Posted: Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.

As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)

The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

The job description is mighty long. You can find the one for Castlemont here, and I’ve pasted it below. (I bolded the headers to make it easier to read.)

I’m curious: How many of these duties do you — and, from what you can tell — most of your colleagues do already? Which are less common? Which, in your mind, are the most (and/or least) important?

Do you plan to apply for one of these jobs? Why? I wonder what percentage of the schools’ existing faculties will choose to, and if this opportunity will draw many teachers from other schools.


Oakland Unified School District
Acceleration High School: TSA

Job Description


Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) 11 months, 204 days


As part of the Community Schools, Thriving Students strategic vision and as a result of a yearlong planning process led by the Office of School Transformation and the West Oakland Corridor, OUSD is excited to announce a new teacher leadership position. Specifically crafted to meet the needs of our students and driven by the urgency to accelerate student learning, OUSD has committed to resourcing a set of transformation teachers to lead our turnaround effort.

Representative Duties: (Incumbents may perform any combination of the essential functions shown below. This position description is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all duties, knowledge, or abilities, associated with this classification, but is intended to reflect the principal job elements accurately.)


Essential Functions

All TSAs are expected to be teachers as well as leaders engaged in transforming a school into a high-quality, full service community school. This is an opportunity for those who wish to develop their leadership capacities, engage in rigorous and risk-taking professional development, make a deep and lasting commitment on behalf of students and take part in the transformation of a community. Expectations for TSAs are grounded in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and in the national Teacher Leader Model Standards as well as the ongoing action-research of the Office of School Transformation, including the implementation of a Teacher Effectiveness Pilot.

As classroom teachers, TSAs will take primary responsibility for the academic acceleration of their students and contribute to the development of the social and emotional well being of their students and community.


Specifically, Transformation TSAs will:

Collaborate around school based decisions including curriculum, instructional strategies, discipline policy, grading policy, and parent engagement expectations

Develop and implement unit plans and weekly lesson plans aligned to both Linked Learning Pathways and school based instructional goals

Organize instructional plans to promote standards-based, cognitively engaging learning for students and establish standards-based learning objectives for instructional plans

Use data to guide planning, make instructional decisions and inform assessment

Implement rigorous, standards-based, grade level appropriate curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards

Implement assessments to ensure student mastery aligned to the Common Core State Standards

Create a classroom/community culture of learning by modeling positivity, love, risk-taking, support and the ability to revise and improve work

Manage student behavior through clear expectations and a balance of positive reinforcement, feedback and redirection

Commit to communicate learning objectives to students and to help students understand their proximity to reaching those objectives

Implement a range of instructional strategies including critical questioning, academic discourse, group structures and technology

Monitor student learning during instruction and make in class adjustments when necessary

Develop two-way communication with families about student learning and achievement

Engage in partnership with families and community organizations

Work to promote college and career awareness and access at all times

As Leaders in Transformation, TSAs, during their extended professional year, are expected to engage in professional learning activities to develop their capacities to:

Foster a collaborative culture to support educator development and student learning

Access and use research to improve practice and student learning

Learn and reflect for continuous personal and professional self-improvement

Promote the use of assessments and data for school and district improvement

Partner with families to create inviting conditions to discuss student strengths and needs

Plan and develop cross-curricular/interdisciplinary content aligned to Linked Learning E framework including development of rigorous CTE courses and high quality internships and work based opportunities


TSAs will also:

Uphold and demonstrate their school’s vision, norms, and community agreements

Participate in at least one leadership committee or team

Participate in an increased professional work year

Participate in additional collaborative professional development and work with content coaches where available

Play a leadership role in promoting high expectations, rigorous instruction and expanding AP offerings to more under-represented student populations

Work to partner with Institutions of Higher Education to create concurrent enrollment options for students

Participate in the development and implementation of a safe and healthy school culture



All TSAs will participate in the TCRP Teacher Effectiveness Pilot and/or other Teacher Effectiveness Pilots in order to examine best practice around teacher development, evaluation and retention



Training, Education and Experience:

TSAs must have a valid California teaching credential in the area in which they will teach as well as a CLAD authorization.

Experience working with English Language Learners and a diverse population is required

Experience working with urban youth is required

Demonstrated success accelerating the academic achievement of urban students

Demonstrated success building the social and emotional development and resilience of urban students

Demonstrated capacity to fulfill the above listed “Essential Functions”

Knowledge and Abilities:

TSAs must have knowledge of California State Standards and Common Core State Standards in the content area they wish to teach, lesson design, using data to determine instruction, teaching English Language Learners and developing classroom communities of learners.

