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Report follows the grass-roots organizers who brought small schools to Oakland


Tribune file photo of Acorn Woodland Elementary School by Alex Molloy

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has spent six years studying a major initiative of the Oakland Community Organizations: to radically change public education in the city’s flatlands neighborhoods by creating small schools. Tonight at Castlemont’s East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA), researchers discussed the findings.

You can access the report here. Researchers focused mostly on the ability of OCO leaders — mostly working-class parents — to shape policy at the district level, and to create the political will to keep initiatives going. (The simple, non-grammatical answer is `yes.’) I plan to write more about this report, in the context of Oakland’s small schools movement, in the next couple of days.

What do you think the future holds for Oakland’s small schools? In your opinion, how important is it that Oakland’s next superintendent supports the movement?

Katy Murphy

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

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  • Nextset

    I’m afraid small schools are a luxury that will be thrown overboard as the tax base is destroyed and school revenue falls off.

  • Nancy

    What is absolutely disturbing is the way that the “parents” have become the decision-makers in these schools.

    Why then did all of the professionals go to get advanced degrees and credentials and ofen mortgaged their financial futures to become “experts” and now the parents are given the authority to decide what is best for their children and that the “expert” is wrong.

    If parents are now going to run the schools and/or run the principals and teachers out of town, then why don’t they cancel out the student loans owed by the professionals?

    As a parent myself, I don’t agree with this kind of decision-making, especially if the parents are not my equal in education and experience or fail to support the ideals of the United States of America.

  • Nextset

    I agree with Nancy. Working Class parents should not have much say in schools. They can vote with their feet. And they can lobby their elected representatives. And they can sing the blues.

    Education policy should be firmly and exclusively in control of the School Board and their staff, subject to state law. Teachers and principals don’t work for the parents. It’s nice if they get along, but that’s optional.

  • Michael Siegel

    Small schools are essential. The factory-model of education fails to fulfill the promise of equitable educational opportunity for Oakland youth. A couple of the comments above proceed from a false premise — namely, that parent engagement is equivalent to parents as sole decision-makers. Given various Supreme Court decisions on the topic — including the early 20th century decision, Meyer, that declared the right to an education to be a fundamental right, derived in part from the right of parents to raise their children — it should not be an extreme position to suggest that parents have a voice in the education of their children. To suggest that “education policy [must] be firmly and exclusively in control of the School Board and their staff” is an offensive statement to me, reeking of paternalism and cultural imperialism. Now, I can anticipate the counter-attack, but I will proceed anyway. As a founding teacher at ASCEND K-8 school who worked with OCO leaders such as Emma Paulino to create a caring, demanding learning environment, I know first-hand the amazing benefits of having a community of parents who are empowered and engaged in the education of their children. And as a teacher who worked at Jefferson Elementary prior to ASCEND — a factory-like school that at the time had upwards of 1500 kids on a campus designed for 500 — I know how countless kids fall through the cracks in the “traditional” urban public school environment. Saying small schools are a “luxury” is essentially saying that we cannot afford to provide quality education, which is not far from saying we cannot afford to provide any education. Hopefully our current leadership does not have such a dismissive attitude.