Tony Smith, on OUSD schools turning into charters

Staff Photojournalist
2011 file photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

At a meeting with principals and other administrators before spring break, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith apparently said he didn’t care how many of the city’s schools became independently run charters.

After reading the comments a couple of you posted about those remarks, I asked OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint if Smith did, indeed, say something to that effect. He did.

“Basically, the point of those comments was to emphasize that we need to create more good options for children, and that needs to be the focus of our efforts,” Flint said.

He added: “He was just emphasizing that these are Oakland’s kids, and we’re responsible for their success. Our job is to promote the best possible outcomes for kids, and we have to put that ahead of ideology.”

Flint stressed that Smith did not mean that he was giving up on its district schools, or that he preferred one option over another.

I didn’t hear the statement, or its context. I don’t know, for instance, whether the subject came up in response to another question or as part of his prepared remarks. Unless the meeting was recorded, which I doubt, I can’t even provide you with an exact quote of what he said.

As far as I can tell, Smith has been fairly consistent in his agnostic position on charters. It’s possible his comments were hyperbole — a rhetorical flourish. He sure had strong words in response to the initial charter school petitions of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits (before a different deal, a partnership charter, was negotiated).

Just in January,  Smith said that the charter conversions of those two schools would undermine the district’s strategic plan and cause the district to lose “its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in Oakland.”

Now, two — and quite possibly three — its schools are converting to charter schools this year. (In the first two cases, to have more control over staffing, schedule, curriculum and budget; in the case of Lazear Elementary, which the board voted to close, it’s to remain open.) Others unhappy with district policies could just as easily follow suit, now that the partnership charter precedent appears to have been set. So it does matter where Smith stands on the issue.

Were you there? What did you hear the superintendent say, and what did you make of it? What do you wish he would say?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Catherine

    The more charter schools the fewer dollars to pay Tony and his “people” along with his companies. With charters goes their money.

  • Gordon Danning

    So, apparently:

    1. “Smith has been fairly consistent in his agnostic position on charters” and

    2. He recently said, “I don’t care how many schools become charters.”

    How are those two things inconsistent? How is this a story? Surely there are more things going on in the District — both good and bad — that are more worthy of our time.

  • Katy Murphy

    You’re right, those things aren’t necessarily inconsistent. What’s changed in recent months — not with Smith, but with the school landscape — is the charter conversion issue (as opposed to simply the opening of new charters). There’s been concern among district staff about a domino effect, especially among successful small schools, and I thought it was important to note where Smith stands.

    If Smith would be OK with all of the district’s schools becoming charters, that’s significant. Of course, that eventuality is highly unlikely, and I’m sure Smith knows that — which might be why he felt he could make such a statement to make his point about school quality.

    Lastly, I wasn’t quoting Smith (as it appears from your post that I might have done) — only paraphrasing.

  • J.R.

    I believe the important point is Tony Smith is pragmatic and will go with what works. As for the money issue, OUSD gets far more money per child than districts that perform just as well or better(charters or no charters). Money is not the issue, allocation of money is one of the main issues. Would OUSD be better if it were getting 18-20k per child or whatever(instead of the 11K per child now) and no charters? I highly doubt it. People will always try to distract and divert attention with the money issue even going so far as to claim that OUSD kids are subjected to the state average ADA of 7-8K per child. Pure propaganda nonsense! This district has been under performing for decades through economic booms and busts.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD


    “OUSD gets far more money per child than districts that perform just as well or better”.

    That’s relative though, isn’t it? As far as “better”, the schools that ARE high performing in OUSD have parents supplementing the programs with their own pocketbooks. In some cases, that’s to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars (Hillcrest). In Piedmont—in addition to million dollar fund raising efforts— there is an added parcel tax that every property owner pays, so that money goes straight to the schools, not facing the redistribution oversight from the state. Lamorinda, Marin County, Woodside, etc….you see public schools performing well where the education costs because supplemented by the parents and the greater community.

    One Orinda mom told me that instead of an auction, they hold a big party and simultaneously take out their check books and the competition to be the most generous is fierce. Some write checks for more than the average West Oakland parents entire yearly salary.

    I completely agree the admin costs at OUSD—among the highest in the nation—are outrageous at best and criminal at worst. But when you say OUSD gets far more money, what does that mean? Does that mean the per pupil ADA is higher? I don’t see that. But even if it is, when you compare to more successful districts with more affluent populations and involved parents, their supplementation of their children’s public education far surpasses the per pupil+high administrative costs at OUSD.

