The Oakland Ed Week in Review 4/6/24-4/12/24

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 |  The school board grapples with potential mergers amidst fiscal challenges and equity concerns, while increasing demand for transitional kindergarten highlights broader efforts to enhance early childhood education accessibility; however, ongoing disparities persist in recruiting and retaining Black teachers, even as exceptional educators are celebrated and initiatives like playground revitalizations and healthcare career discussions offer hope and inspiration, alongside reflections from celebrities like Zendaya on the complexities of early fame and family dynamics.

In the Greater Bay Area | Universities face a crisis as the FAFSA application process falters, potentially jeopardizing student enrollment and financial stability; meanwhile, Granada High School’s decision to dismiss its successful athletic director raises concerns about staffing criteria, and a Berkeley parent’s lawsuit against the school district over access to Israel-Palestine curriculum highlights broader tensions regarding transparency, bias, and discrimination in education.

Throughout the State of California |  A bill mandating phonics-based reading instruction in California classrooms stalls, while the California Charter Schools Association challenges LAUSD’s campus restrictions for charter schools; amidst debates over school choice, a program allowing students to enroll in other districts seeks permanency; California implements a workaround for FAFSA glitches, and Caltech reinstates standardized testing requirements for undergraduates; controversy surrounds Fresno Unified’s superintendent search, and a USC poll exposes partisan divides on school curricula; finally, State Superintendent Thurmond supports establishing an Office of Civil Rights to address discrimination and harassment in California schools.

Across the Nation |  The Biden administration seeks a $3.1 billion increase for the Department of Education, focusing on addressing learning loss and strengthening the Office of Civil Rights; amidst debates over school choice, a program allowing students to enroll in other districts seeks permanency; California implements a workaround for FAFSA glitches, while Caltech reinstates standardized testing requirements; Fresno Unified’s superintendent search sparks controversy, and a USC poll exposes partisan divides on school curricula; finally, State Superintendent Thurmond supports establishing an Office of Civil Rights to address discrimination and harassment in California schools.

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


Oakland school enlists parents to help boost lagging reading scores:

What’s Happening: Schools like Hoover Elementary leverage our partners Families in Action’s “Lit for Literacy” program to build a cadre of reinforcements – parents – to address reading scores that are persistently elusive in terms of long-term gains.  The program is also in danger as the school board failed to approve the funding because of two absent board members.

Why it matters: Tutoring programs, mentoring, after-school programs, summer school, teaching training and more have helped move the needle, but persistent and systemic gains have remained elusive. Research shows that parent involvement has a strong correlation to student achievement, but in many communities, families face significant challenges.

Notable quote: “Who suffers when our schools are not living up to expectations? Families live with that generational cost when kids are not able to read and do math on grade level. That’s why we believe in family empowerment.” – Kimi Kean, founder and CEO

By Jill Tucker for the SF Chronicle

Oakland school board inches closer to school mergers

What’s Happening: Oakland school board initiates steps towards potential school closures amidst pressure from county officials and looming labor strikes.

Why it matters: The decision to establish closure metrics reflects broader fiscal challenges and equity concerns, affecting vulnerable student populations and community stability.

Notable quote: “Our principals are having to do two to three times the amount of work… We will lose them if we don’t.” – District 6 Director Valarie Bachelor.

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

Transitional kindergarten is growing in Oakland to meet increased demand

What’s Happening: Oakland Unified School District faces challenges in accommodating increased demand for transitional kindergarten amid statewide expansion.

Why it matters: The shift towards universal transitional kindergarten reflects broader efforts to enhance early childhood education accessibility and close achievement gaps, while posing logistical and space-related challenges for school districts like OUSD.

Notable quote: “I think TK is the new kindergarten.” – Zazzi Cribbs, parent, highlighting the evolving role and importance of transitional kindergarten in early childhood education.

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

“What’s keeping #BlackTeachers from getting to and staying in the classroom? And how can we do more to support them?”

What’s Happening: The Black Teacher Project underscores the ongoing problem of the lack of Black teachers in California classrooms, featuring a podcast where Alicia Simba, a Black teacher from Oakland Unified School District, and EdSource’s Diana Lambert delve into the obstacles Black educators face and the collaborative solutions needed to ensure their success in the state’s education system.

Why it matters: Despite efforts to recruit and retain Black educators, the percentage of Black teachers still falls behind that of Black students, emphasizing the need for enhanced support and resources to address barriers to entry and retention in the teaching profession.


