Oakland is a place where life comes at you fast. We live in a city that is at once a dynamic, artistic, creative, progressive town that is home to people who deeply care about education, the environment, and social justice. It is also a city where the ravages of systemic racism are disproportionally impacting the communities and public schools that serve children of color. Cities like Oakland should be shining models of a progressive vision of America, but to do so, we need to address the inequity of our two-tiered education system.
In Oakland, 1 in 5 black children are not reading at grade level. This injustice is generational — there are parents and grandparents of these children who are also facing literacy challenges that are the result of insufficient education in Oakland’s schools. Failing to address this problem is immoral, and it has persisted in this community for decades. Literacy is the foundation of all learning, and when students are not able to read, they have limited access to the rest of the curriculum.
But there is hope. Parents and educators have come together and organized to address this issue. The Oakland REACH is partnering with the district and other concerned organizations to find solutions to this literacy crisis. They are on the frontlines of a national movement to update reading instruction in this country.
At a town hall organized by the Oakland Chapter of the NAACP last month, several presenters shared powerful examples of how targeted and structured reading instruction could change the game in Oakland. Kareem Weaver, an Oakland leader in this work, introduced several teachers who were making a difference in the lives of their students by following a structured approach. The solutions are available, and the community’s passion and will to make meaningful change is palpable. Now it’s time for Oakland Unified School District to step up and commit resources to meaningful equity in our schools in support of this literacy movement.
I am convinced and inspired by community leaders like Lakisha Young, Dirk Tillotsen, Dr. Charles Cole, and others that literacy is a key issue. The OUSD board needs members who are willing to put the needs of students and teachers first, focus on creating the conditions where teachers have the resources and support they need to teach and students receive the kind of education they deserve.
**Mark Hurty is a candidate for OUSD school board, Citizen Ed and its parent company brightbeam do not endorse any specific candidate for public office, and all candidates are welcome to submit pieces for consideration.**