    Unless you can provide examples of public schools with the same low income populations in OUSD that are doing better, there’s only relativity in that statement.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    Education costs “are” supplemented.

  • Livegreen

    What has changed is the relationship of the last two Charters to OUSD. Katy’s quote of Tony opposing those was before they reached a deal sharing more costs. Those costs vs. the costs traditional charters have to pay (and undervalue the costs born by OUSD) probably = the difference in Tony’s view on charters…

  • In Shock

    I don’t trust Tony Smith at all. He lies so much his name should be Tony Balony. He does things that are not in the best interest of the children (ie, ATSA positions at the high schools and sending elementary students up to 10 miles away from their community school). He continues to be the highest paid administrator (even with changing ADA) in a district that has the lowest paid teachers and he has effectively disenfranchised the teachers and community in Oakland with his false face. Whether he was being hyperbolic or not is not the point. He shouldn’t say that at all. It’s disrespectful and he’s made no bones about being pro-charter at GO Public School meetings. Dr. Smith has made no effort to work with union leaders and then lies and says that the union doesn’t want to work with him. Dr. Smith has made it known he has other offers. I think he should take them and go away.

  • J.R.

    Parent stuck,

    Here is what that means:






    The only reason OUSD is not in deficit now, is not good stewardship but a testament to the fact that this district has always been awash in California,Oakland taxpayer as well as federal money(thanks to the phony free reduced lunch program numbers).

    If you want to see more actual examples of side by side comparisons, I have much more.

  • J.R.

    In Shock wrote
    “Dr. Smith has made no effort to work with union leaders and then lies and says that the union doesn’t want to work with him”. The union wants smaller class ,and for teachers to be able to self select schools to work in(not much negotiating room in these issues)Smaller class sizes require employing more teachers, but where is the money for that?

  • Super

    Bravo Tony Smith.

    In the aggregate, OUSD is such a disaster that I’ll sign up for just about any effort to change it. Whether status quo or change, I still pay high property taxes and I still plan to move or send my kids to private school when the time comes unless something dramatic changes. So I’ll support just about any approach that might spark improvement, and a change will take risk and novel approaches.

    After all, how much worse can it get.


  • In Shock

    Super, if you were in charge it would be much worse. Your attitude leaves much to be desired and I for one, won’t miss you at my school. You should send them to American Indian Charter where you have sign a waiver allowing the administration to publicly humiliate your child. That sparks improvement. They have high test scores. Unfortunately those test scores don’t translate into actual success in further education. But hey, it works on making children into robots. So go for it.

    J.R., you know what would save money? Pay Tony Smith and all of downtown people that don’t actually work with children, the same salary as teachers. We do all the heavy lifting and yet those guys have expense accounts and salaries doubling those of who work in the trenches. They also pay for all these outside programs that are costing the district big money. You know how much the district spent of their last ad series of Expect Success? Why did they need to advertise? We are a school district not a cola. Do you think that services students in any way at all?

  • Jim Mordecai


    “1. ‘Smith has been fairly consistent in his agnostic position on charters’.”

    I like your choice of the word “agnostic” in speaking of not of the truth of God’s existence but of Superintendent Tony Smith’s attitude of whether charter schools should exist.

    My understanding of the normal use of agnostic is that the agnostic position is that God cannot be proven by evidence but neither can God be proven by evidence to not exist.

    As an opponent to current charter schools, that under California’s charter law is structured to grow charter schools in competition to public schools, and programtically is leading to reduction and closing of public schools, Superintendent Smith attitude is important because his “agnostic” attitude means he is not about defending Oakland Unified Public School District’s public schools in the competition with charter schools for education resources for the District.

    The word unified does not include charter schools as charter schools are treated as separate school districts in most cases. All children in Oakland are not under the management of the District. The only children that are under that management are the enrolled students of OUSD. Both Superintendent Smith and the School Board have a tendency to act as if they have an obligation to students not enrolled.

    Of course some would argue that charter schools are public schools. However, charter schools are not purely public, as they are funded with public money and managed privately while legally they are corporations.

    Relationship of charters to the District is not symbiotic but parasitic. And, while certainly reporting the good and bad of the District’s news is important, I disagree with you and believe reporting on Superintendent Smith’s attitude toward charter schools is important information for the public to have.