Announcing the OUSD Teachers of the Year for 2024-25

What’s Happening: Three exceptional educators, Sarah Ben-Israel, Claudia Hung-Haas, and Jazmine Njissang, have been named the 2024-25 OUSD Teachers of the Year, recognized for their outstanding contributions to education.

Why it matters: This announcement celebrates excellence in teaching and highlights the dedication and impact of these teachers on their students, schools, and the wider community, inspiring others in the field of education.

Notable Quote: “These three educators make a profound difference not only to their students and families but to their entire school communities and the District as a whole.” – Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent

From the USD Newsroom

OUSD Board of Education Approves Revised 2024-25 School Year Calendar | New First and Last Day of School

What’s Happening: The Oakland Unified School District Board of Education has approved revisions to the 2024-25 school year calendar, including changes to the first and last days of school.

Why it matters: These adjustments impact the start and end dates of the academic year, affecting students, families, and staff schedules. The revised calendar aims to optimize the school year structure for a successful educational experience. You can visit the OUSD Calendar here

From the OUSD Newsroom

OUSD Unveils First Playground Revitalization of 2024 at Manzanita Campus in Partnership with Eat. Learn. Play. and KABOOM!; Second Playground Revitalization Now Underway

What’s Happening: OUSD, along with partners Eat. Learn. Play. and KABOOM!, has revealed the first playground revitalization of 2024 at the Manzanita campus, with more projects planned for the year.

Why it matters: The initiative aims to provide safe and engaging play spaces for Oakland students, promoting physical activity, creativity, and joyful learning experiences.

Notable Quote: “We are thrilled to embark on our first of eight schoolyard builds this year, starting at Manzanita Campus, as Eat. Learn. Play. continues to make investments to provide safe, equitable, and amazing places for Oakland kids to play and be active.” – Chris Helfrich, CEO of Eat. Learn. Play.

From the OUSD Newsroom

Sophia Nelson and OU PCT program host discussion on healthcare for high school students

What’s Happening: Sophia A. Nelson teams up with Oakland University’s Patient Care Technician program and Pontiac High School to host a discussion on healthcare career pathways for high school students, emphasizing the importance of diversity and empowerment in the medical field.

Why it matters: This collaboration provides invaluable guidance and inspiration to students from underrepresented backgrounds, offering them opportunities to explore careers in healthcare and highlighting the significance of cultural diversity in the healthcare workforce.  For more info about PCT click here

By Angelina Toma for The Oakland Post

Zendaya reflects on being ‘breadwinner’ in family with Oakland teacher parents

What’s Happening: Zendaya reflects on her early rise to fame and the challenges of being a “breadwinner” in her family as a young star in Hollywood, sharing her complex feelings about her upbringing.

Why it matters: Zendaya’s candid reflection sheds light on the unique pressures faced by child actors and the impact of fame on family dynamics, sparking conversations about the sacrifices and missed opportunities that accompany early stardom.

Notable Quote: “I felt like I was thrust into a very adult position: I was becoming the breadwinner of my family very early, and there was a lot of role-​reversal happening, and just kind of becoming grown, really.” – Zendaya

By Martha Ross for Mercury News

The Bay Area

FAFSA nightmare holds Bay Area universities hostage as college acceptance deadline nears

What’s Happening: Bay Area universities face a crisis as the botched overhaul of the FAFSA process leads to a significant drop in aid applications just before the college acceptance deadline.

Why it matters: The plummeting number of aid applications poses a threat to student enrollment, exacerbating concerns about accessibility to higher education and potentially impacting the financial stability of universities.

Notable Quote: “One of the greatest concerns that we have at the moment is that some of these students who are facing challenges with submitting the application will eventually give up on doing it and forgo college for the next academic year.” – Lorena Rodriguez, Director of UC Santa Cruz’s office of financial aid and scholarships

By Molly Gibbs For East Bay Times

Another Bay Area high school dismisses athletic director despite successful results

What’s Happening: Despite Granada High School’s athletic success, including championship wins, the school has opted not to retain its athletic director, David Moore, after six years in the position.

Why it matters: The dismissal raises questions about the criteria for staffing decisions in school athletics, leaving both the athletic community and Moore himself surprised and uncertain about the future of the department’s leadership.

Notable Quote: “It’s hard to wrap your mind around letting go of an AD when the teams have had nothing but success.” – Anonymous parent of a Granada athlete

By Nathan Canilao for The Mercury News

Parent sues Berkeley Unified over access to Israel-Palestine curriculum

What’s Happening:  A Berkeley parent, Yossi Fendel, sues the Berkeley Unified School District for allegedly withholding curriculum on Israel-Palestine conflict taught to 9th graders, claiming bias and antisemitism, sparking controversy over curriculum transparency and potential discrimination concerns, amid broader tensions surrounding the Middle East conflict.

Why it matters: The lawsuit underscores tensions surrounding information & transparency in school curriculum, alleged issues of bias and discrimination, and wider discussions on the teaching of contentious subjects like the Israel-Palestine conflict in schools, affecting both student learning as well as community cohesion.

Notable quote: “The bottom line is, whether you’re a parent or a member of the public, you have a right to see what is being actually taught in schools.” – David Loy, legal director at the First Amendment Coalition

By Ally Markovich for Berkeleyside

The State of California

Bill to mandate ‘science of reading’ in California classrooms dies

What’s Happening: A bill mandating the “science of reading” in California classrooms, emphasizing phonics-based instruction, has died without a hearing.

Why it matters: With only 43% of California third-graders meeting reading standards in 2023, the failure to advance the bill raises concerns about literacy rates and educational equity, especially for Black, Latino, and low-income students.

Notable quote: “It is shameful that when more than half of CA kids aren’t reading at grade level that our legislators are okay with the status quo, and they have killed this literacy legislation without even allowing it to be heard.” – Lori DePole, co-state director of Decoding Dyslexia CA.

By Diana Lambert, John Fensterwald & Zaidee Stavely

FAFSA fiasco fix lets California students get Cal Grants via Dream Act

What’s Happening: High school students in California facing obstacles in applying for federal financial aid due to a glitch in the FAFSA system now have a workaround to receive state grants through the California Dream Act Application.

Why it matters: The FAFSA glitch has left many students unable to complete their applications for federal Pell grants, but the new workaround allows them to apply separately for state aid, known as Cal Grants. This provides a temporary solution for affected students while they wait for the FAFSA issues to be resolved.

Notable quote: “Making sure all students can access the financial aid they are entitled to is at the heart of what we do.” – Marlene Garcia, Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission.

By Nanette Asimov for San Francisco Chronicle

These California colleges are a path to UCLA, Berkeley. Here’s which have highest acceptance rates

What’s Happening: The data suggests attending certain community colleges could give students a boost in their admissions chances. For instance, Berkeley accepted 43% of transfer applicants from Oakland’s Laney College last year — a rate far higher than the 30% average.

Why it matters: Transferring from community colleges has long been an important pathway into the UCs, especially for low-income, first-generation and historically underrepresented students, due in part to flagging A-G completion rates that have been the focus of Dump The D and Raise the Bar campaigns by FIA Oakland, Energy Convertors, and the State of Black Education.  In 2023, one out of every four students who enrolled in a UC was a transfer student from a California community college.

By Nami Sumida for the SF Chronicle

LAUSD banned charter schools from many of its campuses. Now charters will fight it in court

What’s Happening: A lawsuit has been filed by the California Charter Schools Association against the LAUSD, challenging a recently passed policy that restricts where charter schools can operate within the district and the classrooms they can use.

Why it matters: The lawsuit highlights a growing conflict over the use of public school campuses by charter schools and raises questions about the legality and fairness of the district’s new policy, which could impact the ability of charter schools to operate effectively and serve students.

Notable quote: “Despite offering to work collaboratively with the board on a new policy that would improve the process of sharing campuses, LAUSD disregarded the voices and needs of charter school families and adopted a new policy to harm their schools.” – Myrna Castrejón, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association.

By Howard Blume for Los Angeles Times

Public school choice exists in California, but few districts offer it

What’s Happening: The District of Choice program, allowing students to enroll in other districts, faces reauthorization in California’s Legislature, aiming to become permanent amid low participation rates.

Why it matters: With only a fraction of students utilizing the program, questions arise about its effectiveness in providing educational options and addressing declining enrollments, while districts grapple with issues of equity and financial impact.

Notable quote: “This bill is a crucial step towards creating a more inclusive and equitable public education system — one where all students have the opportunity to grow and thrive.” – Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, author of Senate Bill 897.

