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: The city addresses school board elections, announces winners of its library card contest,fosters STEM mentoring, promotes financial literacy, and celebrates high school seniors’ achievements. In the Bay Area: Contra Costa County schools face teacher shortages, a family sues over a school shooting incident, and San Francisco undergoes significant educational changes. In the State of California: New legislation aims to improve reading instruction, apprenticeships are introduced to address teacher shortages, and efforts are made to expand computer science education statewide. Across The Nation: A survey reveals disparities in access to advanced math classes, Oklahoma teachers face demands to repay bonuses, and prison inmates gain access to Pell Grants for college education.
What did we miss? Hit us up in the comments below:
The Alameda County Board of Education Election Coverage starts with FIA’s Virtual Forum
As we published this week, four seats are up for re-election at the critical ACOE School Board for Areas 2, 3, 5, and 6. For those who don’t know, the School Board makes key policy decisions and oversees specialized programs, and as Ashley McBride notes from Oaklandside, the Board has also authorized 13 charter schools that enroll about 3,700 students, 9 of which are in Oakland. Three Oakland charters are up for renewal before the Board in June.
This week, FIA Oakland held a virtual forum where six of the eight candidates answered key questions directly from Oakland parents, students, and community members. Stay tuned here for more election coverage as you spend the next few weeks evaluating the candidates before voting by mail before March 5!
Oakland nonprofit aims to mentor Black young men through STEM
A nonprofit organization that started in Oakland with a mission to mentor Black young men and transform their life through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics now has spread across the country. “I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’ve also been thinking about inventing,” Hayward High School freshman Adrian Buttram said. “I like tinkering.”
Financial literacy taught to kids at Oakland elementary school
Budgets, debit cards and savings accounts are not your average topics of conversation with 10-year-olds. But at Franklin Elementary School in Oakland, that’s exactly what the fourth and fifth graders are discussing.“They’re learning about investing and saving and budgeting and avoiding bad debt,”… “Children of color are traditionally left behind in terms of economic parity, so what we’re trying to do is intervene and disrupt so that these kids in Oakland have an opportunity to gain financial knowledge,” said banker-turned-educator Valerie Chapman.
Oakland-Area High School Seniors Graduate from Racial Equity Financial Education Program with New-Found Knowledge, $8,000 College Scholarships
Two dozen high school students will receive $8,000 scholarships as they graduate from the Economic Equity and Financial Education Program on Saturday (Feb. 10). The program is a two-semester advanced financial education course taught at the Haas School of Business, University of California , Berkeley , created and funded by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and The PG&E Corporation Foundation (PG&E Foundation). This is the second class of students to successfully complete the rigorous academic program that accepted its first cohort in fall 2022. Each student will be awarded a college scholarship for completing the program.
‘FAFSA Fridays’ helps families complete the FAFSA
Following the recent changes made to and subsequent delays with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Oakland University’s Student Financial Services (SFS) is hosting “FAFSA Fridays” every Friday in Feb. between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in North Foundation Hall (NFH), Room 120. “Because this was such a new experience for students, we wanted to be as accessible and available to students as we possibly could be to help them through the process,” Nicole Boelk, Director of Student Financial Services, said. “Of course, our office is always available to help students with FAFSA completion, but we wanted to bring focus and dedication to the FAFSA process this year just because of how much it has changed.”
Oakland Coaches Trained to Support Young Athletes’ Mental Health | Oakland soccer club coaches learn to spot signs of depression and anxiety among Black and Latino youth
Most of the players with the Oakland Soccer Club are low-income Black and Latino youth—the groups more likely to suffer depression, and the former at higher risk for suicide than white youth, according to a new study. The study, published in JAMA Network Open in October, examined Kaiser Permanente patients aged 12-16 in Northern California who were asked how frequently they felt down, depressed or hopeless in the two weeks before an appointment. Researchers say the study’s findings “suggest that interventions aimed at promoting equity in adolescent mental health outcomes must extend beyond the clinical setting,” which could be accomplished in part through direct access in schools and neighborhoods to therapists and other adults capable of recognizing emotional issues.
CHILDREN’S WINNER Lucas Oda Selected Music As The Focus For His ‘African American Musicians’
Artwork. (Photo Courtesy Of Oakland Public Library)
Library Cards Showcase Oakland Spirit
The limited-edition artwork of nine winners of Oakland Public Library’s 2024 library card contest combines to create a vibrant, celebratory mini-exhibit of the city of Oakland and its people. Honoring Black artistry, culture and history, and reflecting the spirit of Oakland during Black History Month, the winners of this year’s contest were chosen by a panel of judges from among a curated finalists list of 39 drawn from over 100 designs submitted by members of the community. The limited-edition cards were selected from three age groups: children ages 5 to 12, teenagers ages 13 to 17, and adults.
