The Oakland Ed Week in Review 3/9/24-3/15/24 

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 |  OUSD is facing budget challenges, with the possibility of school closures looming due to overspending, declining enrollment, and deficits. In addition, recent achievements include Fremont High School’s Media Academy in Oakland receiving a prestigious award despite being slated for closure, both the Oakland High girls and Oakland Tech boys took home state championships in basketball, and a teacher standing by their participation in a pro-Palestinian “teach-in,” highlighting various activities and events in the educational sphere.

In the Greater Bay Area |  Berkeley High students painted a ‘Free Palestine’ mural downtown, featuring a young person in a keffiyeh reading a book styled as a Palestinian flag, as part of a protest during their lunch break. In other news, Algebra I is being offered in some SF schools again, while Advanced Placement African American Studies will be offered in Bay Area schools. An East San Jose school superintendent was fired abruptly, and a Pinole community is rallying to support a principal facing reassignment. Additionally, a South Bay school district’s transition to a new trustee election system is being challenged, and a San Jose school district decided not to close a K-8 school for now.

Throughout the State of California |  California’s science test is set to be integrated into the state school dashboard, enhancing accountability for science education. In other education news, a ballot measure for a personal finance class in high schools gains momentum, a bill seeks to extend financial aid deadlines for affected students, and two conservative Orange school board members are ousted in a recall election. Additionally, parental notification policies are a point of contention, and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announces the 2024 California Exemplary Dual Enrollment Schools.

Across the Nation |  Mixed-status students facing glitches in completing the FAFSA highlight ongoing challenges in financial aid accessibility. Meanwhile, education continues to evolve with the introduction of digital SAT tests, innovative approaches like playful assessments drawn from video games, and increased focus on supporting new teachers for long-term retention. Additional issues such as chronic absenteeism, legal battles over online speech, and state-specific education policies such as teacher salary raises and budget cuts underscore the diverse landscape of challenges and innovations in education across the United States.

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


Both S.F. and Oakland more likely to close schools as budget worsens |  San Francisco Unified School District and Oakland Unified School District have been overspending for years. Both face ongoing declining enrollment and too many empty seats. Both are scrambling to make budget cuts to overcome massive deficits. And top officials in both districts say they can’t see a path forward that doesn’t include closing schools.  “Misery loves company,” said Oakland school board president Sam Davis, acknowledging the two districts are facing the months-long process to merge or close schools.  By Jill Tucker for San Francisco Chronicle

State honors Fremont High School’s Media Academy in Oakland | Beyond the Lights & Cameras, Fremont High School is setting students up for success, in and out of the studio.  In a marked move in a positive direction – an Oakland school & Media Academy that was slated to be shut down – has been given one of California most prestigious awards.   “I absolutely love it.. That’s the whole reason I came here, “said Yizel Ceja Martinez.   By Velena Jones for NBC Bay Area News

Two Oakland basketball teams win state titles for second year in a row | The Oakland High girls and Oakland Tech boys basketball teams both won state championship trophies this weekend, a year after the Tech girls and O-High boys brought home the hardware from Sacramento. In an era where elite basketball players can choose whatever school they want to attend, and the elite of the elite can even go straight to a professional team, it is truly remarkable that two schools from a district with dwindling resources for extracurricular activities can reach the pinnacle of prep sports in California. But that’s what’s happening in Oakland. By Tony Daqipa in Oaklandside

Tough Lessons – Months later, Oakland teacher stands by objectives of pro-Palestinian “teach-in” | In December, dozens of teachers within the district participated in an unsanctioned teach-in highlighting pro-Palestinian lessons rather than material in the district-approved curriculum.  An Oakland teacher who participated in a controversial pro-Palestinian “teach-in” in December still stands by her actions, saying students deserved to know the details surrounding the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas. “Students are exploring the connections between their own experience between what the U.S. government and why agents with the U.S. government do here and in other places, and just thinking about historical and current context for the situation unfolding in Gaza in the Middle East in general, so I’m proud of our students and staff,” the teacher said.  And now the Oakland’s Teachers Union has called on the National Union Affiliate to rescind its endorsement of President Biden until a permanent ceasefire is enacted.  By Lauren Toms for KPIX CBS News Bay Area