By John Fensterwald for EdSource

After pandemic pause, Caltech restores standardized testing requirement for incoming undergrads

What’s Happening: Caltech reinstates its standardized testing requirement for incoming undergraduates after a four-year hiatus, aligning with Harvard’s decision on the same day.

Why it matters: This move underscores a shift in admissions policies among prestigious universities, emphasizing the perceived value of standardized tests in assessing academic preparedness, despite previous moratoriums and debates over their efficacy.

Notable Quote: “Standardized tests are a means for all students — regardless of background or life experience — to provide information that is predictive of success in college.” – Hopi Hoekstra, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean at Harvard University

By the Los Angeles Daily News in the East Bay Times

Politics, threats, agendas have permeated search for Fresno Unified superintendent, many say

What’s Happening: Fresno Unified School District’s superintendent hiring process sparks controversy, with accusations of racism, intimidation, and political maneuvering.

Why it matters: The tumultuous process not only compromises the search for a new leader but also affects the district’s students, who are grappling with issues of racism and political influence instead of focusing on their education.

Notable quote: “It’s unsettling for our school sites, and I’m concerned about the effects that our schools are having because of this.” – Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, expressing concerns about the impact of the superintendent selection process on Fresno Unified schools.

By Lasherica Thornton for EdSource

USC’s Morgan Polikoff on new poll data & the ‘purple classroom’

What’s Happening: A recent poll conducted by University of Southern California researchers sheds light on Americans’ perspectives on public education and the contentious issues surrounding school curricula.

Why it matters: The survey reveals widespread agreement among Americans on the importance of public education, yet significant partisan divides emerge regarding what schools should teach, particularly concerning topics like race, LGBTQ issues, and parental rights.

Notable quote: “The survey highlights the ideological divide fueling the so-called culture wars, with differing views on what children should be taught and when. Despite broad agreement on the value of public education, there is considerable uncertainty and disagreement regarding specific content and approaches.”

By Beth Hawkins for LA School Report

State Superintendent Thurmond Announces Support for Establishing an Office of Civil Rights at California Department of Education

What’s Happening: State Superintendent Thurmond backs SB1421 to establish an Office of Civil Rights at the California Dept of Education, aiming to investigate discrimination, harassment & bullying in public schools.

Why it matters: With support for the bill, Thurmond underscores the importance of safeguarding students’ identities, emphasizing the need for every child to feel safe and proud in school while addressing incidents of antisemitism and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.

Notable Quote:  “As an educator and a father, I know how critical it is for every child to feel not only safe in their identity, but proud of their identity at school.” – State Superintendent Tony Thurmond

From the California Department of Education

Across The Nation

Biden admin asks for $22 million to bolster Ed Dept’s enforcement arm

What’s Happening: The Biden administration is seeking a budget increase of $3.1 billion for the Department of Education in the 2025 fiscal year, with a significant portion allocated to address learning loss and strengthen the agency’s enforcement arm, particularly the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

Why it matters: The proposed budget increase reflects the administration’s commitment to addressing issues of discrimination and promoting inclusivity in education. It also underscores the importance of addressing learning loss resulting from school closures during the pandemic.

Notable quote: “We recognize how important this is and how, while we don’t at the Department of Education dictate curriculum, we do feel that we needed to have materials and supports available, so the Office of Civil Rights will continue to support the public, but also our school communities in understanding the rights.” – Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

By Brendan Clarey for Chalkboard News

First-Ever National STEM Festival Features 150 Student Inventions

What’s Happening: Utah high school student Alex Antonio Hernandez Juarez has developed a device to assist the deaf community, inspired by the challenges faced by his deaf cousin in navigating everyday tasks.

Why it matters: Through the National STEM Festival on April 13, Juarez will showcase his invention, alongside 150 student innovators presenting projects addressing critical global issues. The festival aims to highlight the creativity and ingenuity of young STEM enthusiasts.

Notable quote: “This opportunity is confirmation that people care about the hearing impaired and deaf…and is a great way for me to continue to educate more people,” said Juarez, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and promoting inclusivity.

By Joshua Bay for The 74 Million

The top K-12 conferences to attend in 2024

What’s Happening: The field of education is experiencing significant changes, with shifts in policy, learning models, classroom tools, and more. This dynamic landscape calls for educators and leaders to stay updated on the latest strategies and issues impacting K-12 education.