The Bay Area
Lack of teachers at three Contra Costa County schools is violating students’ civil rights, attorneys say | Some students in Richmond and San Pablo have lacked a permanent teacher for months.
John F. Kennedy High School was so flush with teachers in the 1960s and ’70s that staff boasted of their pioneering food services training program and nationally ranked speech and debate team, alongside typical core classes and extracurricular activities. Now, there are so few bodies on campus that current educators like Raka Ray, who teaches biology and chemistry to sophomores and upperclassmen, are essentially on call each morning to sub in other classrooms during their prep times. Ray, a 33-year-old who commutes from Oakland and has taught at both Kennedy and Helms since 2017, said students’ academic performance suffers without access to permanent, qualified teachers. “It’s exhausting, and the mental toll has been really, really high,” Ray said. “It feels like if you’re not at 100% you’re letting your kids down, even though the issue is actually structural.”
WCCUSD school psychologists face burnout due to consistent staff shortages
West Contra Costa Unified School District’s school psychologist internship program once flourished. The district recruited from substantial applicant pools from local universities and provided a strong start for beginning school psychologists entering the workforce, often retaining them after the internships ended. Now, however, in the years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, WCCUSD is struggling to recruit interns and fill vacant school psychologist positions. This means psychologists… are carrying larger case loads and working longer hours, leading to burnout. WCCUSD… started the 2023-24 academic year with more than 200 special education paraprofessional vacancies. On Jan. 31, Public Advocates, a nonprofit civil rights law firm, filed three complaints with the district, alleging some schools failed to provide students with qualified teachers because of problems related to staffing shortages.
San Francisco school district to make monumental changes in face of legal threat
A Bay Area attorney is demanding that San Francisco school officials make the seismic shift from citywide board elections to smaller district races by November or face a massive and expensive legal battle that could result in paying millions of dollars in legal fees… the seven-member school board is expected to accede to the lawyer’s demands — approving a hurried adoption of individual district elections based on legal advice and the likelihood of losing a court fight… A vote is scheduled for the next school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
She expands her coverage of the issue in this follow-up piece titled What to know about the costly legal battle facing SFUSD.
Woke Kindergarten critic put on leave in Bay Area school district
The East Bay teacher who publicly questioned spending $250,000 on an anti-racist teaching training program was placed on administrative leave Thursday, days after he shared his concerns over Woke Kindergarten in the Chronicle. They did not give any specifics as to why he was placed on paid leave, other than to say it was over “allegations of unprofessional conduct,” Craven-Neeley said.
In a related article by Jill, East Bay school official investigated over Woke Kindergarten remarks: A Hayward school board member is facing a formal investigation as well as public outrage over offensive comments he made to a staff member during a recent public meeting.“Some of the parents here should take a rope and string you up,” Ramos said to Sandra Escobedo, director of supplemental and concentration services, who was answering board members’ questions about state funding and the district’s budget.
Algebra would return to middle schools under plan before SFUSD board
San Francisco middle schools would once again offer Algebra 1 to eighth-grade students starting in the fall under a proposal heading to the school board for a vote later this month.The measure urges the district to give students the opportunity to speed up the math sequence, allowing them to take calculus as high school seniors without having to take summer school or double up on math courses.“SFUSD’s vision for math is to prepare all middle school students for Algebra 1 in eighth grade and increase the number of underrepresented students in higher level math,” said Superintendent Matt Wayne in a statement.
Longfellow Middle School is getting a new look
Longfellow Middle School is getting a much anticipated facelift. Construction on a $33 million project that will modernize most of the campus began last month and will wrap in time for the 2025 school year. The modernization is one of the largest campus overhauls paid for by Measure G, a $380 million school construction bond approved by voters in 2020. “We at Longfellow are very excited about this long-awaited vision finally starting to materialize,” Paz Melendez Canales, a parent of students who attended Longfellow said at a school board meeting last year. “I can’t wait to see what the campus will look like in a few years.”
15-year-old student arrested for Bay Area high school swatting incident
Officials from the Fairfield Police Department say a 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with a swatting incident that prompted a lockdown at Vanden High School Feb. 2 following a report of an active shooter on campus. Officials quickly cleared the school of a threat and determined the incident was most likely caused by a swatting type incident. According to Brantley, swatting incidents occur when “a prank call is made to emergency services in an attempt to get a large number of police officers, including SWAT (hence the name) to converge on a particular address.”
