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OUSD Strategic Direction: Thriving Students

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Board of Education Strategic Retreat #4   
June 19, 2010   

On Saturday, the Board of Education unanimously approved the strategic direction for the Oakland Unified School District proposed by Superintendent Smith and his leadership team.

GO Public Schools members in attendance were excited to hear and see our city's education leadership coming together around a clear direction and vision to support Oakland's children.

While enormous fiscal, human resource, and political challenges lie ahead, our hope is that Oaklanders will stretch across lines of neighborhood, race, income-level, charter and district roles to come together in support of the Superintendent's objectives to better serve our students.

Over the next year, the district will convene 10 task forces to support the development of a five-year strategic plan to advance improvement in our public schools. By working together, Oakland will become a place of connection, care, and excellence for all of our young people. This past Saturday afternoon, at the OUSD district office at 1025 2nd Avenue, Oakland was on the move.

While it will take time to digest and understand the depth and breadth of OUSD's new strategic direction, the following are initial thoughts on the Thriving Students Framework:
Areas of alignment with GO Beliefs and Vision

Puts Children First
OUSD's Thriving Students Framework states that "educators, parents, and community partners ask themselves continuously how decisions, strategies, resources, and innovations will impact all OUSD children and in particular those who have been underserved." This aligns with GO's value that "above any other priority, stakeholder, or policy, our school system's top priority must be to increase student learning and achievement."
GO seeks equitable opportunity, resources, and outcomes for students of all backgrounds and neighborhoods. Thriving Students' emphasis on African-American male achievement and needs-based resource allocation has high potential to move our public schools closer to these goals. We expect the work of these initiatives to be broadly applicable to all undeserved/ underachieving groups.
One Oakland
GO's Beliefs and Visions are clear: "It takes a village to raise a child, and Oakland is a robust and strong village that is being underutilized. We must commit to work together to create strong and purposeful partnerships for positive change and improvement."
On Saturday, Superintendent Smith commented; "We have a linked fate, our city has to come together in support of our children and youth. OUSD will be the platform to organize the dialogue to unify Oakland for the academic and social success of our children. We must acknowledge that what we've been doing is completely inadequate; that we need to do something radically different to get fundamentally different outcomes for our children." GO could not agree more strongly.

Quality, Neighborhood Options
The proposed "Quality Community Schools Development Group" has the potential to support, hold accountable, and incubate innovative programs in alignment with GO's belief that families in every neighborhood should have quality choices about where to send their children to school. Thriving Students supports GO's vision that "Oakland should become a student-outcomes oriented center for innovation and achievement in education."

Areas of GO Beliefs and Vision that require more emphasis and discussion

Effective Teaching
GO supports Directors Gallo and Kakishiba's comments and questions about how the plan will ensure that OUSD has an effective teacher in every classroom. We agree with Director Gallo that OUSD needs to make changes to increase and differentiate support for teachers, to redesign the evaluation system to include evidence of student learning, and to increase compensation to attract and retain the best teachers for our students.

GO calls on OUSD leadership, in partnership with community and educators, to continue to explore the implications of the evidence that, among in-school factors, teacher effectiveness is the single most important factor in student learning.

Empowered School Communities
GO believes that families, teachers, principals, and students have the responsibility of making site- and community-based decisions to improve student outcomes.

GO will work with the Superintendent and Board of Education to continue to move the system toward increasing school site autonomy and flexibility regarding four key areas:
1.    People: Hiring, dismissal, job/role structures, compensation etc.
2.    Time: Schedule and calendar
3.    Program: Curricular and programmatic diversity
4.    Money: Agility with resources to meet changing and local needs

While the Thriving Students framework calls for dramatic change, it is not clear how far leaders are willing to push to change existing constraints within education code, district policy, and collective bargaining agreements to improve conditions for schools and students.

What you can expect from GO

GO will continue to help Oaklanders understand and act upon the direction set forth in the Thriving Students framework. As we understand the task force process, we will invite and encourage the GO network to participate.

GO will also continue to share and access the promising education ideas, strategies, and practices from within Oakland and around the nation through our online community and events.

Upcoming blog posts will focus on building our understanding of "full service community schools" and the efforts of other cities to improve teacher effectiveness through innovative changes to evaluation, compensation, and support practices.

GO will also invite Superintendent Smith for discussion in August about the Thriving Students framework, to learn more about how OUSD plans to partner with community on implementing this new direction, and how our network can participate in the task forces to develop the 5-year strategic plan.

GO will share comments submitted online from our network with the Board of Education and Superintendent.

Click below to add your comments on the new strategic direction: What are the plan's strengths? What weaknesses do you see? What questions do you have?


As a teacher for over 40 years, I have created a very successful youth-gang "Diversion" program for LA City schools.

And I have the techniques to train all failing students to become super scholars, ending all failures in any school, any district, which would save the 4000 HS students who refuse to attend school in Oakland and now are on Oakland's streets as "Criminals" without an education, facing deep poverty and prison.

And I could save the 4000 Middle school students still attending school, but will soon also dropout when they get a little older.

There is an easy solution that I can demonstrate to any group that they can easily double their reading-learning skill in less than one hour, bringing them up to the level of the average HS Grad - as a simple achievement.

When "Failure" is eliminated in any one school, all of the original 100-year-old defective traditional defects of public education will disappear.

Doubling Reading skills is quick and easy. Over a period of six years, with 1000 students at Foothill College, the average reading-learning skill increased 10 times.

Jim Weber

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