Join Oakland parents, teachers, and students in Adult Ed and K-12 tomorrow to demand:
This is our 5th edition ready for download. It features a critique of the recent report put out by GO Public Schools. The report is very troubling and includes recommendations of merit pay and evaluating teachers by test scores. Combine this with OUSD’s participation with 8 other school districts in the California Office to Reform Education which is moving towards similar goals and the importance of this report–and its rejection–becomes very important. Also included in this issue is an update on the continuing and growing struggle to keep alive Adult Ed in OUSD, a solidarity letter with the teachers-led movement to resist corporate reform in Guerrero, an interview with an OUSD custodian, and a parent-written article about how his child is dealing with the closing of her neighborhood school, Maxwell Park, last year. We hope you enjoy and learn from this newest issue. As always, we love feedback–positive or otherwise–so please join the growing conversation and movement against corporate education reform.
A new update on the growing current struggle to save and rebuild Adult Education in OUSD. At the end are the demands of the students and teachers of Adult Ed and K-12 who are fighting as well as a summary of the reasons to keep Adult Ed fully funded and in OUSD. Also, be sure to come out to the Board meeting on May 22nd. It’s an all out mobilization for the deciding vote! Click either the English or Spanish flyers below to download them.
Adult Ed Students Fight Back! Defending Current Classes and Demanding More
By Margarita Monteverde
In March, the OUSD school board voted to support the proposal by Superintendent Smith (now resigned) for the flexibility to cut all adult education (AE) classes across the district. Since then, there has been outrage from the students and teachers of these programs directed squarely at the school board members and Tony Smith.
Tony Smith, throughout his years in the district, has championed the idea of “full service community schools” yet with this cut (solely his proposal) the district he presides over is eliminating funding to support families in the district. In order to create “Full service community schools,” the district must prioritize funds to provide real services for the families of students. These classes are one of the only concrete ways that OUSD schools reach out to and serve the families of their students.
These students remember all too well that 90% of the adult education classes were cut less than 3 years ago. As one adult ed. student said, “students in East Oakland remember the school on 73rd Ave. that used to have English as a Second Language (ESL) and other classes every morning, afternoon and night. It’s ridiculous that 13 million dollars were cut from our program and no one knows where that money went.” Now there are only six Family Literacy classes (consisting of ESL and curriculum designed for parents to better assist their students) left in the entire district.
These cuts become more despicable when considering that current national proposals for immigration reform require a basic level of English — highlighting the need for more of these classes. Adding to the irony, how can it be that the federal government emphasizes the importance of large-scale immigration reform, while our local governments continue eliminating possibilities for immigrant families to succeed?
On Wednesday April 24, 40 adult education students delivered a letter to the school board and superintendent’s offices demanding a morning meeting with school board members because their work and childcare schedules make it impossible to attend the bi-monthly evening meetings. The letter denounced the decision to close these classes stating, “If you take away this opportunity to learn, then we cannot progress. Within immigrant communities, English and GED programs are very important tools for overcoming adversity in this country.”
The school board responded by scheduling a meeting addressing the concerns of the students and teachers with members Rosie Torres and David Kakishiba on May 1st at 10am.
The meeting took place in the Coliseum College Prep Academy auditorium. Three board members attended (Torres, Kakishiba and Harris) as well as over 150 adult education students and teachers as well as other supporters. The meeting took place in Spanish, Arabic and English and was facilitated by CCPA adult education students. There were people in attendance from many schools including: Korematzu, Allendale, La Escuelita, CCPA, CUES, Futures, ROOTS, Fruitvale, Lafayette, New Highland, Brookfield, Esperanza. During the meeting the adult students came out in force to present demands and speak to the necessity of these classes and more! The board members expressed support for adult education but made no commitments. The board members said that a decision will be made regarding this issue on May 22nd and invited all supporters of adult education to attend that meeting.
When explaining their decision to cut adult education classes, some board members stated that we must prioritize our children, that in Oakland we care about our children. Some of the greatest determinants of child success is the involvement of parents in their students’ education, and also the income levels of their families. Adult education classes keep parents involved in schools, allow them to get better jobs and learn the language that helps them support their children’s academics. There is no such thing as choosing between children and parents. It is both or neither.
The district has also tried to defer all responsibilities for these cuts to the state government’s decision transitioning adult education classes to community colleges. There are many complexities to the state situation, but it is clear that regardless of what decision is made in the next month at the state level, OUSD has a decision to make in our school district. They can prioritize these classes within their budget plans or they can cut them and not serve these communities. The OUSD budget is under the direct control of the school board and they can choose to fund these classes if they want to.
