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Building a Districtwide Small Schools Movement. Oakland Community Organizations:. The organizing cycle. * Source : Oakland Community Organizations. 48 New Small Schools in Oakland 2000 - 2007. What the Research Says: Strategic Measurement and Evaluation. New small schools:

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building a districtwide small schools movement
Building a Districtwide Small Schools Movement

Oakland Community


the organizing cycle
The organizing cycle

* Source: Oakland Community Organizations

what the research says strategic measurement and evaluation
What the Research Says: Strategic Measurement and Evaluation
  • New small schools:
  • higher percentage of Latino, ELL, and FLP students than district; higher percentage of low-performing students
  • accelerated achievement on CST ELA and math tests at higher rate than comparison schools
  • higher rates of students meeting proficiency, compared to traditional large schools from which they emerged
  • higher graduation rates, relative to comparison schools, district, county & state
  • higher student, parent, and teacher satisfaction ratings than comparison schools
what the research says stanford university study
What the Research Says:Stanford University Study
  • New schools are better able to accelerate achievement as they mature
  • Design features of small schools increase school success
  • District-level supports for small schools are effective (e.g. incubator)
  • Need to focus on supports to improve teacher retention
  • Need to pursue school closures & re-organization thoughtfully, with attention to return-on-investment, school culture, design, etc.
annenberg study core questions
Annenberg Study:Core Questions

To what degree has OCO’s organizing influenced:

1) district policy

2) school capacity

3) student outcomes

study overview
Study overview
  • Six year study of 8 experienced organizing groups
  • Multi-case study design using qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Data analyzed for Oakland
    • 40 interviews (district officials, principals, teachers, organizers, parents & teachers)
    • 130 teacher surveys - large schools and new small schools
    • Use Your Voice parent and teacher surveys
    • Publicly available data (API scores, dropout rates, etc.)
influencing school district policy
Influencing school district policy

Within a tumultuous district context, OCO’s

organizing generated:

  • political will at the grassroots level to support and sustain the reform
  • strategic partnerships with BayCES & OUSD to ensure the necessary supports for new small schools
  • deeper and more effective district parent & community engagement practices
  • parents and community leadership across the district to take key roles within the new small schools
influencing district policy
Influencing district policy
  • They understand how to stay in a relationship, and keep
  • it constructive so that you can live to fight another
  • battle. They don’t break it down in the process of the
  • tension; you’re always kind of pulled right to the edge,
  • but it doesn’t actually snap. So we feel like we have a
  • conflict that’s irreconcilable but then we come together
  • again as allies when the next threat shows up. And so
  • they keep coming back and we keep coming back…”
  • –District administrator
  • They’re kind of in it for the long haul, so you never
  • feel like they’re just going to come in at the initial
  • stage when you’re designing [schools] and then…
  • you’re on your own when you open the school.
  • –District administrator
To what degree has OCO’s organizing influenced the capacity of schools to educate students successfully?
building blocks of school capacity

Professional Culture

School Climate

Instructional Core

Building Blocks of School Capacity
  • Schools strong in these supports were ten times more likely than schools weak in these supports to show extensive gains in both reading and math (Sebring et al.,2006).
  • These supports are more likely to develop in communities with strong social capital. Community organizing is one way to build such social capital.
school capacity in new small schools

School Climate

School Capacity in New Small Schools
  • Sense of school community & safety
  • Parent influence in school-decision making
  • Teacher outreach to parents
  • Achievement-oriented culture
  • Knowledge of student culture
  • Student influence in school decision-making
  • Parental involvement in student learning
school capacity in new small schools1

Professional Culture

School Climate

School Capacity in New Small Schools
  • Teacher influence in school decision-making
  • Collective responsibility
  • Peer collaboration
  • Joint problem-solving
  • Teacher-principal trust
  • Teacher-teacher trust
  • School commitment
  • Principal instructional leadership
  • Quality professional development
school capacity in new small schools2

Professional Culture

School Climate

Instructional Core

School Capacity: in New Small Schools
  • Teacher influence in classroom decision-making
  • Educational practices and beliefs
  • Instructional focus
  • Educational goals (high school)
  • (Coherent curriculum & instruction)

Has OCO’s organizing to create and

support the small schools policy produced measurable gains in student outcomes?

produced measurable gains in student outcomes

Middle Schools’ Base API Scores:

Large schools versus small middle schools (1999-2007)







Large middle schools


Average API Score

Small middle schools














Academic Year

Produced measurable gains in student outcomes
  • In Oakland, and nationally, our study found consistent evidence of a positive relationship between organizing and improved school capacity and student outcomes
  • Findings from Oakland suggest that organizing helped to build and sustain reform, amid a tumultuous district context
  • Across the three studies, evidence for improved student outcomes
  • Small schools in Oakland rate highly on school climate & professional culture, compared to traditional large schools
  • Opportunity to make strides in instructional core
what s next
What’s next?
  • Engaging new district leadership in continuing the small schools reform
  • Keeping parent and community voices front & center – grassroots ownership of the reform is critical
  • Deepening the reform with an intensive focus on instructional rigor – necessary to continue closing the achievement gap
  • Seizing opportunities in new national environment to sustain & deepen reform