    I would hope that the public will come to see the wisdom in voting out those Oakland School Board members, and their agents that are indifferent or agnostic in defending the children enrolled in the District.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Katy Murphy

    Of course, a district made up of many partnership charters (vs. district schools) would likely have a much smaller union membership — or, if those teachers unionized, their contract would probably look much different.

    As the OEA wants to maintain as many in-district schools and teachers as possible, the partnership charter paradigm (which, as Livegreen noted, doesn’t affect OUSD’s bottom line as much) might provide new leverage for an administration which has been mostly unsuccessful in negotiating changes in staffing rules, as we saw with the “mutual matching” effort.

    Do you see this happening? Or do you think that only a small number of teaching staffs would follow ASCEND’s and Learning Without Limits’ lead and vote to convert into charters? I’d be curious to hear your predictions.

  • Katy Murphy

    Hey, that was my word choice!

  • J.R.

    Jim posted
    “Relationship of charters to the District is not symbiotic but parasitic”.

    In any relationship when one side does more harm than good to the other it could be considered parasitic. When I pay taxes on my property and on the money I actually go out and actively earn in the private sector, I have certain expectations of the public sector, who get paid without fail. I expect competence, diligence, fortitude, compassion and results as well. If I get incompetence,laziness, indifference from the public sector I could say that the relationship is parasitic as well. What have I been getting for my money the last two three decades? Charters are no more parasitic than some public sector organizations that we have now.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Katy and Gordon:

    Sorry about “agnostic” being attributed to Gordon when it was Gordon quoting Katy.

    But, no matter the source, my position remains that leadership should be defending the District against competition from charter schools.

    Agnostic attitude explains why two elementary principals lead their schools to convert to charter school status but these two principals retained their positions without the Superintendent doing anything in response.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Super

    In Shock, it seems to me that the status quo is acceptable from your perspective. But as a taxpayer and a father, I’m interested in possible solutions to the problem, not more of the same. There are many that are part of a rotten system, with exceptions, within OUSD.

    How pathetic is it that you suggest that you, apparently a teacher or somehow affiliated with an Oakland school, are not willing to teach my child at your school?

  • LK

    I find Tony Smith’s attitude to be shocking. Just who does he work for – Oakland residents or charter school companies? He can couch it in any politically correct lingo he wants but, bottom line, charters compete with public schools for students and dwindling resources. If he doesn’t care who educates Oakland’s children then why the hell is he running Oakland schools? And why, oh why, must this come down to union bashing? Current political culture has reached the point of fetishizing the heroic young teacher who will save the down trodden. What is really happening is organizations like TFA are churning out thousands of inexperienced and unprepared interns who are competing for jobs with experienced and highly qualified veterans. This in a time of staff reduction. Of course, OUSD would love to replace expensive older teachers with cheaper younger teachers. And TFA needs to place those cheaper teachers or it’s mission is pointless.

    Would I work at a partnership charter school? Absolutely not. I believe in neighborhood schools and am uncomfortable with the lack of oversight at charters. I know the staff at my school would not vote to go charter. I think the number of charter conversions depends very much on how the principal feels about it and if the staff can be convinced to go along. I hope ASCEND and LWL will be the end of this hybrid conversion.

  • J.R.

    Here’s a little clue for you, the district by and large has been under-performing for 3-4 decades before TFA. The problem is the culture of apathy and low expectations along with no mechanism to ensure teachers are held to high standards(and of course there is a big problem with parental abrogation of responsibilities). Experience should not be underestimated but more importantly it shouldn’t be overestimated. Studies show that in five years time, most teachers will be as competent as they are ever going to be. This is not a knock against teaching, but there are only so many components to teaching(and it does not take decades to master them). The real variables lie in the students themselves, and their willingness to learn. I have witnessed great teachers who are able to coax progress from students that are way below basic students as well as advanced students. Some teachers are fantastic and experience(after a certain number of years)doesn’t really have much to do with it.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler


