Yes. And. 9 Things from 2018 to Build on in 2019

Highlights from a Year of Student-Centered Progress

Happy New Year! As we start 2019, we thought it would be valuable to look back at 2018. It was a year of student-centered progress in Oakland public education, and we can build on that work in the daunting year ahead.

The challenges we must face in 2019 are not new. After all, we are seeking to disrupt generations of injustice for our most underserved students. Our approach, therefore, must learn from our history and innovate with new solutions. We must figure out a way to pay teachers more and empower them with more budget, support, and flexibility at school sites. We must address the fact that Oakland has way too many low-quality public schools and figure out a way to build on the better ones so that they can serve more. We must bridge past political divides and forge a new coalition that will take collective responsibility for all our children.

Yes. And.

We did some of this in 2018. Others did, as well. Last year, we were proud to work in partnership with leaders and organizations across Oakland, and we look forward to doing so again in 2019 to improve our education system for our most vulnerable children and families:


1. Community of Schools Policy Passed

After extensive advocacy and hundreds of one-to-one and community meetings facilitated by the GO Public Schools 1Oakland team, on June 27, 2018 the OUSD Board approved the Community of Schools Policy. This bold policy aims to increase access to great public school options for Oakland students using quality, equity, utility, sustainability, and community as its guiding principles. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell stated that the policy “is consistent with our value of putting Students First. We know that we must forge a new path forward to make sure our schools work for all students, in every neighborhood.”


2. Parent-Powered Opportunity Ticket Campaign Launched

The Oakland REACH, a powerful coalition of parents and grandparents fighting for quality education for all kids, worked in partnership with SoBEO (State of Black Education in Oakland) to launch the Opportunity Ticket campaign at the December 12 OUSD Board Meeting, with over 150 parents in attendance to support. This landmark policy would provide low-income students at closing schools priority enrollment preference for any school in Oakland above neighborhood preference.

3. New Student-Voice Policy Proposals Released

In 2018, Oakland student fellows from Energy Convertors produced over 20 written pieces and videos, sharing honest reflections on the issues most profoundly impacting education today. At the culmination of their first academic year they released four policy proposals which, in partnership with the State of Black Education, stand to profoundly reshape the Oakland public education landscape.

4. Improved Teacher Retention & Development Opportunities Flourished

Heading into the third year of our teacher engagement survey and grants through our educator-designed Teacher Retention Grant Program, we’re supporting retention programs at 10 Oakland public schools in 2018-19. Grantees in 2017-18, including Greenleaf Elementary, Life Academy, Madison Park, and Lazear Charter Academy, collectively retained an additional 25+ teachers into 2018-19! Additionally, we are pleased to share that the Alder Graduate School of Education, an innovative and immersive teacher residency program, is on track for accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges this spring. Through partnerships already in place with Lighthouse and Envision, Alder is supporting a vision to grow teachers already committed to and working within school communities.

5. Student-Centered Redesign Initiated

Started by a small group of OUSD principals, a design team of district teachers, community members, and school leaders came together last year to study how to bring more resources and control closer to the classroom. In addition to researching Oakland’s rich history of innovation, they jointly visited two districts in Massachusetts and one in Denver to see the latest version of this sort of in-district flexibility, called “innovation” or “empowerment” zones. In 2019, this work can hopefully become part of implementing the Community of Schools policy.

6. Transformational Schools Progressed

Last year, we created and piloted a robust Transformational Schools Review process in order to help schools identify how best to accelerate student achievement. In Fall 2018, we conducted Transformational Schools Reviews in eight Oakland schools. We gathered and analyzed artifacts and documents, conducted interviews with students, parents and teachers, and spent time in classrooms. Participating schools have used this diagnostic process to set goals and create their school improvement plans.

7. Despite Challenges, Innovative New Schools Persevered

Three innovative schools made strides this school year, all in different phases of innovation: Oakland School of Language (OSOL), entered its second year as a OUSD’s only dual language middle school. Aurum Preparatory Academy kicked off its first year in deep East Oakland as a new charter public middle school with a focus on rigor and character development. Latitude High, a new public charter high school from Education for Change Public Schools, launched its innovative “city as its classroom” model – and their students recently got to visit Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, and were awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the Oakland-based XQ Institute.

8. New Oakland Achieves Report Released

Oakland Achieves released a report showing how all Oakland schools are doing on state Dashboard indicators. It was downloaded hundreds of times and reached tens of thousands more on social media, helping advocates across the city refocus public dialogue on quality for Oakland kids. The state’s new multi-measure system goes beyond academic data to focus additionally on campus culture and climate. This data helped inform the work of The Oakland REACH to push all public schools around better results for low-income African American students.

9. Enrollment Continued Improvement & Partnership

Last year, Enroll Oakland increased applications by 45% to nearly 15,000, reaching more families than ever before through extensive outreach, working with community organizations and connecting with students and their families at schools. Now in its third year, Enroll Oakland continues to deepen its partnership with OUSD and Oakland public charter schools to give parents, especially those historically denied school choice, genuine access to better public school options—and support them every step of the way. And let’s remember the open enrollment deadline for the 2019-20 school year is this coming February 8 for all district and charter schools!

