“When I was in middle school at Lighthouse, I wanted to learn about the world, history, and my rights. My teacher Ms. DeBose took us to Washington, DC and Philadelphia to learn about the Constitution. That trip changed my life. It put me on a path as a community advocate.
When I got older, I needed more flexibility and independence from the Lighthouse structure. I found it at Fremont High’s Small School Media Academy. I took AP classes and there were more opportunities to excel in things I found interesting. I was part of the media class, the debate team, and the newspaper class. Fremont didn’t work for all students; I saw some students skip school.
I know that the people at Lighthouse and Fremont had all the best intentions, but I don’t see these two communities coming together thinking about how all youth can get what they need. At GO, we are trying to connect charter leaders and district leaders to see each other at eye level and plan for how we can satisfy the needs of all our youth. I want our education system to be for all types of youth. ”
-Boris Aguilar, Community Artivist and Educator, 1Oakland Leader
Oakland has 65,000 school-aged kids. We are not doing enough to ensure that all of these students are getting the education that best fits their needs and dreams. Boris Aguilar reflects on how every student has different needs and how those needs change over time.
Background: Oakland’s Portfolio of Schools
In the 1990s and early 2000s, families organized and established charter schools and small schools as alternatives to OUSD’s overcrowded, low-performing schools. These schools often times provided creative and culturally responsive curricula in contrast to OUSD’s one-size-fits-all, “teacher-proof” scripted curriculum. When this happened, we became a city with a portfolio of schools. For several years, Oakland was considered one of the most improved urban districts in California.
An Unmanaged Portfolio
But the cost of these gains came at a price. The parents and educators who established these schools dedicated their lives to the success of these schools, leaving little room to do more. Our communities never came together to assess the educational inequalities across our city. We became a city with over 25 school systems, schools governed by often drastically different sets of rules. Now the schools and systems see each other as competing for student enrollment—not as colleagues.
It is our most vulnerable students who suffer when leaders and educators are working in isolation and in competition with each other. According to recent test results, about 31% of Oakland students in district and charter schools are English Language Learners, and only 5.2% of them are proficient in English and 8.3% are proficient in Mathematics.
Pathway to 1Oakland:
- All public schools should contribute equitably to serving Oakland’s highest needs students: Students with moderate-severe needs in Special Education should not be concentrated exclusively in the OUSD school system.
- All public schools should have equitable access to public resources: Oakland’s low-income families who send their children to district or charter schools should not be denied the benefit of parcel tax measures like G1 passed in November 2016 by Oakland voters. SEE BELOW FOR UPDATE*
- We need a citywide system of schools that is effective in planning for and promoting quality, equity, and efficiency: We need a reoccurring, proactive, and transparent process that designs our portfolio of public schools, evaluating every school using the same performance measures, looking at changes in demographics and city data, identifying educational needs, and directing resources to those needs. We call upon district and charter leaders to help address these issues.
1Oakland: Everyone (Yes, you) Can Take Action
Our school system is facing a crisis. The division within our public school system, and the dysfunction that comes with it, is drastically affecting its quality and sustainability.
1Oakland is a community-driven campaign dedicated to working with educators and elected officials.
1Oakland will recommend policies that promote partnership and creatively re-design our school system in service of all students.
1Oakland will work with equity-focused charter organizations ready to change their policies and practices, and who want to sit at the table with OUSD to ensure all students with special needs are being served.
1Oakland will recommend policy reflecting the diversity of ideas and strength of our city toward a school system that is serving all kids.
We are inviting everyone to participate in this effort, starting now:
- Sign up here to receive up to date information about the 1Oakland campaign.
- Click here if you commit to take action for 1Oakland.
We are coming together as 1Oakland for all students.
*UPDATE: On October 10th, 2017 OUSD’s school board clarified that all district and charters schools serving grades 6,7, or 8 are eligible for Measure G1 funds. This includes all county-authorized charter schools formed prior to the date of the passage of the Teacher Retention and Middle School Act or Measure G1 on November 4, 2016. In addition, all schools who receive G1 funds will be subject to the same application, oversight, and audit requirements. A stakeholder group is to bring back findings no later than June 30, 2018 regarding charter school governance, authorization, enrollment and the eligibility of future county-authorized charter schools.
It is our hope that everyone comes together to ensure that resources are distributed equitably for all public school students residing and attending a school in Oakland, regardless of who authorized their school.