Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 22, 2023

STEAM rolled

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

So back to Ruby Bridges’ STEAM program. To recap, even though the District went through the process of discussing other magnet and innovative programs back in January/February, Ruby Bridges’ Innovative program was kept off the list for 2023-24 cuts, now we’re all getting. different message from the District that the intent was to “keep” the program but just not have a coordinator for the program which is, in fact, cutting the program. Both Maya Lin and Earhart are able to keep their coordinators for their innovative program through 2023-24 while they decide if they want to retain that position using other funding. It appears that RB is not getting that option unless the School Board makes a decision contrary to the staff recommendation.

The Principal’s messaging around this cut/not a cut is to frame it around what STEAM has not been able to accomplish. Now I realize that RB has had a lot of leadership change since STEAM was first founded and funded until today but I’m here to tell you that improving student achievement for Black and low-income students at RB was not the goal of STEAM. The STEAM program (with the Wellness portion) was designed to help (1) retain and attract families to RB who had been sending their students to other AUSD school because the program improvement status of RB made it very easy for families to opt out of RB and (2) give existing students additional tools to help them further engage in the regular school day curriculum. The fact that STEAM is being pitted against student achievement for specific subgroups is, frankly, insulting.

From the principal letter:

I would like to emphasize that the current STEAM instructor has a guaranteed teaching position at Ruby Bridges (i.e., she is not losing her job). Students and teachers will also continue to have access to the STEAM lab. This was the original intention of Ruby’s innovative program: to support the teaching staff in implementing New Generation Science Standards. Now that the STEAM lab has been up and running for five years and student outcomes have not improved, it’s time to release STEAM implementation back to the classroom teachers.

While it’s gratifying to hear the the STEAM instruction (and past teach of the year for AUSD) will still have a job, that’s not why parents (and staff at RB) are upset over what’s happening. If the leadership of the school knew based on conversations with the District that this was going to be the outcome then the school leadership should have engaged staff and families earlier that a discovery literally a few weeks before the budget is going to be adopted. I haven’t had time to pull data from other schools (I’ll try to do this for tomorrow but no promises) but, my guess is, that we’ll find outcomes the same at other schools for their Black and low income students or the numbers of students at those schools are SO low they can’t even display a result. Basically RB is being punished because it has too many Black student and too many low income students compared to other Alameda schools and rather than offer RB the same deal they’re giving to other schools with innovative programs (aka a year to determine the values of the school community and what they feel should be funded to improve outcomes for students) the community (including teachers) are being told what will happen to them.

Here’s the reality, there is a state mandate to the District to do better for Black and low income students. Rather than use unallocated money to address this mandate, the District is taking away something from a school with a high population of students that they have identified as struggling in order to satisfy the state mandate. I don’t think this was the intent of the mandate to address historically underperforming subgroups: to strip a school of a program serving all students to be diverted to a state mandate because the district has not adequately addressed the issue in the past.

Equity would call for the District to fund the innovative program out of General Fund for the 2023-24 school year, as it is doing for non Title 1 schools like Earhart, and allow the discussion to develop during the 2023-24 of how the innovative program at RB will be funded or wound down.

Also this is insufficient outreach given that, anecdotally, it would seem that the most engaged families and staff (particularly teachers) were all blindsided by the information which wasn’t formally announced until the rumor mill picked up:

Throughout this spring, AUSD staff and I have collaborated with the instructional leadership team to: a) review and analyze data from the last decade; and b) identify actions to support their struggling students. Performance data has also been shared with staff and African-American/Black families.

Based on feedback, the resulting consensus is that: 

  • Literacy instruction should be prioritized at Ruby Bridges 
  • Additional targeted interventions are needed 

But, here’s the thing, if I were a family that was shown data and asked what should be done, I would have said the same thing. RB should have prioritized literacy instruction and there should be additional targeted interventions. But, what it sounds like, no one was told that it would be at the expense of the STEAM program. That would have generated less consensus-y feedback and a question about why the District is, seemingly, being given an unfunded mandate from the State to target and improve outcomes without the money to actually do it.


  1. Hard to feel sorry for a District and a State government which willingly (and it turns out unnecessarily) shut itself down to achieve political goals, and now suffers from not only poor test results, but decreased funding due to population loss and public distrust. But I do feel sorry for the kids now more than 2 years behind in math and science according to test results. So what to do? The NYTs stated we must go back to phonics based reading, and that elementary schools across the country have been teaching reading the wrong way. Everyone agrees that students rarely catch up if behind by 3rd grade in reading and math.

    I know what not to do….shut down or reduce funding for successful programs on both sides of town. Instead they should build upon what little success they’ve had.

