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Oakland Unified School District New Small Schools Initiative Evaluation

By Ash Vasudeva Linda Darling-Hammond Stephen Newton Kenneth Montgomery

In an evaluation study of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the School Redesign Network at Stanford University takes a deep, longitudinal look at the 45 new small schools in operation in the district during the 2007–08 school year. The research has three overarching goals:

  1. To understand how well new small schools and existing schools in OUSD are performing over time, taking into account the students they serve and their process of startup and development
  2. To understand what factors influence schools’ achievement and their improvement trajectories over time 
  3. To recommend policy strategies that can build on current successes and address identified needs and issues

Qualitative methods were used to develop six case studies of new small schools that had shown strong value-added growth for students. Researchers examine the schools’ design features, developmental history, instructional characteristics, and capacity. The schools were purposely selected to address issues of policy interest and to provide a cross-section of new small schools by type (e.g., elementary, middle, high), years of operation, and neighborhood.

The following schools were selected for in-depth case studies:

Individually, the case studies provide valuable lessons; collectively, they form the basis of a cross-case analysis that provides considerations for district policies. This report provides a brief history of Oakland’s small schools initiative; analyzes the value-added productivity of these and other OUSD schools, as well as other factors influencing schools’ ability to add value to student learning; and examines cases of high-performing schools that offer insights about policies and practices that can support continued progress for schools and students.


Posted with permission, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.