The Oakland Ed Week in Review 1/20/24-1/26/24

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with an of our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices. 

Here’s what’s been going on: There are significant opportunities for you to directly impact Oakland schools, with forums from FIA and OUSD taking place in the first week of February before big elections a few weeks later.  Meanwhile OUSD faces parent pushback on delayed funds, while we can celebrate East Bay students earning an award for kindness and another becoming a Rhodes Scholar.  We’re featuring a lot of news around the Bay Area this past week such that we created a whole section for it. Nationwide, we have a lot of news on charters and just the straight up success of Black Education Entrepreneurs leveraging school choice to change the education game in communities nationwide, while anti-D.E.I. movements just miss the mark. The Science of Reading starts to find its way into state bills.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Residents take OUSD to task for delays on community schools and reparations for Black students: OUSD received more money from the California Community Schools Partnership Program than any other district —  nearly $67 million in the 2021-22 school year and over $8 million the following year. Some fear that without action, the money will not be renewed next year.  Without input from the community, many fear the money will be spent ineffectively and not for students most in need. School closures are a prime example, Kampala Taiz-Rancifer, who is also a parent and first-grade teacher, said.  Taylor Barton has more in Oakland North

Labor law ruling strengthens Oakland teachers union’s ability to fight school closures, with February 1st Town Hall set: As a follow-up to last week’s review where we talked about this ruling, Ashley McBride writes more about how the rulings – which found OUSD failed to provide adequate notice to OEA to bargain over the effects of the closures – could strengthen resistance.  Following OUSD’s 2022 closures decision, Assemblymember Mia Bonta brought forward Assembly Bill 1912 that requires school districts to measure the equity impacts of a closure before carrying one out.  OUSD Board President Sam Davis agreed that more engagement should be done with school communities before making a decision to close or merge schools. On February 1st at 6:00 PM, Davis and the board’s vice president, Mike Hutchinson, are holding a town hall about Assembly Bill 1912 to hear from the community about what measures the board should use to evaluate the impact of closures. Check out the Oaklandside article here

OUSD faces a lawsuit over allegations of organizing racially segregated “playdates” for elementary school students: Oakland Unified School District in California faces a lawsuit over an alleged racially segregated “playdate” for specific students. Legal advocacy group Judicial Watch filed the suit, seeking records related to the event’s planning and district policies on race-specific activities. The incident adds to recent controversies around race-related practices in California schools, including debates over critical race theory and the emphasis on race in educational frameworks. KRCR’s Kristina Watrobski lays it out here

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) alumna becomes Rhodes Scholar, achieving academic success from Oakland to Oxford:  In this CBS News story, Juliette Goodrich introduces us to Eleanor Wikstrom, an Oakland Unified School District graduate from Skyline High School, who earned the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. A captain of the track team and vice youth poet laureate, Wikstrom attributes her success to her OUSD education and Bay Area roots. She plans to study at the University of Oxford, focusing on the legacies of colonialism.

Leadership & Sustainability Training & Community Building: The Black Teacher Project is currently accepting registrations for the Black Teacher Leadership and Sustainability Institute (BTLSI), a 2.5-day in-person professional development program tailored for Black educators in TK-12 schools, fostering a Black affinity space for candid conversations, community building, and collaborative exploration of challenges, covering topics such as equity-centered teaching, the distinct experiences of Black teachers, organizational dynamics, socio-political contexts, emotional intelligence, wellness strategies, and leadership skills, taking place from June 6th to June 8th at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, Oakland. Register here

The Bay Area

UPCOMING FORUM: A Chance to hear from Alameda County School Board Candidates: The Alameda County School Board Election on March 2, 2024, features eight candidates, including four incumbents and challengers. The Families in Action (FIA) Candidate Forum on February 8, 2024, will provide an opportunity to understand the candidates’ values, experience, vision and priorities. The ACOE school board holds the responsibility of formulating policies and decisions that significantly affect school districts, charter school renewals, appeals, and programs. Sign up here!

UPCOMING Alameda County District 5 Board of Supervisors Election: The March 2024 primary election for the Alameda County District 5 Board of Supervisors seat features nine candidates with diverse priorities, including affordable housing, healthcare, and public safety. Key issues include affordable housing, homelessness, healthcare, mental health, gun violence, climate change, and public safety, offering voters a range of perspectives to consider. The primary election is scheduled for March 5, 2024. Magaly Muñoz of the Post News Group provides an insightful breakdown of the race here.

