This post is a whole journey - hang in there & help us fight a good fight... Half of all MPS students don't read at grade level. HALF. HALF of MPS 1st graders can't identify letter names & letter sounds - a leading indicator of what's to come in later literacy proficiency data. I'm not here to debate biases in testing, which are real and I understand that. I'm here to talk about basic, necessary reading, writing & spelling skills and the thousands of kids not acquiring them in MPS. I'm here to talk about the privatization of literacy instruction that occurs when we systematically disinvest in public schools and significantly de-center instruction built around developing these skills. And who gets left behind when this is how the system works and the outcomes it's producing.
We haven't had a literacy-related "strategic plan" in MPS for YEARS. We're about to get one - without any engagement with or input from stakeholders like parents, students, teachers, or advocates from historically under-served communities.
MPS will present its birth-to-adult literacy plan at the May 16th Committee of the Whole meeting. This plan was formed and is being presented to the Board for approval without much stakeholder engagement or input. We're working to collect that input anyway, because it is valuable and necessary.
If you're a stakeholder - parent, caregiver, advocate, and/or educator - let's connect. You can submit questions, comments, or concerns through our website or Facebook - or set up a call with me and David Weingartner to discuss.
** Below are the initial questions and 'asks' we've come up with. Along with the 'asks' that the Oakland NAACP made of the Oakland school district. The Oakland NAACP has led a multi-year, multi-pronged effort around literacy that we've learned a lot from.
-Sara Spafford Freeman
MPS will soon be releasing its Birth to Adult literacy plan. The scope of the questions and asks in this document are related to foundational literacy. We are looking for feedback on these "asks".
MPS data asks:
1. By grade and subgroup, how many K-12 students are being identified as needing literacy interventions outside of the core classroom?
a. How many students identified as needing them are receiving Tier 2 or 3 supports?
1. Hire Cabinet level foundational literacy (possible math) position
a. Oversee selection of foundational curriculum and interventions, hire and train literacy/math specialists, oversee foundational professional development, and oversee system to identify and support 6-12 students needing foundational support.
2. Perform a comprehensive audit of Instructions and Interventions
a. How is efficacy measured?
b. *Does >30% of MPS students needing literacy interventions mean core instruction/curriculum is not effective?
c. Audit will include how instruction, curriculum, and interventions are effective by subgroup. (Home language, ethnicity, special ed, etc.)
3. Form a Curriculum Committee staffed by teachers, principals, and community members.
a. Develop efficacy measures for the curriculum.
b. Address whether a curriculum can be considered “effective” if nearly half of students aren’t meeting grade-level standards and >30% of MPS students are receiving Tier 2 or 3 supports.
4. Literacy plan “deep dive” related to (PK-3)
5. Form a multi-year literacy focused PD plan that includes building leadership, classroom teachers, special ed teachers, and other staff who provide literacy support
6. Comply with state law on screening of students with “characteristics of dyslexia”
1. Report FAST eReading and eMath Test Data and Subdata by site, grade and demographic sub-groups. Set targeted goals, that will be reviewed each year.
2. Report number of students who qualify for interventions, broken down by level of interventions, by site, grade and demographic sub-groups.
3. Report number of students who received interventions, broken down by level of interventions, by site, grade and demographic sub-groups.
Oakland NAACP has led a multi-year campaign pushing OUSD on literacy. Below are their “asks”:
1. Provide a statement of facts that ensures clarity about what and why changes must be made to improve literacy outcomes.
2. OUSD must provide educators with a reading curriculum that has significant evidence of success for kids from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. We demand evidence of results, not trends or personal preferences. Our children are not guinea pigs.
3. OUSD must choose a curriculum that is manageable for educators and allows for full implementation within the bounds of teachers’ contracted hours. If, due to effectiveness and teacher demand, the district selects a curriculum with a larger planning requirement, they must also have a second option (also with evidence of effectiveness) for schools to choose that falls within the planning requirement. Failure to do this produces burnout, resentment, and mistrust and structurally undermines children’s educational opportunities.
4. Ensure that the newly chosen curriculum currently reflects the diversity of Oakland's students or commits to adapting its content, in collaboration with local partners, with time-bound goals and future financial costs baked into any initial agreement. This allows us to move forward with decisive urgency to get our kids reading immediately while also ensuring a clear path to cultural enrichment and affirmation is factored into purchasing decisions.
5. Ongoing access to professional development for educators on teaching reading, classroom management, dyslexia identification and support, cultural competency, and how to run small groups - NOT just how to implement a specific curriculum.
6. The NAACP, through FULCRUM, has provided Oakland Unified teachers with access to professional development through CORE and Wilson. The response was overwhelmingly positive. However, there needs to be ongoing institutional investment in teachers’ development needs. Any teacher or school staff that wants to do a 2 hour training through the Reading League, learn Orton-Gillingham methods (HNU offering listed here), or take a 7-10 week CORE class, should be able to do so.
7. There must be an elevated staff role, within OUSD, dedicated to reading TK-5th grade reading; the person must report directly to the superintendent and collaborate with all stakeholders. They need positional clout, budget, and singularity of purpose to get things done and be held accountable. And, given that many in OUSD leadership promoted a curriculum (for years) that even the authors now admit lacked key pieces… the person who fills this new role must be willing and able to acknowledge mistakes of the past or be someone from outside the organization. The perception that district officials ignored the brain science and research consensus, followed sector trends, promoted the assessment of patterned reading rather than foundational skills, failed to initially consider student success in the new adoption process, silenced internal dissent, and never came before the community to acknowledge their mistakes is not lost on the NAACP. We need to rebuild trust. Relatedly, this level of leadership accountability is important to teachers, most of who marched to the district’s ideological and pedagogical drums.
8. There needs to be monitoring and evaluation of Tier2 interventions. There should be pilots for programs like Read-in-40, which have evidence of success with all students, including African-American, English Language Learners, Polynesian, Latino, and students in distressed environments. Currently, OUSD does not pilot and evaluate interventions programs with the same level of scrutiny as the core classroom program. This has to change.
9. Dyslexia screening for all students, K-2. - California says failure to identify dyslexia is one of the biggest causes of low reading achievement, but we don’t screen for it. Here is a former Oakland student (co-petitioner), who was diagnosed while incarcerated, being interviewed and discussing their reality of getting support in jail while not getting screening and support in school or home. OUSD was also out of compliance with AB1369.