The Oakland Ed Week in Review 1/27/24-2/2/24

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: 

In Oakland, OUSD warns families about fake kidnapping scams and faces pressure to avoid disparate impacts on Black students in school closure decisions, while introducing a new publication for community updates. In the Bay Area, South Bay nonprofits express concerns over California’s school funding, a study reveals Berkeley students’ faster test score rebound post-pandemic, and a documentary explores building wealth in the Black community through education. In the State of California, the state settles a learning-loss lawsuit, considers expanding arts education pathways, reevaluates job requirements for state positions, and LAUSD student board member Karen Ramirez focuses on promoting student leadership.  Across The Nation, Despite U.S. student academic recovery, a report highlights persistent education inequalities, an On Point Radio episode explores chronic absenteeism, NYC schools face potential funding cuts, and Philadelphia’s tax break program raises concerns for public school funding. (Photo Credit: Amir Aziz in Oaklandside)

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


Fake kidnapping scams are targeting Oakland families

OUSD is warning families about suspicious calls that their children have been kidnapped or are in danger, while they are safe at school. OUSD is advising families to remove their phone numbers from social media. “Please know that no one in leadership at school sites or at the central office would text anyone randomly asking for money or gift cards,” OUSD said in an email to families. “If you receive such a text or email, even in your personal life, you should always first check directly with the alleged sender to verify that the message was legitimate.”  For more info, check out Ashley McBride’s scoop here in The Oaklandside. 

Attorney general: Oakland school closures would have disproportionately harmed Black students

In another Oaklandside article by Ashley McBride, she discloses how OUSD is facing pressure from state officials to make sure any decisions relating to school closures or consolidations don’t have disparate impacts on Black students, low-income students, and students with disabilities. Attorney General Rob Bonta released a report Monday critical of the district’s 2022 closure plan. California’s Department of Justice says if OUSD proposes closures again, it must abide by laws intended to prevent low-income, disabled, and Black students from being disadvantaged.

Engaging with OUSD in the New Year – OUSD Newsroom

OUSD is creating a new twice-a-month publication to let our community know about upcoming meetings, events and resources to ensure that everyone is aware of happenings across OUSD well in advance. The first edition will arrive to you via ParentSquare Friday, February 2, and successive editions will follow every other Friday through the end of the school year. Here are some quick links: 

  • Spring 2024 Calendar of District Committee meetings here. To receive meeting reminders, please complete this simple form.
  • Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Parent and Student Advisory Committee (PSAC).  Meetings held on the third Wednesday of each month
  • District English Language Learners’ Subcommittee (DELLS).  Meetings held on the fourth Thursday of each month (with exceptions for holidays)
  • Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education.  Meetings held on the second Monday of each month (with exceptions for holidays)
  • Foster Youth Advisory Committee (FYAC). Meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month
  • Board Commissions and Oversight Committees.  To learn more about vacancies on our district commissions and oversight committees, click here.

‘How to Succeed as a Creative Writing Major’ emphasizes community building, using OU resources

Chloe Kukuk, Campus Editor of the Oakland Post, describes in this article how Oakland University’s Creative Writing Club (CWC) and the Department of English collaborated on the “How to Succeed as a Creative Writing Major” event on Jan. 26 in the Oakland Center Lake Huron Room. The event featured a panel discussion with professor Annie Gilson, CWC president Annie Williams, CWC vice president and president of the English Honors Society Sigma Tau Delta Taya Alani and Student Writers Group (SWG) president Ginger Fuller. “We want our students to succeed, so we are building informational sessions into our curriculum so that students have an opportunity to come, whether they’re from other majors, from us, people who just like to write, so they can know that it’s not just about taking classes,” Gilson said.

‘The Great Debate’ fosters campus dialogue and collaboration

The Association of Black Students (ABS) hosted “The Great Debate,” one of the first open forums to discuss current events and fun topics as their first event for African American Celebration Month.The debate resembled a city council meeting, in which a topic was explained to later ask all attendees for their opinions for further conversation. Each participant was handed the microphone to share their opinion and reasoning, with constant ovations in support of constructive comments. With trust and support established, the event coordinators took time to introduce more complex topics. Campus reporter Adrian Jimemez Morales gives us the skinny here.

Checking in With Sam Davis: OUSD’s New School Board President

As Oakland schools continue to address a range of new challenges including pandemic after-effects, declining enrollment, charter school conversions, and increased parental challenges, Sam Davis begins his term as OUSD School Board President. Davis brings a combined perspective as a parent of a high school student and former OUSD teacher.  Get in his head by checking out Oakland Voices Debora Gorda’s Q&A here.

OUSD Honors Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution

On January 30, OUSD commemorated Fred Korematsu Day, honoring the Oakland native and civil rights icon, known for resisting unjust internment during World War II; Korematsu’s legacy inspires resilience and justice, with his dedication recognized through school tributes and a mural, highlighting the importance of speaking up against injustice. Born in Oakland in 1919, Korematsu’s activism against racial prejudice and defense of Japanese American rights set a precedent for civil liberties, leading to his posthumous recognition with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a reminder of the ongoing need to stand against discrimination. For more info click here.

The Bay Area

South Bay nonprofits raise concerns over state’s school funding

A group of nonprofits in the South Bay says that the state of California’s formula bases school funding on property taxes. It means the more economically disadvantaged areas are likely to get less money. “Until every child in our county, in our state, receives the same allocation for their education, we can’t talk about being equitable in our state when it comes to education,” says Dr. Lisa Andrews. Check out Damian Trujillo’s NBC Bay Area article here

For more in depth coverage check out Damian’s Online interview “Zip code, code red on Comunidad Del Valle” Parts 1 & 2) with Dr. Lisa Andrews of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation about the East Side Education Initiative here 

Test scores in Berkeley have rebounded faster than in most California districts

A new study shows Berkeley elementary and middle school students are actually doing better academically than before the pandemic. In the most comprehensive report of the pandemic’s impact yet, researchers at Stanford and Harvard crunched average test scores for students in third through eighth grade for roughly 8,000 school districts in 30 states around the country. For more details, check out Ally Markovich’s Berkeleyside piece here.

Berkeley schools tax that pays for small class sizes and more is up for renewal in March

Ally Markovich pulls the curtain back on A parcel tax renewal that lowers class sizes in Berkeley schools and funds library, music and other enrichment programs is up for a vote again in March. It has passed easily every time it’s been on the ballot since 1986 and is expected to sail through again. Designed to combat cuts to public education, BSEP was conceived in the wake of Proposition 13, which capped property tax increases and left school budgets gutted. Today, California still ranks 33rd in per pupil spending, just below Louisiana. Neighboring cities like Albany and Alameda also have their own similar schools measures to supplement state funds. For more info click here.

Silicon Valley school district changes how its officials are chosen

The Fremont Union High School District will change the way future trustees are elected come November. The district, which enrolls students from Cupertino, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Saratoga and Santa Clara, is switching from at-large elections — where residents can vote for any candidate — to electing area-based board members. This means the school district will split into five areas balanced by census data, where voters elect a trustee within their area. The goal is to increase representation in areas that haven’t had a trustee seat in years. For more info see Annalise Freimarck’s story in the San Jose Spotlight.

Can artificial intelligence revolutionize education? SF summit focuses on future of AI in learning

That was a key question as some of the biggest names in tech, politics and education gathered for a summit in San Francisco. National figures included New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, educator Geoffrey Canada, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who joked about a lack of funding in education in the U.S. compared to other western economies. Main Headliner, OpenAI’s Sam Altman stated, “AI will be a new way to use the internet. AI will be a new way to work more productively. AI will be a new way to discover science,” …” It really is like a deeply enabling technology.” For more see NBC Bay Area’s Sergio Quintana’s piece.

