Why Don’t We Have More Paideias

A weird thing happened last night at the OUSD Board meeting.  A real, substantive, solution oriented, question was asked by the Oakland Education Association; why don’t we have more Paideias?

Paideia is the wildly popular and academically successful Oakland Tech program that students actually return from private middle schools to come back into the OUSD (shocking I know).  It’s not new, its success is not new, so why haven’t we worked to develop something similar at Fremont or Mack, or as a stand-alone somewhere in the Deep East or Deep West?

Coming back to Oakland after a decade away, it’s the same crap, same large high schools that are struggling, same types of turnaround strategies, and it seems like the same outcomes more or less.  At the same time we have some very popular and successful District schools and programs, that are oversubscribed, deliver strong outcomes, and basically don’t grow or replicate.

And when you look at the more popular schools in Oakland (that aren’t necessarily in the Hills) most of them are survivors of the New Small Autonomous Schools movement—LIFE Academy, Met West, Urban Promise, Think College Now, Ascend among others.  There is probably another takeaway there for another day.

So instead of these endless dizzying turnarounds—which haven’t seemed to work.  How about a deliberate partnership and replication strategy?  Why don’t we grow another Paideia in Fremont, or a LIFE 2 at Castlemont, a Met Deep West at Mack, borrowing best practices, and developing staff in the initial school who can carry the vision to the new one, with an ongoing partnership to support quality.

Returning to Oakland it’s depressing to see the same mess, hear the same talk over and over, while we see basically the same dismal results for our most deserving students.  So we keep redesigning our “failing” high schools when we have designs that work.

Replication happens all the time in charter schools, and tends to be an effective strategy—why not with the District?

And while recent OUSD meetings have been spectacles of the absurd, with OEA BAMN caucus members ranting and rambling about “Jim Crow”, this was a welcome return to sanity. Thank you OEA for asking that question.

I think I am still waiting for a good answer.

  4 comments for “Why Don’t We Have More Paideias

  1. November 20, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Right on Dirk…and OEA!

    Replicating high quality schools, programs, and things that work — its one of the many strategies that we, as the Oakland School (Re)Design Community needs to think about — and NOW! Part of that is getting a conversation and map of quality out there for Oakland — and connecting folks outside of their silos with one another.

    This is one of the goals of Educate 78 and our new School Design Lab…stay tunedon more information about our launch and upcoming events…and let’s dig in on this together Oakland!

  2. Jody London
    November 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I’ve been suggesting that we expand paideia since I joined the school board in 2009. It’s a pedagogy, not magic. The teachers need to be trained in it and the school organized around it. I also have been suggesting for a while that more schools look at the ninth grade California Studies at Tech, which is taught like paideia and taken by every ninth grader. I want to be in ninth grade again when I see the assignments and reading list.

    • November 24, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Appreciate both of the comments, I guess to me its not magic, as Director London said, and if we have resources, and really study the feasibility, why cant we do this? Not in every case but in some. I would also say that replication creates leadership pathways for folks so they don’t need to leave as well

  3. Anna
    December 1, 2015 at 11:14 am

    My (second hand) impression is that Paideia functions as an elite public school-within-a-school that serves a different socio-economic demographic than the rest of Tech. I went to a large, very diverse urban public high school with a lot of tracking (the school was considered good for kids on the “honors track,” bad for kids not on honors track), and that is not what I want for my own OUSD-enrolled children or their friends. While I got a good education (as my privileged parents expected and ensured), I have learned as an adult that it was bad for the kids who were excluded and also not a good experience for my peers who felt the burden of crossing race and class lines to participate in “honors” (I do hope that Oakland schools in the 21st century will be less racist than my HS was…). I recognize that there is tension here because I also want my kids to have access to a rich high school curriculum that will prepare them well for their preferred institutions of higher learning. I would love to see more schools that meet both of my criteria in Oakland. We live near Fremont, and I have a very positive impression of the adults I’ve met connected with the community there, so I have high hopes!

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