Oakland Unified School District New Small Schools Initiative: Evaluation

June 1, 2009
Ash Vasudeva, Linda Darling-Hammond, Stephen Newton, and Kenneth Montgomery
School Redesign Network

This study builds on and extends the Phase I study completed in 2007 by Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. (SME) by taking a deeper, longitudinal examination of the 45 new small schools, existing schools and district supports in the 2007-08 school year. This Phase II evaluation addresses questions raised by the Board of Education; district administrative leadership; community partners; and school principals, teachers, and parents based on the findings of the Phase I evaluation. These questions were incorporated into and informed three overarching research goals for SRN’s Phase II evaluation:

Research Goal #1
To understand how well new small schools and existing schools in OUSD are performing over time, taking into account the students they serve and their process of start-up and development.

Research Goal #2
To understand what factors influence schools’ achievement and their improvement trajectories over time.

Research Goal #3
To recommend policy strategies that can build on current successes and address identified needs and issues.

SRN conducted quantitative and qualitative OUSD New Small Schools Initiative Evaluation 1 analyses to address these research goals. Quantitative analyses of student achievement on the California Standards Tests (CST) were used to develop estimates of academic productivity, a value-added measure of student performance that controls for students’ demographic variables and prior achievement. Qualitative analyses were used to develop case studies that carefully examined seven new small schools’ design features, developmental history, instructional characteristics, and capacity as well as the ways that those schools interfaced with district policies and supports.

Individually, the cases provide valuable lessons; collectively, they form the basis of a cross-case analysis used to provide district policy recommendations. This report provides a brief history of Oakland’s small schools initiative; analyzes the value- added productivity of these and other OUSD schools, as well as other factors influencing schools’ ability to add value to student learning; and examines cases of high-performing schools that offer insights about policies and practices that can sup- port continued progress for schools and students.