Kingian nonviolence training — community building and violence de-escalation |  A tribute to community building and the teaching of violence de-escalation took place at the Kingian nonviolence training on the night of March 7 in the Laidlaw room of Oakview Hall. Kim Reidgan, coordinator of the Meta Peace Team Detroit hub, trained around 30 attendees. “In many cases, when you’re advocating for something, you need to know how to take the next step,” Mathew Seidel, President of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) at OU said. “The purpose of this was to give a sample for when the going starts to get tougher and asking politely isn’t enough, how to force the issue without losing dignity.”  By Adrian Jimenez Morales, Campus Report for The Oakland Post

OUSD Shares Details of Second Interim Report Which Shows Decrease in the General Fund Balance |  At the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 13, the Directors received the Second Interim report from District staff. It is one of two Interim reports that the state of California requires every school district to file each year, sharing details of district finances at different points during the year. This Second Interim report shows changes in OUSD’s finances that were expected, but still significant and challenging. The report shows that the District currently projects an Unrestricted General Fund deficit of $35.4 million for 2023-24, which is an increase of almost $14M over what was projected in the First Interim report in December. OUSD Newsroom

The Bay Area

10 S.F. schools to offer Algebra I in eighth-grade classrooms in fall |  District officials announced Friday which of the 13 middle schools and six K-8 schools would offer Algebra I in the upcoming school year and how it would be piloted at each site. “We are excited to roll out Algebra 1 in eighth grade across SFUSD middle schools and K-8 schools for the 2024-25 school year,” Superintendent Matt Wayne said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We are thoughtfully making these changes with input from our educators and families, recognizing that it will be a learning year for SFUSD to implement Algebra 1 in eighth grade.”  By Jill Tucker for San Francisco Chronicle

Berkeley High students paint ‘Free Palestine’ mural downtown |  Painted by about 50 students who walked out of school during their lunch break, the mural features a young person wearing a keffiyeh reading a book stylized as a Palestinian flag. “Honoring my ancestors to me means fighting against genocide, fighting for peace, fighting for freedom,” said Emma Knisbacher, a junior at Berkeley High who helped paint the mural. She said she joined the action in honor of her family members who were killed in the Holocaust. By Ally Markovich for Berkeleyside News.  

In related coverage Ally looks at how Berkeley students, teachers say civil rights complaint conflates antisemitism with criticism of Israel here

AP African American Studies to arrive at Bay Area schools in the fall |  A half dozen high schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies in 2024-2025. This is the first year the course will be available to all U.S. schools following a two-year pilot program by the College Board. “Based on my teaching Black Studies for 30 years and AP African American Studies in particular, I think that all students will be able to view African Americans as valued members and contributors to American society rather than caricatures based on ignorance of African and African American history and culture,” African American Studies teacher Tony Green said.. By Haley Chelemedos for Oakland Voices 

East San Jose school superintendent abruptly fired |  The Alum Rock Union School District board voted to fire longtime Superintendent Hilaria Bauer after returning from closed session. The board voted 3-2 to end her contract on Thursday night, “At last night’s board meeting the board of trustees made a unilateral decision to end the employment relationship between the district and the superintendent,” Herrera-Loera, board president, told San José Spotlight. “That decision was made after much consideration and deliberation.”  By Lorraine Gabbert for San Jose Spotlight

San Jose school district decides not to close K-8 school for now |  At least 100 parents, students & teachers voiced concerns  and asked the Board of Aptitud Academy not to make changes to the school grade configurations.  The Alum Rock Union School District says it’ll take a few more months to decide if it’ll split up one of its schools due to enrollment decline. The board will take the issue back up in June. By Lamonica Peters for KTVU Fox2 News. See more related coverage in this article titled East San Jose families fight to keep school open by Robert Handa for NBC Bay Area News

