Letter to Community Re: Oakland Magazine Article

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A scan of the referenced article is below this response from OUSDs High School Network Superintendent and Executive Director of Instruction:

Dear Oakland Tech Community,

We write to you in response to an article published on Saturday, October 21, 2017, in Oakland Magazine. We want to acknowledge the article’s highlights and review Paideia’s long history, reiterate our vision for Tech as a diverse and inclusive community school, and inform you of how we are continuing to move forward.

The article contends that the way in which we are moving forward is negatively impacting programs like Paideia, and that the initiative to our work in creating “pathways” is limiting student choice. We want to express to you all that these claims express just one-side of the story and that Oakland Tech will continue our work to serve all students and ensure each have an opportunity for college, career and life success. This is our purpose as a school community.

We want to emphasize the following:

  1. The history from which Oakland Tech rose to become one of the best high schools in Oakland is part of our commitment to continuous school improvement and using equity as one of our lenses to success will be a main driver.  
  2. We are dedicated to developing quality pathways along with the academic programs that helped transform Oakland Tech and will continue to be our focus for the long-term.
  3. Our vision for this year and beyond is one that is rooted in our history and will continue to be a part of our future success.

Through a combination of Pathways such as Engineering, Health Academy and academic programs such as Paideia, Oakland Tech rose up from a challenging history into one of the best high schools in Oakland. Teachers such as Maryann Wolfe were powerful teacher-leaders at Oakland Tech, developing academic programs to create a model of excellence and rigor for students to thrive beyond graduation. This collective work left a lasting impression at Oakland Tech and will continue to do so. With this legacy, Oakland Tech will continue to offer excellent academic programs for all students in Oakland in line with its vision to to ensure that every student takes ownership over their learning, engages in rigorous academic discourse, and graduates college and career ready.

Our current student enrollment reflects a diversity within our community that we want to continue to foster and celebrate. Our students represent many ethnic backgrounds from across Oakland including: African-American, White, Asian, and Latino/a communities. We are proud to represent such a spectrum and will continue to support students from all backgrounds to be college and career ready.

Our vision is to ensure that every student at Tech takes ownership over their learning, engages in rigorous academic discourse, and graduates college and career ready. Tech pursues this vision by offering a rich selection of academic, artistic, athletic and extracurricular programs. Our “pathways” — an approach integrating rigorous academics that meet college-ready standards with sequenced, high-quality career-technical education, work-based learning, and supports to help students stay on track — include Health Academy, Computer Academy, Engineering Academy, Fashion, Art and Design Academy, along with our newest pathway Race, Policy, and Law. Additional programs are open to students (regardless of which pathway they choose) which might  include Paideia, AP/Honors classes, the 9th-grade California Studies curriculum, and the African-American Male Achievement Manhood Program.

One of the challenges we face with this array of programs is that we have to balance student choice with access to programs across our school.  What this means is that given our current bell schedule, students who choose a program such as Paideia, may not be able to be a part of our Health Academy.  However, we have taken steps to ensure that all students who wish to enter a pathway or specific program have all the information necessary to make the best decision possible.  In the long-term, part of our job as a school will be to create the necessary structures where access is increased for all students regardless of pathway choice.

Our work is to continue developing and maintaining the special characteristics that helped to transform Oakland Tech so that this excellence remains available for all students. Regardless of the pathway or program a student selects, the quality of education must ensure students have access and choice in their future. With this goal in mind, our staff has four goals this school year:

  1. Create a more unified staff culture through modeling and operationalizing a clear vision for Tech during our staff meetings.
  2. Support pathway directors to grow high-quality, equitable pathways that represent the diversity of Tech through support from our Pathway Coach and Assistant Principals.
  3. Pilot a common performance assessment for each course that allows students to demonstrate mastery and incorporates literacy, academic language, writing, and reflection during our Wednesday teacher meeting times.
  4. Develop a shared practice of looking at student work to assess and develop best literacy practices during our Wednesday teacher meeting times.

What this means is that the Administrative Team (principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders) and staff will collaborate throughout the year to continue to develop excellence in their teaching practice across all Pathways and Programs.  In addition, our Administrative staff will be completing classroom walk throughs through all of our academic programs and pathways for the year to lift up the best teaching practices we see across all pathways.

With this work, we believe that as a school community we will continue to live up to our vision of Oakland Tech as a model of equity and access and one of the ways you can join us in this endeavor is by joining our Equity Team. The Equity Team meets on a monthly basis and all are invited. You can email the team at: otequity@gmail.com to find out more information.  

Our stance as a school is to build on past successes to provide today’s students access to opportunities for a college, career, and life success pathway. Our work and passion is to make this vision a reality.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us via email at: preston.thomas@ousd.org or paul.koh@ousd.org.

In Unity,

Preston Thomas                                                              Paul Koh

High School Network Superintendent                             Executive Director of Instruction

Oakland Magazine Article, Nov. 2017 Issue

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