Becoming an Oaklander
Oakland is a special place – and not only because it sits between legendary San Francisco and the redwood forest! In 2014, Oakland was named the most diverse city in America. Its population falls into almost equal quartiles of African, Asian, Latinx and White Americans. Oaklanders have access to world class institutions in art, music, theatre and food – and the beauty and relative affordability of a smaller city (a population of about 420,000). Oakland’s culture is progressive and rich in community activism, grassroots art and music, vegetarian/vegan and locally sourced food options, inclusive spaces across a variety of social identities, and nonprofits/social enterprises trying to change the world.
Oakland’s social justice history
Oakland has long been on the cutting edge of social justice activism. The 1960’s free speech movement happened on UC-Berkeley’s campus, a 15-minute drive from downtown Oakland. The Black Panther Party began in Oakland, challenging police brutality.
Oakland continues to play a significant role in national justice movements related to civil rights, feminism, LGBT rights, wealth inequality – and education. Oakland was the first major city in the nation to appoint an African American male superintendent in 1970. Today, Oakland district and charter schools are national leaders in programs designed to increase African American achievement, innovative strategies to support English language learners and use of culturally responsive instructional practices.
Education in Oakland
Oakland is the most improved large urban district in California over the last two decades. Oakland’s small schools movement in the 2000s aimed to reorganize large, underserved schools into smaller schools with cutting-edge models. Since then, 49 new district and charter schools have opened in the city leveraging models like Waldorf, Montessori, language immersion, college prep, visual and performing arts, personalized learning, social justice focus, STEM, military, project-based and expeditionary learning. Many of these schools are changing the game for Oakland’s most at-risk students.
Still, we have a long way to go. Only 1 in 10 of Oakland’s high school freshman graduate from college, and the opportunity gap between White students and students of color (particularly Black and Latinx students) is enormous. We need a diverse, talented coalition of teachers to join us in making the promise of education a reality for all of our students.
Career Growth for Educators
Committed education advocates in Oakland recognize the gross inequity in schools and are working hard to address it. A rich ecosystem of district support initiatives, youth development organizations, education nonprofits, new schools and philanthropic partners form a culture of innovation in pursuit of justice (and being in the nation’s most entrepreneurial region doesn’t hurt).
Teachers excited by new school models and approaches to system leadership or “edupreneurship” will find fulfilling careers here. Oakland provides robust opportunities for teachers to engage in collective professional learning, earn a master’s degree, impact policy and access funding for special projects while teaching. Take a look at some of those opportunities here.