TSAs must have the ability to manage stress and the change process. Candidates with high emotional intelligence are preferred as are those who have demonstrated resilience, calm and a problem-solving attitude in the midst of constant unrest

TSAs should be culturally proficient leaders who are aware of how their own backgrounds, experiences and biases might impact their work at a school.

TSAs should be reflective practitioners invested in improving their practice regardless of how many years they have been in education. They should be eager to work with coaches, collaborate with colleagues, and receive feedback in order to improve their practice.

Final applications are due by March 30th

Katy Murphy

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

  • Catherine


    The relevance is that there are teachers who were kicked to the curb by Oakland who were new and needed to give up their district jobs and go back to the classroom. These are some of the teachers who had the dedication and training that Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds need. They are teachers who have taken classes on their own time, have worked with students to create individual learning contracts and who have made real progress in reading, writing, math and science in students who had not passed the CAHSEE.

    Of course Hayward and Alameda snapped up these teachers.

    We chose to have Betty continue the status quo. Because it works for some teachers; it works for the union; it works to keep the dues flowing. It did not help the students who did not have transportation to transfer (although three did transfer to Alameda with their teachers). The current method is not working for students.

    So, I propose that the union set aside money to pay for the students to have tutors when they could have had a credentialed teacher for an extra two months per year. The union should come up with a plan that benefits both teachers and students.

    The union needs to stop acting like a two-year-old having a tantrum because they did not get the gallon of licorice whips and only got a box of 20. Greed.

  • del

    RE: Bumping
    Technically it does not happen to teachers who have permanent contracts. BUT if there is a teacher on leave this year, they are guaranteed a job in the future. As a result, a new teacher hired on will be hired as a TEMPORARY contract, no matter how qualified, experienced, or excellent they are. Every year HR has a certain number of contracts that will be temporary based on the credentials of union members who can either choose to return at the end of the year or who may need to move if a school is closed (for example). So that great new teacher with a ton of non-OUSd experience and expertise WILL NOT be rehired the next year if someone returns to the district or loses a position elsewhere, they will be bumped (but it’s not called bumped because they were not hired as permanent employees). Their best case scenario, depending on when they are rehired, would be to be hired as a first year probationary teacher, and sometimes as a temp. And if they complain to the union that it’s not fair, that they have worked for 3 years in the district and haven’t been given tenure, they will be ignored. I think THAT scenario (which plays out scores of times every year) has a lot more to do with teacher turnover than the most are willing to admit.

  • Catherine

    re: 51 – The teachers who were new got kicked to the curb. The teachers who chose to leave the classroom for district jobs got priority when their gig came to an end.

  • Trish Gorham

    Catherine @50
    I can only speak for Betty by posting a quote she posted today:
    “….tired of all the distractions the district throws our way, when we’d all rather be focused on REAL reforms for students — lower class sizes; resources that support students as human beings rather than test scores; time to plan and collaborate that isn’t contingent on job insecurity, [reducing] instability for our students, and competition among colleagues.”

    And, ongoing, I can only speak for myself. I know how hard it is to organize something you think is a critical factor for professional understanding and growth and get the big ho-hum.

    It looks like you did everything you could to make the training easy to participate in. Why the teachers didn’t could be one or more factors, all of which have degrees of validity.
    1. too tired
    2. want to be paid their professional hourly rate
    3. want trainings to take place on a duty day
    4. topic was not developed as a need by whole staff, but they were told it was a deficit of theirs
    5. they feel they know topic sufficiently
    6. if all were not going to implement training, why should just a few show up?
    7. have a second job

    I am really not trying to make excuses for teachers. Again, I’ve felt the frustration you feel.

    But, in agreeing with Betty, there is a WHOLE lot of nonsense we have to deal with which drains us and takes time away from adequately assessing and collaboratively planning on how to address the needs (not the test scores) of our students.

  • Trish Gorham

    Catherine @51

    Greed? Really? Who told you the lie that we actually got a box of 20 licorice whips? I thought we were on our way to a civil dialogue with my last post. I shall try to maintain one.

    I’m afraid paying for your own education, creating individual learning plans, and having students make progress does not really make your new teachers stand out from the crowd.

    I was pink slipped my first two years of teaching. It’s kind of a rite of passage. And I, like EVERY TEACHER who was pink slipped LAST YEAR had the lay off rescinded and had the right to return to their classrooms. So why didn’t the teachers you mention return?

