Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you doing this?
The decision to utilize different instructional roles at the Acceleration Schools is part of OUSD’s commitment to addressing historically underserved neighborhoods with a comprehensive school improvement program that creates better outcomes for students. In order for the transformation effort to be successful, all staff must not only understand the vision, but know and accept what’s required to realize it. The 11-month TSA position helps accomplish this goal by codifying the requirements for teachers at Acceleration Schools and providing the framework for a shared commitment to a clearly defined set of professional expectations.
A sharp focus on demanding, high quality instruction in every classroom is one of the most critical steps OUSD can take to improve outcomes for students. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a crucial part of a multifaceted plan (that includes integrated curriculum, Linked Learning Pathways, strengthened AP offerings, etc.) to improve the Acceleration Schools.
Expectations for TSAs are specified in our Bargaining Agreement with OEA, and are grounded in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and in the national Teacher Leader Model Standards as well as Oakland-based research of the Office of School Transformation. By giving teachers more time for planning, collaboration, family engagement and student conferences, OUSD is creating the foundation for a richer more, more rigorous and more inclusive educational experience for students and families. OUSD will also be providing teachers with appropriate compensation for this important work; work that, in many cases, teachers are already performing for less pay.
Teachers who do not choose to apply or are not selected for the TSA positions are guaranteed a job elsewhere in OUSD, but the expectation is that the majority of the existing staff will be retained. The TSAs will be teacher-leaders engaged in the challenging work of transforming these sites into high-quality, full-service schools that produce better outcomes for kids and will be evaluated according to a set of criteria that facilitate the realization of these goals.
What is the research that suggests a 204-day school year is better?
We need to work on our calendar year and school year, period. We need to stop the summer slide. Going further, we would like to see a different school year entirely, but this is what we can do now.
That said, more time alone will not guarantee higher student proficiency. Instructional quality is not static. Instead, expanding time in schools can be harnessed to create a fundamental shift in instructional practices that will then, in turn, lead to higher student achievement. Moreover, without that additional time, the practices that may, in fact, be responsible for subpar performance in the first place would be more likely to remain unchanged.
One example of many studies on this issue is Time Well Spent: Eight Powerful Practices of Successful, Expanded-Time Schools by Claire Kaplan & Roy Chan. Time Well Spent offers an in-depth examination of 30 expanded-time schools serving high-poverty populations with impressive track records of student success, and demonstrates how these schools leverage their additional time in order to implement other critical reforms.
It is 204 work days is for teachers, but the kids will still attend class 180 days, right?
Yes, but when you invite kids for bridge activities, they typically come. There are opportunities for retreats with kids, additional planning and other activities. This already happens in some schools but is just not structured in the way it will be under this program.
How do you alleviate teacher burnout while increasing the workload?
We're making these changes to add resources and time to do work that many teachers are already doing now. Providing the opportunity to bridge in and know kids earlier will make the work more productive. We’re making a three-year commitment to funding and believe it’s going to help stabilize these schools through structured collaboration and planning time.
Are teachers essentially getting paid for the work they already do?
The additional compensation is recognition of the work many teachers are doing work now. The work we have to do collectively as a District and as a city is to increase compensation for teachers overall.
Why was this plan implemented unilaterally? Why not extended contract?
- We have been in dialogue with OEA for more than year about the conditions required for success at our high-need high schools. The principles embodied in the plan to use TSAs at Acceleration High Schools are nothing new to OEA.
- The District is following the existing contract with OEA which has already been bargained. There has been no change. Under the contract, the District can establish appropriate positions at a school site, including TSA positions. The District is staffing those positions according to the existing contract as it has for the 125+ other TSA positions in the District. The TSA job classification is already part of the existing contract. Additionally, in the District’s response to OEA’s Demand to Bargain, it was made clear that although there was no right to negotiate, the District was definitely interested in conferring with OEA further on how the changes on the Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds’ campuses can best serve students and its members.
- Extended contracts are individual agreements between a teacher and the school/District. Feedback from current schools that rely on this method suggest that it does not ensure that all staff are working together in the same framework and therefore is inadequate for our efforts to accelerate learning at the Acceleration High Schools.
- This program needs to be universal and families and staff need to know what the standard is schoolwide and that everyone will be accountable for a set of behaviors and responsibilities that improve outcomes for students.
Does the OUSD/OEA contract guarantee teachers rights to the new TSA positions?
No. In the case of Castlemont and Fremont, if the positions were the same job classification, the contract would give teachers from the closing schools the option to be assigned to the new school if thosepositions were created due to the attendance of students from the closed school. The contract oesnot provide for being assigned from a regular teaching classification to TSA classification any morethan it provides being assigned from teacher to counselor.
