The Oakland Ed Week in Review 3/30/24-4/5/24 

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

We’re back with 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 |  Topics include changes to Oakland’s school calendar impacting families, the introduction of “Calming Corners” in elementary schools to support students’ social and emotional well-being, initiatives bridging the gap between the Black community and law enforcement, and we are shining a lot on our partners in the work, including a series highlighting impactful work by The Oakland REACH, the Black Teacher Project’s impact report on empowering Black educators, and a student data report by Families In Action addressing disparities in educational outcomes.

In the Greater Bay Area |  Bay Area teachers’ salaries raise concerns as superintendents benefit from “me too” clauses, San Francisco Unified School District grapples with an influx of immigrant families, SF educators seek affordable housing in a high-demand market, and Saratoga High teacher’s nomination for All-Star Teacher award underscores the invaluable contributions of K-12 educators.

Throughout the State of California |  California high school graduates face barriers as nearly half don’t qualify for state universities due to A-G requirements, the California Teachers Association opposes a bill mandating the “science of reading,” budget cuts threaten essential programs for vulnerable families, efforts to recruit and retain Black teachers intensify in California, challenges persist for Native American students despite tuition-free UC education, California schools compete with fast food industry for workers post-minimum wage hike, and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond recognizes 44 schools as 2024 California Purple Star Schools for military-connected students.

Across the Nation |  Colleges grapple with FAFSA delays, offering provisional aid packages or prioritizing accuracy, while an increase in IDEA special education services prompts reflection on support for individuals with disabilities, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court deliberates on the constitutionality of public funds supporting religious education. Additionally, K-12 school leaders highlight staffing shortages as a major challenge, political polarization shapes divergent education policies across states, and despite gains in school staffing, fiscal concerns loom as districts face potential financial challenges.

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


Oakland’s school year calendar is changing again

What’s Happening: After the Oakland school board initially set the 2024-2025 calendar in February, it’s now being adjusted again, pushing the start date back two days to August 12 and the end date to May 29, 2025.

Why It Matters: The school calendar impacts families’ ability to plan vacations, childcare, and activities for their children. The adjustment aims to address concerns and provide a more suitable schedule for students, educators, and the community, highlighting the complexities of calendar planning in education.

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

‘Calming Corners’ added to Oakland public school classrooms

What’s Happening: Oakland Unified School District introduces “Calming Corners” in 21 elementary schools to support students with social and emotional challenges, including those on the autism spectrum.

Why It Matters: Amid Autism Awareness Month, OUSD’s initiative aims to create inclusive learning environments, promote self-regulation skills, and address the long-term impacts of pandemic-induced stress on students’ mental health and social-emotional development. 

By Amy Larson for KRON4 News

Check the OUSD press release here: 21 Elementary Schools in Oakland Unified School District Roll Out Calming Corners to Support Student Wellness

Oakland program bridges gap between Black community and law enforcement

What’s Happening: The Ok Program of Oakland is working to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the Black community in East Oakland through mentorship, education, and social consciousness initiatives.

Why It Matters: By fostering meaningful connections between young African American males and police officers, the Ok Program aims to reduce incarceration rates and homicides while promoting academic excellence and critical thinking skills, ultimately striving to create a more united and hopeful community.

By Abdre Senior for KTVU News

The Oakland REACH: A Four-Part Series | 

What’s Happening: The Oakland REACH shares their journey and recent collaboration with FORWARD storystudio, unveiling a compelling four-part video series offering insights into their impactful work.

Why It Matters: Through authentic storytelling and partnerships, The Oakland REACH showcases the impact of their Liberator Model, empowering parents and caregivers to provide crucial tutoring support in underserved schools, ultimately driving real change in communities nationwide.

By the Oakland Reach

Black Teacher Project 2020-2023 Impact Report

What’s Happening: The Black Teacher Project unveils its 2020-2023 Impact Report, highlighting the transformative impact of empowering and developing Black teachers to lead and reimagine schools as communities of liberated learning.

Why It Matters: Through featured stories and milestones, the report showcases how the Black Teacher Project has contributed to a diverse teaching force and positively impacted students nationwide, inviting others to join in supporting their mission of educational equity and offers a host of impactful spotlights and school district recommendations.

By the Black Teacher Project

Families In Action 2023 Raise the Bar Student Data Report:  Catalyzing Quality

What’s Happening: The 2023 Raise the Bar Student Data Report is now available, driven by FIA parent and youth leaders, shedding light on the performance of Black and Brown students across all Oakland public schools.