    So here’s the rub about seniority. I will never advocate taking away a protection for teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to the children of Oakland. Yes, I unequivocally maintain, that those who have served our children for DECADES have more of a right to stay than those who have yet to show such dedication and commitment. Seniority is a protection for those who consider teaching a career, not a mission. And when those new teachers have made serving Oakland’s children their career, they should expect the same respectful treatment for their service. And because there is a union, they will have it.

    Now I really must finish up my report cards.

  • ex-oakland teacher

    Is this the first time that the word “love” has appeared in a government job description?

    “Create a classroom/community culture of learning by modeling positivity, love, risk-taking, support and the ability to revise and improve work”

    Overall, that is one of the most complete and accurate teaching job descriptions that I have seen.

  • Teacher

    I work at one of the three “acceleration” schools. When I read the requirements of “love,” “emotional intelligence,” and “cultural competence,” I can totally picture at least one colleague who lacks all three traits and is likely to be among those not selected for the TSA position. When you call students “f’ing idiots” and say to an African American male, “BOY, pull up your pants,” you likely are in the wrong teaching placement.

    I wish that teacher well and hope he finds a “mutual match” position. Right now, he humiliates many young people and seem highly frustrated with his job. It is not a good fit.

    I am thankful that the district has an easier way to get rid of him than to spend several hundred thousand dollars in lawsuits. I am sorry he will be in OUSD at another school.

  • J.R.

    I almost wish I knew this guy so I could show him what being miserable is really like. It brings to mind this:

    “I will never advocate taking away a protection for teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to the children of Oakland. Yes, I unequivocally maintain, that those who have served our children for DECADES have more of a right to stay than those who have yet to show such dedication and commitment”.

    No one deserves respect who does not give it. No one should ever think that they deserve recognition for just having a pulse for a long time. It is not service when you abuse a child in any form or manner. No one is to blame but the teacher in question and the system that gives him protection he doesn’t deserve. It’s a shame that we let politics destroy our kids, when we simply just want capable,decent,hardworking people teacher our kids. Why is that too much to ask? Why should a union be able to strong-arm and dictate(through law & contract) such things.

  • J.R.

    Now we are about to hear why this guys attitude is someone elses fault. That seems to be standard practice these days. It is a sad situation indeed.

  • Cranky Teacher

    The bad faith on all sides is at the root of the problems and is evident in every conversation on this blog. Nobody trusts anybody else’s motives! It really is astonishing.

    There is one thing that confuses me about all the OEA bashing: If the majority of teachers in Oakland, as is claimed above, do not feel well represented by their union, why won’t they do anything about it?

    The excuse that they are too busy helping the children doesn’t wash if they think the union is actually hurting those children.

  • Cranky Teacher

    For those just hearing about Linked Learning and Career Technical Education for the first time, you might like to know that by 2015:

    “The 5 year strategic plan calls for 80% of OUSD students to be enrolled in
    career pathways that integrate academics, career technical, work based
    learning and student support services known as “Linked Learning.”

    And yes, we are supposed to find internships for every junior in a pathway!

    Why such a rush to ramp up this ambitious program most teachers have never even heard of? Chasing dollars, y’all!

  • J.R.

    You posted “Why such a rush to ramp up this ambitious program most teachers have never even heard of? Chasing dollars, y’all!

    You know what?
    Chasing after and aspiring to something is good motivation to do better and improve. In this educational system there is none of that, once you are locked in you are pretty much set with no need to demonstrate or prove continued growth.performance and ability. Maybe apathy is the problem when it comes to some teachers(some teachers do just enough to get by). Here is an Oakland students assessment of what the problems are, and here is one relevant snippet:

    “My older sister got a 4.0 all through high school. But when she got to college, she found it difficult to keep up, because Fremont didn’t prepare her for the workload. I know, because I went to 7th grade in Fairfield. When I moved back to Oakland in 9th grade, I was learning the same things I learned in Fairfield. We’re two years behind kids in those places! How are we supposed to succeed”?

    Note to Trish: is this the dedication and service you were talking about?

    Here is the complete story:


  • J.R.

    “There is one thing that confuses me about all the OEA bashing: If the majority of teachers in Oakland, as is claimed above, do not feel well represented by their union, why won’t they do anything about it”?

    Do something about it, like withhold dues(which would work), and or resign from the union(still pay agency fees)? Unfortunately by law, the union is force-fed dues and or agency fees. This is why unions are so obstinate, they get paid irregardless, they have no incentive to change. It’s similar to welfare in that there is no incentive to do better, just get comfortable(status quo), which is why they needed to mandate strict time limits.

