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The origins of Oakland’s teaching force

For at least the last two years, roughly 40 percent of Oakland’s new teachers have come from partnerships with organizations such as Teach For America or the Oakland Teaching Fellows. Some have even come from Spain.

(I originally asked about the total make-up of Oakland teachers — not just new hires — but the question might have been misunderstood. So thanks, Steve Weinberg, for raising the question. I’m still waiting to hear a definitive answer.)

In any case, 40 percent of new hires is a high rate, and folks on the city’s teaching task force are looking for ways to lower the school system’s reliance on such partnerships. They argue that people who live in the area and who are already committed to Oakland are more likely to stay in the system for longer – which would reduce the amount of turnover.

By contrast, the recent college grads from Teach For America are asked to stay just two years.

One major challenge, I’d think, would be to find enough people who are credentialed to teach — especially in hard-to-staff areas, such as math, science and special education. Even with help from those organizations, the district had 50 teaching vacancies as of Saturday.

We’ll see what comes out of this initiative.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • A Highly Needed Math and Science Teacher

    My comment is on my personal experience on trying to teach in Oakland. I am highly skilled and educated in math and science with a B.A. in a science from UC Berkeley. Insteas of going to grad school or industry like my peers, I wanted to teach , preferably in Oakland. I applied to both Teach for America and Teaching Fellows Oakland stating my desire to teach in Oakland public schools. I got through to the final interviews in both programs, but, alas was not selected… reasons unknown.
    My concern is that the selecting criteria and process is basically full of crap, both for TFA and Teaching Fellows. They make you jump through all these hoops and really build up their programs to seem prestigious, but they fail to recognize the real people who can make a difference, who want to stay and work in Oakland and “close the gap”. I am such a person, and thanks to a charter school who has some sense and hired me, I am doing exactly that: teaching math and science to Oakland kids in need of a quality education.
    As for OUSD: why would I ever want to take a job in the district that pays lower than other area districts and had no sense to “take a chance” on me?

  • ex Oakland teacher

    I taught in Oakland for 6 years. I am a Berkeley grad (with honors) and received my credential through and intern program. Intern programs are a fine way to recruit teachers. Who in their right mind is going to take out loans to become a teacher? People need to be able to work while getting their credential. Traditional credential programs do not allow that. Intern programs are the only way a person can support themselves while earning a credential. The days of silver spoon debutantes going into the field as a hobby are over. Those gals don’t make it in Oakland anyway.

    If Oakland truly wants to retain good teachers they need to pay more and treat teachers better. I was totally committed to OUSD but left due to the deplorable working
    conditions. I like many teachers I have met and heard about, at the numerous OUSD Board meetings I attended suffered from health problems due to the horrendous condition the porrtable classrooms are in. I developed a respiratory condition due to mold in my classroom. No one cared or was willing to do anything. Rather than fight a long and ugly battle, I like those with some common sense and self preservation moved on to a neighboring district where they treat teachers and students decently and never allow their facilities to fall into the disgusting state that Oakland does. If you wonder what happens to all the teachers in Oakland look to the districts all over the Bay Area. Just about anywhere is better than OUSD, and if you can work in Oakland you can work anywhere. You have to be brain dead to stay in Oakland. Nothing works and everything is backwards. Supplies got ordered and never arrived, (nothing could be delivered to a school site directly, it had to go to the High Street wherehouse first, where it “disappeared” into the black hole. Talk about a broken system. Half the time there isn’t heat, soap, toilet paper or paper towels in the buildings. Kids in the flatland schools where I
    was always had it worst. And they wonder why the test scores are low? How can they be expected to achieve wen they are uncomfortable, cold and they don’t have what they
    need, not to mention, having a pissed off teacher?

    Glad to have escaped before I ended up embittered like so many who get stuck there because they get married and have families and then need the 100% dependent healthcare coverage the district provides.

  • Current East Oakland teacher

    I am in my first year of teaching at an East Oakland public school. I know I can’t be the best for my kids because I don’t have the twenty years of experience it can take to truly be a great teacher. However, I am grateful that I took out loans to get my graduate degree & teaching credential because I know that I have the pedagogical knowledge that will make my instruction stronger than the average college grad. I do not mean to belittle the knowledge of math and science majors, but there is more to teaching than knowing content. If that’s all it took, we could let the middle schoolers teach my class!

    I agree that school districts and states need to do more to help teachers become credentialed (because, let’s face it, teaching isn’t the kind of career that allows quick pay-off of school loans), but I do think it’s important for teachers to be highly trained professionals. We would not trust our children’s health to biology majors straight out of college – why trust their future to an intern with little or no training?

    Last metaphor: Many parents will tell you that the only thing that matters for children is love. However, it’s not love that puts food on the table, clothes on their back, and a roof over their heads – it’s hard work and experience. Good teaching is more than simply a passion for learning or a love of children. It requires long hours of careful planning, in-depth knowledge of developmental stages and behavior, an understanding of the way our brains collect, store, and recall information, and a commitment to knowing the cultures and experiences of the students and their communities so that the children we love have a reason to learn and a context in which to apply it. Teaching isn’t something anyone should rush into just because they like kids. If you love children, adopt some — then send them to school.