OUR MISSION IS BEING CARRIED OUT
We believe every student has the right to graduate from high school and be well prepared to continue school or begin productive employment. The mission of Oakland Serves is to work cooperatively with Oakland’s public high schools to provide weekly one-on-one academic mentoring and positive encouragement to students who have been identified as at risk of dropping out. There is no charge to the school. Our mentors are fully trained and cleared, and get good results. Our focus now is on placing more mentors in more schools.
MENTORING AT MCCLYMONDS
As you have seen in the press, the students at McClymonds have been performing better and better, winning many accolades, and going on to graduation, college, and fulfilling lives. Oakland Serves is helping by giving extra attention to those who need it most, to make sure they too stay the course and graduate with their peers. We have had a total of 12 mentors working with tenth graders at McClymonds since February of 2018 (those who had to leave in the summer were replaced in the fall; we plan to add more in the fall of 2019).
How We Mentor at McClymonds:
Who Are The Mentors at McClymonds?
Mentor Profiles: When we interview mentor applicants we ask them questions that will help teachers or administrators figure out how to assign them. We call these profiles, and here are a couple of examples drawn from current mentors. Personal information (phone, email, ethnicity) has been removed for the newsletter but does go to the school.
How We Get Results
Bit by bit, attitudes change and grades go up. For students at risk of dropping out, this often requires great patience and persistence, but we believe that with some help and encouragement these students can do the work and pass the courses required for graduation. To reach this goal, our mentors have developed tactics that work. See the following excerpts from the Weekly Mentoring Reports of several OS mentors. (Initials used are not actual student initials.) We begin with a series of reports from one mentor, showing change over time. Four shorter examples of patience and persistence follow.
Five Reports from a Single Mentor after Several Weeks of Mentoring:
First report: After completing the day's assignment, my mentee checked his grade online. He is on track and has completed assignments for most of his classes except Biology... One of the reasons he struggles to complete these assignments is because he clashes with his teacher and, as a result, keeps getting kicked out of the class ... I will try to get in touch with his Biology teacher to see what we can do about Biology assignments (like getting access to the computer lab) next week.
Second report: After class, I went to briefly talk with his Biology teacher who told me that due to behavior issues, he has been kicked out of her class until a parent-teacher conference can be arranged. She was happy to arrange alternative ways to have him complete his work outside of class hours. I'm going to see if there's a way to access the class software. If not, the Biology teacher can provide worksheets and a textbook. The teacher emphasized that it's his behavior (not abilities/comprehension) that is hindering his grades.
Third report: We worked on some of his Biology projects but it was unclear which projects he could complete for class credit. We agreed that he will ask his Biology teacher for a list of projects we can work on next week
Fourth report: I had not seen DC for 3 weeks [spring break and my work conference] so it was good to finally see him today. He told me that school and life have been going well --in fact, he was very excited to show me that he earned a score of 96% on his latest Biology exam.
Fifth report: He was very excited that his grades were going up and at some point during class, he went to the school office to get a printout of his grade report. He is passing every class except AVID and World History with Mr. D.
Shorter “Patience and Persistence” Reports from Four Other Mentors:
1. It started out really slow and I had to dictate the steps of the algebra required to solve for the missing side; but after a few of the problems he started seeing the patterns and was able to write the initial equation out by himself with a few exponents missing here and there. I’d say for the best instance, he was able to do close to 70% of the problem by himself, which I was pretty glad to see.
2. Today I met NC in the history teacher's room and we began with a list of make-up assignments to work on. We then proceeded with the assignments and he demonstrated more diligence in completing his work. We finished the majority of the listed assignments and discussed his responsibilities in completing the rest.
3. After mentioning that I would like to touch base with him throughout the week to ensure he completes his work, as well as discuss the essays for the final, JJ provided me with his cellphone number. (Last week he told me he didn’t have a number and gave me his mother’s). I will be reaching out to him throughout the week, checking in on deliverables.
4.What a wonderful day today was, nothing short of thrilling. EU was very responsive, showing me her work, seemingly proud of her answers on the assignment. She also raised her hand to give an answer to a question, which I hadn’t seen her do before. Then, to my delighted surprise, she got up to help two other students with the assignment, to bring them up to speed.
(A full set of redacted WMR’s will soon be up on Oakland Serves' Library Resources)
FINDING MORE MENTORS, ADDING SCHOOLS
Why We Need More Mentors and Schools Now
Meet the Recruiters:
YOU: Everyone can help us build the Mentor Corps.
RAISING MONEY TO DO MORE AND DO BETTER
In 2018 we held our first crowdfunding campaign and nearly 100 donors responded, contributing enough money to hire our Outreach Consultant and meet other expenses: posters, badges, food for events, classroom folders for students to hold their assignments, paper, and pencils, food for student events.
This was a wonderful response. Now we must continue in order to keep paying these expenses next year and finding ways to do more and do better:
Meanwhile, the next crowdfunding campaign begins in June. It will be more personal and less repetitive. We hope you will watch for it and help us reach our goals for 2019-2020. If you don’t want to wait, by all means, CLICK HERE.
The Recent Teachers' Strike As Seen By A Participant
I met up with the noisy crowd on the corner of MacArthur and 35th. A trumpeter provided the rhythm as they waved signs and shouted, “Get up, get down, Oakland is a union town.” I thought, “It sure is, more than I’ve ever seen it.” We walked to High Street and then up onto the freeway overpass, passing many retail windows sporting the now ubiquitous yellow and green “We support Oakland teachers” signs in English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. People waved and shouted, “Right on,” and “You deserve it.” There were school nurses, teachers from several nearby schools and parents shepherding groups of children. A father from Sequoia said he was glad he could walk them over to join in, as he was caring for too many to fit in his car. We stood on the overpass for half an hour, waving to drivers as they honked and waved at us.