16 Year old Afghani refugee wins a citywide “kindness” award at Berkeley High for assisting immigrant students with her proficiency in five languages: Berkeley High junior Farhat Noorzad, at 16, shares her family’s escape from Afghanistan in 2021, settling in Berkeley after her father’s work for the U.S. and the EU, and despite challenges, she quickly learned Spanish, became fluent in five languages, and earned recognition for her support in Berkeley High’s Multilingual Program, fostering connections among diverse linguistic communities and receiving the Chris Kindness Award along with a $1,000 prize.. Read the detailed story by Joanne Furio of Berkeleyside here

East Bay children learn sign language and engage with deaf peers: CEID teachers drive to El Cerrito every Friday to teach sign language to third-graders at Prospect Sierra Elementary School, fostering empathy and connections between different age groups and abilities, demonstrating the value of children with disabilities beyond their impairments. For more details, read Martin Snapps’s East Bay Times article here. If you suspect that your children might have hearing challenges, contact CEID at 510-848-4800 or visit for assistance.

Berkeley Schools Maintain Discredited Reading Curriculum Despite National Shift to Phonics-Based Approaches: Despite a class-action lawsuit settlement in 2021, the Berkeley School District resists transitioning from the discredited balanced literacy curriculum to phonics-based approaches, exploring the legal landscape, internal discussions, and historical preferences in a collaboration between Berkeleyside and EdSource, highlighting the challenges and toll on dyslexic students amid a national shift towards systematic phonics. To dig into the Berkeleyside article by Ally Markovich, click here

After-school doomed to hell? Truman Benedict Elementary in San Clemente is set to host the controversial “After-School Satan Club,” organized by the Satanic Temple, aiming to provide an alternative to religious clubs and promoting free inquiry and scientific understanding. Despite concerns from parents and religious institutions, the Capistrano Unified School District cannot prevent the club from using school facilities under California Civic Center Act.  Annika Bahnsen goes inside a controversial After School Club in the East Bay Times  

False Sexual Misconduct Claim Shatters Life of Gay San Francisco Educator: In a January 17, 2024 East Bay Reporter article, Assistant Editor John Ferrannini details the distressing experience of David Hemminger, a gay educator who faced false sexual misconduct allegations leading to a prolonged Title IX investigation in 2022. The story highlights the alleged mishandling of the inquiry by SFUSD, the emotional toll on the educator, and the broader implications for educators facing biases and unfounded claims, emphasizing the need for reforms to protect against such injustices. The BAR Editorial Board also weighs in here in their editorial

Berkeley High is poised to abandon the proposed $27 million teachers’ parking garage plan:  The planned $27 million Berkeley High parking garage might be abandoned as the City Council proposes residential parking permits for teachers to address the shortage and redirect funds. The school board will vote on abandoning the project on Feb. 21, and if approved, the funds could be allocated to various school projects, including manufacturing classrooms, robotics facilities, athletic field redesign, additional parking spaces, and other improvements. More detailed are provided by Ally Markovich from Berkeleyside here

Richmond High School Music Department seeks support: Director Andrew Wilke has initiated a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for sending the school’s marching band to Disneyland for a four-day, three-night trip. The band’s previous experience at Disneyland in 2023 resulted in multiple trophies during their competitive season, emphasizing the significance of such experiences in motivating and inspiring economically disadvantaged students in the marching band. Richard Standard of the Oakland Post explains here.

The State of California

California college students begin union vote for campus work: In this article Bloomberg’s Jo Constantz explores the rising trend of undergraduate students joining unions on college campuses, with over 20,000 student workers at 23 California State University (CSU) campuses voting on whether to establish the largest undergraduate union in the United States. The movement reflects a growing demand for improved pay and job security among students grappling with rising living costs and tuition fees, with the California State University Employees Union supporting the campaign. 

A regent vote scheduled for March will determine whether the University of California (UC) will enforce a ban on political statements by faculty and others on its websites. Originally set to occur this week, Michael Burke of EdSource details in this article how the regents decided to postpone the vote until March.  The University of California (UC) is considering a policy that could prohibit faculty and staff from publishing political statements, including those related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, on university websites and channels. 