The State of California

California agrees to target the most struggling students to settle learning-loss lawsuit

In an agreement ending a 3-year-old lawsuit brought by families of 15 Oakland and Los Angeles students, the state will target billions of dollars of remaining learning-loss money to low-income students and others with the widest learning disparities. State officials have also agreed to pursue statutory changes that would commit districts and schools to measure and report on student progress using proven strategies, like frequent in-school tutoring, in ways that the state hadn’t required in other post-Covid funding. John Fensterwald’s EdSource article digs deep into the details surrounding the controversial issues here.  

Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal calls for expanding arts ed pathway

Faced with an ongoing teacher shortage, many California arts education advocates have been championing the use of career technical education (CTE) to attract new arts teachers to help fulfill the state’s historic arts mandate. The sticking point has been that the credential has only been applied to secondary classrooms, leaving elementary students out. That may change if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial 2024-25 state budget becomes law. EdSource’s Karen D’Souza breaks it down in her latest piece

Should state government jobs require a college degree? Why California is rethinking its rules

California is removing degree requirements from jobs, but state leaders differ about the right approach. “Further action is possible,” wrote Gov. Gavin Newsom last year in an executive order about career education. In it, he explicitly asked the California Department of Human Resources to make re-evaluating education requirements a higher priority. The governor’s order came after at least 15 states had already enacted similar or more aggressive changes to their hiring practices. “There is no reason for California to have an arbitrary barrier to access these good-paying jobs that benefit our state.” stated Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan.  For more details see Adam Echelman’s CalMatters article here.

‘My confidence grew’: LAUSD student board member works to elevate Latino, student voices

In this empowerment story in Edsource, Mallika Seshardi takes a look into how 17-year-old Karen Ramirez was about to learn she had been elected as LAUSD’s student board member. Since launching her campaign last February, Ramirez has made it her mission to promote student leadership across the district and to support the district’s Latino community. “I know this is a position that not every student has in the district,” she said. “And to be able to be the one to experience all this, I feel very privileged” stated Karen.

After $32 million verdict, 4 other sex abuse lawsuits against California high school coaches await trial

In the early 1990s, rumors traveled through the halls of Pomona High School that a group of coaches were plying young cheerleaders and track stars with weed and alcohol in their offices, and sexually abusing them on and off campus. The coaches drove them around in their cars, took them to parties and treated them like girlfriends.  Those are the accusations of eight Southern California women who filed lawsuits against the Pomona Unified School District and those coaches over the past three years.  Last week, for the first time, a jury ruled that one of the women deserves $35 million. Emily Holshouser supplies all the details in her latest East Bay Times article.

Across The Nation

Recovery in math, reading scores is underway — but slowly

After dropping for three years running, the increases recorded in testing last spring marked welcome news. Still, for most of the country, scores remain lower than they were before the pandemic struck, and it was unclear if or when students would fully rebound. Those were the conclusions of a new report released this week by researchers at Harvard and Stanford universities who have been tracking annual test data from 30 states.  Among the findings were: the losses were deep, but the recovery is underway.  The gains were uneven with a growing rich and poor gap and widening racial and state gaps.  Laura Meckler has more in the Washington Post.

Amid a surprising pandemic recovery, academic inequality grew. What now?

Academic gaps between students from low-income backgrounds and their more affluent peers have widened, even as American students as a whole are making a surprising recovery from the pandemic’s disruptions.  And in contrast to the initial sharp decline in test scores during the pandemic, when differences among districts drove much of the decrease for low-income students, gaps have widened in the last year between students from different income levels within the same district.  Those are the findings of a new analysis of student progress between spring 2022 and spring 2023 from The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University and a team of researchers that includes Stanford’s Sean Reardon, who studies inequality, and Harvard University’s Thomas Kane, an education professor and economist. For Background & Key takeaways check out Erica Meltzer’s piece here in Chalkbeat.