  • Seenitbefore

    @ J.R.

    “No one deserves respect who does not give it.”

    My question would be….are we willing to hold our STUDENTS accountable for learning this valuable life lesson as well?

    @ Del

    This is just one of many examples of how TEACHERS are treated in an unprofessional and demeaning manner.

    How so? Well… let’s just focus on Middle Schools for a moment. Please consider that on most OUSD campuses, 11-14 year old students have already figured out that they need not complete even ONE assignment during their entire 6-8 grade “career”. Why? Because they will be “socially promoted” to the next grade each year irregardless of their GPA. Their teachers have NO SAY in holding students accountable for successfully mastering the curriculum. And…. the kids KNOW it! Results? Students who are unprepared to be in the classroom and don’t want other kids to find out how far behind they really are.

    Therefore, when a teacher tries to hold a student accountable for learning…by suggesting that he/she focus on the lesson, or stop distracting others with their talking or touching them, or get his/her hands out of their pants, or stop eating chips, and candy, and sunflower seeds in class….. we are likely to be told, “F%#& You, B@&©#!”. If you think I am exaggerating….. sadly, I am not. This kind of behavior is tolerated in the “learning environment” by the school administrators every day. Teachers are verbally and physically abused, have their property damaged or stolen and are forced to take 100% of the blame for the behavior of someone else’s kid. With no access to accountability tools other than the final grades….which are VERY often changed if a student or parent complains to the administration. They and the district have created and nurtured the abysmal conditions of, and statistics for, student success/failure in OUSD.

    Yes….Oakland is a violent and dangerous city to grow up in. However, patronizing our youth…by socially promoting them…allowing them to be disrespectful to adults, each other, and public property, and then making excuses for their ridiculously inappropriate behavior….does not help these children AT ALL! Do you really want me to believe that Martin Luther King would say that we cannot expect any MORE from a child (of ANY race) in Oakland than this???? Is this what we marched in Selma for? Is this what Ruby Bridges walked up those steps to get to?

    If we truly want equality…and EVERY student to be successful…. then set some standards..and for Pete’s sake….let our students know that if you do not complete the criteria for mastery at each semester/grade level… then you don’t pass on to the next level. It’s really just that simple! That way…. the kids who are moving along….keep moving through the system and onward to success. The kids who need more time and more support…will get it…and they will have more resources available to focus on their special needs.

    When middle school students cannot read or write or speak or multiply 9×7…… they tend to find other ways of proving themselves “grown” and capable…. their ways tend to include getting high or drinking at school, mouthing off to adults, bullying others, and the ever popular having sex and making babies…and yes…this is happening AT SCHOOL in many instances.

    You want to change the lives of our students such that they can be successful in the great big world out there????? Do them a favor and teach them to respect and appreciate the fact that they have the right to a FREE education. Teach them also that they do NOT have a right to disrupt and interfere with the learning of others.

    THIS is why good teachers “get burned out” or leave Oakland, or “seem” like they are getting worse instead of better with age. about 70% of our school’s 8th graders have below a 2.0 GPA. Right this second, outside my classroom door, kids are screaming bloody murder at each other in the rain…I can hear them calling each other the “N-word” among othehr colorful phrases. They are skateboarding all over the campus, one of our 8th grade students is pregnant by another one and we have had at least 30 families transfer from our school due to safety concerns this year alone. Yet, when I bring up these concerns…. I am the problem. I am “mean”. I am “insensitive to the cultural differences of their homelife”. I am… a “racist”. Really?????

    They will ALL get promoted to the next grade anyway……so…….

    Whatever! Tony Smith and his little band of union busters will get what they want in the end. God help this city, your home value, and your child at that point.

  • J.R.

    Seen it,
    Just so you know, I am dead set against social promotion as indicated in earlier posts(google it). I believe that when a child struggles but is socially promoted, that they are essentially two years behind at that point. This whole liberal ideology of fairness,equity, social justice just turns people into victims who are never responsible for their own actions(the cold cruel world doesn’t work that way). I am not totally blaming teachers(just the ones who have no business in the classroom, but those irresponsible breeders(I hate to call them parents)are a major problem that society faces today. The breeders don’t, won’t, can’t understand that the word parent is not a noun but a verb! Just so you know, I think full service schools wont do much good either because there are so many people born into generational welfare mentality that it is a natural thing for someone else to be responsible for their child. Further addressing the teacher issue Re: burnout and so forth, if you believe the seniority system is best, then logic dictates you put your best teachers where they will do the most good, but your union is against that(contradictory on their part). The children’s parents are responsible for their home-life no one else is or should be, but as far as educational policy the union is responsible along with inept legislators and school boards. Maybe what needs to happen is designate a certain number of classes to be militarily strict for these kids who are screw-ups(male teacher and male aid) in every class with strict unyielding discipline. Students must earn their way back to general classes.