I was PTA president at Sequoia Elementary in 1996, during the last strike. [Full disclosure: I taught at the Oakland Adult School from 2004 to 2010, and was a member of the Oakland Education Association, as well as a member of the California Federation of Teachers at a community college through 2014.] We organized a “strike school” and cared for up to a hundred students for the duration of the strike – almost six weeks. But there were not nearly as many such efforts then as this time, where we saw a “solidarity school” in every City-owned rec center, several churches, and other non-profit spaces. In 1996 we had help from a few high school student volunteers, while this time hundreds of high schoolers showed up on picket lines and to help with childcare, alongside retired teachers and other volunteers.
In 1996 a group of parents from various schools organized “Parents for Classrooms First,” and held a few public events, but our numbers were small compared to the outpouring of community support around almost every school this time – at neighborhood marches and daily downtown rallies, as well as the Go Fund Me page that raised close to $200,000.
This strike took only seven days to settle. Not all the union’s goals have been won, but gains include a salary increase, slightly smaller class sizes, and a delay in the district implementing plans to close schools. Another demand – that the district fight for state legislation to curtail the growth of charter schools – schools that the union and many others say unfairly take public funds that would otherwise serve the district’s schools – was won outside of the collective bargaining process.
On the day schools reopened, the School Board voted for a package of cuts it says are necessary to fund teachers’ pay increases. Over 300 students showed up to protest the parts of the package that take millions from direct services at school sites – including the popular restorative justice and foster care youth programs. Union leaders, community members and the students argued that there are alternative cuts – including to the large numbers of supervisors and contracted consultants – that would preserve school site level services. The best part for me was hearing several students say they were speaking for their parent who couldn’t be there because they were back at work in a school that day.
Clearly, we have a long way to go to achieve the schools all Oakland students deserve. Yet despite the raucous and contentious meeting – most Board meetings are like that– it seemed everyone could agree on one thing: California must come up with more funding for public education. Making that happen will require rallying the community around charter school law reform and Prop 13 reform, called the “Schools and Community First” initiative, on the 2020 ballot, among other changes.
I am left with the feeling that the success of this strike is attributable not just to the strength and unity of one union local that won the hearts of the public. It must be seen in the context of the wave of successful teachers’ strikes around the country over the last year: from West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona where there is no local collective bargaining and a strike of necessity is aimed directly at the state legislature, to Denver and, most importantly for us, Los Angeles, with ten times the number of students and teachers as Oakland.
As the T-shirt says, teachers are the heart of our community.
- Sharon Rose
An Intern With A Mission
Jasmine Gallo, a graduating senior at San Francisco State, is doing a 35-hour internship with Oakland Serves to update our website Library’s review of recently published literature on the problem of dropping out. She is adding more recent articles to the peer-reviewed articles already there, and creating an annotated bibliography of books treating the subject. This will be finished in mid-May. Meanwhile, check out what is already there, and if you know of a book or article that should be added, send a quick email to email@example.com. (Tell us why and give the full reference please)
A New Project for the Oakland Serves Team
Board members and other members of Oakland Serves who cannot make time to mentor during class time hours, but want to help, take on various short-term projects (maybe you have one to suggest?). The latest such project is quite a challenge. It is called How Academic Mentoring Works and it will be a new kind of document for our Library.
Here is what is going on. The four members of this project have read and lightly edited all the redacted Weekly Mentoring Reports of eight of our mentors and have coded paragraphs in them according to what they say about the following subjects: setting goals, ways to foster trust, when attendance is an issue, when to be firm and when not to, helping others in the classroom, when to praise, family relationships, when/what to share from own experience, going an extra mile, teacher/mentor relationships, environmental challenges to learning, causes of high levels of stress, and how patience and persistence work.
The next step is to create the narrative: introduction, followed by ALL the Weekly Mentor Reports, ending with a realistic but satisfying conclusion. Once completed, this goes in the Library and maybe you will read it. But maybe not. Maybe what really interests you is what the WMRs have to say about teacher/mentor relationships, or causes of high levels of stress, or any of the other coded subjects and you don’t have time for all the rest. Not a problem, all you have to do is click on the subjects of concern in the list provided and you will get only those excerpts that deal with what you care about most.
We think mentors, teachers, parents, and writers in many fields are going to find this a terrific tool. You will be able to print out as much as you wish, and use it as you please (Just make sure to cite the source).
You have already seen a sample of this work if you read the excerpts under How We Get Results in this newsletter. We drew our excerpts all from one subject: patience and persistence.
The Justice Conversation
The Justice Conversation wants “to witness and take part in the developing awareness of justice as a concept rooted in love, as opposed to punishment or retribution.” Does our focus on helping youth who are having a hard time doing the work it takes to graduate from high school suggest a connection? We are checking this out for a possible partnership. If you are intrigued, take a look at www.justiceconversation.org. If you have ideas for other partnerships that might also work well with us, let us know.
Encouraging News From the California Department of Education
Source: CA Dept. of Education. The OUSD dropout rate is the lowest it has been in the last 10 years at 12.9%. Additionally, the decrease in dropout rate from last year is the greatest year-to-year decrease over the last 10 years at 5.7%. These numbers are cause for celebration, but the Oakland community must stay vigilant if we want this trend to continue. Closing the gap between the OUSD rate and county/state rates is likely to be the toughest challenge yet.
Source: CA Dept. of Education. Here we see more OUSD students are eligible for admission to California’s public colleges (46.7%) than is true for the entire state of California. While this is exciting, it remains true that those who do not graduate from high school are unable to pursue regular public college work until they have earned the equivalent, a GED.
The Time Has Come: