The Oakland Ed Week in Review 6/29/24-7/5/24 

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 | Children’s Fairyland is expanding its puppet shows to enhance preschool arts programs. Oakland Unified School District plans to integrate Puppet Playdates into classrooms, aiming to address the decline in imaginative play among students and improve early childhood education.

In the Greater Bay Area | Bay Area schools have experienced an 8% enrollment decline over the past decade, prompting discussions about potential mergers and closures. In the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, leadership changes are underway due to concerns over transparency and school closures. Early recall results indicate a likely ousting of two Sunol Glen Unified board members over conservative policies, reflecting local tensions.

Throughout the State of California | California’s AB 1955, which would prohibit schools from notifying parents about students’ gender identity without their consent, is awaiting Governor Newsom’s decision. Meanwhile, legislators are proposing a $10 billion school bond to address critical infrastructure needs across the state. Additionally, there’s a growing focus on the need for better enforcement of recycling laws in schools to promote environmental sustainability.

Across the Nation | National test scores for 13-year-olds reveal significant declines in math and reading post-pandemic, raising concerns about learning setbacks. Teacher turnover remains high, particularly among Black teachers, due to burnout and inadequate pay. Additionally, Congress is urged to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program to prevent millions from losing internet access, highlighting ongoing challenges in education equity and access.

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


Puppetry is far more than child’s play for young learners in Oakland

What’s happening: Children’s Fairyland in Oakland is expanding its puppetry offerings beyond entertainment to include educational programming called Puppet Playdates, enhancing arts education for preschoolers. Puppet Playdates, launched alongside traditional puppet shows, encourage children to engage hands-on with puppetry, fostering creativity and social interaction.

Why it matters: Puppetry at Fairyland not only entertains but also serves as a vehicle for social-emotional learning, providing a tactile and imaginative outlet for young learners. This initiative responds to a perceived decline in imaginative play among children, aiming to revive creativity through interactive puppetry experiences.

What’s next: The program plans to extend its reach to Oakland Unified School District classrooms, integrating puppetry as a tool for early childhood education.

Notable quote: “They don’t get enough arts in school anymore, so events like this are great,” – Gregory Arthur, father of 5 year old

By Karen D’Souza | Ed Source

The Bay Area

Bay Area school enrollment plunges as families flee high-cost region | Bay Area schools see third-largest enrollment decline statewide

What’s happening: Bay Area schools have experienced the third-largest decline in student enrollment in California over the past decade, with an 8% drop, and this trend is expected to worsen, with a projected 14% decrease by 2033.  The decline in enrollment is part of a broader trend where families are moving away from high-cost coastal areas to more affordable inland cities and states. This has resulted in a statewide drop in enrollment, marking the seventh consecutive year of declines, with nearly 15,000 fewer students in the 2023-24 school year.  The Bay Area can expect to see even larger enrollment losses over the next decade, with a projected 14% decline by 2033, compared to the state’s overall projected 12% drop.

Why it matters: This trend reflects a larger demographic shift where high living costs are driving families away from coastal areas to more affordable regions. This migration pattern was accelerated during the pandemic and continues to affect school enrollment. The declining enrollment is causing significant challenges for local school districts, including potential school mergers or closures, limited resources, and budget deficits. Districts like San Francisco Unified, Oakland Unified, & San Jose’s Alum Rock are already discussing such measures.

Notable quote: “What we saw happening during the pandemic and what we continue to see is that people migrated away from the really high-cost areas into places in California or outside of California that are more affordable,” said Heather Hough, executive director of the Policy Analysis for California Education.

By Molly Gibbs | Mercury News

In related coverage:   

Recall of 2 Sunol School Board Members Appears Headed to Victory

What’s happening: Early results indicate that a campaign to recall two members of the Sunol Glen Unified School District board, Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley, is likely to succeed, with 54% and 53% of voters supporting their removal, respectively. The recall effort was driven by opposition to the board members’ conservative policies, particularly a ban on flying flags other than the U.S. and California flags, which many saw as targeting the Pride flag.

Why it matters: This recall mirrors other recent actions across the state, where conservative school board policies have sparked significant controversy and led to the removal of board members. These recalls are seen as a reaction to a conservative push to gain influence in school board elections and is part of a broader trend in California where local education officials with conservative stances on gender identity and LGBTQ issues are being ousted. Similar recalls have occurred in other districts, reflecting a pushback against conservative policies in education.

What’s next: The Alameda County Board of Education is expected to appoint at least one temporary board member to fill the vacated seats. The only remaining board member, Ted Romo, who often clashed with the recalled members, will continue to serve.