  • J.R.

    Sorry, I neglected to break this into proper paragraphs, I am just wingin’ it.

  • del

    Hmmm seenitbefore, what exactly have you seen before? One of the most important things to remember in education is that WE are the adults, and the children are children. We know how middle school children behave, and we know it is natural and cuts across race, class, and even species lines. They are SUPPOSED to be defiant and disrespectful. It is very frustrating but it is natural and normal—in fact, most mammalian species exhibit defiance and aggressiveness towards older generations during adolescence. What you describe is not specific to your school or to Oakland. Obviously, if you’ve “seen it before” you would not blame the kids for this behavior.
    Hence, the key is obviously to build relationships with the students so that they have structures and expectations to rely on as they develop their adult personalities. If a student knows that there are clear and consistent consequences for their behaviors (both positive and negative) they will respond appropriately. This is not dependent on administrators or any outside forces, it is quite literally the teachers job. Obviously, having back up from admin etc is helpful, but the reality is that if your students know they can depend and rely on you, they will do amazing things to fulfill and exceed your expectations. This also does not mean “flunking” as a consequence—like any young animal the consequence needs to be immediate and real… vague threats a year away have never been effective, nor is externalizing responsibility. As adults these behaviors are abhorrent in children (blaming, coming up with some vague far off righting of wrongs/punishment), but then we model the same behaviors we say we DON’T want to see.
    On the subject of flunking/retention/social promotion, we all know it is not an effective measure in schools. It is only linked to increased drop out rates, and it is embarrassing that an educator would bring it up. BUT, if we are talking about flunking kids, why is it absurd to flunk a teacher? Why not do away with THAT social promotion? A teacher can get FAILING grades on their evaluation but, due to union rules, this has to continue for multiple years with external (expensive) coaching before a teacher can have any impact to their employment/pay status. Shouldn’t what is good for the goose be applied to the gander?
    Lastly, let me tell you the option besides social promotion: keeping a kid in the same grade till he “gets it right.” I was at Montera in the late 80’s when it was grades 7-9 (you see, I have actually “seen it before”). There was a young man in the 9th grade who had been retained many times because of failing classes. He turned 18 while a student in junior high. He drove to school, and parked in the teachers’ lot. He made tons of money writing absence and tardy notes for the kids (since he was 18, at the time it was accepted). He was of course the most popular student ever, since he was a grown man with actual money and a car. However, he always had a 7th grade girlfriend. How does social promotion sound now?

  • Seenitbefore

    yes…. Del…. let’s focus on the ONE student who was driving in the 7th grade….. ignore the HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS who understood what they needed to do to actually pass their classes back in the day……and actually did.

    I’ve seen enough to know that OUSD is broken beyond repair and that social and class warfare will soon be even MORE rampant in the streets of Oakland.

  • OUSD Parent

    @ Del. What Seenitbefore is describing is not acceptable behavior. Period. My teen is horrible to me and a royal pain AT HOME. He does not behave that way at school. It is never okay for a kid to ruin it for other kids in the classroom with their bad behavior. Especially on a regular basis. The kind of behavior Seenitbefore is describing seems to be all too common in the schools here in Oakland. It happens in other districts as well but there are many districts that simply do not allow that to go on. It is beyond what is acceptable and normal adolescent behavior. Hence people leave and move to other areas where kids may be defiant and annoying and entirely disinterested in learning a damn thing but certain lines are not crossed at school and if they are, it is addressed. Not all schools function like that and allow that behavior to happen.

  • del

    Well seenitbefore, I’m disappointed that you missed the entire point of what I wrote and focused on the last little anecdote. However, you make your true feeling and pedagogy clear when you say “I’ve seen enough to know that OUSD is broken beyond repair and that social and class warfare will soon be even MORE rampant in the streets of Oakland.”
    That’s fine, you obviously have given up. That is your right. But if you don’t want to try, DO NOT blame it on the kids, admin, or any other external factor, that is a choice YOU made. Please leave our district, I’d hate to think you may be educating my family, my friends, or my community.