    Comment by Good Swimmer — May 22, 2023 @ 8:32 am

  2. This reminds me a bit of when my younger child went to our neighborhood school, the newly-formed Maya Lin (formerly Washington). It started out as an arts *and* language (Spanish) magnet. When the beloved Spanish teacher left, the district advertised that position as 80%, and it went unfilled. Many parents felt that was done cynically by the district to cut a position without actually cutting it. Well, it worked! And then Maya Lin was an arts-without-language elementary. I suppose if the parents there now can’t raise the $$, it will lose the art part as well. Which is terrible, as is the loss of a dedicated STEAM teacher at Ruby Bridges.
    The state does love their unfunded mandates! It seems west end schools always get the short end of the stick, and I don’t see that changing unless we move to a model of pooled-PTA funding, but I remember when some brave, equity-minded parents at Edison suggested that, and it was rejected in the strongest terms–even by people who claimed to be for equitable resources for all AUSD students. When it came time to walk the talk, they balked. This was about 8 years ago; not sure the idea would be embraced now by parents at resource-rich schools.

    Comment by Kristen — May 22, 2023 @ 9:10 am

    • Yes! pooled-PTA funding is a topic we should talk more about!

      Comment by activelyAntiracist — May 22, 2023 @ 9:41 am

    • Pooled PTA funding would be great. But I think it should be a hybrid model. 60% stays with the home school and 40% is shared prorata of headcount. Otherwise, total pool will shrink when that home incentive is gone.

      Comment by JRB — May 22, 2023 @ 1:02 pm

  3. Ruby Bridges is 69% Unduplicated Students. Unduplicated pupils are students who (1) are English learners, (2) meet income or categorical eligibility requirements for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, or (3) are foster youth. The unduplicated pupil count is used to determine the amount of supplemental and concentration funds the charter school will receive under LCFF. So Ruby Bridges is receiving more LCFF Supplemental funds – because that is what the money is for and they need it. AND the district is using that as an excuse to say RB receives more. But the district isn’t allocating anything more to a school that is 69% Unduplicated count. And that’s where they are refusing to walk the walk but continue to talk the talk. Although I’ve started to notice that certain people who have very powerful positions in our district don’t even talk the talk. They are all head in the sand and business as usual. Happy to let Scuderi take the heat when they are equally influencing the decisions being made. I really hope the School Board spends ample time on this issue and does the right thing – insist the Superintendent and team find the money to fund both.

    There’s a lot to be seen in the budget presentations attached to the Board meeting agenda for tomorrow and the last several.

    From the May 9 School Board Presentation on slide 14 it shows RB receiving funding for 1.0 FTE for an Intervention Lead, 1.0 for Innovation Programs and 1.0 for an Instructional Coach. So it appears that the decision to cut the 1.0 FTE for the Innovation lead was made since May 9.

    On the May 23 School Board Presentation on slides 10-20 there are in depth looks at the FTEs being funded for each elementary school and on slide 20 there is a ‘summary’ showing that RB and Paden have a 12.6 and 12.8 Student to Employee ratio. This is all smoke and mirrors. I’ve never seen a ‘Student to Employee’ ratio. What’s not being shown is the actual Student to TEACHER ratio. And if that were on display this would look very different. If we are just talking regular classroom teachers can you guess which school has the smallest ratio? It’s NOT Ruby Bridges.

    But most importantly – why is the Superintendent who has spent all year saying the right things about improving success for our underserved populations mum on this B.S. Because he can’t justify it. This is not equity. It’s not even equality. It’s the same old, same old that continues to ignore the needs of our most needy students and allow systems of injustice to be perpetuated. Alameda can and should do better.

    The district should find a way to fund both. There’s always money, it’s just a matter of what the money is being spent on.

    Comment by activelyAntiracist — May 22, 2023 @ 9:39 am

    • There is a ton of discussion about and interest in pooled PTA funding. But PTA funding is a bandaid compared to the district funding and even AEF funding. What we really need is a comprehensive multi-stakeholder working group that can talk about school finance in Alameda from a broad perspective,

      Comment by parent — May 23, 2023 @ 11:32 am

    • My understanding is that the funding for the innovation lead is not being cut. RB will continue to have 3.0 full time staff members. It’s just that 1 of those jobs will now be a reading interventionist, not a STEAM program leader.

      Comment by parent — May 23, 2023 @ 11:35 am

      • Getting rid of the STEAM program leader is cutting the program. See when you divert money that was already budgeted for one purpose (STEAM teacher) to another purpose (reading interventionist) that’s a cut.

        Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2023 @ 12:15 pm

  4. My great grandmother Jose born in 1872 could not read and write.

    Prior to emancipation, it was against the law for slaves to read and write. Anyone caught teaching a slave to read would be imprisoned or whipped; slaves were punished by severe beatings, and amputation of fingers or toes.

    After the civil war, African American concentrated on education to achieve equality, but the states required segregation and they allowed inequities in the distribution of resources and school funds.