Pinole community rallies behind principal set for reassignment |  News that a beloved high school principal in West Contra Costa Unified School District won’t be returning next school year has led the community to rally behind him in hopes school district officials will reconsider his reassignment.  Students are holding a rally at Pinole Valley High School on Wednesday morning in support of their principal, Kibby Kleiman. “Kibby has always supported me and is always willing to work with students, no matter what we’re going through,” said Austin Snyder, vice president of Project Student Advocacy, a student club that organized the rally. “I feel like Kibby would do it for us.”  By Monica Velez for Ed Source

Transition to new trustee elections system at South Bay school district challenged |  The Fremont Union High School District… is implementing a new system for electing trustees to avoid a potential voting rights lawsuit, a move that has some residents upset.  The district is planning to transition from its at-large election process, in which voters can elect any five candidates, to a by-trustee-area election system. The move comes as the district faces the potential threat of a lawsuit from community members for allegedly violating the California Voting Rights Act, a state law that protects racial minority groups from having their votes diluted. “It probably would open up the school district to a lawsuit claim if we postpone,” said.Board President Jeff Moe.   “The fact that a year ago we said we’re planning to do this, and then to say, ‘Nope, just kidding’ — it would be problematic.”  By Stephanie Lam for the East Bay Times

The State of California 

California’s science test will be added to state school dashboard |  Science teachers welcomed the move as a way of drawing more attention to science instruction. “Doing so will add visibility to ensure that districts invest in making sure that all California students receive the science ed they deserve,” Peter A’Hearn, a past president of the California Association of Science Educators, told the state board at a hearing March 6. “Our biggest frustration is that students have not been getting any or minimal instruction in elementary schools, especially in low-performing and low-socioeconomic schools,” A’Hearn said. By John Fensterwald for Ed Source

Ballot measure to require personal finance class in California high schools gathers steam |  A campaign to make personal finance a California high school graduation requirement submitted nearly 900,000 signatures this week to qualify a statewide ballot measure for the November election. The group, Californians for Financial Education, is led by Palo Alto entrepreneur Tim Ranzetta, who says he is fed up after two decades of failed legislative efforts to incorporate money management into the state’s school curricula. “Less than 1% of California high school students are guaranteed to take this course and that number nationally is 53%,” he said on Tuesday, March 12 in an interview. “I feel that this is something California students urgently deserve as we lead the nation in so many ways, and yet when it comes to personal finance education we’ve fallen behind. This ballot initiative is an opportunity to level the playing field for all Californians.”  By Clara Harter for the East Bay Times

California may extend financial aid deadline for students impacted by federal delays |  Students seeking state financial aid have just two weeks remaining to beat a California deadline, even as thousands have been locked out of completing the federal application necessary to get that state aid.  Now a prominent state lawmaker, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a Democrat from Corona and chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, is fast-tracking a bill to give affected California students additional time to complete the federal application and access more than $3 billion in state aid. If passed, Assembly Bill 1887 would move the current deadline from April 2 to May 2 and would go into effect immediately. By Mikhail Zinshteyn for Cal Matters

2 conservative Orange school board members ousted in recall |  Voters in the city of Orange appear to have ousted two conservative school board members who had spearheaded policies widely opposed by advocates for LGBTQ+ youth in a recall election viewed as a local bellwether for the culture wars in education. A legal battle over the issue is playing out as California Atty. General Rob Bonta pursues a court challenge of such policies enacted by a handful of conservative-leaning school boards. His lawsuit asserts that the rules put transgender and gender-nonconforming students in “danger of imminent, irreparable harm” by potentially forcibly “outing” them at home before they’re ready.  By Howard Blume for The Los Angeles Times

Parental notification policies split opinions of California courts, Department of Education

Amid public outcry and school board meeting protests, the legal system seems to be working in favor of controversial parental notification policies across the state. Several recent court rulings in Southern California have contradicted findings at the California Department of Education (CDE), which reported that a Placer County school district violated state Education Code with its parental notification policy, saying it discriminated against a protected group. The CDE said it cannot comment on pending litigation and complaint investigations, but that the department “remains committed to supporting school boards and educators that create safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning environments in which all students can thrive.” By Jenavieve Hatch for Sacramento Bee

