By Doug Oakley Staff Writer Bay Area News Group firstname.lastname@example.org
OAKLAND -- Classrooms in all 54 public elementary schools here will get their own reading libraries as part of a $6.9 million infusion of state money to help teachers start a new kind of instruction that emphasizes writing and critical thinking.
The money is a tiny slice of $1.25 billion being given to schools statewide for implementing the Common Core curriculum.
In Oakland, it will include textbooks and reading material for students, training for teachers, and computers to test students on how well they are responding to the new way of teaching.
"A lot of our work has been focused on very basic reading, writing and arithmetic," Oakland schools deputy superintendent Maria Santos told school board members Wednesday night in explaining how the money will be spent. "The Common Core expands that to build creativity, engage students in critical thinking and teach close reading and writing with supporting arguments."
School district staff will return to the school board with specific spending requests at the next meeting in December.
For now, the plan is to spend $3.4 million on materials and teacher training and $3.5 million on technology.
Santos told board members that reading and writing are the keys to bringing students up to speed, and the classroom libraries, at $1.8 million, are one way to do it.
"We want all (elementary) classrooms to have libraries where students can pick and choose their materials at their grade levels with diverse choices," Santos said.
Teachers will get $344,000 worth of training next summer in how to use the materials for their classroom libraries.
The district plans to spend another $250,000 on Common Core textbooks for 250 teachers at the secondary school level and $522,000 on training for Common Core "teacher leaders" at 87 schools.
Acting Superintendent Gary Yee said teacher training will be carried out through the school district's central office, rather than leaving it up to each school administrator. He also said he expects some pushback by skeptical teachers.
"There are teachers who believe that their way of teaching now, the way they have taught over the last 10 years, is highly effective and they would rather not change," said Yee, who is a former teacher. "So does everybody need the same level of support on Common Core? Maybe not."
On the technology side, the district plans to buy new computers with the Google Chrome operating system and train 350 teachers on how to use them for testing students.
In surveying its teachers, the school district found that about half said they don't have enough quality computers or Internet bandwidth in their classrooms.
"One of the key findings in our survey is that there are not enough quality computers in schools," said Information Technology Officer John Krull. "We need more computers, more network and more support."
Contact DougOakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley