The Oakland Ed Week in Review 3/16/24-3/22/24 

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: 

Here in Oakland |  We delve into various topics in Oakland including the empowerment of transitional-age youth with disabilities through the Young Adult Program, the significant equity gaps in academic proficiency among student subgroups in Oakland schools, advocacy efforts for dedicated state funding and local flexibility to support homeless youth, a controversy regarding censorship of sensitive topics in educational settings, and recognition of Black educators’ dedication through the Winter 2024 Black Teacher Project Wellness Grant. 

In the Greater Bay Area |  A debate over the Israel-Palestine curriculum has sparked controversy at Berkeley schools, with differing opinions on how the topic should be taught; meanwhile, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated $57 million to Bay Area nonprofits, supporting a wide range of social justice initiatives.

Throughout the State of California |  California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) has seen mixed success in improving education equity, with increased funding for disadvantaged students but persistent racial achievement gaps; meanwhile, new legislation aims to improve child literacy by mandating a focus on the science of reading in English curriculum, and a debate over high school math skills required for college success has been stirred by UC’s decision regarding data science courses. Additionally, there’s a push to teach landmark desegregation cases in schools, while controversies such as the firing of Superintendent Hilaria Bauer in the Alum Rock Union School District highlight ongoing challenges in education leadership and governance.

Across the Nation |  Recent developments in education include a study showing that Black students, especially boys, are less likely to be identified for special needs with Black teachers, budget proposals cutting the Education Department’s budget by $500 million, confusion surrounding the return of SAT testing at colleges, criticism of the Education Department’s handling of FAFSA issues, initiatives to eliminate junk fees on student loans, calls for revising principal pay scales in North Carolina, controversies over restricting DEI programs in Alabama schools, and discussions about the future direction of teachers unions’ agendas.

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


In Oakland Unified’s young adult program, students with disabilities gain life skills and community |  The Santa Fe School is home base for the Oakland Unified School District’s young adult program that empowers transitional-age youth. The foundation of OUSD’s young adult program is community integration—through jobs, volunteer work, internships, and community college classes. “We worry…” said Jake Hall, the assistant principal. “We feel like part of our job is to shore up those connections and give them as much experience and exposure to what’s out there…” 

Ashley McBride | The Oaklandside 

Some of Oakland’s most diverse schools also show large equity gaps |  

The 2023 SBAC results reveal a shocking truth about the racial disparities within OUSD, where 40 of 108 schools have gaps between their highest & lowest subgroups in ELA proficiency, while 36 of 108 schools have gaps between their highest & lowest subgroups in Math.  In this latest post by FIA, the author reflects on the themes raised in Courtney Martin’s book “Learning in Public,” questioning the impact of white parents choosing racially integrated schools and highlighting the persistent racial disparities in academic performance among Oakland public schools, advocating for a deeper understanding and community-driven interventions to address the complex issues of academic achievement and student diversity. 

Families In Action

Homeless youth advocates call for dedicated state funding, local flexibility | The call comes from the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, which is also co-sponsoring Assembly Bill 2137. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, proposes making it easier for local organizations that serve foster youth to provide direct services. It also mandates those same programs be informed when foster students opt out of applying for federal financial aid, and it requires districts to detail how they plan to increase identification of students experiencing homelessness.  “If we do not have the basic infrastructure in the state to identify them and do any preventative work, we are going to continue to fail this population and then see chronic adult homelessness grow, which is the issue everyone says they care about,” said Margaret Olmos, director of the National Center for Youth Law’s compassionate education systems team in California. 

Betty Marquez Rosales | Ed Source

Oakland student says school censored her story that criticized Israel’s bombing of Gaza | Aliyah Sharif – a student at Oakland Tech High School – claims that her story about the Israel-Hamas conflict was censored, sparking discussions and complaints among district and school officials. The controversy arose due to perceived anti-Semitic implications in the death toll comparisons, highlighting the difficulties of addressing sensitive topics like these within educational settings. “I don’t see it as antisemitic at all.. I’m not preaching any hate in my article about the jewish community at all” said Aliyah. 

Kenny Choi | KPIX CBS News Bay Area

Winter 2024 Black Teacher Project Wellness Grant | The BTP celebrates grant recipients, highlighting the stories and dedication of 20 Black educators, including Joya Brandon, Shartresa Nixon, Lawrenzo Howell, and Sasha Fletcher, who each received $500 to support their self-care and showcase their enduring passion for education.  