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces the 2024 California Exemplary Dual Enrollment Schools |  Nine California schools were selected for the California Exemplary Dual Enrollment Award. This award program identifies and recognizes schools with exemplary dual enrollment programs and allows these schools to share the exemplary programs and practices that have contributed to their success. “These programs are a beacon of excellence and equitable opportunity in California’s public schools,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “Dual enrollment programs provide a unique option for public high school students who seek to accelerate their achievement, launch their careers, and access a high-quality free college education even before they walk the high school graduation stage.”  From the California Department of Education 

Across The Nation

Mixed-Status Student Completing FAFSA? What to Do While Glitches Are Fixed |  When the Department of Education began its process of revamping FAFSA several years ago, one of the stated goals was to make the application more easily accessible for mixed-status families. Federal officials told KQED last year that the updated FAFSA would allow undocumented parents to complete the form without needing a Social Security number. But that has not been the case, and it’s now essentially impossible to complete the 2024–25 FAFSA form if your parents don’t have a Social Security number. The glitch blocking mixed-status families isn’t the only problem plaguing the new FAFSA. As announced Monday, the Department of Education only began sending out students’ FAFSA data to colleges on Sunday, months later than in years past. This delay — caused by another, separate glitch in the 2024–2025 FAFSA that didn’t take into account the economic inflation of recent years — has given schools less time to calculate students’ financial packages.”  By Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí for KQED News

Here’s What It’s Like to Take the New SAT |  Students took a new SAT on Saturday. It’s all digital, and the reading and writing sections do away with page-long reading excerpts with eight to 11 questions. Now, there are short passages followed by just one question each.  Check out some sample questions…  By Dana Goldstein for The New York Times, as well as a related piece titled No More No. 2 Pencils: The SAT Goes Fully Digital

Drawing on video games, educators land on unlikely idea: ‘Playful assessment’ |  Educators and developers are increasingly looking to the digital world of games and simulations to make tests more stealthy, playful and, they hope, useful. In the process, the new assessments may also push schools to become more creative. In November, NWEA, which publishes the widely used MAP Growth tests, unveiled a 3D digital assessment on the popular Roblox gaming platform that tests how well middle-schoolers have learned Newton’s Second Law of Motion.  “The idea is: Can assessment be more embedded?” Y.J. Kim, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, told The 74. “Can assessment be more exciting? Can assessment be more flexible?”  By Greg Toppo for Sacramento Bee

Effective support is key to keeping new teachers in the profession |  With upwards of 10,000 teacher vacancies and a decline in teacher credentials with California, it is urgent for the state — alongside much of the U.S. — to identify ways to mitigate attrition. But recent research from the California-based Center for Teacher Innovation suggests three effective strategies for supporting new teachers that should be incorporated into all teacher prep and support programs: Quality coaches, curriculum and technology & connected teacher learning.  By Andrew Kwok for Ed Source

Education Department starts sending financial aid data to colleges after months of delays |  After months of delays and technical hiccups, some colleges and universities have started to receive federal data they need to put together financial aid offers for incoming students, the Biden administration said Monday. The Education Department says it sent a first batch of student records to a few dozen universities on Sunday and is making final updates before expanding to more universities. The delays have had cascading impacts across higher education. FAFSA information is used to award state and federal education grants, and schools use it to assemble financial aid packages for prospective students. By Annie Ma & Collin Binkley in KTLA

Learning shouldn’t take a summer break, White House and Ed Dept say |  School district leaders are being urged to ramp up high-quality summer learning programs by offering rigorous and engaging courses and by tapping into remaining COVID-19 emergency funds and other federal monies, said White House and U.S. Department of Education officials at a convening Wednesday.  Districts should “redouble your efforts and your commitment” to ensure all students have access to summer learning, said Cindy Marten, deputy secretary at the Education Department, to about 50 educators, advocates, local government administrators and college and nonprofit leaders. By Kara Arundel for K-12 Dive

Chronic absenteeism in U.S. classrooms is presenting unique challenges to teachers |  K-12 students are missing a lot of school. It’s a problem known as chronic absenteeism, and it’s something NPR’s Education Desk is taking a closer look at this year. Nationwide, about 1 in 4 students were chronically absent last school year. And in some districts, those numbers are worse. Emily Files spoke to two teachers whose Milwaukee school has felt pretty empty. By Emily Files of WUWM for WNYC’s Weekend Edition Sunday

