Oakland Community Organizations: Building a Districtwide Movement for Small Schools Reform

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Publication Date: 
June 2009

This report shares findings from a six-year research study on the impact of OCO’s education organizing on Oakland schools. It is not often that a government entity publicly credits community organizing for a positive transformation in public schools. But this is exactly what happened in Oakland, California, where years of on-the-ground organizing – community meetings, relationship building, and public actions – led to the creation of forty-eight new small schools, fundamentally transforming the district landscape. From its initial organizing effort in the late 1990s to convince the district to create ten pilot small schools through the present day, the work of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) – a member of the PICO national network – played a critical role in sustaining the small schools movement in the midst of a fiscal crisis that led to a state takeover and multiple transitions in district leadership.

FINDINGS

This report shares findings from a six-year research study on the impact of OCO’s education organizing on Oakland schools. The study found that OCO’s organizing:

  • built school-community relationships that contribute to improved schools;

  • contributed to improved student educational outcomes;

  • stimulated change at the systems level that expanded school capacity and equity in Oakland, in spite of a period of significant fiscal and political turbulence.

NOTE: The Annenberg Institute, with funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, conducted a six-year research study and developed a series of seven case studies based on our research. Each case documents the organizing efforts of a community group in a site and its effect on resource equity and district accountability for improved educational outcomes. Sites include Austin InterfaithChicago ACORN,Community Coalition (Los Angeles)Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project and Youth United for ChangeNorthwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition & Sistas and Brothas UnitedOakland Community Organizations, and People Acting for Community Together (Miami).