A new model of school reform in California

Friday, May 23, 2014

Last week, The New Yorker reported that Mark Zuckerberg’s 2010 gift of $100 million to the Newark School District hadn’t really improved the schools — with most of the money having been spent on labor contracts and consulting fees.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), an urban district with demographics and challenges similar to Newark’s, has taken a very different tack to school reform — and it’s not costing $100 million: The district is transforming itself from the inside out, through social-emotional learning (SEL) one adult at a time.

This is significant because organizational psychology research has for many years shown that lasting change happens only if the individuals within the system are willing to transform their own beliefs and practices, from the ground up. In this challenging process of social and emotional transformation, Oakland is forging a new model of school reform — one that other districts could adopt.

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