The Oakland Ed Weeks in Review 12/26/23-1/19/24

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

We’re back with an extended 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. 

The news was light on the Oakland front while students were out on break and the first weeks back to school, but we have a jam-packed review of January’s news to date to complement your Sunday morning reads. 

Here’s what’s been going on: In the Town, BayTech looks forward to a change, while the Bay Area changes COVID policies.  Enrollment and budget woes persist for a host of different reasons. The state is showing improvement in serving Black students and in college admissions, but not so much in hiring of Black professors even though data shows their clear role in changing educational outcomes.  A strike looms on Monday, while in national news, there are changes to the SAT and dangers to schools staying open because of low enrollment, and the USDOE is encouraging use of pandemic funding that is set to end to strategies dedicated to addressing learning loss and absenteeism. Yet hope persists as Oakland teens can now apply to be the next laureate, while Spelman receives a massive contribution. 

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


2 years after a devastating shooting, BayTech hopes a move will help them heal

The BayTech community is gearing up for a move to a new campus next January and hopes to chart a new path, school leaders said. BayTech purchased Oakland’s historic Palace Theater in the city’s San Antonio neighborhood and is pursuing a $20 million renovation of the site.  “I often feel disappointed when I look at the broken floors, and kids can feel how much we value them and their education when they have to look at such a crappy building,” said teacher Gail Williams about BayTech’s current facilities on the King Estates campus. “I look forward to the new site where the kids can see that people are invested in them and that it’s important for them to have safe, clean, ways to learn.”

Oaklandside’s Ashley McBride has so much more on this story, including thoughts about whether BayTech wanted to reopen at all, how the school community came together, and what BayTech envisions for its community when the school is in its own space for the first time  

Oakland teens can apply to be the city’s 2024 youth poet laureate

From now until Feb. 5, Oakland youth ages 13 to 18 can apply for the one-year position. The laureate receives a $5,000 scholarship and all of the laureate finalists—those who make it to the final round of judging—will receive $500 scholarships. The application can be completed online

Ashley McBride has the skinny in Oaklandside

State labor board sides with Oakland teachers union, finds controversial strike was legal

In a finding last week, the labor board determined that the district’s decision to close schools in 2022 went against its obligations to first bargain with the union — validating the ensuing strike. The board’s finding bolstered resolve in the teachers union, which in recent years has pursued strong political objectives and tested the legal bounds for what can justify a labor strike besides salary negotiations alone.

Read more from Shomik Mukherjee in The Mercury News

Oakland Unified copes with shocking rise in district’s homeless student population

The number of homeless students attending Oakland Unified schools grew nearly 70% percent over the last three years. That number rose to 1,780 students in 2023. Prior to the pandemic, the numbers hovered around 1,000.  Through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Youth Education Program for OUSD, children can receive school supplies, glasses to read, toiletries and help families replace birth certificates lost during all of their moves. The office removes hurdles for families like Mestas and his sons, who face even bigger challenges outside the classroom.  

Juliette Goodrich reports in CBS News, telling the story of David Mestas and his family

SFUSD and OUSD under federal investigation for religious and ethnic discrimination

This investigation apparently stems from actions the districts did or did not take regarding teaching and safety issues over the Israel-Hamas War. Complainants say there’s a better way to do things. There are plenty of us in both communities that want to find that common ground.  We can be partners to the district in finding out how to cultivate that environment and cultivate that curriculum, so everyone is seen and heard,” said Tyler Gregory of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Read and view more from Tom Vacar from KTVU

The Bay Area is not alone, however, as written in-depth by Mark Keierleber in his piece “Campus antisemitism, Islamophobia reports prompt ‘huge influx’ of federal civil rights complaints in LA School Report.  

The number of families fleeing Oakland schools is spiking. Here’s what’s going on.

While the churn of students in and out of a district is the norm, this year’s requests for transfers out of Oakland reflect a bitter political battle related to the war in Gaza. The war is not the only reason, however, that families are leaving the district, which is already facing a financial crisis in large part related to declining enrollment.