    After World War 11, Franklin Roosevelt created the G.I. Bill for World War 11 veterans. These benefits created funds for college education, housing, unemployment insurance, training, and health care. Home builders took advantage of the G.I Bill and built thousands of homes for veterans for no money down. The bill helped white Americans prosper and create wealth, and create what we now know as the suburbs.

    However, the GI Bill was structured in a way to prevent over a million Black veterans from qualifying for the GI Bill benefits.

    It explains why many African Americans today live in large cities – and a vast number of white Americans live in the suburbs. Any attempt at integration was averted by deed covenants and restrictions prohibiting any form of integration.

    Segregation, and the distribution of resources and funds created the high resource areas, and the low resource areas that we see today.

    My great grandmother Jose, did not let anything stop her from learning how to read and write. While her parents could not afford to buy her books, she showed up at class anyway and found someone willing to share their book with her.

    Grit and determination is how we can overcome our challenges, but our institutions must commit to partner with us to make sure they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

    Comment by Karen Bey — May 22, 2023 @ 1:38 pm

  5. A few corrections to the original post:

    1. Improving student achievement was explicitly stated as a goal of the STEAM program in the proposal approved by the Board in 2017. From the proposal:

    “STEAM content integration will improve transference of knowledge and skills resulting in improvement of academic outcomes as measured by district and state required assessments.”

    (See the proposal attached to the 6/15/2017 Board of Education agenda at:

    Unfortunately, those outcomes have not improved. That’s not to say scores are the only thing that matter, but mastering material *does* matter (for our students), which is why both the state and AUSD are exploring new programs and supports for the school.

    2. That same proposal suggested that staff would be provided with the training required to implement the STEAM Education program themselves (see slide 28 of the 6/15/2017 presentation).

    3. AUSD and RB staff are still talking about ways to make that transition from having one staff coordinator for the STEAM program to returning that instruction to classroom teachers (as was promised in the original proposal). We will provide an update on this shortly.

    4. The “state mandate to the District to do better for Black and low-income students” that Lauren refernces is specifically for Ruby Bridges Elementary School, because the scores for students at that school are significantly lower than at other schools.

    This may all seem nit picky, but if we’re going to have a constructive conversation about the best way to support Ruby Bridges, we need to start with a common set of facts. That set should include recognition that next year Ruby will have a full-time instructional coach, a literacy specialist, an advisor for 20-25 students who could most benefit from increased support, and external coaching to help assess and reorganize team and leadership systems at the school. In other words, the district is providing *more* supports to the school (most notably its students) not “punishing” it.

    Comment by Susan Davis (Sr. Manager, Community Affairs, AUSD) — May 23, 2023 @ 1:27 pm

  6. As I noted yesterday, AUSD and Ruby leadershp have been exploring ways to ease the transition from having a full-time STEAM coordinator to having classroom teachers implement the STEAM content (as was proposed in the original innovative program application). As a result of those conversations (which included PTA leadership), the school will maintain a part-time STEAM coordinator next year to help envision and plan for the newly configured STEAM program. Principal Pharr-Matthews informed her staff and families of this update yesterday afternoon.

    Comment by Susan Davis (Sr. Manager, Community Affairs, AUSD) — May 24, 2023 @ 9:06 am

    • I made an error in this comment. The part-time position for next year will help with transitioning the STEAM program to its new configuration next year. But due to the persistently low math outcomes at the school, the position will be posted as a math coach/specialist (not specifically a STEAM coordinator). I apologize for the mistake!

      Comment by Susan Davis (Sr. Manager, Community Affairs, AUSD) — May 25, 2023 @ 2:59 pm

  7. “The “state mandate to the District to do better for Black and low-income students” that Lauren references is specifically for Ruby Bridges Elementary School, because the scores for students at that school are significantly lower than at other schools.”

    Susan, I’m not in this field, but I imagine there are non-profit organizations that specialize in helping underserved students. Perhaps creating a public/private partnership with one or more of these organizations designed to help these students be successful will help you with your mandate goals.

    The XQ Institute in Oakland focuses on high school underserved students, preparing them for college – but maybe they can provide you some guidance for elementary school students.

    Here is another one you may want to reach out to for some guidance. It’s called the Eastside College Preparatory School. It’s a private high school with a focus on readying first-generation students from low-income families to attend and succeed in 4 year colleges. [Taken from their website].

    Eastside Prep has a great success rate. They may be able to give you some guidance on programs designed for elementary school students.

    Comment by Karen Bey — May 26, 2023 @ 6:59 am

  8. Susan, here is the class of 2023 at Eastside Prep. These students have just received college acceptance letters– yay!!!!!!

    Our Class of 2023 will soon graduate from Eastside and become first-generation college students! In this video, they share their thoughts on their time at Eastside, and their excitement about the adventures ahead of them.

    Comment by Karen Bey — May 26, 2023 @ 7:12 am

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