In this short expose, Elissa Miolene takes us behind the curtain, revealing how an unexpected superhero inspired a Bay Area astronomer’s passion for teaching:  Andrew Fraknoi, an astronomer, traces his lifelong passion for outer space back to his childhood, If you want to learn more about the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture series and catch up on past lectures, check out their YouTube 

Even as Caltech drops calculus requirement, other competitive colleges continue to expect hard-to-find course: The change happened when Ashley Pallie – Caltech’s Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions – and two faculty members, learned at a February conference on equity and college acceptance the extent to which the course is not available, particularly to low-income applicants, students of color and those living in rural areas. Pallie credited Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations, an organization that promotes math policies that support equity in college readiness and success, for sharing the information at that gathering. Calculus still has merit, Caltech faculty concluded, but should no longer be mandated.  Jo Napolitano has more in LA School Report

Across The Nation

Black Education Entrepreneurs — and Parents — Are Pushing the Boundaries of School Choice: The journey of Black school founders is not devoid of challenges. They often grapple with hurdles like limited access to funding, bureaucratic red tape and the daunting task of dispelling long-held stereotypes. Yet, their resilience is as evident as their success. Through innovative funding models, community partnerships and relentless advocacy, these educators are not just overcoming barriers; they are dismantling them.  Denisha Allen writes more in the 74 Million.

The ‘Science of Reading’ in 2024: 5 State Initiatives to Watch:  In EdWeek’s Sarah Schwartz article here, we explore how Governors and legislators prioritize the “science of reading” in the 2024 legislative session, with Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey proposing a five-year early literacy plan, while New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul advocates for a “back to basics” literacy plan; other states, including Indiana and Iowa, propose bills to enhance reading instruction. 

‘America Is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade: Thousands of documents obtained by The New York Times in Nicholas Confessore’s piece cast light on the playbook and the thinking underpinning one nexus of the anti-D.E.I. movement — the activists and intellectuals who helped shape Texas’ new law, along with measures in at least three other states. The material, which includes casual correspondence with like-minded allies around the country, also reveals unvarnished views on race, sexuality and gender roles. And despite the movement’s marked success in some Republican-dominated states, the documents chart the activists’ struggle to gain traction with broader swaths of voters and officials.

What’s the State of Charter Schools Today? In this EdWeek opinion blog, Rick Hess laments on Pandemic learning loss, ESAs, and political polarization challenge these schools.

Chicago Board of Education renews contracts for 49 charter schools:  The Chicago Board of Education voted to extend agreements with 12 charter networks, affecting 49 schools, following appeals from charter school leaders. Renewals, ranging from three to four years, came with conditions addressing various issues identified during a comprehensive review. Find out more from Chalkbeat here

A glitch hinders numerous immigrant families from using the new, streamlined FAFSA, with no resolution in place yet:  The new FAFSA form has been easier for some students to complete. But many students from immigrant families have been blocked from filling out the form due to a critical issue federal officials are working to fix. Kalan Belsha from Chalkbeat follows up from the late November news and breaks it down here

Detractors argue that public universities are allocating excessive funds beyond academic settings. Administrative spending at U.S. public universities surpassed academic spending, rising 6.3% from 2016 to 2021 to $3,771 per full-time equivalent student. Instructional spending declined 4.7% to $13,685, prompting concerns about fund allocation. Critics argue for prioritizing instruction, while others defend spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Read more from Elaine Povich the East Bay Times here

COVID-era laptops made a dent in the digital divide. Now the real work begins:  Erica Meltzer in Chalkbeat takes us behind the distribution of COVID-era laptops that helped bridge the digital divide, but addressing long-term challenges, such as internet access and digital literacy, remains crucial for sustained equitable access to technology. Dig in here

NYC needs fully accessible schools. Families like mine depend on it:  In this first-person essay, Michelle Noris, a parent advocating for her disabled son Abey, highlights the need for fully accessible schools in New York City to ensure inclusivity and compliance with federal law for students with disabilities. She emphasizes the importance of adequate funding to make schools accessible and calls for prioritizing the issue. You can find this heartfelt essay from Chalkbeat here

In reversal, Philly school board votes to renew charter school amid shifting political climate:  In a rare move, the Philadelphia Board of Education voted Thursday to reverse its previous decision not to renew a charter school, meaning it can continue operating for another three years — with 19 separate conditions. Dale Mezzacappa article explains the details here

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced plans to enhance security in Catholic schools by employing four security supervisors and six armed guards to patrol the 13,000-student community. The security plan is modeled, in part, on a program developed for Jewish schools and synagogues by Shawn Brokos, an FBI veteran. Hissrich emphasized the importance of safety and security, stating, “Safety and security are not cheap. Not doing it would be more costly.” Justin Vellucci of Triblive writes about it here

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