Nearby districts, including Piedmont, have actively recruited families to transfer into their schools to help fill their own empty seats, a declining enrollment trend many districts are seeing across the state.

Read more from Jill Tucker in the SF Chronicle

Lauren Toms reports more in CBS News about the transfers of students out of OUSD in her report.

OUSD Board of Education Approves First Interim Report Showing State of District Finances and Future Challenges

In the District’s first interim budget report, which you can access their presentation here, there is little else but red as they expect deficits of the Unrestricted General Fund of $23.7M in 2024-25 and $25.7M the year after.  OUSD points to declining enrollment and attendance as the reasons for declining revenue, and increased teacher salaries and health care costs from their contract as the largest costs. OUSD also highlights that the state is also projecting a $68B deficit, so “the overall reality was known in June. We have higher costs and insufficient revenue to sustain those costs. As a result, there are many tough decisions looming on the horizon.”

Read the press release here

Also read more from Ashley in her Oaklandside piece “Balanced budget, chronic absenteeism, and school safety are top concerns for OUSD this year” where she highlights the end of COVID funding, the District’s proposed cuts and new leadership after the last Board meeting.

New Covid-19 Protocols in Oakland Schools and Statewide

And finally, there was a host of coverage from ABC News, Kron4, SF Chronicle, Berkeleyside, and others about the change in state protocols related to COVID-positive Californians and when they can return to school or work, that became effective after the MLK Day weekend.  

Here’s more from Zach Fuentes at ABC News with the protocols:

  • Isolation notifications: OUSD will no longer issue COVID-19 isolation notifications that provide the first possible date staff or students can return to school after testing positive for COVID-19. 
  • Day 0 is the day you first experience or symptoms or had your first positive test.
  • If there’s a positive test AND experience of COVID-19 symptoms:
    • Stay home until you have not had a fever for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication AND other COVID-19 Symptoms are mild and improving. 
    • Mask when around other people indoors for the 10 days after you become sick or test positive.  
    • Speak with a healthcare provider as soon as you test positive if you have symptoms, and particularly if you are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, You may be eligible for specific treatments for COVID-19. Call CDPH at 1-833-422-4255 if you are unable to contact a healthcare provider, or use the treatment options to find one.
  • If there’s a positive test but NO experience of COVID-19 symptoms: Staff and students can continue to come to school, but to do the following:
    • Avoid contact with people at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 for 10 days, which includes the elderly, those who live in communal care facilities, and those who have immunocompromising conditions that put them at higher risk for serious illness.
    • Mask when you are around other people indoors for the 10 days after you test positive. Students may remove their mask sooner than 10 days if they have two sequential negative tests at least one day apart.

The State of California

California education issues to watch in 2024 — and predictions

From the expansion of arts programs with Proposition 28 to the host of projected funding issues from the CA budget, the end of pandemic funding, lack of funding for state facilities, there are a host of predictions for the year.  From a policy perspective, private school choice, a host of initiatives affecting LGBTQ children, charter school facilities funding, and a push for early literacy programs are all on the state legislative docket.

Check out this comprehensive piece by John Fensterwald and Yuxuan Xie in EdSource

This California school district made a difference on black students’ scores

Emery Unified, a small district tucked between Berkeley and Oakland in the east Bay Area, saw its Black students — who make up 45% of the student population, one of the highest rates in the state — show dramatic gains from 2022. Math scores nearly doubled over last year and English language arts scores far surpassed pre-pandemic results. Chronic absenteeism dropped 8.4 percentage points, far more than the state average. 

