Our Winter Quarterly Meeting focused on literacy work and literacy goals in Oakland. After a whirlwind year of reading and discussing national coverage about reading instruction, and hearing directly from Oakland educators in the Fall at our previous Quarterly Meeting, we have come to understand some important things that continue to drive our work here at the OLC:
- The science of reading and how students learn to read has been settled: instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension are all crucial in developing strong readers.
- We, as a country, and here in Oakland, do not do enough to help students develop phonemic awareness and build phonics skills in early reading instruction. We do not have strong systematic literacy instruction rooted in phonics skills development and it’s holding our students back. Some students still learn to read without systematic instruction, but most will not.
- We cannot point fingers or play the blame game. We are all in this together, we all want better for our students, and so we are committed to focusing on solutions from here on out, and we understand that it takes all of us.
- Across the country, schools, school districts, cities, and states are grappling with how best to teach students to read and we are throwing our hat into the ring as well. But what makes Oakland unique is how we are centering this work around the voices and experiences of families and students, teachers, and schools.
- Therefore, we are committed to alignment across families, schools, and programs serving students.
We all know that two heads are better than one when solving big challenges, and at the OLC we live this daily: “collaborate” is one of our core values. On Wednesday, Jan 15 at our Winter Quarterly Meeting, over 45 individuals representing over 30 organizations throughout Oakland came together to learn, collaborate, and champion critical pathways to transform literacy outcomes in Oakland.
Centering Equity in Our Work: Small Group Dialogue, Michael De Sousa, the Oakland REACH
In order for our group to begin thinking about literacy outcomes and goals, we needed to make sure that we are hearing from all relevant stakeholders, especially families. Michael led the group through thinking about the different perspectives and solutions centered in our work. He challenged us to change how we lead in order to center more family and student experiences, and to evaluate how the actual structures and processes we use in our work often need to change in order to incorporate the range of experiences and priorities families have for their students. We had opportunities to share ideas and talk through these topics with each other, and share out in a larger group.
Call to Action: Literacy for All, Kareem Weaver, NAACP
Following Michael’s workshop, Kareem helped the group think through the need for structural and systemic change within the literacy profession, specifically here in Oakland. He pointed out that most teachers who teach reading or are involved in the literacy profession learned to read easily themselves, and so it’s often hard for us to understand the difficulties a student has and the complexities in the process when learning to read. There’s a huge experience gap – most educators didn’t “need” the structured phonics in order to learn to read, but in fact, over 60% of students require explicit, phonics-based instruction to learn to read.
Kareem also pointed out that currently most schools in Oakland don’t have the “stuff” (curriculum, resources, teacher professional development) and therefore teachers rarely know the “stuff” (how to teach phonics, how to incorporate structured literacy into the ELA curriculum) and fixing that should be a priority for sure. However, at the same time, he stressed the importance of everyone developing different mindsets – that we need vulnerability to examine our work, keep it focused in the research, and make sure it’s what kids need.
OUSD Literacy Alignment, Wes Jacques, OUSD
As Kareem pointed out, having a perfect curriculum won’t fix everything, but a strong instructional system will go a long way. Wes presented an overview of OUSD’s instructional focus for 2020 and multi-year literacy goals for students. He closed his presentation with an activity for the group, soliciting feedback for the working group moving forward. Participants answered the following questions: “What resonates?”, “What are you wondering?”, and “What ideas do you have to increase collective impact?”
The working group will continue to collect feedback at each meeting or event. This feedback will help shape their priorities and projects. You can expect updates from the working
Thanks to all who joined us. We look forward to continuing this important conversation and work.
Below you will find some resources shared throughout the meeting:
General Resources & Links
Thank you to Noah’s Bagels Lakeshore for the bagel donation, and Whole Foods Oakland for our coffee!
Thank you to Greenlining 360 Center for the use of their fantastic space!