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Deliver Equity: Get Oakland to invest in literacy for students of color

Improve literacy rates, reduce school suspensions and lower the number of referrals to special education by providing research-backed curricula, teacher resources and student support for transitional kindergarten through 5th Grade in the Oakland Unified School District.

Issue Area: Education     |     Campaign Type: Local (Oakland, CA)


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Your donation will be refunded if the campaign does not achieve $1,000 in donations or get over 100 supporters by Monday, March 1, 2021 7:59 AM PST.


Campaign Goal

Apply an equity lens and commit to providing the support and training educators need to succeed, as well as the resources students of color need to ensure that they’re reading at grade level.


The Harm Caused by Under Investing in the Education of Students of Color

Young people in Oakland, California face dramatic inequity. 

A child born in a community of color, such as East Oakland, has a life expectancy 15 years less than a child born in the affluent Oakland hills. On top of this, Alameda County homicide rates are nearly eight times greater in high poverty neighborhoods compared to affluent neighborhoods.[1]

The educational data for students of color paint a similarly inequitable picture. The below chart highlights the dramatic literacy inequities in Oakland, by ethnicity, of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders over the last three academic years, based on the Reading Inventory assessment for the Fall of 2019-20:

While 16% of white students are reading multiple years below grade level, over 60% of African American, Latino and Pacific Islander students are reading multiple years below grade level.

In the 2018-19 academic year, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) released the following data [2]:

  • For every White male that was suspended in OUSD, 14 African American males were suspended.
  • When it came to percent of 8th grade students who were ready for high school, 80.9% of African American boys were assessed as not ready, while 47.7% of white males were assessed as not ready.

Research highlights the value of reading interventions at the first grade level, since if you don't close the gap early, the Matthew Effect takes hold. In the words of researcher Keith Stanovich, who wrote about the Matthew Effect, "Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks."[3]

As this literacy gap widens over time, it robs students of future opportunities, impacts public safety and correlates to increased incarceration rates. The fact that 85 percent of America’s juvenile offenders have reading difficulties and that approximately 40 percent of America’s juvenile offenders at a 10th grade level read below a 4th grade level drives this point home. [4]

Moreover when it comes to juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system, statistics show [4]:

  • 85% have reading difficulties.
  • Approximately 40% at a 10th grade level read below a 4th grade level.
  • Between 30% to 50% have learning disabilities.


Interventions Work
Research has shown that classroom instruction can "potentially help over 90 percent of early elementary students read on grade level, at least in terms of word reading ability; this percentage may increase to 97–99 percent when secondary intensive intervention is provided by experts. In fact, the central premise of Response to Intervention is that reading difficulties can be prevented for most children through well-implemented evidence-based early instruction and intervention. Contrast these percentages with rates of children whose reading comprehension scores are below basic on the fourth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (33 percent on average, but up to 53 percent for Black students)." [5]

If Oakland values equity, it is clear that more literacy resources and support need to be directed to support (1) students of color earlier on in their public education, and (2) educators who support students with literacy.


[1] Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) (2013). How Place, Racism and Poverty Matters for Health in Alameda County [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

[2] OUSD Public Reports:

[3] Stanovich, Keith E. "Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy." The Journal of Education, vol. 189, no. 1/2, Theory, Research, Reflection on Teaching and Learning (2008/2009), pp. 23-55 (33 pages). Sage Publications, Inc.:

[4] Literacy Development for Juvenile Offenders: A Project of Hope, 2003.

[5] Al Otaiba, Stephanie, and Barbara Foorman. "Early Literacy Instruction and Intervention." Community literacy journal vol. 3,1 (2008): 21-37:


The Policy Change that the Campaign Seeks

There are multiple actions that the OUSD Board of Education (OUSD Board) must take to improve literacy rates in Oakland public schools, including

  • Providing educators with easy-to-implement literacy curriculum that has research-backed evidence that it is highly effective helping students of color, including English Language Learners, from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. 
  • An elevated role dedicated to student literacy within the OUSD leadership.
  • More resources to support students reading below grade level.

The campaigns plans to draft and submit a formal administrative petition to the OUSD Board. Unlike the more common online petition (e.g., an administrative petition is a detailed document describing the problems it is addressing, the organizations and individuals in support of the petition, the authority to petition and the relief requested to address the problems.

Here is what a sample petition looks like and please note that this is only for educational purposes and not what will be submitted to the OUSD Board:


Our Proven Advocacy Process

This campaign is backed by, which means that it has access to advocacy experts, as well as campaign and technology resources that will provide a winning edge. 

Each campaign follows this proven process:

  1. Getting the facts
  2. Building support
  3. Making a plan
  4. Communicating your message

This process, which is taught at UC Berkeley and is well documented in the advocacy manual that one of our founders created for The California Endowment, is bolstered by support from advocacy experts. These advocacy coaches help co-design a plan designed to increase the likelihood of success. This may include sophisticated, little-known strategies such as budget riders or administrative petitions. Click here for a short video highlighting how the approach is different than other online activism offerings.

List of Supporters

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Your donation will be refunded if the campaign does not achieve $1,000 in donations or get over 100 supporters by Monday, March 1, 2021 7:59 AM PST.


Improve literacy rates, reduce school suspensions and lower the number of referrals to special education by investing in students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade  within the Oakland Unified School District.

Support our campaign.


490 43rd Street
Suite 350
Oakland, CA 94609

[email protected]

(510) 306-7494

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We’re on a mission to change that. Learn more here.