    I had to laugh at the comment “studies show…”. What studies? That is an absurd statement . Teachers continue to learn, as does everyone in every profession. You are knocking teaching when you make statements like “…culture of apathy …in 5 years time teachers will be as competent as they will ever be….should not take them decades for them to master…”. It is not that one cannot teach, but that every year of experience does make a teacher better. Every day I am better. I figure out better ways, more effective ways to differentiate, organize, diagnose, prescribe . There may be teachers who learn all they will ever know in 5 years, but they are not the people I want teaching my child, they are not the kind of teachers I want to work and collaborate with. They are not lifelong learners.
    There are mechanisms in place that can be utilized to ensure teachers are held to high standards. Whether or not they are utilized is another story.
    It is so disheartening to hear that Mr. Smith would make that remark, or any remark beginning with “I don’t care…” with regards to schools.Charter schools are not the panacea.We have had our resource specialist spending days testing a child from a charter for learning disabilities. The students who currently have IEPs at our site have been missing their time. This alone makes me question why Charters are not providing these services to their children. Year after year I have had children transferring from charters into my class below grade level and the parents tell me they were essentially harassed out of the school. A parent told me she was told that the charter she tried to enroll her two daughters in “highly recommended” she take her children to a public school that had the appropriate special education programs. Some public schools in Oakland continue to be stretched beyond the limit .
    I also do not understand how I can go to a campus with state of the art everything at some sites, how money can be poured so disproportionately into some schools. How do campuses get soccer fields, play structures, new multipurpose facilities, and others end up with portables on the yard?
    Our school just won a Title I award…but it really means nothing…2 years in a row…no money, no new facilities, but the promise of portables…for expansion and another reprieve to stave off closure.
    Really though, I feel people’s hands are in the till with all this Gates, Bechtel and other foundation grants. These charters just provide greedy people access to money that should be spent on children. There should be a law that ensures all this donated money be spent serving students DIRECTLY, if salaries are subsidized , those people must be working DIRECTLY with students. The discretion should be up to the school sites, because they know the needs of the students. After all, they work DIRECTLY with them.
    Lastly, I believe Mr. Smith will be gone when his children are entering middle school. I hope I am wrong, but …we shall see. And when he does leave I for one hope for another Mr. Chaconas. Someone who would never say..”I don’t care…”.

  • Let’s Get Real

    J.R., I don’t agree with your premise. I agree with Lisa that teachers continue to learn and develop more as each year passes. Furthermore, it may interest you to know that in Oakland (OUSD, specifically) about 70% of new teachers leave BEFORE the five year mark! At least that’s the statistic I heard last year. I’m sure you will research it and update me if necessary.

    Many TFA teachers (who are recruited from all college majors) are overwhelmed by the teaching conditions in Oakland and/or never felt committed to teaching in the first place. Some become excellent, dedicated teachers. But for OUSD to invest in so many who treat the district like a revolving door seems at best counterproductive. It’s a major contributor to the instability our district suffers.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    I just reached my double digit anniversary as a parent. Looking back over the last 5 years, after reading this 5 year saturation point, I’m asking myself if my parenting skills have grown or remained flat. They have grown. I have learned and applied new skills. There are different coping techniques I use with these older children that I didn’t use 6 years ago. My children have changed: over time, each generation brings new assets and challenges to the next parents.

    Are there other professions where anyone with any sense would announce that. You are as experienced as you’ll ever need to be after5 years? How about a surgeon? You going to be happy with the one with the surgeon with 5 years that the hospital deemed “experienced enough” so they dumped the higher paid surgeon with 15 years experience? I’m sure a study could be manufactured and paid for by the powers that be that the less experienced surgeon is just as competent as they’ll ever be after 5 years, so you should be satisfied. Or is teaching the only profession that hits a peak at 5 years?

    That’s a wholly ridiculous concept and I would hope people would use more sense when reading conclusions from a “study”.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    Smith has always struck me as starry-eyed and a bit out of touch. I’m not surprised that he wants to follow the playbook for privatization. See Andy Smarick’s 2008 summary of the master plan.

    The only problem, if anyone cares, is that the scheme he imagines opens the door for an incredible amount of corruption and gaming the system. Just check the charter organizations Smarick touted as models in Figure 2 of his piece. Edison Schools failed miserably, and multiple news articles call out the CEOs of White Hat and Imagine Schools for being corrupt. Missouri just terminated the charters for all of its Imagine Schools. KIPP has repeatedly been cited for its self-selection and high student attrition.

    Study its history and you’ll find that today’s ed reform movement is not really “about the kids” and never has been. Sadly this country keeps moving toward increasingly undemocratic, plutocratic, neo-feudal times.

  • J.R.

