needed to succeed in the tutor role—far exceeding the conventional goals and methods for training tutors and other paraprofessionals, and helped schools tap new talent pipelines and fill tutor vacancies.” according to the CPRE report.  

Read the article by Matt Zalaznick in District Administration for 4 recommendations our to how to replicate this success

While we’re talking about successful tutoring programs, Kara Arundel in K-12 Dive offers 8 lessons learned for sustaining impactful tutoring programs, gleaned from Accelerate’s tutoring grantees.

They include human coordination, including partnership with principal and a point person, alignment with classroom instruction and individual student needs while advocating for more supportive learning conditions that are scheduled during the school day and around activities.  Critically, using community-based organizations like the REACH can change the game as well. 

Read the rest of Kara’s work here

For 150 years, Oakland’s immigrant families have connected at downtown’s Lincoln Elementary

Founded as the Alice Street School in 1865, the original school building served 60 students, who were largely the children of city employees. The school has grown substantially since moving to 11th Street, serving 700 students, and has remained a multicultural hub serving generations of Oakland families. Some of its better-known graduates include Raymond Eng (Oakland’s first Chinese-American city councilman) and Ben Fong-Torres (a rock music journalist and author). Since 2009, the number of students coming from outside of the neighborhood has increased from about 40% to 60% last year. Many students are bilingual, and Sambrani, the principal, makes it a point to hire bilingual teachers and staff, including parents of students. Last year, more than 60% of students scored at or above grade level in reading and math, which is significantly higher than the district’s average of 33% of students on grade level in reading, and 25% in math. 

Read the article by Ashley McBride in Oaklandside

Meanwhile in Berkeley, Trans students at Berkeley High take bathroom access into their own hands

“Bathrooms are a human right. That is, accessible bathrooms with working sinks and toilets, with stalls that lock, with fully stocked menstrual products. Most Berkeley High restrooms fail to meet these requirements,” students in a newly formed Gender Expansive Youth Activists group wrote in a statement explaining the protest. They put new gender-neutral signs on six second-floor bathrooms.

Ally Markovich goes in-depth in Berkeleyside

The State of California

Many California undocumented students are missing out on financial aid. An easier, new application could get them more money

The California Dream Act Application, often called CADAA, will for the first time allow students to also complete a frequently overlooked legal affidavit that’s essential to accessing state aid. The new application will debut by the end of December

While a seemingly small change, it spares students from having to fill out two documents separately and at different times in the year, which has been the process ever since undocumented students became eligible for state aid through a 2011 state law. That has resulted in many students completing one form but not the other out of confusion or lack of awareness.  In 2021, 62,000 community college students completed the affidavit but only 25,000 finished the application.

Read the article by Mikhail Zinshteyn in Cal Matters

California looks to the health system to sustain mental health funds in schools

Funding for mental health in California public schools typically has come from general education budgets, a reason funds have never been stable. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Children Youth and Behavioral Health Initiative began the process to merge the health and education system, where CA’s Department of Health Care Services will invest $4.7 billion over multiple years in youth behavioral services.

According to the governor’s plan, more than 240,000 children cope with depression, and 66% don’t receive treatment. 

Monica Velez writes more in EdSource

Sacramento State starts institute devoted to the use of AI in education

Named the National Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Education, Sacramento State’s institute will offer training to facility members and students studying to become teachers, and hire seven new faculty members in the Department of Computer Sciences, focusing on AI and quantum computing as part of the new initiative.  Seminars are expected to start next semester. 

Read more from Randy Diamond at The Sac Bee 

And finally, we learned that the new California School Dashboard is out, thanks to a heads up from Carolyn Jones at Cal Matters and the CA Department of Education news release, with EdSource noting it’s the first release since 2019.  Access that Dashboard here and stay tuned for some GSV analysis throughout the year. 

Across The Nation

New Report: Charter Schools Gained 300,000 Students in 40 States from 2019-23

Still, the overall rise in charter enrollment does not tell the full story. Only a fraction of the 1.5 million students who left district schools went to a charter school. The rest, presumably, have left public education entirely, opting for homeschooling, microschools and private schools instead. This trend has significant consequences because along with fewer students and decreased dollars going into public education, there’s a loss of the comparability and transparency required of public schools. At a time when math and literacy proficiency have reached crisis levels, data about student academic achievement is critically important. How will it be possible to know if students are regaining ground?

Read the article by Debbie Veney the The 74

Bipartisan Bill in Congress Seeks to Help Schools Teach AI Literacy

The Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act doesn’t set aside new money for teaching AI, which will disappoint educators hungry for resources, but it will make it clear that K-12 schools, colleges, nonprofits and libraries can use grants available under an existing program—the $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant program—to support AI literacy. It defines AI literacy as understanding the basic principles of AI, its applications and limitations, as well as ethical considerations.

Alyson Klein has more in her Education Week article

First-year college applicants have risen 8%, suggests early Common App data

Additionally, the number of applicants who the Common App considers to be underrepresented minorities also jumped by 15% year over year — a notable jump given fears about the U.S. Supreme Court decision against race-conscious admissions.  

Read this brief by Laura Spitalniak in K-12 Dive

American Students Outperformed Much of the World During the Pandemic

According to data from the Program for International Student Assessment, American students improved their standing among their international peers in all math, reading, and science during the pandemic, the data says. Some countries did better than the United States, and the American results do show some areas of concern. But U.S. school policies do not seem to have pushed American kids into their own academic black hole. In fact, Americans did better in relation to their peers in the aftermath of school closures than they did before the pandemic.

Read this analysis by David Wallace-Wells in The New York Times

How 4 NYC high school students say AI-powered tools are changing their education

Kangxi Yang’s school (Staten Island Tech HS) had warned students against relying on ChatGPT and other AI tools to complete their writing assignments, but Yang’s teacher showed them how to use the chatbot to debug their code, allowing them to quickly diagnose and correct their errors. At home, Yang has used Bard, an AI-powered chatbot developed by Google specifically as a learning tool for teenagers, to gain new insights into her coursework. It includes safety features aimed at preventing access to unsafe content for younger users.

Read the experience of three other students in Julian Shen-Berro’s article in Chalkbeat 

And last but not least, 

All I Want for Christmas Is in This 18-Slide Presentation

Kids have long been using Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides for gift requests and school projects, but this year’s lists seem more elaborate than ever, with links, photos, decorative themes and QR codes. A number of recent TikTok videos show teenagers taking their parents through their gift requests in meetings that resemble corporate sales pitches.

There are differing viewpoints, however!  “I have a background in marketing,” said Madison Earl, a director of a medical spa, “and this was a very high-tech presentation, with hyperlinks and color codes and everything. I was really surprised she could figure out how to do all this. I was like, ‘Good for her, if this is how she wants to spend her time.’”

Peyton Chediak, 22, a college senior in Orange County, CA, said she received some flak after presenting her Hanukkah list in a PowerPoint. “Some of my family members, especially my dad and cousins, were like, ‘Wow, this is a lot,’ or ‘Wow, this is a little ridiculous,’” she said. “I’m just like, ‘I know, but I’m extra.’”

Read this story by Alyson Krueger in The New York Times

What do you think?

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