This is a sampling of The Education Report, Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog. Read more at IBAbuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/katymurphy.

Oct. 5: Congratulations to the two Alameda County teachers of the year: I'Asha Warfield, from Frick Middle School in East Oakland, and Chris Hansen, from Lincoln Middle School in Alameda.

The awards were announced last night, at a ceremony organized by the Alameda County Office of Education. The two teachers will now be considered for California Teacher of the Year.

In a video the county Office of Education sent to me, Warfield talks about the conversations and debates that constantly take place in her English classroom. Recently, her students debated the pros and cons of social media.

"I really, really believe in my students," Warfield said. "Their intellectual capacity is so great."

Stephen Davis, a kindergarten teacher at Global Family Elementary School, was Oakland Unified's other nominee. At a school board meeting last week, he said he had three rules for his students: (1) Be kind. (2) Be kind. (3) Be kind.

A full list of all of the teachers honored this year in Alameda County can be found on the blog.


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Oct. 4: A policy brief on school turnarounds published this week -- authored by Tina Trujillo of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University -- says the Obama administration's approach to improving schools with the lowest test scores is based on "faulty evidence."

School Improvement Grants, a program designed to turn around 5,000 of the nation's lowest-scoring schools, including some in the Bay Area, require schools to take such measures as replacing staff members or extending the school day, in exchange for additional funding. The authors question the effectiveness of competition and "rigid accountability" as tools for improving struggling schools, and note that the program offers only short-term financial support.

I'd love to hear from employees and families at Oakland's four School Improvement Grant participants -- Roots International, United for Success, Alliance, and Elmhurst Community Prep -- about the report, and the federal program, itself, which is often referred to as SIG. Those schools have extended their school days and are testing out a new system for evaluating teachers, as required by the grant. While the report focuses on the "turnaround" model, those schools have chosen the grant's less disruptive "transformation" option, which requires staff training and evaluations and longer school days.

Here's one excerpt from the brief:

"The SIG program's reforms require massive administrative and teacher replacement. ... In the public debate about the SIG program, reforms such as this have been described as new and innovative. In reality, the nation has significant experience with these models, particularly over the past 40 years. Generations of research show that the SIG reforms are based on faulty evidence, unwarranted claims and they ignore contradictory evidence."

The paper goes on to draw a contrast what some in the education world describe as the "market-based" approach to public schooling, based on principles from the business world, and what the authors consider to be the broader purpose of public education.

"The policy assumes that schools behave in the same way as private corporations are envisioned to behave when it relies on competition, monitoring, and rigid accountability.

"In this way the SIG policy is at odds with a democratic approach to public education, which treats schooling as a public good. Democratic purposes of schooling are far broader than profit-based, market-driven ones. The democratic approach creates opportunities for local communities to publicly deliberate and self-govern. Its goal is to provide all students with equitable opportunities to learn, participate in society, and further social change."

Some of the approaches recommended by the authors include:

  • A greater emphasis on teaching and learning, rather than on structural changes, such as staff replacement (one of the big lessons learned from Oakland's small schools movement, especially at the high school level, though teachers at some of those schools again had to apply for their jobs this year)

  • Including multiple measures of effectiveness, not just test scores.

  • Offering support for students and families, especially for those who live in poverty, as OUSD is trying to do with its community schools model.

    Where do you stand? Does this take on school turnarounds resonate with your experience?