    OUSD Parent: I know it is not acceptable behavior. But I also know that it is OUR responsibility as adults to teach, model, and reinforce the behavior we wish to see. Seenit is doing none of those things, just blaming people and giving up.
    Certainly, in some classrooms children’s behavior is getting in the way of education. But it is not happening in ALL or even most classrooms in Oakland. And, just like in our homes, WE decide and allow the types of behavior we see. We know that teaching in Oakland is tough, but we also know that WE as adults in classrooms are the ones who decide what behaviors are accepted and which continue. If we decide to shirk that responsibility, we are not fit to be in a classroom and no union should protect us.

  • MissMatched

    Here’s an additional series of postings for seven”Transformational Teachers” in all subject areas, including a TSA position; these seem to be focused on the middle school; http://edjoin.org/searchResults.aspx?countyID=1&districtID=43

    (I’m not sure if this will link to the screen with all the postings for OUSD, but if you choose “certificated,” they should pop us right away on the first screen asthey were posted today, (3/13/12)

  • Peach

    Seen it all and others are not giving up on students when they point out a huge deficit in the running of all but a few of OUSD middle schools. If there is to be any progress on the high school front, something has to be done about the 3 years of nothingness that happens at most flatland middle schools. This is not an indictment of the administrators and teachers who are tryng very hard to create environments of learning within the instability caused by upper administration’s relentless demands and transformations, whoever the Superintendent.

    Not only is unacceptable student behavior tolerated in a bid to keep the suspension and expulsion numbers down, but middle schools have few resources available for their academic programs.

    1. There is constant churning of administrators such that policies and rules are always new.

    2. There is endemic turnover of teachers and support staff such that policies, rules, classes taught are always new.

    3. At the lowest performing schools OUSD middle school students have one, if not more, substitute teacher in each of their three years – usually in math or science. This situation results in students who have not learned anything in that subject before being put in the next class the following year. Some of the social promotion is due to the fact that the district has not provided students with teachers or instruction so promotion covers up these deficiencies.

    4. These vacancies result in students having one or two periods a day in which they can do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and keep themselves excited and distracted. This is how students arrive at their classes with real teachers.

    5. The environment of middle schools is going to have its high school equivalent with the TSA initiative. Because of teacher turnover each year, middle schools seldom are able to build collegial efforts. In contrast schools like Montera have a tradition of teacher efforts across subject areas (students working on a type of academic writing) or within grade levels to bring alive a topic in several subjects. The few schools that have an academic orientation will find it hard to build a strong academic program if instability of the group is the norm.

    There are large institutional deficiencies in OUSD and other urban districts. Pointing them out does not signal that a teacher is not giving his or her very best for students in the midst of all the dysfunction. If anything it shows that the educator has faith in the potential of students and knows that much more can be done to promote their success.

  • del

    Peach says “There are large institutional deficiencies in OUSD and other urban districts. Pointing them out does not signal that a teacher is not giving his or her very best for students in the midst of all the dysfunction. If anything it shows that the educator has faith in the potential of students and knows that much more can be done to promote their success.”
    I will go one further, and say that these deficiencies exist in all human endeavors, be they schools or businesses. Pointing them out (admitting them) is always the first step to recovery. However a quote like “whatever” and the other quote I referenced above is indeed absolute proof that the teacher is not giving their best. Again, the children are not the problem. It is the adult created system and the efforts of adults that is. If anyone believes the children are the problem at the school, it is time for them to go.

    Turnover at the middle school level is not new (or surprising)—very few adults would choose to work at a middle school, and even fewer have the resilience necessary to last a long time. That always has and will be the case. This does not equate to “three years of nothingness,” it is the same reality we all lived through in middle school. In terms of the learning that takes place, brain research has shown how limited humans are in our capacity for new information at that age and how warped the brain is in terms of what is of interest and can be learned. Anecdotal evidence: what standards were WE taught at that age?
    Regarding substitutes, for the reasons above staffing a middle school is difficult. Most educators are drawn to those early years where learning is so fast and students are so receptive or to secondary education where the concepts can be so deep and enlightening. Few are drawn to middle school where classroom management is the main objective every day as students learn to regulate the new chemicals/sensations/interests that will dominate the rest of their lives. Obviously having a substitute is no one’s ideal… but due to bumping rights, etc, when the normal turnover takes place at a middle school, those positions are filled with “must place” candidates from within the district who have no interest in the job. Three “must place” teachers left one middle school in Oakland before January—not because it was poorly run, but because they didn’t want to deal with a middle school. That is more than 10% of the staff—which was already 20% “must place” teachers new to the site THIS YEAR. Meanwhile, that promising new teacher who is excited by the challenge of middle school is hired on a temporary contract and will receive a letter by Thursday that states they may be replaced by one of the many teachers that have come from a recently closed school, or a teacher rejected by the hiring process discussed in this post. Again, it is incredibly important that ANY school community have control of what adults are working with the children, and this is what this hiring process is about. Why is that a problem?
    I would also argue about the instability of middle school administration—only one middle school had a principal new to OUSD this year, most have been in place for 3 years minimum. Certainly collegiality amongst a staff can only help (as long as people are united by their passion for the students), but Montera is hardly the only school where that is the norm, and in fact tomorrow we will see all middle school teachers in the district working together on common lesson plans and assessments. Certainly most schools have PLCs in place where common assessments and lessons plans are created.
    To be clear, all is not hunky-dory at any middle school, especially in Oakland. Those of us who choose to teach in Oakland middle schools know the impact and challenge we have, and we CHOOSE this responsibility. When we have random teachers assigned to the school, when we start shirking this responsibility, when we sell students short or blame them for the challenges we face, we fail at our jobs, and our community and our society depend on us doing our jobs well.

