By Alfredo Mathew III and Caitlin Healey
Most of us can agree that good teaching is the most important ingredient in creating the perfect recipe for an effective school. But that is where the agreement often ends.
How teaching effectiveness can be measured, and teachers compensated fairly, are important issues in a national debate causing shock waves from Chicago to New York to Seattle. Here in Oakland, Great Oakland Public Schools (GO) has assembled a diverse group of 14 ambitious educators to tackle these questions as part of GO’s first Teacher Policy Fellowship cohort.
We come from public schools—both district and charter—from all over the city. In total, we have more than 94 years of classroom experience at all grade levels, including special education. We come from a variety of backgrounds (with a range of educational experiences and training) such as AVID, Restorative Justice, technology and Beginning Teacher Support and Assistance coaching. Some of us have experience as department chairs and union representatives. In addition, some of us are Oakland natives. Read more here.
During the fellowship, we will be dedicating our time to thinking deeply about broader issues that impact our profession (including race, class, ability, history, government, funding, technology, access and equity). We will be researching solutions to common challenges; such as how to retain effective teachers in needy schools. We work for Oakland students in the classroom and we want a larger voice in the education reform debate that impacts our profession.
Currently, 76 percent of Oakland Unified School District's new teachers leave our city’s schools within 5 years. This is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average. With higher rates of turnover in lower-income schools, students who need the most support are often taught by the teachers newest to the profession. As a result, high teacher turnover creates instability in schools.
Schools are supposed to be the most stable, safe and caring institutions for young people in our city. We believe effective teaching matters.
This is just the beginning of our year-long journey. Over the next few months, we’ll begin to define the problem of teacher retention in demanding schools. Our cohort of 14 accomplished educators will not only be reaching out to our networks to explore teacher effectiveness, career pathways, and policy solutions to these challenges, but they will also reach out so that great teachers have the professional resources and support to remain working in Oakland.
There are no easy solutions. We have not yet formulated a policy agenda. But we do have a commitment to researching ideas, engaging in conversations, and growing as policy makers to better support Oakland students.
We hope to participate in a dialogue to develop a vision that strengthens our profession. Our goal is to support a more stable and effective public school system so that Oakland students can truly thrive.
Editor's Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/tos