Stating it is already at work to revamp teacher evaluation processes along with several other changes, the Oakland Unified School District this week responded to the county Civil Grand Jury complaints about “challenges” the district faces.

The district’s board of education approved a plan Wednesday that calls for continuing work started since the Alameda County Civl Grand Jury investigated teacher retention, teacher pay and teacher placement challenges in Oakland Unified.

Saying it generally agreed with the Grand Jury findings, the district response noted these big changes under way this year.

The school district and its teachers union, the Oakland Education Association, finally reached a new contract agreement after a 10-year impasse.

In the agreement, the district agreed to give teachers an immediate 2.3 percent bonus and then annual pay raises of 1.5 percent – answering a Grand Jury complaint that teachers in Oakland were paid less than teachers in other Alameda County districts.

The teachers union, on the other hand, agreed to be more flexible in teacher assignments to schools, which the Grand Jury had complained were dictated by union rules on teacher seniority giving the most senior teachers complete say. Now, school administrators, parents and other teachers will have a say and school needs will be a chief criteria along with assuring that all students in the district have quality teachers. The new staffing system under development has “the goal of creating and maintaining school community cultures that integrate and acknowledge the unique staffing needs of the school as defined by the school site plan and allowing schools to equitably serve all Oakland students,” the district told the Grand Jury.

“The mere fact that the District and OEA reached an agreement is a remarkable achievement and an opportunity for continued progress in meeting the needs of the children of Oakland,” the district said. The agreement means the district can move ahead on several fronts, like revamping teacher evaluation and professional development policies.

Three new teacher evaluation systems are in trial, it said, answering the Grand Jury complaint that a 20-year-old evaluation system is broken and ineffective. All of them would take in a range of opinions – from peers, parents, administrators and even students – on a array of criteria not just student test scores.

The district agreed that evaluations need to be more frequent and be touch points for offering support and professional development. In the past, evaluations were done randomly and rarely and largely ignored, the Grand Jury had found.

Where the district expressed hesitation to agree with the Grand Jury was on a finding that the district should increase its student -to teacher ratio. The Grand Jury found that Oakland classrooms were smaller than the county average and that if Oakland increased the teacher case load, or student to teacher ratio, it would be better able to pay teachers higher salaries. Oakland Unified said that teachers, parents, voters had all expressed interest in smaller classroom sizes, so it would need to study the issue further. It noted that winning parcel tax measures typically included small classroom sizes as among the things funded.

Moreover, new state funding provided by a switch to the Local Control Funding Formula approved by the legislature after a long campaign by the governor means that Oakland will get more money. Oakland Unified anticipates getting $12 million more in state funding this year, it said. Its annual budget is about $520 million including a general fund budget for of $393 million.

Lastly, it said that its continued pursuit of its “Thriving Students” strategic plan should accomplish much of what the Grand Jury recommended. The five goals in the strategic plan are 1. providing safe, healthy and supportive schools for all children, 2, preparing students for success in college and careers, 3, delivering high quality and effective instruction, becoming a “full service community district” and holding the district accountable for quality.

5 Responses

  1. Oakie

    So OUSD says they’ve redesigned the teacher evaluation process to fix a “broken and ineffective” system.

    No doubt it is broken and ineffective. Given the comments I’ve heard about specific teachers in the system who should clearly not be employed in teaching, does this mean that we can expect the evaluation system to detect at least some of them starting this next year?

    That should be easy to check: Exactly zero teachers have been fired for incompetence in the last 10 years. So we shall see if they have, in fact, fixed it or simply fed more bs to the taxpayers and parents of Oakland.

    Reply
  2. Stop the teacher bashing

    There is a lot more that needs fixing than teacher evaluations in Oakland. In order for any student to have the best chance of being successful, you need the following: a motivated student, caring & involved parent, dedicated & good teacher, supportive administration, a school district & board that create the environment where learning can happen, and taxpayers that fully fund education. As a career changer who moved from corporate America to education, my observation is that not everyone does their part all the time—including students, parents, administrators, OUSD, the board, and teachers. However, I am disgusted with how our country seems filled with teacher haters/bashers. The majority of public educators that I have met in my life and in my current career in education work as hard if not harder than many in corporate America to support the success of their students. Although we are only paid for 6 hours 45 minutes a day, most of us work at least 10 hours a day. We fund public education out of our own pockets more than most citizens because we pay taxes AND we pay for most of what we and our students use in our classrooms (i.e. supplies, field trips, snacks, technology, furniture, etc.). Don’t be so stupid to think we can write it off on our taxes either because the write off ends at $250. Most teachers spend more than that before school starts. If the grand jury wants to fix OUSD, it should start by mandating they weed out the dead wood in the administration and the district offices. The multiple layers of management and other superfluous departments in OUSD would make a perfect McKinsey business case for downsizing.

    Reply
  3. albert

    Want to know why teachers get bashed? Most of the reasons are in your post. First, you fail to refute Oakie’s contention that no teacher has been fired in the last ten years for incompetence by the OUSD. I guess that doesn’t matter so much to you. Sure, you point out many valid points where other’s are failing our students, but fail to acknowledge that the teachers who are failing their students need to be removed. There’s also the money issue. Where you got the impression that you were getting paid for 6 3/4 hours a day is beyond me, but let me let you in on a little secret about the world: when you take a job with an annual salary, you’re getting paid for the whole job, not a set of hours. That’s not just in education, but everywhere. And let me let you in on another secret about the world: if your employer told you during the interview process you would only be working 6 3/4 hours a day, they were lying to you. Just like ever boss does during the interview process in every industry. But mostly you get bashed because teachers always seem to be pointing fingers.

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  4. Greg

    “The five goals in the strategic plan are 1. providing safe, healthy and supportive schools for all children, 2, preparing students for success in college and careers, 3, delivering high quality and effective instruction, becoming a “full service community district” and holding the district accountable for quality.”

    4?
    5?
    When writing an article about education, it is best to know how to count.

    Reply
  5. Barbara Grady

    Four is, as it says “becoming a full service community district” and five is, as it says “holding the district accountable for quality.” Five goals are listed.

    Reply

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