  • J.R.

    Good enlightening observations, there are so many factors that contribute to educational breakdown: home-life, staff instability, ineffective leadership, bad,hiring placement policies. So many different problems to correct, and worse yet having to drag along a union kicking and screaming all the way. As if it isn’t hard enough, maybe that’s way these plans are always termed half baked, the union will never let change happen fully(it’s in the unions best interest not to let change happen). Smaller class size,sure more teachers, more money for the union, and better for the kids, provided they have a quality teacher, that is. Where is the tax money going to come from, and how can the state sustain such a huge pension burden(people are making more money being retired than when they were working, and they still get raises). Don’t forget that having a system where senior teachers are prioritized for just being senior teachers means we can afford less teachers, and therefore we will have larger class sizes.

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R. — on unions: Not paying dues is an infantile response. If you hate unions that bad, you can go work in a private school or charter.

    The union is a democracy — all leaders are constantly facing re-election. All major decisions are voted on. If the “silent majority” think the leadership is the problem, they have only to get off their asses, organize a slate and win the election.

    Bottom line is most teachers are not committed to this job and district enough to get involved on that level. Those that do, eventually come to a much more nuanced understanding of why the union is important.

    It is lame to claim the union hurts kids but then say “I am too busy to get involved.”

  • MissMatched

    The union may not offer perfect representation. However, it does offer some protection. I would like to see those who oppose unions give up their health coverage, or not accept the next raise (if and when, I suppose! and an increase in work days is not a raise…!)

    As the bumper sticker says, “Unions. The folks who brought you the weekend.” And many other improvements in working conditions, such as safety, due process and other benefits.

  • J.R.

    there is nothing democratic about a taxpayer-funded law enforced revenue stream. Whether by dues or agency fees which are approx.75% of dues. I guess you have not learned that when people tell you what your choices are and give you limited options(that’s right, just like the two party system), that is nothing more than a facade, and you need to learn how your union works. Here’s a little starter info for you:


    The union has become corrupt, and the people who run it are distanced and disconnected from the working teachers.







  • J.R.

    Here is another interesting one:


    This guy must be awesome to earn that much,right?

  • del

    I think everyone agrees that education in the United States in general and specifically is not where it needs to be. What we strangely enough cannot agree on is that ALL of us need to make a change or sacrifice to have an improvement.
    The district needs to come up with a transparent long term plan that shows clearly where the money is coming from and going to, and why.
    The union needs to put student needs first and help ensure that a GOOD (not well qualified, not experienced, not standardized test proficient) teacher is in every classroom. They need to start moving lousy members out, because there are far more lousy teachers than there are capricious administrators getting teachers out at a whim.
    Taxpayers need to either fund schools adequately or stop complaining.
    Parents need to have a sense of urgency about their child’s education—get their child to school and ready to learn daily.
    Communities need to look to schools as an asset and to the children attending them as regular kids who will grow up soon. The kids will treat their community exactly as their community treats them.

    No one aspect of this can be overlooked, and anyone thinking the blame goes to one place alone is shortsighted and not using the critical thinking skills we are trying to teach.
    Anyone in this mission to improve schools who wants to spend more time defending themselves than looking to see what they can improve is also failing (or succeeding to hurt the schools). We can all do better, but we have to do it together.

  • del

    Also, anyone who ignores the wonderful things unions have done for our country and our current employees should indeed re-examine their history. At the same time, our teachers’ unions should be PROFESSIONAL unions, not LABOR unions. It is a profession, not labor, and teacher should not be regarded as widgets BUT if bumping, seniority, and keeping a bad teacher in a classroom are priorities, we educators are treating OURSELVES as widgets.