The State of California
Why California might mandate the ‘science of reading’ in all schools
A new Assembly bill introduced today would require all California schools to teach students to read using the “science of reading,” a phonics-based approach that research shows is a more effective way to teach literacy. AB 2222, introduced by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, a Democrat from West Covina, is backed by Marshall Tuck, who ran for California superintendent of public instruction in 2018. Tuck is now the chief executive officer of EdVoice, an education policy organization. It’s also backed by the advocacy groups Decoding Dyslexia California and Families in Schools.
Setting aside local control, legislation would mandate how to teach reading in California
Pointing to dismal test scores, a veteran lawmaker and a coalition of advocacy groups introduce AB 2222. The bill would shift the state’s decade-old policy of encouraging districts to incorporate fundamental reading skills in the early grades, including phonics, to demanding that they do so. This would depart from the state policy of giving school districts discretion to choose curriculums and teaching methods that meet state academic standards.
John Fensterwald also looks at how Cal’s ‘High-quality public schools’ initiative has been pushed back to the 2026 ballot here in EdSource.
The author of a vaguely defined proposed constitutional amendment to require the state and school districts to “provide all public school students with high-quality public schools” has decided to postpone the campaign two years. “We have also decided that we are best positioned to go forward with a ballot initiative in the 2026 election cycle. This will give us the greatest opportunity to develop the broad-based public support and the necessary financial capacity to ensure success,” wrote David Welch, a Bay Area entrepreneur and the founder and chair of the nonprofit group Students Matter, in an email to supporters last week.
California adding apprenticeships to teacher recruitment toolbox
Apprenticeships are being added to the long list of initiatives California has undertaken in recent years to address its enduring teacher shortage. State leaders hope that the free or reduced-priced tuition and steady salary that generally accompany apprenticeships will encourage more people to become teachers. Apprentices complete their bachelor’s degree and a teacher preparation program while working as a member of the support staff at a school. They gain clinical experience at work while taking courses to earn their teaching credentials. “It opens up the pipeline to teaching for folks who are hired into the school district,” said Joe Ross, president of Reach University, a nonprofit that operates a teacher apprenticeship program.
NEWS RELEASE: State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Assemblymember Marc Berman Unveil AB 2097 to Guarantee Access to Computer Science for All California Students | The Bill will Require Every Public High School to Teach Computer Science and Establish Computer Science as a High School Graduation Requirement
SACRAMENTO—Today, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) unveiled legislation to expand access to computer science education in California by requiring that all public high schools in California offer at least one computer science education course. The bill, AB 2097, also establishes computer science as a high school graduation requirement by the 2030–31 school year.
Across The Nation
Can you take algebra in eighth grade? In many cases, the answer is no, national survey finds
If you’re an eighth grader who wants to take algebra, can you even take the class? The answer to that question, it turns out, depends a lot on two things: how your school identifies students for advanced math, and where you live. According to a new nationally representative survey released Tuesday, 65% of U.S. principals said their elementary or middle school offered algebra in eighth grade, but only to certain students. Meanwhile, just 20% of principals said their school offered the class in eighth grade and that any student could take it. But that picture differed by state. The findings, based on surveys conducted last spring by the RAND Corporation, shed light on the uneven access students have to advanced math classes in middle school, which can have lasting effects on their higher education and job prospects.
A Forgotten Championship H.B.C.U. Team Comes Off the Sidelines
The Tennessee A&I Tigers, playing in the N.A.I.A. back in 1957, would become the first team from a historically Black college or university to win any national championship, and the first college team to win three back-to-back championships. Shooting guard Dick Barnett, now 87, went on to play for the two New York Knicks championship teams in the 1970s and is now the subject of a new PBS documentary, “The Dream Whisperer.” And if Barnett has his way, the journey will include one final stop: the White House. More than 50 members of Congress have signed a letter on the team’s behalf asking for an invitation “for long overdue acknowledgment and proper celebration.”
States bet big on career education, but struggle to show it works
Their inability to answer stems from disconnected data. Because of student privacy concerns, a number of states don’t connect their K-12 school and workforce data sets. In effect, students fall off the states’ radar when they start working. Now, Louisiana is one of a few states seeking to combine its data sets to track students from preschool into college and careers. Until then, students’ post-high school employment outcomes remain a mystery. Do former CTE students find jobs in the industries they studied? Do they earn good wages? Prospective CTE students and policymakers have no way of knowing.
Oklahoma mistakenly gave bonuses to these teachers. Do they have to pay it back?
As Kristina Stadelman cradled her 3-day-old son, she said she was trying not to focus on the demand letter from the Oklahoma State Department of Education in front of her. Stadelman teaches special education to kindergarten through fourth-grade students in the Oklahoma City metro area. In 2023, she applied for the state’s new Teacher Signing Bonus program, which aims to address a critical shortage of early education and special education teachers. To be eligible, educators had to commit to teaching elementary or special education for five years and couldn’t have taught full time with standard certification the year before in Oklahoma. Teachers working in rural or high-poverty schools qualified for bigger amounts. The department gave 522 teachers these bonuses, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 each. But in January, Stadelman got a letter that turned everything upside down. The State Department of Education notified Stadelman that she was not eligible for the bonus after all because she taught in an Oklahoma school district the year before.