Why it matters: Staying informed and connected through conferences is essential for K-12 leaders to exchange best practices, gain insights from peers, and stay abreast of emerging trends. These events offer valuable opportunities for professional development and networking in a rapidly evolving educational environment.

By Roger Riddell for K-12 Dive

Education Experts Talk About Why Historically Black Colleges & Universities Are Becoming Perfect Homes for Charter Schools

What’s Happening: The 74 Million hosted a discussion regarding the rise of charter schools on Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) campuses.

Why it matters: The discussion delves into the transformative impact of charter schools within HBCU settings, featuring insights from education leaders shaping K-12 innovation, in an online panel hosted by The 74 and the Progressive Policy Institute. Check out the video here: HBCUs as Charter School Authorizers Zoom Video

By The 74 Million

Colorado lawmakers defeat bill that would have changed charter school operations and made it easier to close them

What’s Happening: A bill aimed at changing the operations of Colorado charter schools, making it easier for local districts to close them, was defeated by state lawmakers after its first hearing.

Why it matters: The bill’s defeat highlights the ongoing debate surrounding charter school regulations and oversight. While proponents argued for increased accountability and transparency, opponents, including many charter school leaders, expressed concerns about potential negative impacts on charter schools.

Notable quote: “Here I am eight years later with a vibrant school… Honestly, I think this bill is an attack on charter schools. There’s not a part of this bill that I can get behind.” – Natalia Miller-Forrest, Leader of Heritage Heights Academy in Centennial.

By Yesenia Robles for Chalkbeat

Nonprofit set to get another $2 million despite low reading, math proficiencies

What’s Happening: Teach For America (TFA) is facing scrutiny from state lawmakers for seeking an additional $2 million in funding despite low reading and math proficiencies in Illinois. Lawmakers are questioning the effectiveness of TFA’s program and where taxpayer dollars are being allocated within the education system.

Why it matters: The debate over TFA funding highlights broader concerns about education spending and outcomes. Lawmakers are raising questions about the impact of TFA’s program on student achievement, particularly in underserved communities, and whether taxpayer funds are being used efficiently.

Notable quote: “We’re putting $2 million into Teach for America, this is a national organization and they say they get $4 back for every dollar spent. Is the state of Illinois propping up bureaucratic spending for all the states around us? What’s Indiana giving to Teach For America?” – State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City.

By Catrina Petersen for Chalkboard News – The Center Square

23% of teachers experienced a gun-related school lockdown in 2022-23

What’s Happening: A Pew Research Center survey reveals that nearly a quarter of teachers experienced a gun-related lockdown at school in the 2022-23 academic year. The survey also sheds light on teachers’ perspectives on school shootings and their views on prevention strategies.

Why it matters: The high incidence of gun-related lockdowns underscores the ongoing threat of school shootings and their impact on educators and students. Teachers’ concerns about school safety and their opinions on prevention strategies provide valuable insights for policymakers and school administrators seeking to address this issue.

By Anna Merod for K-12 Dive

The number of high school seniors who have filled out FAFSA is down from last year

What’s Happening: FAFSA submissions are down by 27%, with experts warning of potential implications for college enrollment, especially for students from under-resourced schools. High school seniors are facing challenges with the federal student aid application (FAFSA) this year, potentially affecting college enrollment.

Why it Matters: Delays and errors in the new FAFSA process have led to a significant decrease in submissions compared to previous years, raising concerns about college access and enrollment rates.

By Michel Martin & Elissa Nadworny for National Public Radio

Ten Commandments in Classroom Bill Advances in Louisiana; Legal Challenge Likely

What’s Happening: The Louisiana Legislature has advanced a bill that would require the display of the Ten Commandments in all K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in the state. This move, if approved, would make Louisiana the first state to mandate such displays in classrooms.

Why it matters: The proposed law, championed by Rep. Dodie Horton, aims to provide moral guidance to students by showcasing the historical document that she believes forms the basis of U.S. laws. However, opponents argue that it violates the First Amendment’s prohibition of state-sanctioned religion and excludes those who hold religious beliefs other than Christianity or Judaism.

Notable quote: “I am concerned with our own children seeing what God’s law is,” stated Rep. Horton in defense of the bill. However, opponents, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, view it as an endorsement of religion by the state, raising constitutional concerns.

By Greg Larose for The 74 Million

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