The Reparations for Black Students policy is up for a third read tonight. This resolution directs the Superintendent to take all steps necessary to eliminate the Black student opportunity gap across all schools by 2025. Since the last read in late February, the policies main areas of action remain the same: 1) Addressing the impact of COVID-19 2) Establishment of a Task Force 3) Revenue Allocation 4) School Closures and Charter Co-locations Impact 5) Additional Actions.
While all Board members agree with the need to address the historical racism and opportunity gaps for black students, various board members raised concerns around the need to have a budget plan to fund this work, the need to align these action items to existing priorities and initiatives already in place to address some of these opportunity gaps, and concerns around the suggested impact of charter co-locations.
Check out this perspective from Great School Voices, What We Need in a Reparations Policy, Resources not Rhetoric, that raises some concerns with this current policy and lays out five characteristics of an effective Reparations policy: legality, practicality/funding, universal for black folks, acknowledgment and respectful of adjacent communities, and under community control.
Earlier this month, the Board did a first read of the Enrollment Stabilization policy introduced by Board President, Director Shanthi Gonzales. The policy attempts to address the decline of enrollment of OUSD-operated schools over the last few decades. This proposed policy calls for 1)dedicating central staff positions to support schools with family outreach to reach out to families 2) having schools, board members and central departments identify ways to support enrollment growth and stabilization 3) identifying and implementing strategies to make enrollment more accessible for OUSD families 4) prohibiting the District from using resources to promote enrollment in competing schools, including charter public schools and private school (i.e. enrollment system, school maps, family guides and other enrollment materials). The annual costs are estimated to be $1.5 million and to increase to an estimated 1.8 million in year two.
While we agree with the board’s urgency to address the decline of enrollment over the past few decades and provide additional resources for OUSD schools to better market themselves to families, this policy 1) still does not address the underlying concerns that families have with the lack of quality options available 2) separates district schools from public charter schools in the online enrollment systems and makes it more difficult for families to see the options they have available to them. Any change to the enrollment policy needs to focus on ensuring quality school options for all students and making the enrollment process easier for families to navigate, not more complex.
Last year the state’s annual student test, California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (“CAASPP”), was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state has submitted a waiver to suspend state testing for this school year. Because of the pandemic, Director Sam Davis questions the validity of test results due to technology-related access issues for socio-economically disadvantaged students, language learners, and differently-abled students and believes it will lead to incomplete and inaccurate data that can result in confusion and potential misuse.
Tonight he will be bringing forth a proposal that OUSD:
- Requests the greatest possible flexibility from the State Board of Education (“SBE”) and the California Department of Education (“CDE”) during the 2020-21 school year, including waiving the requirement of a greater than 95% participation rate, and/or using the results for the California State Dashboard.
- Recognizes the rights of parents or guardians to excuse his or her child from the CAASPP by submitting a written request.
There is an alarming lack of data on student learning available across Oakland schools. During the most massive disruption to student learning we have ever seen, we need more information about how students are doing, not less. OUSD currently has a patchwork of different assessments for different grade levels which makes it difficult to compare and see how students are progressing over multiple years. State tests were canceled last year and this year individual schools chose very different assessments, making it nearly impossible to paint a districtwide picture of student learning. This policy would encourage even less consistency and waivers from state testing. Before we consider such a policy, we must ensure that OUSD has a coherent formative assessment plan in place that measures what students know and allows teachers to align their instruction accordingly and track student progress across multiple years.
According to USC education professor, Morgan Polikoff, “solving problems must begin with identifying where the problems are and who they affect. States should craft multiyear measurement plans, so we can follow our progress well beyond the end of the pandemic. And measurement plans should be carefully constructed to ensure the results are directly useful for informing instructional and other decisions.”
Tonight, Board Director Aimee Eng and Student Director Jessica Ramos are introducing a resolution that directs the Superintendent to create a comprehensive plan that would prioritize 1) student and staff mental wellness and social emotional wellbeing and 2) support high school students to get back on track to graduate. This resolution recognizes the impacts the pandemic has had such as an alarming increase in the number of students reporting self-injury/self-harm, an increase in anxiety and depression, reduced student engagement and attendance, and a higher risk of high school drop-out rates.
- The policy specifically calls for a “Restorative Return to School” by implementing proven models and promising practices locally and nationally that may include, but is not limited to:
- Creating & supporting relational culture (i.e. outreach and “welcome check-in” with every OUSD student and family, Parent Teacher Home Visits, Peer-to-Peer Mentoring opportunities)
- Supporting mental health and wellness (i.e. creating intentional healing and restorative spaces for students and staff, partnering with Alameda County)
- Planning, training and capacity building (i.e promoting opportunities to share best practices across school communities)
Some of the named action items to address the support of high school student with credit recovery include:
- Identifying staff to be responsible for managing the prevention and intervention strategies.
- Prioritizing one-time dollars (a total of nearly $300M since the pandemic hit to spend over the next three years) to support credit recovery activities that re-engage youth such as piloting innovative and flexible programming in the 2021-22 school year for high school students (Saturday School, Evening School, Fifth School Year) and developing targeted strategies to outreach to and support students who are not on track to graduate as well as students who have been chronically absent during the 2020-21 school year.