Pell Grants offer prison inmates a chance to pursue a college education
For the first time in decades, prison inmates are eligible for the Pell Grant, a federal financial aid program that helps low-income students receive a college education.Simon Garcia, 34, who graduated college last November from a state prison in Ellsworth, Kansas, is just one of the people whose life was changed due to a Pell Grant. “I’ve been in prison and incarcerated all my life, since I was 12 years old,” Garcia told ABC News. With seven more years to go in prison, he has now earned his associate’s degree in general studies with honors, after being a full-time student taking five classes a semester. He is graduating along with a dozen other convicted men.
After a spate of education bans, Florida churches are taking Black history into their own hands | At least 290 churches now hold their own Black history lessons to combat statewide attacks on race-inclusive education.
Some 100 people — Black and white, from elementary school-aged children to adults in their 80s — filed into the Agape Perfecting Praise and Worship Center in Orlando in October. They were there for a lesson in Black history from LaVon Bracy, the director of democracy at Faith in Florida, an Orlando-based religious nonprofit. Bracy, who has a Ph.D. in education, spoke to the crowd about … the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Agape is just one of nearly 300 churches in Florida that have launched Black history lessons for their communities in recent months. From Jacksonville to Miami, Black church leaders are inviting community members — regardless of whether they attend church or are Christians — to learn about everything from the Civil Rights Movement to Juneteenth to mass incarceration. This effort is in direct response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide crusade to restrict how race and other subjects are taught in public schools and colleges.
Teen under police protection after school board member falsely implies this girl is transgender, prompting threats
A teenage girl in Utah faced threats after a state school board member appeared to raise questions about her gender on social media, eliciting a condemnation from the state’s top government officials. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Natalie Cline, a member of the Utah State Board of Education since 2020, posted a photo of the high school basketball player on Tuesday and falsely implied the student is transgender, writing: “Girls’ basketball…” Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson condemned Cline for her social media posts in a joint statement Wednesday. They urged the state’s board of education to hold her accountable. They also praised the Granite School District “for taking swift action to protect this student’s safety and well-being.”
Cough? Sore throat? More US schools suggest mildly sick kids attend anyway
Trenace Dorsey-Hollins’ 5-year-old daughter was sick a lot last year. Dorsey-Hollins followed school guidelines and kept her home when she had a cough or a sore throat — or worse — until she was completely better. Near the end of the year, the school in Fort Worth, Texas, called her in to talk about why her daughter had missed so much school. During the pandemic, schools urged parents and children to stay home at any sign of illness. Even though the emergency has ended, she said no one has clarified that those rules have changed. “It’s extremely confusing,” she said.
Paterson teachers, parents rally outside Board of Education against ‘Right Size’ policy
Parents and teachers are planning to walk out of classes in Paterson. The move is being made in protest of Right Size, a new policy in which staffers are being moved around from school to school. About 20 parents and teachers gathered to rally outside of the Board of Education Friday morning. At times they chanted, “Right Size doesn’t fit.”
Strategic, sustainable residencies can help solve the teacher shortage
In this commentary for EdSource by Rebecca Hatkof & Debra Russel, attention is paid to how public schools in California are facing historic staffing challenges: rising rates of dissatisfaction and burnout within the current workforce and unprecedented shortages of future teachers, as increased housing and education costs deter potential teachers from entering the field. They posit how university teacher preparation programs and school districts can create more effective partnerships to meet these demands.
This proposed NYC middle school will be ‘genderful.’ Here’s what that means.
In this first-person view story, a teacher reflects on their decade-long experience teaching middle school math in New York City, noting the evolving challenges students face due to the pandemic and social media, while also observing a growing openness among students towards exploring gender identity. Inspired by their students’ experiences, the teacher introduces the concept of Miss Major Middle, a proposed public charter school in Brooklyn, centered on affirming identities, amplifying voices, and celebrating humanity, with a curriculum focused on STEAAM education and activism.
The Illinois State Board of Education finalized a literacy plan. What’s next?
Two years after Illinois literacy advocates started pushing the state to adopt research-backed reading curriculum, the Illinois State Board of Education finalized a comprehensive literacy plan last month. Now, advocates are pushing for more funding to schools and support for educators to implement the plan. The literacy plan grew out of an effort by Illinois advocates, who pushed lawmakers in 2022 to pass The Right to Read Act.