Why It Matters: While celebrating a 20% increase in graduation rates over the last decade, the report reveals significant disparities, including lower proficiency rates for Black, Latinx, and special education students in math and ELA. It introduces a Quality Check to identify schools improving or declining in meeting state standards, and invites stakeholders to join FIA in striving for a future where 80% of students meet these standards and graduate college-eligible.

By Families In Action

The Bay Area

Bay Area teachers make one-third of superintendents’ salaries. So why are superintendents automatically getting the same raises?

What’s Happening: Pleasanton Unified School District’s negotiations over teacher salaries shed light on the controversial “me too” clause, which ensures that administrators receive identical raises to those negotiated for teachers and other staff.

Why It Matters: The inclusion of “me too” clauses in school contracts raises concerns about equity and prioritization of funds, particularly as disparities persist between administrators’ salaries and resources for students and classrooms.

By Molly Gibbs for East Bay Times

SF reports uptick of immigrant families arriving, school district is first stop for many

What’s Happening: The San Francisco Unified School District is experiencing an influx of immigrant families, particularly from Latin America, with hundreds of families seeking enrollment for their children each month.

Why It Matters: The increase in immigrant families presents unique challenges and needs for the school district, including providing resources beyond education such as shelter assistance, highlighting the importance of community support and collaboration to address the needs of newcomers.

By Luz Pena for ABC7 Bay Area News

SF educators receive affordable housing, but will they qualify?

What’s Happening: San Francisco Unified School District educators and employees can now apply for housing in Shirley Chisholm Village, the city’s first 100% affordable housing project for them, through a lottery system.

Why It Matters: With San Francisco facing a housing shortage, initiatives like Shirley Chisholm Village aim to provide affordable housing options for educators and staff, prioritizing those who contribute to the city’s educational system. The lottery system and income-based preferences seek to ensure equitable access to housing in a high-demand market.

By Hamza Fahmy for Associated Press

Saratoga High teacher is finalist for All-Star Teacher award

What’s Happening: Saratoga High School’s Mike Davey is among the finalists for the prestigious 2024 All-Star Teacher award, recognizing educators’ exceptional dedication to their students.

Why It Matters: The award not only highlights Davey’s commitment to teaching but also provides an opportunity to celebrate the invaluable contributions of K-12 teachers, with the winning school receiving a substantial $30,000 award to further support its educational initiatives.

By Isha Trivedi for Mercury News

The State of California 

Nearly half of California high school graduates don’t qualify to apply to a California university

What’s Happening: The A-G requirements act as a crucial gateway for California students aspiring to attend four-year universities, yet despite progress, only about half of high school seniors meet these standards, highlighting enduring educational disparities.

Why It Matters: Access to A-G college prep courses varies widely, with financial barriers and inequitable access exacerbating educational inequalities, necessitating concerted efforts at individual, district, and state levels to ensure all students have equitable opportunities for success beyond high school.

by Annika Bahnsen & Teri Sforza for East Bay Times

Bill to mandate ‘science of reading’ in California schools faces teachers union opposition

What’s Happening: The California Teachers Association (CTA) has opposed Assembly Bill 2222, which mandates instruction in the “science of reading,” emphasizing phonics to teach children to read. This opposition puts the fate of the bill in question.

Why It Matters: The bill aims to ensure that all teachers are trained in the latest brain research on reading instruction. However, the CTA argues that the legislation is too broad, potentially undermining current literacy initiatives and excluding teachers from the decision-making process regarding curriculum.

By Dian Lambert, John Fensterwald & Zaidee Stavely for Ed Source

California May Cut 2 CalWORKS Programs Over Budget Deficit, Potentially Affecting Thousands of Families

What’s Happening: Governor Gavin Newsom proposed budget cuts that would eliminate funding for the CalWORKS family stabilization program and the subsidized employment program due to California’s projected budget shortfall, sparking concerns among advocates and lawmakers.

Why It Matters: These programs provide critical support to families facing crises such as domestic violence or homelessness. Without funding, thousands of households and children would lose access to essential services, contradicting the state’s goals of reducing poverty and supporting vulnerable populations.

By Justo Robles for KQED News

California, districts try to recruit and retain Black teachers; advocates say more should be done

What’s Happening: Efforts to recruit and retain Black teachers in California are intensifying, with initiatives launched by both the state and individual school districts, but challenges persist in diversifying the educator workforce.

Why It Matters: Hiring a diverse group of teachers not only benefits all students but is particularly crucial for students of color, leading to improved academic outcomes. However, despite legislative changes and program investments, the number of Black teachers in California remains stagnant, highlighting the need for more comprehensive strategies to address obstacles and ensure equitable representation in the teaching profession.

