Our New North Star
that Guides our Transformational Schools Work:
All families across Oakland’s 78 square miles
know their children will realize their full brilliance and potential
at every public school in any neighborhood.
Our community continually takes collective responsibility
to reimagine, create, and improve a public education system
where success is not predicted by race and class.
I joined the Educate78 team about two years ago, helping propel forward a deep rethinking of the organization’s mission and how to build on the assets in our community to move toward greater quality and equity for all kids. This has led us to a new North Star and a renewed focus on our core mission – giving more of our community’s children access to quality, transformational schools.
For too long, the success and failure of Oakland’s students has correlated primarily with their race, class, and the zip code where they live. Systemic oppression against Black and Brown students denies them the quality education they deserve. We see it as our responsibility to support any and all efforts to remove the predictability of success or failure, and support school leaders to reimagine and deliver an equitable, thriving community of transformational schools.
A Year in Review: The Progression of Our Transformational Schools Work
For schools to become high quality, transformational schools, they have to be committed to interrupting policies and practices that perpetuate oppression. All of our work at Educate78, including our work with school leaders, is designed through this equity-centered lens. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to lead our transformational school’s efforts, working with several incredible OUSD school communities across Oakland’s 78 square miles, east to west.
Now entering its third year, this evolving program partners with Oakland public schools with the goal of moving them from “good to great” through educator-led redesign processes prioritizing academic rigor and a joyful school climate, elements we believe can transform our city’s most underserved schools. The four schools I work with in this fellowship are: Bridges Academy, Hoover Elementary, Melrose Leadership Academy, and Urban Promise Academy.
The earliest version of this fellowship involved engaging with school communities to identify the most pressing issues getting in the way of better outcomes for our most vulnerable students. We helped each school develop certain basic foundational documents, including a mission, vision, values, and a graduate profile. School leaders received ongoing coaching around their design work, as well as gaining access to learning opportunities such as conferences and travel study trips, the UnboundEd Standards Institute, and bi-weekly programming developed and facilitated by members of the Educate78 schools team.
As with many of our efforts, nearly all of which involve working directly with those closest to the problem – teachers, school leaders, students, and families at school sites, we learned along the way and adjusted in response to feedback:
- Less programming, more time implementing and iterating: Although they valued the programming, our leaders requested less time in meetings so they could spend more time applying the learning back at their sites.
- More time reflecting, less time on documents: Similar to the extensive programming, while the foundational documents felt relevant, some of the other artifacts felt too compliance driven rather than moving the work at the sites forward. Leadership is both active and reflective – it has to alternate between participating and observing. Leaders needed a space for deep reflection.
- Site-based decision-making matters: All of our school leaders felt they need greater autonomy to make site-based decisions to best serve their children. This is a concept that we are excited to see OUSD Superintendent Johnson-Trammell embrace as part of the district’s Community of Schools policy.
We evolved the program in response to the feedback from our leaders. Instead of meeting bi-weekly, we invited our fellows to participate in “Quarterly Step-Backs,” where we engage them in guided reflection and long-term planning, as well as provided opportunities for crucial community building and collective ownership of the work. As a result of less programming, I have spent more time at school sites coaching and engaging with school leaders to better understand the work and their specific needs. Through all these changes, one thing has remained consistent: our focus on supporting Oakland school leaders as they seek to implement transformative practices at their sites.
This program will continue to evolve as we listen deeply to our leaders and teachers who, after all, know their schools better than anyone, on how we can better support them in changing outcomes for our most vulnerable students.
Over the coming weeks, we will share the perspectives from the schools on this transformational schools work. We will dive into the recent development of our Transformational Schools Review process and take a look at some of the early results and successes this process has already helped bring about. In the meantime, for more information on the Transformational Schools Fellowship, please contact me.
Image Source: Hoover Elementary School Website