Carolyn Jones in The 74 has so much more, detailing the turnaround strategies employed by both the elementary and high schools, the role of racism in preventing gains, and the exponential impact of Black teachers on changing school outcomes 

How are California’s students doing? New school dashboard is out

The number of students who graduated within five years climbed to 88.7%, the highest rate since the state started tracking that data in 2018. More than half of those students qualified for California’s public universities, also the highest rate in years. Chronic absenteeism, which hit record levels during the pandemic, dropped to 24.3%, down more than 5 percentage points from last year but still more than double the pre-pandemic level.

Carolyn Jones writes another fantastic piece in The 74

National study says California needs to do more to teach kids to read

California received a moderate rating in the National Council on Teacher Quality report released last week.  The state gets high marks for setting reading standards for teacher preparation programs, adopting a strong reading licensure test for teachers, and requiring districts to select high-quality reading curricula. California scored lower on whether it requires ongoing literacy training for teachers and on its oversight of teacher preparation programs to ensure they are teaching the science of reading.

Diana Lambert has more in KQED

This community college has 1 full-time Black faculty member out of 165. Why campuses struggle with diversity

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the agency representing all 116 of the state’s community colleges, wants “to have the makeup of our faculty and staff mirror the student population we serve,” said spokesperson Melissa Villarin. She said that there is no single explanation why, but that the problem often lies in recruitment, hiring, and retention.  In a separate state audit released this spring, some college districts said it’s hard to find qualified professors when there are few people in their communities with the necessary graduate degrees. In other cases, the report said, faculty find “higher-paying positions elsewhere.”

Adam Echelman writes more in Cal Matters

UC enrolls record undergraduate class as ratio shifts back to state residents

Enrollment is up 2% from the 2022-23 school year, and up 4.8% from the fall of 2019, before the pandemic. It’s also the largest percentage of in-state undergraduates since 2016.  Across all 10 UC campuses, the report reveals that the proportion of undergraduates from underrepresented groups — Black, Latino and Native — inched up a percentage point, to 31.5% from 30.5%.

The number of Black students has risen steadily since 2019. This school year, UC enrolled 10,763 Black undergraduates, compared with 9,371 before the pandemic, a nearly 15% increase.

Read more from Nanette Asimov and Nami Sumida in the SF Chronicle

Thousands of Cal State faculty members set to strike Monday across the nation’s largest public university

The planned strike through Friday is the latest in a series of labor actions from lecturers, librarians, coaches, social workers and other staff at the nation’s largest public university, which includes San Jose State, San Francisco State, and Cal State East Bay in Hayward.  The labor action follows months of talks between the union and the university, with faculty members calling for a 12% pay bump, a higher floor for the lowest-paid staff, and expanded parental leave, among other demands. CFA’s contract is set to expire in June.

Elissa Miolene and Hannah Poukish have more in The Mercury News

The LA Times has two Op-Eds from CSU professors as well, including from Claudio Vera Sanchez at San Jose State University and Leila Ansari Rissi at CSU Los Angeles.  CSU did just secure a tentative agreement with the skilled trades employees according to Veronica Catlin in KTLA5’s report. 

California Receives $4.99 Million in Federal Grant Funds to Improve School Facilities in Small School Districts

The $4.99M Supporting America’s School Infrastructure Grant that California applied for will be invested in the infrastructure of small and rural districts through several programs to support facility needs. One is a direct technical assistance program, which will allow school facility professionals to visit districts to assess facility needs, estimate costs, identify funding options, and coordinate the development of various facility contracts, all free of charge to the district. This program can also train and support a district’s custodial/maintenance staff, principal/superintendent and chief business officials on the cycle of facilities maintenance and capital outlay.

Catch the CA Department of Education release here

Across The Nation

Spelman, a Historically Black Women’s College, Receives $100 Million Gift

The gift comes from Ronda E. Stryker, a trustee of Spelman, and her husband, William D. Johnston, chairman of the wealth management company Greenleaf Trust.  In a statement, she said: “It’s important to me that all women be provided an opportunity to explore their talents, challenge their self-doubts and realize the power of achieving individual success.”

Spelman is one of only two all women, historically Black colleges and universities.