Black Teacher Project

The Bay Area

A debate over Israel-Palestine curriculum flares at Berkeley schools | Berkeleyside reviewed a series of lessons on Israel-Palestine taught at Berkeley High. Here’s what they said: | “I want to be taught the truth, even if it’s hard for some people to hear,” said Yasmine Nassar, a Palestinian 6th grader. |  “It’s an oversimplification of events,” said sophomore Nevo Naftalin-Kelman. “I don’t think it’s antisemitic, but it doesn’t need to be antisemitic to be biased and to create situations where people are feeling uncomfortable.” |  “My heart hurts for our teachers and our staff, who are under constant scrutiny and are vilified for any perceived imperfections,” “And my heart hurts for our children… who often get lost among the adult disagreements we have.”school board director Jennifer Shanoski said at a board meeting Wednesday. | “That’s our job as teachers — to be like, ‘There’s space for everybody in this classroom.’ And that’s what we tried to do with the Israel-Palestine lesson,” Villagran, who is jewish, said…  And everyone belongs in this community together.”  

Ally Markovich | Berkeleyside 

Billionaire Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott Donates $57 Million to Bay Area Nonprofits |  Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott is giving $640 million to 361 small nonprofits — including some $57 million to over 30 Bay Area groups — that responded to an open call for applications. The Bay Area nonprofit recipients address a wide range of social justice issues, from youth development and human rights to gender equity and racial justice. “This incredible investment from MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving is a testament to the impact of our work,” said Veronica Goei, executive director of San José-based Grail Family Services.  

Thalia Beaty | Associated Press

The State of California 

California spends more on schools with the neediest kids. Here’s how it’s succeeded, and failed |  A decade after California revolutionized how it funds schools, nearly everyone agrees the initiative has done what it was meant to do. And nearly everyone also agrees that the Local Control Funding Formula, as it’s known, could use a tune-up.  But Black and Latino students’ test scores have improved but still lag behind their white and Asian peers, and schools in affluent areas still spend far more per student than schools in poorer neighborhoods.  This story delves into the Funding Formula (LCFF) and its impact on the state’s education system, acknowledging its successes in improving math and reading scores and allocating resources to disadvantaged students, while also highlighting persistent challenges such as racial disparities in academic achievement and the need for further adjustments to address broader educational inequities beyond funding alone. 

Carolyn Jones | Cal Matters

Charts show UC admissions rates for every high school in California

While some of these race breakdowns may be based on small numbers, they highlight broader trends within the UC student body. Black students have comprised between 4% and 5% of the undergraduate population for the last decade, despite an increase in applications from Black students. According to a Chronicle analysis of historical enrollment data, increased applications among Black and Hispanic students have only led to a small rise in representation among those who enroll.  

Nami Sumida | SF Chronicle

New California legislation would mandate ‘science of reading’ to improve child literacy |  Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and 13 co-authors have proposed a bill that would update the state’s English curriculum with the science of reading.  The bill calls for more instructional materials and curriculum for classrooms to align with the science of reading. It also emphasizes the need for increased professional development for teachers and more progress monitoring for struggling students. “All English language arts, English language development, and reading textbooks and instructional materials for transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and any of grades 1 to 8, inclusive, shall adhere to the science of reading,” reads the bill. More on the proposal and related issues can be found in the article.

Angelina Hicks | LA School Report

UC stirs furious debate over what high school math skills are needed to succeed in college | Last month UC notified California high schools that three of the most popular data science courses no longer count toward the advanced math requirement because the classes fail to teach the upper level algebra content all incoming students must know.  The decision has ratcheted up math anxiety and fomented confusion among high school students throughout California as they chart their high-stakes path for coveted UC admissions. California high schools offering data science classes — about 435 across the state — are also uncertain over how to revise curriculum and counsel their students.

Theresa Watanabe | The Los Angeles Times

It’s time California schools teach landmark desegregation case, say the sisters at the heart of it |  Sandra Mendez Duran was studying at UC Riverside when she noticed two names in a book: those of her parents.  This was a story of a young couple who fought back when they were told their children weren’t allowed to attend a “White” school, a couple who without many resources won their case, leading to the desegregation of California’s schools. The federal case is considered to have set the stage for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education case seven years later that said segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Duran told that story while advocating in Sacramento on Wednesday, March 20, for legislation that would incorporate the Mendez v. Westminster case into history and social science curriculum standards for California’s public schools. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn | Mercury News Group

Alum Rock Union School District board fires controversial Superintendent Hilaria Bauer |   Superintendent Hilaria Bauer has been ousted after a rocky, decade-long tenure in which her handling of a series of controversies put her at odds with school board members — but also won the support of some parents who defended her when her job was rumored to be at risk.

