"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Parental Appeal for Charter Moratorium in Oakland

Below is a letter posted by Perimeter Primate on February 11 by a concerned parent in Oakland. It sheds light on the anti-democratic blitzkrieg of Broad-inspired operatives, Jeanne Allen, Kevin Chavous, John Chubb, Chris Whittle, and other corporate socialists, who are still attempting to take over the clean up operation in Oakland after NCLB blew up the schools.

With the rest of the American economy effectively crippled by the unchecked gorging of corporate thieves, the public sector is increasingly attractive to those who would like to bring that same "free market" spirit to running your neighborhood schools.

My letter submitted today to members of the OUSD School Board and members of the Oakland Public School Parents Yahoo group.

Dear Community and Board Members,

I’ve recently discovered an unusually revealing document about the massive overhauling of
Oakland's school district during its occupation by the State. Its title is National Model or Temporary Opportunity? The Oakland Education Reform Story (pdf).

The report was issued in September 2007 by The Center for Education Reform, a national organization with the mission to drive “… the creation of better educational opportunities for all children by leading parents, policymakers and the media in boldly advocating for school choice, advancing the charter school movement, and challenging the education establishment.”

As OUSD moves forward under local control once again, it is extremely important for
Oakland citizens to be aware of the information in this 13-page report. It is a document about our recent history which explains, from the viewpoint of those who were in power during the state takeover, their premeditated intent upon arrival, and the pre-planned strategies which they immediately deployed. OUSD was definitely targeted to become an experiment.

Both Randy Ward (an early graduate from the
Broad Superintendents Academy) and Kevin Hall (Chief Operating Officer of the Broad Foundation who oversees the foundation’s development of innovative education initiatives and investments) were interviewed for the CER report.

The document reveals that, “A group of Oakland small school creators, activists, technocrats, and philanthropists decided that the conditions were indeed ripe to try something big.” They had been waiting for a “politics free zone” to push their agenda; it was created once the state obtained control of the district. The speed at which they worked is evident today, as our district is, quite frankly, in a state of disarray. The morale of parents and OUSD staff has been deeply affected. In combination with the demands of NCLB, relief from the stress is desperately needed.

The report states: “Speed was important,” said Hall, who noted that all of the conditions that were in place in
Oakland convinced the foundation [Broad’s] it was a good investment. “We felt that if this happened slowly, you would give the forces of opposition too many opportunities to stop it in its tracks.”

It is bluntly revealed in this document that OUSD was a test case for the pro-charter movement, so much so, that OUSD worked with the New Schools Venture Fund to create a charter management organization which specialized in converting schools in need of Program Improvement to charter schools. Today this organization is Education for Change (http://www.efcps.org/) located on
Hegenberger Road. EFC was founded in 2005 by Kevin Wooldridge (also current CEO) who had been an elementary school Executive Director [or officer as in NExO?] in OUSD. This organization immediately obtained approval from OUSD as the manager for Cox Academy, Education for Change World Academy, and Education for Change Achieve Academy.

The CDE lists 79 schools for OUSD during the 1998-99 school year when the enrollment was 54,256. Several of the elementary schools were enormous and had to operate on year-round schedules. Our local small schools movement was created 1. to remedy that situation, and 2. because it was felt that even older kids would benefit from a smaller school community. With the support of then Superintendent Chaconas, additional OUSD schools were opened to relieve the overcrowding. By 2003-04 (the school year immediately before Randy Ward’s first) OUSD had 117 schools. At that time, none of the original schools had yet been closed.

The 79 schools for 54,256 students in 1998-99 contrasts with 2007-08 school year, when the CDE lists 145 OUSD schools for 46,431 students. Of those 145 schools, 32 are charter schools which enroll 16% of OUSD's students (= 7,845). This is far more than most any other community. A June 2007 demographic report stated, “…between 2000 and 2004, 37 percent of the District’s enrollment loss was due to the growth of charter enrollments, and between 2004 and 2006, the percentage grew to 58.” (www.urbanstrategies.org/programs/schools/documents/DemographicupdateforOUSD6.18.07.pdf)

Since the state takeover, approximately forty OUSD schools have been closed. Most have been reopened as new, different schools. On the campuses of six original comprehensive middle and high schools are now 15 small schools. On the campuses of seventeen [closed] original elementary schools are nearly as many new elementary schools, including charter schools. Approximately 12 of the “new” schools that had opened since 1999 have now been closed.

This is the legacy of the Broad-originated operation in OUSD. The CER report concludes that there are lessons the charter school movement could learn from what was done in
Oakland. It admits that the “reform” attempt here was less than successful, mostly because it was too aggressive and fast, and that the academic “outputs” (test scores) never measured up to the program’s “inputs” (the money that was spent). However, the reform movement hopes the root of their project here has extended deep enough into our community so it can continue to live. They aren't particularly confident that it has.

Undeterred, the pro-charter forces have recently deployed a piece of propaganda to keep pushing their agenda and this is what the article in the Oakland Tribune today is all about. Of course, there is no reason to trust a pro-charter report issued by the California Charter Schools Association.

After being subjected to years of turmoil at the hands of the State administrators, I urge members of the school board to declare a moratorium on granting new charters and proceed to determine a tolerable and fair charter school cap. I urge the district to focus on restoring stability, and to channel the energy into improving the schools we now have, rather than subjecting the community to the emotional pain and expense of closing and reopening more schools.

Sharon Higgins
OUSD Parent (Skyline HS)

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