By Diana Lambert for Ed Source

Native American Students at UCs Get Free Tuition. Here’s Why It Isn’t Enough

What’s Happening: UC Santa Cruz’s Native American Opportunity Plan provides tuition-free education for federally recognized tribe members, but the plan’s limitations highlight challenges in covering non-tuition expenses for Native students.

Why It Matters: Despite efforts to increase Native enrollment in the UC system, issues persist regarding the affordability of higher education, representation of Native faculty and resources available to support Native students, underscoring the need for comprehensive support beyond tuition assistance.

By Christopher Buchanan for Cal Matters

California schools forced to compete with fast food industry for workers after minimum wage hike

What’s Happening: California’s new $20-per-hour minimum wage for fast food workers could impact public schools as they compete for cafeteria staff amid rising demand for meals.

Why It Matters: With school food service jobs historically low-paid and facing high turnover rates, the minimum wage hike for fast food workers may exacerbate staffing challenges, prompting some districts to offer raises to remain competitive. Despite limitations in funding, districts are exploring strategies to attract and retain workers, recognizing the importance of stability and benefits in recruitment efforts.

By Adam Beam for KRON4 News

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2024 California Purple Star Schools

What’s Happening: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has announced the designation of 44 schools as 2024 Purple Star Schools. This designation recognizes schools committed to meeting the needs of military-connected students and their families.

Why It Matters: The Purple Star School Designation Program aims to support military-connected students by providing critical transition services, acknowledging the challenges they face due to frequent relocations.

California Dept of Education Newsroom

Across The Nation

This year, colleges must choose between fast financial aid offers, or accurate ones

What’s Happening: Delays in college financial aid packages due to FAFSA troubles prompt institutions like Cal Poly Pomona to offer provisional aid offers, while others, like Oregon State University, prioritize transparency over provisional offers.

Why It Matters: The delays in FAFSA processing have left colleges in a difficult position, forcing them to navigate between sending out timely aid offers and ensuring accuracy in the face of flawed data, impacting countless prospective students like Georgina García Mejía, who face uncertainty about their financial aid.

By Sequoia Carrillo for NPR News

Special education population rose 2% between 2020 and 2021

What’s Happening: The U.S. Department of Education released a report indicating an increase in the number of children and young adults receiving specialized services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 2021, there were 7.8 million individuals served, up from 7.6 million the previous year.

Why It Matters: Understanding trends in IDEA special education services is crucial for policymakers, educators, and families to ensure adequate support for children and young adults with disabilities. The report sheds light on the changing landscape of special education services and provides valuable insights into areas that may require additional attention or resources.

By Kara Arundel for K-12 Dive

Okla. Supreme Court considers nation’s first religious charter school

What’s Happening: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is deliberating whether the state can allocate public funds to support religious education, focusing on a proposal for the country’s first overtly religious online charter school, which has raised constitutional concerns.

Why It Matters: This case has broader implications beyond Oklahoma, potentially offering the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to revisit and clarify recent rulings regarding the use of taxpayer money to support religious education. The outcome could significantly impact the separation of church and state nationwide.

By Laura Meckler for The Washington Post

School principals get creative to keep their staff in the classrooms

What’s Happening: K-12 school leaders recently met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., highlighting ongoing staffing shortages as a major challenge facing schools across the country.

Why It Matters: Principals voiced concerns about the shortage of teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, citing low pay, increased demand during the pandemic, and stressful working conditions as contributing factors, indicating the need for urgent attention and support from policymakers.

By Cory Turner for All Things Considered WNYC

America has legislated itself into competing red, blue versions of education

What’s Happening: In the past six years, American states have introduced a flurry of education laws and policies aimed at reshaping how K-12 schools and colleges address issues of race, sex, and gender, resulting in a stark divergence of instructional approaches influenced by states’ political leanings.

Why It Matters: With three-fourths of the nation’s school-aged students now educated under state-level measures either mandating increased teaching on sensitive topics or sharply limiting such lessons, the impact on curriculum content and student perspectives is profound. This partisan divide in educational policy underscores broader societal divisions and raises questions about the future coherence of American identity and values.

​By Hannah Natanson, Lauren Tierney and Clara Ence Morse for The Washington Post

Another Year of School Staffing Gains in 9,500 Districts as Fiscal Cliff Looms

What’s Happening: New data from the National Center on Education Statistics reveals that in the 2022-23 school year, public schools across the U.S. saw an increase of 173,000 students and 159,000 employees, including 15,000 additional teachers.

Why It Matters: Despite the surge in student enrollment, staffing levels per student reached an all-time high. However, as districts exhaust federal ESSER funds, they may face challenges such as staff layoffs or closures of under-enrolled buildings. Understanding the changing student-to-teacher ratios across districts provides insights into potential financial trouble areas.

By Chad Aldeman for The74million

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