Here’s When the Supreme Court Says School Officials Can Block Critics Online | School board members can block constituents on social media only if they’re commenting on issues completely outside of their authority or sharing personal information, the U.S. Supreme Court said Friday, clarifying the First Amendment standard for governing on the internet.  “The distinction between private conduct and state action turns on substance, not labels,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in a unanimous opinion in a case that involved a Michigan city manager but that “applies to all government officials.”  “For social-media activity to constitute state action, an official must not only have state authority, he must also purport to use it,” the court said. “If the official does not speak in furtherance of his official responsibilities, he speaks with his own voice.”  By Linda Jacobson for The74

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ war on ‘woke’ appears to be losing steam in Florida |  A court settlement this week blunted his Parental Rights in Education Act, a law that critics call Don’t Say Gay. And earlier this month, a federal court blocked another key measure that DeSantis introduced in 2021 and called the Stop WOKE Act. DeSantis believes DEI programs that focus on issues such as race and sexual orientation are unconstitutional and discriminatory. A federal judge said by restricting people’s speech, the law was “positively dystopian.”  By Greg Allen for NPRs All Things Considered

NYC chancellor said he’d resign without mayoral control. His threat could add fuel to critics |  New York City schools Chancellor David Banks made headlines this week saying he had “no interest” in continuing in his role if state lawmakers enact sweeping changes to the city’s school governance structure. The comments represent an escalation of the chancellor’s rhetoric on mayoral control. Banks has served as an ardent defender of the polarizing mayoral control system, which centralizes power over the city’s schools in the hands of Mayor Eric Adams and is set to expire on June 30. By Julian Shen-Berro for Chalkbeat New York

South Dakota Gov. Noem signs bill raising teacher salaries, boosting literacy |  The teacher salary bill, Senate Bill 127, establishes the new minimum teacher salary at $45,000 and will go up yearly with inflation, according to Rep. Tony Venhuizen, R-Sioux Falls. It also gives a 4% increase to schools, which Venhuizen said is meant to ensure teachers all see a 4% increase in their salaries. Noem also signed a literacy bill into law, which will appropriate $6 million to the Department of Education to fund professional development in literacy education for teachers. “We know every research study tells you the number one thing, school factor, for effective education is not facilities, it’s not spending, it’s not class size, it’s having a quality teacher in the classroom. That’s number one. If you want to have quality teachers enter the workforce and stay in the workforce, you have to pay them,” said Venhuizen. By Merrilee Gasser for Chalkboard News

Ann Arbor Public schools must cut $25M from 2024-25 budget | Interim Superintendent Jazz Parks says the district must cut $25 million in the 2024-2025 budget because of increasing costs and fewer students. Parks said the “multi-year” budget challenges are “significant” and require immediate action for the district serving about 17,000 students. “There’s some big variances and I know some money came in from the federal government for COVID and so forth,” said Marios Demetriou, assistant superintendent for finance and operations. “But also, our expenditures actually increased much more than the money that was coming in.” By Scott McClallen for Chalkboard News

Oklahoma Nonbinary Student’s Death Shines a Light on Families’ Legal Recourse for Bullying |  The death last month of a nonbinary Oklahoma student following a fight with other students in a high school restroom, while still mired in questions about what exactly transpired, is drawing renewed attention to school responses to harassment and bullying. By Mark Walsh for Education Week

Districts increasingly turn to 4-day school weeks to recruit, retain staff |  Districts nationwide are increasingly joining the likes of 27J Schools and hopping onto the four-day school week bandwagon. In fact, a total of about 2,100 schools across 900 districts had adopted shorter weeks as of the 2022-23 school year, says Paul Thompson, an economics professor at Oregon State University who researches the model.  “The four-day week is the second-best option, and the first-best option is to pay teachers and support staff well,” says Fiedler, who has run the 23,000-student district in Brighton since 2012.  By Anna Merod for K-12 Dive

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