  • Peach

    It is heartening to hear that there is greater stability in middle school leadership (although the 3 year claim may not apply to an important minority of schools), and that teachers in all schools are working collegially on academics.

    One hopes that the adult planning results in strong content and instruction, and that the consistent good teaching and class activities reach the vast majority of students.

    We all look forward to seeing students at West Oakland Middle, Madison, Elmhurst, Simmons, and Frick produce wonderful essays, critiques of literature, mathematical explorations/problem solving, and artistic creations as mandated by the old and new standards. And these are the same activities that people were taught and learned before high school throughout the twentieth century.

    We all know that adolescents of color, those with families that may be in crisis, and those who suffer from the results of poverty and violence can learn well and at high levels. We know this because millions of inner city and rural students were successful during the 60’s and 70’s when there was concerted effort toward that end.

    It’s not easy or simple. Teens’ education calls for committed, professional adults, orderly and safe schools, and every academic and social resource that will aid their efforts. It is our responsibility to give young people instruction that they feel is worth interrupting their social lives for. Educators, along with parents, can help them substitute interest, motivation, goal setting, and effort for angst and discouragement.

    Yes, teenagers have issues with compliance, perserverance, and good judgment. It’s our job as adults to get them to adulthood with those qualities, as well as with a large portion of their innate skepticism and creativity intact.

  • Peach

    Of course, students learn mostly from our actions.

  • Seenitbefore
  • J.R.

    There are good teachers, no doubt about it. This author is dealing in hyperbole. To be honest there are teachers that people admire and then there are the ones that for many different reasons do not strive(or are just not capable) of teaching in a way that helps their students learn,master, and progress and improve. For instance teachers have the choice to “teach to the test” or “teach the concepts & material” and that will achieve even more. Believe it or not, the world isn’t easy either, just figuring a way to please people so that you can get paid and survive day to day. Count yourself lucky that you don’t worry about that(IT is pretty cut-throat these days). I would love to be nearly untouchable irregardless of what I do or fail to do, but I’ll never see that day.

  • Trish Gorham

    NOT nearly untouchable.
    SIMPLY merely justifiable.
    Due process: that which makes an underpaid and under appreciated job a viable career choice.

  • J.R.
  • Seenitbefore

    J.R. clearly you have your opinions, and professional educators have our own.

    The dismal state of public education has been manufactured by well-meaning social reformers who refuse to accept that individuals are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their actions. They always want to blame someone else.

    Bottom ine… the students who work hard, pay attention, show respect and do what they are supposed to do in school…will succeed. The ones who do not…will fail. THAT is the reality of life, my friend.

    The responsibility does not lie with the parents…or the teachers….or society…or that kid who keeps saying crap about your mama….

    “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
    Nelson Mandela

  • J.R.

    Is that your final cop-out? The children are reflections of their parents, and they do not learn by osmosis. Children must be taught by competent parents and teachers. If kids are not learning, someone is not doing their job. You may think that all that’s necessary is to hand out work, grade papers and so forth, but if you are a professional you better know how to explain concepts, assess and reteach if necessary. If you can’t teach effectively then you are putting up to thirty children behind even more when they are pushed to the next grade. Are you a professional, or are you a laborer?

    “Bottom ine… the students who work hard, pay attention, show respect and do what they are supposed to do in school…will succeed. The ones who do not…will fail. THAT is the reality of life, my friend”.

    You know, it is possible to replace the word student with teacher, the only difference being that the student will pay a dear price for his/her mistakes or lack of effort, but conversely the teacher is almost completely protected from any consequences.

    Go figure………

  • J.R.

    I guess when it comes down to it you really have no skin in the game, and you won’t be hurt so why knock yourself out? All the kids could fail(right now its 50%), and nothing would ever change if the unions had their way. After all it’s the kids fault, and that’s what a particular math teacher has said when 95% of his class is lost in algebra. The teacher next door runs intervention, and strangely enough she has those kids understanding the concepts. Imagine that!

  • J.R.

    I forgot to post the relevant facts, the male teacher(in which 95% of students are lost) is a 20+ year veteran. I talked to parents with kids in his class and siblings that had been in his class, and he has a long history of the same lack of properly explaining concepts. The other teacher is a six year teacher who explains concepts clearly(I sat in and even I could understand it, and I’m not a math whiz)and she has a history of students performing very well. What really upsets me the male teacher makes twice as much when she is clearly better and has the trachk record to back it up.