Notable quote: “We want the school to operate well, we want no drama, no contentiousness and just to get back to how the school used to be run, which was very well,” -Matthew Sylvester, a district parent and recall organizer, 

By Guy Marzorati | KQED

In related coverage:   

The State of California 

Ban on schools’ gender notification policies heads to Newsom. Will he sign it?

What’s happening: California legislators have passed AB 1955, sending it to Governor Gavin Newsom for consideration, which would prohibit school districts from notifying parents about a student’s gender identity or use of different pronouns without the student’s consent. This bill follows contentious debates at school board levels over parental notification policies, highlighting broader tensions around trans rights and local authority in education.

Why it matters: AB 1955 aims to protect trans youth by ensuring discussions about gender identity occur privately between students and their families, not through school notifications that could lead to unintended consequences. The legislation underscores the complex intersection of LGBTQ rights, parental involvement, and educational policy, prompting statewide scrutiny and potential legal challenges.

What’s next: Governor Newsom faces a decision within 12 days on signing the bill, balancing his support for LGBTQ rights with broader political implications as he eyes a national audience.

Notable quotes: “The very personal decision for a student to come out should be on their own terms to whoever they choose to share that information with when they are ready. Teachers should not be the gender police,” -Chris Ward, the bill’s author, emphasizing privacy and personal agency. |  “It’s absolutely a wedge issue. It speaks to the way conservative activists target purple areas to garner political advantage,” – John Rogers, UCLA professor 

By Carolyn Jones | Cal Matters

In related coverage:

Lawmakers reach agreement on $10 billion school bond

What’s happening: California legislators have reached an agreement on a $10 billion school bond to address long-neglected repairs and upgrades at K-12 schools and community colleges statewide.  The bond allocates $8.5 billion to K-12 schools and $1.5 billion to community colleges, aiming to fix issues like dry rot, mold, leaks, and other hazards that compromise student safety and learning environments.

Why it matters: Advocates argue that the current funding model disadvantages low-income and rural districts, which struggle to raise local bond money compared to wealthier areas with higher property values.  Many schools have struggled with deteriorating infrastructure due to insufficient funding, impacting educational quality and equity across districts. The bond seeks to rectify these disparities and improve learning conditions statewide.

What’s next: The bond requires a two-thirds majority approval in both houses of the Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature to appear on the fall ballot. It follows previous failed attempts to secure adequate school repair funds, highlighting ongoing challenges in school funding and infrastructure maintenance.

Notable quote: “It’s become an issue of equity — our students deserve safe conditions for learning like everyone else,” – Rebeca Andrade, superintendent of Salinas City Elementary District, 

By Carolyn Jones | Cal Matters

In related coverage:   

Legislators struggle with how to rein in but not repress ethnic studies

What’s happening: California legislators have passed Assembly Bill 2918, advancing it to the next stage, aimed at curbing antisemitism and prejudice in ethnic studies courses.  The bill faces upcoming negotiations due to concerns over its clarity and potential to generate conflicts despite its intended goals.

Why it matters: AB 2918 seeks to ensure ethnic studies courses are free of bias and bigotry, emphasizing transparency and community feedback in course development.  This legislation addresses ongoing tensions in education around ethnic studies content, balancing transparency with concerns over curriculum influence.

What’s next: Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision on signing the bill will be pivotal, navigating between educational integrity and addressing community concerns.

Notable quote: “We have to get this right for everyone, no matter what your background is,” – Rick Zbur, Assemblymember 

By John Fensterwald | Ed Source

Budget would require districts to post plans to educate kids in emergencies

What’s happening: California has mandated that school districts develop and publish emergency instructional continuity plans by March 2025, ensuring educational services within 10 days of an emergency disrupting normal schooling. The legislation aims to address increased school closures due to natural disasters and public health emergencies, necessitating remote or relocated instruction plans.

Why it matters: The revised legislation removes penalties for non-compliance after opposition from education groups, focusing on proactive planning and support rather than punitive measures. With chronic absenteeism rising sharply post-pandemic and frequent school closures due to wildfires and floods, the state seeks to maintain educational continuity and recover lost attendance funds.

What’s next: Districts must detail how they will offer remote or relocated instruction, possibly involving other districts, without penalizing them financially for delays caused by emergencies.