    Parent Stuck,

    Why do people always bring up such a preposterous analogy, being a doctor and surgeon are far different from being a teacher. I have relatives who are medical professionals, and they know that there is a certain amount of commonality between cases and the the overwhelming majority are unique. Teaching has a limited and defined skill-set medicine is vastly different and ever changing skill-set. What a doctor learns translates directly into his/her practice, this is not necessarily so for a teacher.



    Parents have noticed that teaching does in fact have a ceiling and some teachers are much better than others, when a child need to be re-taught at home because the teacher does not have a strong grasp of math for example(this is nost evident at the elementary level), and cannot explain concepts fully and in an understandable way.

  • J.R.

    “Study its history and you’ll find that today’s ed reform movement is not really “about the kids” and never has been”.

    And how does that change,excuse or impact the record of the public schools over the last 3,4 decades? There are many fine teachers(thank goodness for them), but it isn’t enough.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    I cannot think of any profession that has not made growth over the last 30 or 40 years.
    Why is there an expectation that education should be different? Is education reform not happening fast enough? Well, a cure for cancer isn’t either.
    Research and development is needed in every profession.
    If we are to go back in time , we know that there is more information out there about everything, and increased access to that information. It is not as though there was a dive in test scores from the 1800s to the 1900s , or from the early 1900s to now.
    Over the past 3-4 decades public education has been so inundated with more responsibilty than just educating our young people, but caring for their virtual every need. Teachers are expected to do that without additional resources. Children eat at school, free breakfast and lunch, if a child comes late and is hungry , we are expected to have food for them, because children have a hard time focusing when they are hungry. We need incentive programs to get children to come to school, because they have also made us responsible for their attendance. Teachers are encouraged to choose attendance as one of the areas that they will be evaluated on for their Stull Bill Evaluation.We are given highlighted reminders of our attendance rate for our class.
    If a child has any social – emotional needs that are interfering with learning, we must address those needs, as school Psychologists are minimally at sites and can only do SPED testing because of the lack of hours they are given for each site they work at.
    We are also held responsible for the work environment being warm and inviting and can be evaluated on how well we do that.
    You see, all of these things and more take time, and there are only so many hours in a day. If you want a teacher to teach and you continually ask them to teach more health, PE, Science, Math , History, Violence Prevention, Grammar, Language Mechanics, Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary,Art, Music,Independent Worktime, Computer Lab, Library… then you ask them to call parents, correct papers, scan benchmark assessments, get the children ready for standardized tests, go to IEPs, Student Study Team Meetings, Faculty Meetings, District Meetings, Collaboration Meetings, Committee Meetings, hold Science Fairs, rotate science kits 3 times a year, and inventory outgoing kits, maintain the school garden, coordinate with the After School Program, ….
    And you pay the teachers a low salary, slash their health benefits, take away a prep period …
    and hire more administrators for downtown, and more task force people who rarely IF EVER see students, THAT MIGHT IMPACT THE RECORD OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL A TAD.

    AND ED. REFORM as we know it in Oakland means taking money from these foundations and lining the pockets of a few with it.

  • In Shock


    Your child, I wouldn’t mind teaching. Dealing with you, I could do without. Your attitude is pathetic. I hope your child didn’t inherit that from you. You sound like you’ve bought the lie from FOX News that teachers are trying to indoctrinate in liberal ideas and that teacher unions protect ‘lazy’ teachers. Most teachers do most in the first hour than you do all day.

    There are a lot of schools that are working in Oakland. There are those that need more experienced teachers in addition to those who are new to the profession. If our budgets weren’t based at the site including salaries and principals weren’t actively harassing older teachers because ‘they cost too much’, more schools would be successful.

  • In Shock

    Also, OUSD pays money for each TFA recruit. Thousands PER recruit. NONE of that money sees the inside of a classroom via supplies or well paid/experienced teacher. How is 6 weeks of training even START to compare to a year and half to two years of extra education PLUS a year of UNPAID student teaching? It doesn’t. The first two years teaching is often the hardest years teaching because it takes time to find your feet not to mention the whole BTSA experience. So the heavy reliance on TFA in this district is disturbing, to say the least. There are some really great teachers that come into the profession through TFA and there are others who are just holding time until they start their ‘real’ career or they find out it’s actually hard work.

  • J.R.

    In Shock wrote

    “If our budgets weren’t based at the site including salaries and principals weren’t actively harassing older teachers because ‘they cost too much’, more schools would be successful”.