Why wasn’t everyone included in the school design process?
- First and foremost, there was an opportunity for every staff member to take part in the process. If a staff member didn’t participate, that was a result of personal choice, not an active effort to exclude.
- This year when we started the processes, we laid out a single design process for both schools but we took into consideration the work that each had begun during the previous fall and the state of the school leaders. We ended up with two design processes that looked a bit different.
- Fremont used a task force model where the majority of teachers were in a “task force” and time was spent during Professional Development (PD) in these task forces coming to some consensus around design and next steps for the schools. Fremont also used a Core Planning Team known as the CPT to summarize and synthesize the work of the task forces. The CPT has representatives from each school. The Fremont process was clearly under the leadership of Dan Hurst.
- Castlemont used a Study Team model where each leader (Scott, Steele, Lynch, Bowman, Villarreal) led a study team dedicated a certain aspect of the new school such as instruction, culture, etc. Although there were some initial meetings with staff during PD, a decision was made to move the Study Teams to after school so parents could participate. This was problematic logistically for some faculty members, but was necessary to ensure wider community involvement.
- Both groups wrapped up with an initial set of recommendations that were presented to staffs in February. Time was also used at PD with the Office of School Transformation to help the teams come together, think about beliefs and vision and put forward some key elements of staffing. In all initial recommendations, it has been clear that maintaining small learning communities to keep the personalization and sense of knowing students was key. Each school has created a focus on ninth graders with Castlemont having a 9-10 house and Fremont a grade nine house. Both schools have small learning communities that are around Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (SUDA and College of Sciences) and other small learning communities dedicated to Humanities (at Fremont College of Humanities and at Castlemont, a college that is under construction).
- We are currently still working to make decisions around CTE/ROP positions and funding and to continue to further distill the structures of these Academies. To be sure, work is not close to done and we wait the announcements of the workgroups.
- Despite this, the CPT at Fremont continues in full swing and Castlemont has moved into two new committees, Teaching and Learning and School Culture. Both committees are open to all staff and are made up of teachers from around the campus. This is a very positive development, as despite the loud voices of the OEA, teachers are still coming together to work for next year. They are learning about the Teacher Effectiveness pilot program which we will be launching next year.
- At McClymonds, teachers, administration and community have been working on the redesign of the school, centered on integration the West Oakland K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) corridor and the development of a Global, Engineering, Manufacturing and Trade Academy.
- The bottom line is that there were ample opportunities for all parties to participate; failure to do so was largely a matter of choice, not a result of an effort to disenfranchise.
What is the long-term future, beyond three years? Is this an experiment or a transition to something else?
This is a part of a long-term investment in these communities. In three years, we will evaluate and assess the effectiveness of this particular strategy, and make modifications or adjustments based on our findings. This investment represents a long-term commitment to these communities that will stretch beyond this one program.
Will teachers get March 15 letters and have to reapply every year?
No teacher is being asked to reapply for their job. All teachers have jobs with the District, the assignment is at a school. The job classification at the Acceleration High School will not be the same job classification current teachers were hired into or currently hold. The TSA job classification has different job requirements, days of work and compensation. As such, all such openings will be filled through a similar process as that used to fill the other 125+ TSA positions currently in the District.
If teachers at the Acceleration High School sites don’t apply for the TSA jobs, will they be put into the general pool?
If teachers elect not to apply for the TSA jobs, their current positions will no longer exist. These teachers will be consolidated and the teachers will go into a talent pool of teachers looking for vacancies. We’ve added resources and opportunities for teachers to maximize chance of finding a good fit in a new assignment, and held a school showcase on March 23. We are also providing two days of substitute coverage for teachers to visit schools and get a sense of the culture; school ambassadors have been identified to provide teachers seeking a new assignment information on what it feels like at that school.
Teachers received a $500 payment if they notified the District of their intent to separate by March 15, and will receive $300 if they notify us of an intent to separate by the end of the year.
Will creating one-year TSA positions at these schools further destabilize these schools?
No. In fact, part of the reasoning behind providing TSA positions is providing teachers more time and the associated compensation to do their best work. We believe this will be an improvement in their working conditions and support retention. Even among those who have criticized the use of TSAs, we have not heard the claim that more time and more compensation for teachers will somehow be negative for students. Further, there is no evidence to suggest that TSA positions have higher turnover than any other teaching position in the District. In fact, on average TSA’s have more experience and have worked in the District longer.
Why are you opening these positions to external candidates?
It’s consistent with past practice. TSA positions are posted online and accessible to external applicants. Existing teachers (assuming they reapply) at the Acceleration Schools will be given full consideration before the external applicants are reviewed.