U.S. students are starting to catch up in school — unless they’re from a poor area

New reports show a big academic recovery after schools reopened. But not for all students. Stanford professor Sean Reardon tells NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly how the pandemic worsened education inequality. Despite significant academic recovery for many U.S. students after schools reopened following the pandemic, a report from the Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University and Harvard reveals persistent education inequalities, with students from the poorest areas of the country still struggling in math and reading, according to Professor Reardon. The findings highlight the impact of the pandemic on exacerbating educational disparities.  Take a deeper listen to this NPR piece here.

School District Lawsuits Against Social Media Companies Are Piling Up

In a nutshell, the lawsuits allege that social media companies have designed highly addictive products that are harmful to mental health and that they have marketed them to youth who are in a developmental stage that makes them uniquely susceptible to manipulation. Those practices, critics of social media companies argue, come at a time when school districts have been forced to devote substantial resources to addressing students’ deteriorating mental health. Many of the lawsuits are asking for money and for social media companies to change their practices—such as the design of their algorithms. Social media is making students more anxious and depressed, and causing them to act out, said Nancy Magee, the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools. It’s been a significant drain on school resources, Magee said.  Arianna Prothero has more in her EdWeek article

From foster care to university: How to secure financial stability.  ABC Owned Television Stations is joining forces with Microsoft Philanthropy to drive conversations about building wealth in the Black community in a new one-hour documentary special called, “Our America: In The Black.”  “Within our philanthropies division, we’re committed to leveling the playing field to put in the power behind the back of these organizations using our data and technology,” Booker said. “And I hope all the nonprofits take advantage of our tech acceleration program.”  In this related piece, ABC7’s Nzinga Blake, Alexis Johnson-Fowlkes & CharNae Brown explore how education can ensure foster care and low-income students go to college debt free.

How to fix chronic absenteeism in America’s schools

In this episode transcript of WBUR’s On Point Radio, Daniel Ackerman and Meghna Chakrabarti delve into the issue of student absenteeism, with about a third of students projected to miss at least 10% of school days this year. The discussion explores the reasons behind students missing school and seeks solutions to address chronic absenteeism in American schools, featuring guests such as Scott Hale, principal of Johnstown High School, Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, Todd Rogers, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and co-founder of Everyday Labs, and Aaris Johnson, director of home visits and re-engagement at Concentric Educational Solutions.

Also check out Linda Jacobson’s piece in the 74 Million “Report: Schools Won’t Recover from COVID Absenteeism Crisis Until at Least 2030”

NYC schools would lose $131 million under proposed changes to state funding formula, officials say

Because of a change Gov. Kathy Hochul included in her proposed budget last month, the city could see less money than anticipated. Schools Chancellor David Banks expressed concerns at the hearing. “This does not help us at the level that we expect,” he said. “There’s certainly now additional adjustments we’re going to have to make at the loss of revenue.” Overall, the city’s schools are poised to receive roughly $13.3 billion from the state for the upcoming fiscal year, representing a more than $340 million increase in state aid from last year. But city officials were caught off guard that the number was lower than they expected. For more see Julian Shen-Berro’s Chalkbeat article.

Philadelphia tax break program fails to deliver hoped-for benefits to students

Every so often, Philadelphia’s school board members have to decide whether to grant huge tax breaks to property developers through a program that, on the whole, siphons money away from the city and the district they govern. These tax breaks are a lynchpin of Keystone Opportunity Zones, a 25-year-old state program that officials say spurs development on abandoned or underutilized land by waiving nearly all state and local taxes, including business and property taxes, in the zones for up to 10 years. But by the district’s own estimate, the zones have cost Philadelphia public schools $59.9 million since 2017. The district lost out on $7.7 million in 2022, an amount that could have funded 61 librarians for one year. Emily Rizzo digs into the details here.

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