When asked what it would take to win this struggle, one student said that we need the “unity and power of all the other schools”. The students believe that, “it is our right and our obligation to learn in order to defend ourselves in this country” and for this reason have continued to fight and gain support. The students’ inspiring energy and commitment to this struggle has given renewed strength to the adult education teachers and K-12 teachers to fight for these adult education classes and for other needs in our schools.
It is clear to the students in the class that there is money in this district and there is money in this country, and they demand an answer to this question: “As documented and undocumented people in this country we pay taxes, where is that money going? They need to return to us some of what we contribute.”
Demands of the family Literacy students at CCPA:
- Do not remove the classes of Family Literacy and GED for adults in Oakland.
- We need free classes, with child care, in our communities and with consistent teachers.
- We demand to have English classes in the evenings for parents that do not have the opportunity to attend during the day. As one of the requirements of the possible immigration reform is to have basic English skills, we need these classes available for all immigrants.
- We demand the return of the adult classes and schools that were closed 3 years ago.
- We demand no cuts. Not for our kids and not for adult students.
- When the district makes decisions about funding, you don’t take our opinions as parents and adult education students into account. We want to be taken into account when decisions are made about our schools.
Why save adult education?
- The district’s slogan is: “Full-service community schools,” yet they are cutting classes that serve the community. This is very contradictory.
- We need to prioritize funds for schools not for jails. Why are we closing schools and opening prisons?
- The district received tremendous support from our community to pass Proposition 30 and bring in additional funds. The money is there. Now we are asking for your support.
Margarita Monteverde is an OUSD teacher.
We want to highlight this discussion between two Oakland teachers, one of them working with GO Public Schools, the main sponsor of the National Council on Teacher Quality report that we critique below. The GO Fellow admits that it’s valid to critique GO for not taking a position on controversial issues such as school closures, as well as admitting that there’s lot of division within GO around the problematic report their organization co-sponsored. Lastly, the GO fellow self-identifies as a “socialist,” seemingly indicating the political heterogeneity of this organization. We post the interesting discussion below for further commentary.
You Don’t “Hella Love” Oakland Teachers OR Students with Research Like This.
A Critique of the NCTQ’s “Teacher Quality Roadmap” Report
Table of Contents:
Intro – A Racist/Classist Report for Oakland’s Schools
The NCTQ’s Four Main “Reforms”
No Social Context – No Race/Class Analysis – No Neutral On Moving Trains
No Mention of Budget Cuts and the Impact on the Community – Continued Ignorance of Race/Class Oppression
But . . . Schools Are in Crisis. What is to be done?
Intro – A Racist/Classist Report for Oakland’s Schools:
On Wednesday, March 20th, I went to a rally organized by Youth Together that was in support of the Local Control Funding Formula. At the rally, groups of Oakland and Richmond youth were yelling chants about “education not incarceration” and making demands for smaller class sizes, and better paid teachers.
Afterwards, I went to the GO Public Schools event that publicly released the findings of a report titled the “Teacher Quality Roadmap,” written by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).This report by the NCTQ, presented by two white women, completely contradicts the demands that students of color were putting forward on the same day.
The entire presentation was centered on the role of teachers as the most determining factor in student achievement. Huge emphasis was placed on the role of “great teachers” as opposed to “average” or “ineffective” teachers. No explanation was given for how these categories of “great,” “average,” or “ineffective” were determined, but I have an idea of how: standardized test scores. No mention was made of what this study’s actual political viewpoint on standardized testing is. No mention was made of how teachers should be supported in improving their practice. No mention was made of out-of-school factors like police brutality, immigration raids, or unemployment play in shaping students’ lives.
The entire thing was shrouded in triggering statistics, flashy graphs, and seemingly convincing rhetoric about the problems of public education in Oakland. The purpose of this quick response is to challenge the report that GOPS is promoting in its utility for addressing the real problems in Oakland schools. Rather than supporting the efforts that teachers, parents, and students are putting into keeping quality programming alive in Oakland, and improving the programming that needs improvement, this effort is a veiled attack on the entire community of Oakland. It represents a neoliberal political program that seeks to address the challenges facing communities of color in Oakland, while in reality being a veiled version of white supremacy and classism that will only further the degradation and destruction of Oakland students’ lives.
