Infographic author Frank Adamson writes that “Oakland has faced many educational challenges over the years from a variety of sources; this work both outlines the extent of the impact on the school system and identifies important information for community members as they seek to regain and retain control of education decision making in the district.”
Too often, the debate over school reform is conducted on the sole basis of opinion and feeling rather than also incorporating empirical evidence – hardly a way to make critical decisions about our children’s future. SCOPE, with the support of OSF, conducted a research project on how to help gather and distribute evidence into a specific community discussion over school reform in Oakland, California.
After working with community-based organizations to identify key topics, SCOPE researchers analyzed research and data, gleaned the main issues, and coalesced the evidence into an infographic.
The evidence summarized into the infographic suggests that school closures, charter schools, and financial mismanagement by outside actors are constraining resources and programs for Oakland’s children.
Specific neighborhoods and populations are targeted by school closure and conversion. These policies tend to differentially affect low-income, politically disempowered, communities and communities of color.
Charter schools increase the challenges faced by the Oakland Unified School District. For example, Oakland charters siphon off money that could be used to reduce student-teacher ratios or other educational supports.
The Oakland school district has suffered from poor fiscal management, both by the state and by district leaders (often representing non-local perspectives), which has increased the difficulty for OUSD to provide a high quality education for every student.
Although the project focused on the Oakland Unified School District, much of the available evidence indicates that the situation in Oakland applies more broadly across the country and the globe. At the very least, the community-driven, evidence-based process used can serve as an example for the use of community-engaged research analysis in school reform by school districts nationwide.
A new book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education.