Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools

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The National Equity Project, formerly known as the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools or BayCES is a nonprofit agency that provides education coaching and related services to schools and districts undergoing reform efforts. The stated purpose of the organization is to create the conditions for better educational experiences, outcomes, and life options for historically underserved students. The organization is best known for its leadership in the small schools movement in Oakland, California, where it contributed to the design and opening of over 40 new small schools.

In July 2010, what was then the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools changed its name to "The National Equity Project". The name was changed because the organization has expanded into new regions and began offering new services. The National Equity Project has an increasing number of partnerships outside the Bay Area (currently[when?] in 8 states), and in addition to schools they also work with many districts and nonprofits on educational equity initiatives. The organization's name change and growth is all focused on broadening, deepening, and sustaining its impact on vulnerable young people.

BayCES' Role in Oakland School Reform[edit]

In 2000, BayCES partnered with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) to write and implement a small schools policy. The New Small Autonomous Schools (NSAS) movement was initiated by parents, teachers, and activists committed to improving education in Oakland, which had a long history of poor urban school conditions including high dropout rates, school overcrowding and violence, and teacher turnover. No new school had been built in Oakland in the 30 years before this policy was passed. These egregious conditions prevailed in the mostly Black and Latino flatlands[clarification needed] while high quality schools served the mostly White hills.

In the reform, OCO organized the community and BayCES provided education and project management expertise. BayCES created a Small Schools Incubator to help school design teams create new schools. Design teams included teachers, leaders, parents, and sometimes students. The original plan in the NSAS policy was to create 10 new small schools, but the reform accelerated when (1) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made large grants totaling $40 million to support the small school reform (other national and mostly local funders joined forces), and (2) the district was taken over by the California Department of Education because of a district fiscal crisis. A State Administrator, Randolph Ward, replaced the superintendent Dennis Chaconas, and plans were made to convert several comprehensive high and middle schools into small schools sharing the old campuses. New small school creation became a district strategy for providing quality schools in every neighborhood. The Executive Director of BayCES, Steve Jubb, was appointed as one of two leaders (with Katrina Scott-George, Special Asst to the State Administrator) of the increasingly comprehensive reform, which included new systems of school-site budgeting, a split in the district central office between academics and school services (which became somewhat optional, enabling principals to make more decisions about procuring services for their school), and a network model of providing school services, among other innovations. This district redesign became known as Expect Success.

In 2004, BayCES transitioned the Small Schools Incubator into the district central office (where it became the now defunct New School Development Group), and in 2006 it transferred management of Expect Success. BayCES continued to coach most of the over 40 new small schools and provide consulting services to district leaders to promote the initial goals of the reform: a quality education for every child regardless of race or socioeconomic status. In a recent outside evaluation by Strategic Measurement, the new small schools in Oakland, compared to schools with similar demographics, demonstrated higher achievement, faster rates of student improvement, greatly improved graduation rates, and higher teacher, parent, and student satisfaction.

BayCES Education Reform Approach[edit]

BayCES works with schools to improve student achievement, close student achievement gaps, and improve school climate and functioning primarily through school coaching. School coaches focus on principal leadership and teacher team collaboration to help schools develop practices and capacities that research has shown to be effective in improving student learning. As an affiliate of the Coalition of Essential Schools, BayCES promotes essential school and small school characteristics such as personalized learning, project-based learning, differentiated instruction, advisory, and parent involvement.

A uncommon feature of BayCES coaching is that its coaches bring a strong "equity stance" to work in schools, meaning that they believe that schools tend to reproduce social injustices and inequality, and they strive to end education-based historic oppression. This social justice or "equity" approach often entails working with staff to improve cultural competence and encouraging school staff to have "courageous conversations" that confront racism and classism (personal and institutional) that may be contributing to poor educational results for children of color and low-income children.


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