Stephanie Saul in The New York Times has more 

The ‘Godfather’ of Top Charter Schools: A Tribute to the Late Linda Brown

Having passed away on Christmas Day, Linda Brown was called the godfather of the top charters, a nickname she both hated and loved.  When viewing education data on a macro level, the traditional educators are right: Poverty does drive outcomes. But on a more modest scale, where Brown operated, the many high-performing charter schools she helped launch around the country through her Boston-based Building Excellent Schools, known as BES, showed the opposite.

Richard Whitmire has more in his tribute in The 74 Million

Meanwhile, Michael Petrilli in the LA School Report provides has more to say about the charter movement in his piece “New analysis finds charter school sector still has plenty of room to grow

What to know about Biden’s student loan income-driven repayment plan

President Biden’s new income-driven repayment plan — Saving on a Valuable Education plan, commonly known as SAVE — ties monthly payments to earnings and family size. The White House estimates the plan could save the typical borrower $1,000 a year on payments because it reduces the amount of income used to calculate monthly bills. If you borrowed $12,000 or less for undergrad or graduate school, you will receive loan forgiveness after making 10 years’ worth of payments, instead of 20 or 25 years’ worth. Every additional $1,000 borrowed above $12,000 would add one year of monthly payments to the time a borrower must pay before their debt is forgiven. 

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel in the Washington Post has the details

The SAT Has Changed: Here’s What to Know

Aside from a new digital format – which was taken by more than 300,000 students internationally in 2023, according to the College Board – other adjustments to the SAT include a shortened test, the allowance of graphing calculators throughout the math portion and faster results. Despite the overhaul, the SAT remains on a 1,600-point scale and continues to test skills related to the three subject areas of reading, writing and math.

Sarah Wood at the U.S. News & World Report has more details.

Exclusive Data: Thousands of Schools at Risk of Closing Due to Enrollment Loss

Because of its size, California has the most schools where enrollment loss hit at least 20% during the pandemic — over 1,400. High-priced areas like Silicon Valley reflect a host of recent demographic trends, including record-low birth rates and a limited housing market. Other families left districts during school closures for private schools and charters.  All of these factors add up to fewer school-age children attending traditional public schools.  “I think a lot of coastal California looks like this,” said Todd Collins, a school board member in the Palo Alto Unified system.

Read more in this exclusive by Linda Jacobson at The 74 Million, where she also discusses the near and long-term impact of declining enrollments on communities  

White House calls for focus on tutoring, summer school, absenteeism as pandemic aid winds down

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced what the Biden administration is calling its Improving Student Achievement Agenda at a White House event Wednesday with governors and state education commissioners, which allows states to seek permission to use their last tranche of COVID-reliet money on tutoring, extra learning time, and attendance efforts.  The new push comes at a time when many states have yet to see math and reading scores rebound to pre-pandemic levels and many students are struggling to fill in gaps in their learning. Federal officials said they had chosen to focus on these strategies because they are proven ways to raise student achievement.

Kalyn Belsha and Erica Meltzer have more in Chalkbeat

For a deep dive on the effects of chronic absenteeism, take a listen to NPR’s “Chronic Absenteeism is Changing K-12 Education” in their 1A podcast by Jen White

And check out Caitlynn Peetz’s piece “Superintendents Share the Lessons They’ve Learned From ESSER—and Look Ahead” in Education Week, for a school district-based view on pandemic funding 

How These Principals Nip Apathy in the Bud After Winter Break and Long Weekends

One key element some leaders are targeting: cellphones. Without their constant distractions, leaders like Mike Randolph of Leesburg HS in FL believe students will engage more with lessons.  Another?  While students need to feel connected to the school campus, a large part hinges on teachers who are willing to go the extra step to engage them.  But who keeps teachers engaged after a break? Principals step up the small gestures to welcome them back.

And finally, for our school leaders out there, check out this piece of Olina Banerji in Education Week

What do you think?

More Comments