We know that 2019 will bring continued challenges for our most vulnerable students, stress for our educators, budget pressure on schools, and many difficult decisions and tradeoffs for our systemwide leaders. Yes. And. On a daily basis, we are blessed to witness the power of collaboration and community, and we see what is possible when teams of dedicated teachers, families and leaders work together in service of children. Thank you to all of our partners in 2018. Let’s make even more progress for Oakland students in 2019!

– Gloria, Carolyn, Rachel, Sara, David, Maribel, Carrie, Michael, Bela and Isaac

Real (forget alternative) facts about OUSD

In an era where people use phrases like “alternative facts,” it’s more important than ever we ground ourselves in honest-to-goodness facts. That’s why I want to start 2018 with some real basic facts – the Fast Facts (basic info and numbers) from OUSD. The 2017-18 version was just updated and can be found here. Huge shout-out to the Research, Assessment, and Data team at OUSD for their continued commitment to making useful data publicly available and easily digestible!

Here are some wows, wonders, and other relevant facts to keep in mind with OUSD and Oakland public education in general in the year ahead.



  • Diversity in classrooms: As a former OUSD student, one of the things I absolutely loved from my time was the diversity of students in my school and how I got to learn about their cultures and holidays. Over half of the students in Oakland speak a non-English home language (50.3%), showing that the diversity in Oakland continues. Kudos to OUSD for pushing to increase the number of dual language programs and schools citywide over the past years, with room for more. Can you imagine an Arabic dual immersion program or school?


  • Decreasing suspensions: In OUSD schools, out-of-school suspension rate dropped to 3.6% in 16-17. Compare this to the rate five years ago: 7.4% for all students and 14% for African-Americans. This gives some context to the amazing work OUSD has been doing with restorative justice that allows students to spend more time in the classroom and less time out of school.
Photo by Tai Power Seeff.

Photos of Roosevelt Middle School by Tai Power Seeff.

  • Promising college enrollment: For the first time ever, college enrollment data is published for OUSD. 60% of OUSD high school graduates attended college in 2016, split evenly between 2-year and 4-year colleges. In an increasingly technologically-advanced society, particularly in urban centers, this is crucial for preparing youths for jobs of today and tomorrow. Equally exciting for data nerds: data collection and landscape analysis is the first step towards solutions to increase college enrollment and assessing what methods have been efficient (like College and Career Pathways in high schools).


  • Sharp increase in College and Career Pathways enrollment: Between 16-17 and 17-18, the percentage of 10th-12th graders enrolled in College and Career Pathways in district-run schools jumped from 54% to 80%. 26% more high school students are now thinking about and preparing for college and careers early in high school. Expect that college enrollment percentage to further increase in a couple years.



  • I’d love to see a Fast Facts that include all public schools in Oakland – how does Oakland look citywide on stats like newcomers, diversity, special education, budget, etc.?


  • I’m curious about the equitable distribution of talent across the city – what percentage of our most vulnerable students are in classrooms led by experienced, effective educators?


  • The average teacher salary is low ($63,000 per year) – especially for the Bay Area. How does this compare with other districts?



#OUSDBudget Relevant


  • Stable enrollment: Both district-run schools and charters combined have 50,119 students, which is roughly the same as last year (49,600) – a good sign that parents and students are staying with Oakland public schools. If anything, we could say that both district-run and charter schools saw increases in enrollment. Worth noting that the Fast Facts do not include ACOE-authorized charters, who serve a significant number of Oakland students.


  • Increasing budget: From 2014-15 to 2017-18, OUSD’s total budged expenditures have increased more than 25% – from $607.7 mil to $762.8 mil over 3 years. While it’s good that we’re spending more per student than before (our density of high-needs students certainly benefits), we’ve also arrived at our current financial crisis. Surely there is a budget sweet spot that both balances the books and serves students to the highest extent possible! (For reference, OUSD has 2317 teachers, 1845 other school staff, and 719 central office staff.) For more info on budget, check out Educate78’s series on FCMAT and OUSD Budget as well as GO’s Budget Matters series.


  • Attendance matters for everyone: In 2016-17, OUSD had an average daily attendance rate of 94.83%. If we increased that attendance rate to 97%, that would result in a $12.2 million dollar increase in revenue otherwise lost (assuming $85 per day per student). That’s enough to offset key budget cuts. It also works in the interest of those 13.2% of students who are chronically absent by increasing their instruction minutes. Win, win!


It’s exciting to start the year with solid facts. I’m looking forward to lots of fresh, relevant analysis of the state of schools in Oakland, where I grew up and now work. What jumps out at you when you look at these Fast Facts?


By the way, the state has released an update to the California State Dashboard, which looks at the latest year of data (2016-17) for indicators like SBAC, suspension, English learner progress, etc. Expect a blog post that will dig deeper into how Oakland is doing in the whole, and some of the schools who are knocking it out of the park! Stay tuned.