What we provide below is a critique of the 4 main recommendations that the NCTQ make for the Oakland Unified School District. Secondly, we offer a critique of what the report leaves out, and the racialized and class based implications of these omissions. Finally, we offer thoughts on how to transform the OUSD to actually make schools places where students can learn in healthy ways, teachers can work under the conditions needed to make the student experience profound, and where community members can be integrated into the day to day operation of the school.
Anyone supporting this program should reconsider, immediately, if we have a real interest in improving our lives and the lives of other oppressed people in our community. Continue reading
We’re offerring a piece by our retired teacher comrade Jack Gerson on the “legacy” of Tony Smith, the now resigned superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. We will be posting more on this soon. Please send comments and suggestions.
Tony Smith: What He Did to Oakland, What He’ll Try in Chicago
By Jack Gerson April 6, 2013
On April 4, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Tony Smith gave notice that he was resigning effective June 30 and relocating his family to Chicago to be near his ailing father-in-law. There is little doubt that Smith will soon be a visible presence in Chicago education – quite possibly the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools. It is important for Chicago teachers and community to know just who they are likely to be dealing with – and to those fighting back against the corporate education agenda elsewhere too,
given the importance of the struggle in Chicago.
My guess is that Tony Smith’s job in Chicago will be to break or weaken the powerful alliance between teachers, students, parents and community so evident during and after last September’s teacher strike. There are few who can match him when it comes to talking about the importance of neighborhood schools providing wraparound services to combat the effects of poverty; to recruiting, rewarding, and retaining good teachers; to stimulate authentic learning based on concepts and creativity rather than skill-based rote learning; to provide all the resources that teachers need to teach and students need to learn; to acknowledge and work to overcome racism and its effects; to forge real authentic collaboration between faculty, staff, community, students, parents, and administration; to crack down on mismanagement, excess administrative overhead, and needless outsourcing; etc. For that is exactly what he did when he was appointed superintendent in Oakland four years ago. He talked so well, in fact, that even some skeptics were willing to suspend disbelief and give him a shot.
But in Oakland, it was just talk. Continue reading
A little while ago we wrote about how corporate money has been rolling into school board elections across the country, upturning normally low-key, local affairs and twisting them towards corporate school de-form. Of course, the local example was how GO Public Schools funneled $185,000 towards 3 Oakland school board candidates, Rosie Torres, James Harris, and Jumoke Hinton-Hodge. GO had received the money from 3 main sources: the California Charter School Association, Gary Rogers (seed funder of GOPS), and Arthur Rock. Well now, Arthur Rock and some other Bay Area venture capitalist friends have been popping up in even more local elections. Teacher blogger, Jersey Jazzman, did the dirty work to uncover the campaign finances and here is a sample of what he found:
- Colorado: According to election records, Rock, Penner, Callaghan, the Goldberg-Sandbergs, and the Fourniers gave a total of $19,830 dollars to a slate of candidates consisting of State Senators Linda Newell, Mary Hodge, and Andy Kerr; Representatives Pete Lee, Millie Hamner, Brittany Pettersen, and Dave Young; and House candidate Chuck Rodosevich, who lost his bid. While each if the candidates got different amounts all donors individually gave the same amount to each candidate.
- New York: According to election records, Callaghan, Penner, and Rock gave State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein $2,000 each; Sandberg and Goldberg each gave $1,000.
- Nevada: According to election records, Alison Serafin, who was recently elected to the Nevada State Board of Education, received the following amounts:
- Rock, Sandberg, Thiry: $5,000 each.
- Goldberg: $3,500.
- Callaghan, Penner: $2,000 each.
- The Fourniers: $1,000 each ($2,000 total).
While some of this might seem like chump change when Obama raised $1 billion for his reelection, in school board elections these amounts of contributions totally warp the democratic process. For more info from Jersey Jazzman, please click here for his post. As he puts it these folks have been buying elections 3,000 miles from home (New Jersey in his case).
Of course, they’re also buying elections here and with huge consequences. GO has continued its push to bring corporate de-form policies into Oakland schools, most notably, with its recent campaign to evaluate teachers by test scores–a scientifically invalid process. To stop this red herring of a reform and point attention to where it should be (support and training for teachers based in professional learning communities and, crucially, increased resources for schools and our communities) we will have to be doubly vigilant and mobilized to offset the undemocratic nature of our current board. Click here for more ideas on what we can do and, as always, please share your ideas too.