Notable quote: “There was the feeling that the state does not understand the challenges that schools face…during a serious emergency,” – Derick Lennox,  Derick Lennox, senior director for governmental relations and legal affairs for the  California School Boards Association

By Diana Lambert  | Ed Source

COMMENTARY | Teacher Voices:  Let’s learn how well California’s efforts to attract and keep teachers are working

What’s happening: California is considering Senate Bill 1391 to enhance data collection on its teacher workforce through the Cradle to Career Data System, aiming to improve recruitment and retention efforts. Challenges faced by new teachers, such as time management and workload, contribute to high turnover rates, impacting student learning and teacher diversity.

Why it matters: California’s efforts to attract and retain teachers include initiatives like teacher housing, pay raises, and incentives for teaching in high-demand subjects and schools. Evaluating these efforts with data will ensure targeted support for diverse teacher populations and equitable access to quality education.

Effective programs like the Golden State Teacher Grant and teacher residency initiatives are designed to support new teachers and improve retention, but their effectiveness needs evaluation through comprehensive data analysis.

Notable quote: “Is all of this money and support actually getting to the teachers and populations that need it? Is the state doing enough to provide us with the data to help us make the right decisions? Currently, we don’t have the information to answer those questions,” said the author, highlighting the need for data-driven policy decisions.

By Eric Lewis, SFUSD Content Specialist | Ed Source

In other California News…

Across The Nation

Schools face a math problem: Money is running out and kids are still behind

What to know: Schools are racing against dwindling funds to improve math scores, which remain below pre-pandemic levels.  National test scores for 13-year-olds saw the largest decline in math in 50 years, with no signs of recovery post-pandemic.  Math scores dropped nine points and reading scores fell four points, with the lowest-performing students hit hardest. Many students need nine extra months of schooling in math to catch up, compared to seven in reading. 

Why it matters:  The data reveals widespread and persistent learning loss, compounded by worsening school climate and student mental health. Existing racial inequities in math performance have worsened, especially for Black and Hispanic middle-schoolers. Without significant improvement in math, students risk being unprepared for higher-level courses and future STEM careers.

What’s next:  Urgent identification and implementation of effective educational practices are needed to address the learning loss. Educators are urgently seeking effective methods to boost math proficiency before relief funds run out.

Notable quote: “It’s pulling kids constantly: small groups, high-impact tutoring, giving them what they need,” – Rachel Crouch, Principal

By Lauren Lumpkin | Washington Post

In related coverage:   

  • National test scores plunge, with still no sign of pandemic recovery By Donna St. George | Washington Post   Notable quote: “We really need to be concerned about what is happening here,” – Carey Wright, former Mississippi state superintendent of education and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board 

Teachers – Particularly Black Teachers – As Likely To Leave The Classroom Now As Last Year

What’s happening: A new report from RAND indicates teachers, particularly Black teachers, are still considering leaving the profession due to burnout and inadequate pay.

What else to know: Black teachers report lower job-related stress than white teachers but are more likely to intend to leave their jobs and report lower pay. Teachers overall experience twice the job-related stress of comparable working adults, with many seeking higher pay and better working conditions.

Why it matters: Black teachers’ departure could negatively impact Black students’ academic achievement, self-esteem, and absenteeism rates.

What’s next: Efforts to retain teachers persist, especially in relation to Black teachers, include providing better resources, support, and training.

Notable quote: “It’s important to say and note that the best recruitment strategy is a retention strategy,” – Travis J. Bristol, associate professor of teacher education and education policy at Berkeley’s School of Education.

by Aziah Siid | The Seattle Medium

In related coverage:   

  • This Viral Video Of A Teacher’s Rant Right Before Officially Retiring Has Been Seen Over A Million Times — Here Are The Reasons Why She Can “No Longer Deal” In The Profession  By Dannica Ramirez | Buzzfeed

America’s biggest education experiment is happening in Houston. Could it change U.S. schools?

What’s happening: Houston ISD’s state takeover, led by Superintendent Mike Miles, has drastically overhauled teaching, learning, and spending.  HISD’s targeted schools saw significant improvements in state test scores, yet high teacher turnover raises concerns.

Why it matters: This experiment may reveal if large urban school districts can effectively close performance gaps and enhance student achievement.  HISD’s overhaul could set a precedent for education reform, affecting policies and practices beyond Texas, but financial viability and community support remain uncertain.

Notable quotes: “We’re stepping out there big… we have lots of students that we need to make sure we’re serving better,” – Angela Lemond Flowers, HISD Board Secretary. | “This is an effort, the largest in the country, to turn around a traditional, urban district,” – Mike Miles, HISD Superintendent.

