Today, when the state education department released its lists of “persistently lowest-performing schools,” I zeroed in on the five it identified from Oakland. They’re all middle schools: Alliance Academy, Elmhurst Community Prep, Explore Middle School, ROOTS International and United for Success Academy.
My first thought was that most of those schools are less than four years old; how could they be persistently anything? (I did just turn a year older last month; maybe time is just advancing more quickly as I age.)
Explore Middle School was the oldest one on the list. It opened in 2004 and is already slated for closure by OUSD because of its low test scores and dwindling enrollment. That leaves four other middle schools, all of which I believe have opened since 2006.
Every last one of those middle schools is the product of a bold education reform measure. Each one was reorganized or built from scratch, with new teachers and a new principal. In most cases, teachers had to reapply for their jobs.
Those are the kinds of measures the federal government is proposing this time around for its Title I School Improvement Grants.
One might argue that the five Oakland middle schools are making improvements and don’t belong on the lowest-performing list at all — as the district is saying for some of them, especially Elmhurst Community Prep (which I highlighted last year as a Small School on the Rise). But even if you believe these schools are all huge failures, why would you think a similar approach would work better now?
What’s your alternative?
Last question: Do you think Oakland Unified should apply for these Title I School Improvement Grants, which would require the schools to make changes by this fall? Schools are supposed to make these interventions eventually, regardless of whether districts apply for the funds, but state and federal law doesn’t give a deadline or specify how such a requirement would be enforced.