    If I remember correctly Results Based Budgeting started fairly recently in 2004(so that doesn’t account for lack of success in the previous 3 to 4 decades), and before that charters started in the early 90’s, but not in significant numbers until NCLB(2000) or thereabout(again this does not account for lack of historical performance).
    As for hard work, most teacher do and those teachers that hand out worksheets, don’t return graded work, show movies unrelated to the curriculum, or just don’t give out much work(don’t even us a gradebook) realize that you do not have to work hard if that is your choice. The system is so damaged and full of loop holes that I am at a loss to understand why anyone is surprised by the systemic lack of performance.

  • Super

    “There are a lot of schools that are working in Oakland. There are those that need more experienced teachers in addition to those who are new to the profession. If our budgets weren’t based at the site including salaries and principals weren’t actively harassing older teachers because ‘they cost too much’, more schools would be successful.”

    I’m not sure what your definition of “a lot” is. Please share details. I’m particularly interested in middle and high schools that are “working.”

    Sure, there are schools that need more experienced teachers and there are schools integrating new teachers, but these are issues that many school districts face in medium- and large-sized cities across the country. They do not seem to encounter the problems that we do in Oakland. Perhaps we need to overcome numerous problems that collectively present a unique, difficult challenge. But the bottom line is that this is a significant, serious problem so changes to the status quo, from my perspective, are welcome.

    And please, save your crassness for other forums. This is an excellent board so please don’t ruin it. And for the record, I don’t watch Fox, I’m a registered democrat and work hard enough to pay the mortgage on my house that is under water. Gotta love Oakland, crappy schools and all.

  • Peach

    No, it’s not the best policy to get personal and involve people’s families when making points.

    However, it is tiresome to read the knee jerk attacks on teachers, their unions, their professional organizations and their professors in teacher education institutions.

    Having the rights of teachers taken away with the stroke of the keyboard (acceleration TSAs, mutual matching and other violations of the contract) by people who have little or no training or experience is more than insulting.

    Lastly, watching OUSD students, especially the most vulnerable of them, treated as pawns in a giant chess game with power and money as its prizes might prompt one to use the word crass.

    There are a lot of good OUSD schools, especially at the elementary level.

    Middle and high schools have been and continue to be neglected academically.

    I urge parents to go to their chld’s secondary school and interview the teachers, asking the following –

    What information, resources or supplies have teachers received that they can use to improve instruction?

    What technology, lab materials, art projects, musical instruments, research resources, math explorations, foreign language software, physical education equipment have been made available for use by their children? Can they, the parents, see such in use by students throughout the school?

    When was the last time OUSD, not their school site, sent teachers to subject area conferences and courses offered by the University of California subjct area projects in History/Social Sciences, Mathematics, and the Sciences (this is particularly germane for the West Oakland STEM Corridor)?

    The successful programs and academies in the middle and high schools are small and isolated. They thrive because of the collaboration of teachers, parents, and in some cases site administrators. The rest of the students get superficial programs that do little or nothing to enhance the academic program. Organizations are a reflection of the quality of its leadership.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    @J.R. Re “over the last 3,4 decades.” Were OUSD’s schools really so much better in 1972, or have other things changed? To me finding out the truth would require going beyond anecdote and doing a comparative analysis of a number of factors. In the meantime, these are some of the things I ponder.

    The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at Ohio State University produced a PowerPoint report in 2004, “Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today.” Open up the PowerPoint at http://tiny.cc/i408cw

    Slide 4 compares statistics from 1957 and 2002 and states, “Since 1957, the proportion of the African American population with a high school degree has increased by 300% (18.4% to 79.2%) and the proportion of the African American population with a 4-year college degree increased by almost 500% (2.9% to 17.2%). The figures were obtained from the U.S. Department of Education. They show disparity, but also show that more improvement has been made than we are typically told. Are they false figures?

    The most powerful slide to me is #22. It shows an extremely steep climb in prison admissions (of African Americans esp.) that started in the early 1970’s. The report states that the number of incarcerated African Americans increased 800% since the 1950s.

    So is the deterioration you believe that occurred something caused by Oakland’s public school district, or could it be the consequence of other social forces, esp. the onset of an era of rapidly escalating incarceration? Perhaps even in combination with reduced funding b/c of Prop 13, and the post-civil rights era exodus of certain types of families (both Black and White) out of Oakland’s schools? What else?

