How to Change OUSD for Good

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the [wo]men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The best methods and strategies for educating children have been a frequent topic of conversation in our family over the decades. My mother earned her PhD in educational psychology from UC Berkeley as Anna and I were starting our family and eager to raise well rounded children. We all shared a heightened interest in this topic, and thirty-five years later, the answer to what is the best method for teaching children has not changed: invest in creating a yearning in our children. How to do that, is not really a mystery: the first and most critical step is teaching children to read.

District wide, our schools are not teaching this most critical and basic skill. 1 in 3 students do not read at grade level, and if you look at the situation for black and brown students, the number is closer to 1 in 5 students reading at grade level. This is not acceptable.

A significant number of school age children in Oakland do not attend our district’s schools. Many families choose a charter school, but nearly as many opt to send their students to schools outside of the district. When you think about OUSD’s literacy statistics, is it any surprise? If we are to have any hope of increasing district revenue and building high quality schools, we need to teach our students to read, to give them the ability to yearn for the vast and endless sea of knowledge that beckons. That is the only way to bring students who have opted out of the district back to our schools. With those additional students we will be able to afford to create even more compelling school choices for families.

As your school board representative I will sponsor board policies that focus our district on teaching students to read, and assure that every child in Oakland is reading at grade level by the third grade. Until we meet this goal, we will not be able to attract the thousands of Oakland students who are choosing to attend schools outside of our district. When we are meeting this goal, and the quality of education rises to the world class level that befits a world class city like Oakland, we will see a significant positive change in our district’s resources. It’s not possible to build a world class district by nipping at the margins of efficiency. To create a world class district we need to invest in quality now, by focusing our resources on addressing the most pressing challenges. In this case, it’s teaching our children to read.

PS — Endorsement Update: I just heard that the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce OakPAC endorsed me. See all my endorsements here, and if you’d like to add your name to the list, let me know.