BOARD WATCH: New literacy curriculum offers a new way of teaching students how to read


For more, click here for the full agenda.

You can watch the Zoom meeting by clicking on this link at 5:30pm or by calling (669) 900-9128, then enter Webinar ID  88160983821, then pressing “#”. 

Item #21-0852

In 2018, the board approved the Community of Schools policy that calls on the district to reimagine our school system to ensure a quality school for all Oakland students. The policy directed the Superintendent to create a Citywide Plan that would create a system of schools that are both quality and financially sustainable to tackle the vicious cycle of declining quality. Since then, the board has approved the merger, closures, redesigns, and expansions of several schools, known as the Blueprint for Quality Schools initiative. 

Tonight the District will be presenting an analysis of the impact—to school quality and to District finances from Blueprint Cohorts 1 and 2 schools:

The analysis for each school (pages 5-23) looks at demographic information, quality, equity, sustainability, design highlights, key accomplishments, supports provided, challenges, and financial impact. Along with those areas, the district also looked at enrollment trends, feeder patterns, Opportunity Ticket usage, and academic data.

Overall, the District is concluding that there are not enough years to say that the changes took root and that every action led to improvement in quality, equity, and sustainability (further analysis should be done). Here are some key lessons learned:

  • Where the District sought to expand a school and provide more access to a quality program, it did: MetWest, CCPA, Elmhurst, and MLA.
  • As OUSD set out to expand quality programming by increasing the number of seats of a program with a high demand rate, the District needs to ensure there are no unintended consequences of shrinking neighboring schools. High School is a good example of this dilemma.
  • Students that attended a school that was going through a change did not leave OUSD at high rates.
  • School changes require an extra investment of resources in the initial years of implementation and are a multi-year effort.
  • There is an inherent tension between the reinvestments required and fiscal sustainability goals that must be resolved through thoughtful, strategic decisions about resource allocation.

Item #21-1006

OUSD is proposing to use a total of $27M of one-time COVID relief state funds under the Extended Learning Opportunity Grant, which requires the district to submit a plan, by June 1st,  of how they plan to use these funds. The state names that these funds can be used on any of the following: extending instructional learning time, accelerating progress to close learning gaps, integrated pupil supports, community learning hubs, supports for credit deficient pupils, additional academic services, and training for school staff. 

Tonight, the district will be presenting a first read of the Extended Learning Opportunity Plan and is proposing to invest in the following:

Because the District knows that some schools will need different types of support, these services above will be proposed as a menu of options that individual schools can choose from based on student need.

Item #21-0971

All students must have access to rigorous grade-level curriculum to ensure they are on track for the life that they choose. But Oakland’s approach to reading instruction over the years has been fragmented and produced deeply unequal outcomes. Just 20% of Black students and 23% of Latino students in elementary grades are currently meeting grade-level standards. 

Superintendent Johnson-Trammell recently highlighted Oakland’s literacy crisis in her OpEd in the Mercury, “The literacy gap is rooted in racism, segregation and the fundamental belief that some students cannot achieve. It demands a systemic solution.”

After reviewing nine different reading curricula, OUSD began to pilot a more rigorous way of teaching students how to read: “EL Education.” For the last two school years, 19 elementary schools in OUSD, including nearly 300 teachers and 6,300 students have piloted this approach and tomorrow the OUSD Board will review a recommendation to adopt this curriculum districtwide.

While there is strong evidence that this new curriculum will help more Oakland students learn to read, significant challenges remain as the district makes such a big transition. 

In order for this curriculum to close achievement equity gaps, the district must have a strong implementation plan across our schools. Some schools have the infrastructure in place to successfully execute and implement this rigorous curriculum with less implementation support, while others lack the necessary infrastructures (i.e. professional learning structures, literacy coaches). If support isn’t built into the plans equitably, schools without the infrastructure will see less gains in student achievement by design.

The Oakland NAACP has also released a response video in which they highlight two major challenges that the district must address if they adopt this curriculum: 

(1) OUSD must maintain an emphasis on direct instruction of foundational skills that is built into the core curriculum for all students, K-3. This new proposal will require teachers to pair two curricula together: EL Education and SIPPS. If the district adopts this hybrid curricular model, which was unsuccessfully tried previously, it must do so with the clear message to families and educators that explicit, systematic  teaching of foundational reading skills (SIPPS), is NOT optional.      

(2) OUSD must also provide enough support to teachers to equitably implement it effectively over time. This new approach requires teachers to learn new skills and spend significant time planning and preparing on a weekly basis. Adopting the new curriculum without adequately training and supporting staff will only perpetuate Oakland’s literacy crisis.

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