    This is where I think Michelle Alexander who wrote “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” is on to something much more important and fundamental than will ever be able to be *fixed* by any amount of so-called education reform. To me it seems that this country tolerates an intentionally-created caste system that keeps our privatized and profiting prison system well-fed. It is causing constant and deep damage to generations of families and kids. Call me a skeptic or a realist, but I just don’t believe that the teachers, their unions, and the district created the situation. And I also can’t see how things are going to be *fixed* by having more and more privately-run charter schools, demoralizing teachers and busting their unions, having more high-stakes testing, or hiring gobs of Teach for America teachers.

  • J.R.

    Incarceration is not causation, it is the result of poor decision making(a learned behavior btw). The actual impetus for societal breakdown is the marginalization and destruction of the family unit. Starting with the “free love”,”if it feels good do it” generation of the sixties, and the onset of single mother head of household homes(and welfare system to keep them dependent). There is no caste system, what there is consists of multiple generations of under-educated, ill equipped irresponsible people(of which a majority end up in jail,homeless and or just poor) who are subsequently procreating more under-educated, ill equipped irresponsible people, and the cycle continues aided and abetted by the welfare system. People choose their own destiny, either by what -they do- or what -they don’t do-.



    You would rather blame others for some perceived dictated caste system instead of realizing that personal responsibility and the choice to party or study weighs very heavy on a persons future. You bemoan prop 13 and say the district is underfunded, and yet OUSD receives much more funding per ADA than many local districts yet OUSD performs no better and many times far worse. You are partially right about the prison system, the costs are way out of line because of the overpaid guards(babysitters). The pensions obligations in this state are staggering, and yet they keep climbing because even pensioners get raises, and make more money than those working, and the taxpayer is on the hook for all of it(that’s the union in action.



  • del

    How is the idea of mutual matching so insulting? And can someone please name an administrator in the history of Oakland who was “actively harassing older teachers because they cost too much?”
    Decent teachers are hard to find. Good teachers are even harder to find. Administrators are not trying to get rid of good teachers to save a few thousand dollars, that money would very quickly need to spent on the the various damages and losses that happen in poorly managed classrooms. They may be trying to move teachers (some of whom may be very experienced) out of a school but it’s not going to be about money. They don’t get to keep it for themselves, you know.
    If it were really just about money, an administrator could save more money by just not renewing the contract for the copiers. Those are more expensive than the difference in teacher salaries, and the experienced teachers would very quickly leave a school without resources.

  • MissMatched


    My concern with Mutual Matching is that, to a certain degree, it becomes a popularity contest; and it also allows principals (and presumably their staff) to reject teachers who are older than them. For example, my job was eliminated a couple of years ago. I am much older than everyone else on the new staff; and in fact, much older than most principals. And with more than 20 years in, my salary is high compared to newer, younger teachers. So, I don’t think I would be very likely to be selected. Because money IS a driving factor in hiring. I know there is some talk of central office financing the salaries, but I’m not convinced that this will happen.

    Beyond that, there is the problem of both teachers who don’t get matched AND schools that don’t get matched, because there are many schools where most teachers would rather not work.

    The truth is that no system is guaranteed. And the further truth is that many teachers are good, not great, and somehow, as the saying goes, the great has become the enemy of the good. It’s no longer good enough to be “merely” good. Plus, who can say what is good? I have five periods of the same class each day. But every class has a different dynamic, and all of us get more tired throughout the day. Sometimes the same materials, with the same age and general population of students, succeeds wonderfully with some groups and fails with others. Sometimes my most difficult class is totally engaged, though, and my most engaged class is off their stride. So, does this mean I am a great teacher some parts of the day and a terrible teacher other parts of the day? Which is the most true? I cannot reach every student, even though that’s somehow expected. And I myself am sometimes also off my stride. Things happen in people’s lives.

    In general, I think this system is broken and serves neither teachers nor students… it worked reasonably for middle-class kids when I was a kid, probably less so lower economic status kids, so even then, it didn’t work for many people. I am frankly kind of fed up with the whole thing, and when I talk to my new, young, TFA colleagues, the truth is that almost all of them plan to leave in a year or two. The job is not sustainable. So even with Mutual Matching, you might get someone whose commitment is about an inch deep.

    It’s basically a crap shoot. Someone who seems great might not work out, someone who seems like they wouldn’t work, might be pretty good.