Grace Hase | Mercury News Group

Across The Nation

Black Boys Less Likely To Be Identified With Special Needs If They Have Black Teachers, Study Finds |  Previous research has found that black students are overrepresented in special education, while under-achieving in terms of academic attainment, and more likely to fall foul of school behavior policies.  The latest study on black students in North Carolina found that having a black teacher significantly decreased the likelihood of being referred to special education, particularly benefiting black boys who were almost a fifth less likely to be identified with a learning disability, as reported in the American Educational Research Journal. “Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that having access to black teachers matters to black children’s educational journeys,” said Cassandra Hart, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of the study.  

Nick Morrison | Forbes

FY 24 budget proposal cuts Education Department by $500M |  The proposed decrease in discretionary appropriations for the Education Department also comes as K-12 districts and states are weaning themselves from the one-time federal COVID-19 emergency aid. Under the proposal, Title I and state grants for special education services — two of the largest K-12 federal funding programs — would each get a $20 million increase over FY 2023 allocations.  In announcing the budget agreement, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine said in a joint statement that members of Congress should “waste no time” in passing the budget plan, “which will greatly benefit every state in America and reflect important priorities of many Senators.”  

Kara Arundel | K-12 Dive

The SAT is coming back at some colleges. It’s stressing everyone out |  A California mother drove 80 miles this month to find an SAT testing center. Across the country, college counselors are fielding questions from teenagers alarmed, encouraged or simply confused.  Colleges nationwide have been updating their coronavirus-era policies on standardized testing, which many dropped when the pandemic shut down in-person testing centers. “You could be expecting and preparing for a certain way to apply to a college and present yourself — but then they change it mid-application process,” said Kai Talbert, a 17-year-old high school junior in Pennsylvania. “That’s really confusing. It can set back a lot of people.”

Hannah Natanson and Susan Svrluga | The Washington Post

Education Department accused of ‘malicious negligence’ amid FAFSA issues |  Former top student loan official Wayne Johnson accused the Education Department of “malicious negligence” in a letter written to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and other senior officials. “Each of you is personally and collectively responsible for what is manifesting to be a level of incredible harm inflicted upon students and schools,” Johnson wrote. 

Jessica Dickler | CNBC News

In related news, hundreds of thousands of financial aid applications need to be fixed after latest calculation error |  A vendor working for the federal government incorrectly calculated a financial aid formula for more than 200,000 students –  a blunder that follows a series of others and threatens further delays to this year’s college applications. Officials said they have fixed the error and it “will not affect future records.”  

Collin Binkley | Associated Press | NBC Bay Area 

White House targets ‘junk fees’ on student loans and other higher education costs |  White House touted its actions to reduce the expenses burdening students, including moving to end origination fees on student loans.  While most private lenders have done away with student loan origination fees, the federal government still charges them.  Consumer advocates praised Biden’s efforts. “By eliminating origination fees on federal student loans, borrowers should be able to borrow less to cover their costs,” said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit. 

Annie Nova | CNBC News

North Carolina Principals Want Pay Scale to Go Beyond School Performance, Size

During a House education reform meeting, two North Carolina Regional Principals of the Year urged lawmakers to revise the state’s principal payment plan, arguing that its heavy reliance on test scores discourages principals from working in low-performing or high-poverty schools, according to representatives from the NCPAPA. “It is not focused on significant increases in pay but on tweaking the compensation model to provide greater pay stability and to keep outstanding principals in their schools longer,” the presentation says. “The current plan was a step in the right direction for overall principal compensation. However, the plan had a few unintended consequences.”  

Hannah McClellan | The 74 Million

Alabama governor signs bill restricting DEI programs in public schools |  The legislation stipulates that schools and agencies cannot sponsor any DEI programs or require their students or employees to participate in them. It also states that they cannot punish students or employees for their “refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, or otherwise assent to a divisive concept or diversity statement.”  Civil rights groups have condemned the bill.  In a statement in late February, free-speech advocacy group PEN America called the legislation “the most pernicious educational gag order impacting higher education.” 

 Praveena Somasundaram and Hannah Natanson | The Washington Post

OPINION | What lies ahead for teachers unions’ common good agendas |  This piece highlights the rising trend of union militancy in education – extending beyond traditional pay issues –  to advocate for a broader “common good” agenda. This progressive movement, however, faces some challenges in maintaining unity among its coalition members, as demonstrated by recent struggles in negotiating and addressing various social, economic, and political issues within the education system. 

Paul Hill | Founder, CRPE and Professor of Practice, MLFTC

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