Recommendations made to improve Oakland schools

March 20, 2013 12:01:15 PM PDT
A national research group is releasing its recommendations for improving the quality of teaching in Oakland's schools. The independent study calls for changing the way teachers are compensated and evaluated.

On Wednesday the teacher's union called the study flawed, speculative, slanted, and fundamentally anti-union. That reaction does not bode well for the coalition of community groups who hoped that educators and policy makers would get behind it.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) study made 25 recommendations to the Oakland Unified School District and seven to the state.

"Great teaching doesn't happen by accident," said Kate Walsh with NCTQ. "It happens when there are good policies and excellent practices that are in place."

A coalition of Oakland community groups paid for the study.

"We know from just our experience and the research there's more we could be doing for setting our teachers up for success and to support our teachers," said Jonathon Klein with Great Oakland Public Schools.

NCTQ says Oakland needs to do a better job of hiring and assigning teachers. The district now hires teachers late in the summer when many candidates have already found other jobs.

The council also says principals should have final say over teacher hiring, the district should clarify teacher evaluation standards that are now confusing, pay top teachers more with performance incentives, and move toward an eight hour official workday. The council says at 6.75 to 7 hours, Oakland has one of the shortest official workdays in the state.

Council President Kate Walsh says the study is not a report card on whether Oakland's teachers are good or bad, but how to get and keep better teachers overall.

"There are still great teachers here, very committed, very hard working," Walsh said. "But, you don't want it to be by accident," Walsh said.

The district, however, says the study does not fully understand Oakland's situation.

"We're looking at this as a foundation, we can take some good from it, put aside some bad," said Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint.

The teacher's union says the Washington-based council suggests reforms that would weaken their rights, but that the study accurately points out that Oakland teachers are among the lowest paid in the East Bay.


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