By Asher Lehrer-Small and Danya Pérez | Houston Landing | VIA ABC13 News

Trump and Project 2025 are attacking the Department of Education. How might they reshape US schools?  The rightwing manifesto proposes hobbling it, but the ex-president wants to abolish the department completely

What’s happening:  Former President Donald Trump, along with Project 2025, is proposing significant changes to the US Department of Education, including its potential dismantling and a shift toward state control over education. The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 outlines a plan for privatizing education, eliminating federal oversight programs, and targeting LGBTQ+ and diversity initiatives.

Why it matters: The plan emphasizes state control, block grants, and school choice, which could undermine federal support for low-income and marginalized students.  These changes could profoundly affect civil rights, school funding, and the structure of public education, potentially exacerbating inequalities.

What’s next: Trump’s proposals include cutting federal funding for schools promoting critical race theory or gender ideology, ending trans youth sports access, and introducing direct elections of school principals by parents.

Notable quotes: “Phasing out [Title I] is going to be very detrimental to that population of students who are already vulnerable for many reasons,” -Weadé James, Center for American Progress. | “I would say 40 of the 50 states will do much better,” – Donald J. Trump said, advocating for state-managed education systems.

By Rachel Leingang | The Guardian

In related coverage:  

  • Donald Trump’s Secret Weapon to Dismantle American Education | The former president’s plans for a second term could reshape American education and academic freedom as we know it. By Owen Dahlkamp | The Nation

NEA Approves AI Guidance, But It’s Vital for Educators to Tread Carefully

What’s happening: The National Education Association (NEA) has approved a policy statement to guide the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in classrooms, addressing equity, data protection, and the role of educators. The policy emphasizes that AI should not replace teachers, but rather enhance educational practices while maintaining human connections in teaching.

Why it matters: The policy calls for intentional efforts to prevent bias in AI and addresses the digital divide, ensuring that all students benefit from AI tools regardless of their background. With AI’s rapid integration into education, the policy aims to provide educators with tools and guidelines to use AI responsibly, ensuring equitable access and protecting student data.

What’s next: The NEA will advocate for federal, state, and local policies that consider the ethical development and environmental impacts of AI, while promoting ongoing professional development for teachers.

Notable quotes: “Artificial intelligence has evolved into a permanent fixture in our communities and schools. Using these new tools equitably, fairly, and safely is essential for our nation’s educators to guide and inspire their students and classes,” – Becky Pringle, NEA President  | “AI uses great amounts of data to spit out output. But that’s not the same as me knowing your story and knowing that maybe you’re hungry, and maybe that’s what you need to learn today…  AI can’t necessarily do that for you.” – Angie Powers. Task force member 

By Brooke Schultz | Ed Week

In related coverage:  

Are bilingual and binational students getting the schooling they need? There’s ‘a lot of work we need to do,’ educators say

What’s happening: Education leaders in California and Mexico are initiating discussions to better support English learners and binational students, highlighting significant challenges and gaps in current educational offerings.California, with nearly 1.1 million English learners and 45,000 binational students, faces educational disparities in proficiency and graduation rates compared to their English-fluent peers.

Why it matters: The collaboration aims to address the unique needs of these students, who often face logistical hurdles such as crossing the U.S.-Mexico border daily for school, while also emphasizing the importance of bilingual education and teacher support.

What’s next: Advocates suggest solutions like expanding bilingual teacher programs and dual-language immersion to enhance educational opportunities & cultural heritage preservation among Mexican-American students.

Notable quote: “There’s a great need to support our diverse population — particularly of our binational students, who have amazing talents, amazing things to offer, but at the same time unique needs,” -Eduardo Reyes, Chula Vista Elementary Superintendent 

By Kristen Taketa | San Diego Union Tribune

Educators Wrestle with the Real-Life Applications of New K–12 Federal Policy | Leaders wonder if the nation’s new educational technology plan goes far enough to make digital equity a reality.

What’s happening: Educators are evaluating the new National Education Technology Plan (NETP) and its potential to address digital equity and integration challenges. The NETP highlights digital design and use divides beyond mere access, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies and resources.

Why it matters: The NETP aims to shift schools from passive to active technology use, enhancing digital skills and teaching practices for better student outcomes. The NETP’s success depends on actionable steps, support from partners, and professional development to make technology effective in classrooms.

Notable quote: “The NETP is an overarching, directional document that doesn’t aim for granularity,” – Lan Neugent, Virginia Department of Education. | “The plan doesn’t call out how districts can self-assess and look at their budgeting practices,” -David Miyashiro, Superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District.

By Amy Burroughs | Ed Tech

In other National News…

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