facade of Burkhalter Elementary

Oakland Unified School District is Rooted in Reading


Written by Laura Troxel

Oakland Unified School District is Rooted in Reading

Partnerships in Action

In 2023, Leading Educators concluded a two-year partnership with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to build and implement a strategy for curriculum implementation efforts focused on realizing the community’s deep investment in the right to read.

Following a robust curriculum review process involving community input, OUSD partnered with Leading Educators to launch a curriculum-based professional learning system. District leaders and coaches received an average of 22 hours of sessions, 30 hours of coaching, and 14 hours of support building conditions, and district coaches led 30 hours of learning at their schools.

Katrina Jones, a teacher on special assignment (TSA) at Burckhalter Elementary, says the value of the support received is evident.

We are all seeing the value of this curriculum and the aligned support: Every teacher is committed to supporting literacy for every student. Our work is already feeling more powerful and more successful.”

After the partnership, OUSD’s ELA achievement gap with all other California schools decreased by 27%. The gap represents 7-13 months of additional learning for students.*

A chart representing the score gap in standard deviation between OUSD schools and the rest of the state.

The Difference Is Visible

Students are learning their letters faster. In School Year 2022-23, 80% of Kindergarteners knew their letters by January. Students didn’t meet that threshold in the previous school year until April.

More students met their growth goal in 2022-2023 across all grades. The number of students who were using evidence-based text increased by 20 percentage points in just 4 months.

Faris Jabbar, principal at La Escuelita Elementary, sees firsthand how students are responding to the curriculum. He says:

We see our progress in the students themselves. They want to show how much they’ve grown and are excited about becoming stronger readers.”

Theory of Action for student success in OUSD

Lessons Learned

  • Curriculum internalization matters. Improvement in ELA standardized scores was larger for pilot schools who had participated in an initial training led by the curriculum provider in 2020-21 and engaged in additional sessions led by LE in 2021-22.
  • Intensity of engagement with professional learning matters. Improvement in ELA standardized scores was larger for pilot schools with high to mid engagement in year two

More rigorous statistical methods found large, positive, and statistically significant effects of OUSD curriculum implementation and other district-level improvement strategies on ELA standardized scores. As expected, these effects were larger for schools with higher engagement, though the difference between the effects was not statistically significant.

As the district looks ahead to the remainder of School Year 2023-24 and the following years, they are focusing on deepening implementation, supporting teachers, and closing achievement gaps.

The Work In Action

OUSD is one of a dozen partnerships across the country that are pushing the boundaries of what schools can offer students. Learn more about how we customize our supports to meet the needs and strengths of visionary district.

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