Oakland Unified School DistrictCase StudyElmhurst Community PrepDiane Friedlaender & Kenneth MontgomeryThe School Redesign Network at Stanford University

This case study is one of six conducted for the report, Oakland Unified School District:New Small Schools Initiative Evaluation. The report and case studies can be downloadedfrom d/ousd.html.This study was conducted by the School Redesign Network at Stanford University. 2009 School Redesign Network. All rights reserved.Citation: Friedlaender, D., Montgomery, K. (2009). Oakland Unified School District casestudy: Elmhurst Community Prep. Stanford, CA: School Redesign Network at StanfordUniversity.The School Redesign Network atStanford University engages in researchand development to support districts andschools that are equitable and enable allstudents to master the knowledge and skillsneeded for success in college, careers, andcitizenship.Oakland Unified School Districtoperates with the goals of universal collegeand workplace readiness, quality publicschools in every neighborhood, cleanand safe learning environments, serviceexcellence across the district, and equitableoutcomes for all students.Linda Darling-Hammond, Founding DirectorRaymond Pecheone, Co-Executive DirectorAsh Vasudeva, Co-Executive Director505 Lasuen MallStanford, CA 94305-3084650.725.0703srnleads.orgRoberta Mayor, Interim Superintendent1025 Second AvenueOakland, CA UNIFIEDSCHOOL DISTRICTSRN LEADSS T A N F O R DU N I V E R S I T Yexpect SuccessCover photo: Mindy Pines, courtesy of Oakland Unified School District

Photo: Mindy Pines, courtesy of Oakland Unified School DistrictAIntroductionfter helping to turn around a failing middle school as an assistant principal in NewYork City’s Harlem, Matthew Duffy came to Oakland in search of another challenge. When he became the principal of Elmhurst Middle School in 2002, it wasthe lowest performing middle school in Oakland. Elmhurst had 17 teacher vacancies, was covered in graffiti inside and out, and had grounds littered with high weeds andabandoned cars. Fights among students were common, and Duffy recalls tension betweenstudents and staff. In 2005, Duffy simultaneously led Elmhurst Middle School while designing a new small school, Elmhurst Community Prep (ECP), which along with anothersmall school, Alliance Academy, was designed to phase in over 2 years and take the placeof the old middle school. In 2006-07, Duffy became the principal of ECP.Today ECP is a calm, positive school wherestudents and staff have a strong sense ofbelonging. Students love the school and buyinto a culture of achievement. AlthoughDuffy considered himself a “big school”turnaround principal and was somewhatskeptical of the small school reform strategy, he now contends that ECP could notachieve these same results had it remaineda large school. The school now has a positive academic culture and in 2007-08, ECPattained the largest Academic PerformanceOUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep1

Index (API)1 growth of all middle schoolsin the Oakland Unified School District(OUSD). According to Duffy, both ofthese accomplishments result largelyfrom efforts to personalize each student’sacademic experience and raise the rigorof classes through reflective professionaldevelopment for ECP teachers. The ECPcase study also illustrates the power ofco-incubating small school leaders whoshare the same campus. Both ECP andAlliance Academy (located on the samecampus as ECP) have achieved positiveresults, in part reflecting the collaborativerelationship that Duffy has with AllianceAcademy’s principal, Yvette Renteria.Section One of the case study describesthe academic trajectory and creation ofECP. In its second year as a small school(at the writing of this report), it is tooearly to draw long-term conclusionsabout the school’s academic trajectory.However, based on initial data from ECPand Alliance Academy, compared to theold Elmhurst Middle School, it appearsthe students on the Elmhurst campushave made impressive academic gains.Neither ECP nor Alliance suffered theimplementation dip that is common inschool start-ups, partially because of thework of Duffy prior to the phase-outof Elmhurst Middle School, and alsobecause of the district’s co-incubationstrategy used for ECP and Alliance Academy. This model, in which administratorsincubate together and then work togetheron the same campus, has helped the twoleaders, Duffy and Renteria, to develop astrong, collaborative relationship.2 Thisrelationship, combined with Duffy’s earlier work in developing order at the oldElmhurst Middle School, has made fora smooth start-up of the two new smallschools.2Section Two of the case study describesfour critical attributes of ECP’s academicfunctioning: the school learning climate,instructional program, professional capacity, and parent and community relations.By discussing these four attributes and thedistrict policy supports that contributed totheir development, the case study is designed to inform, improve, and strengthenunderstanding and connections betweenOUSD’s central office and local schools.School leaders at ECP leveraged the smallschool design to build in structures, suchas an advisory period, that allow staff toprovide individualized attention to everystudent. The small school design also allowed staff members at ECP to improvetheir collaboration efforts and develop acohesive view of instructional practice andthe importance of personalization. ECPstaff also foster a sense of community pridein the academic accomplishments of theirstudents by publicly celebrating studentachievement.Once it became a small school, ECP significantly increased the strength of its instructional program by using academic achievement data to make changes in the school’sinstructional program that further personalize the learning experience of all students.ECP uses student data not only to improveschool climate, by making achievementpublic, but also to inform its instructionalprogram through teacher reflection and collaborative instructional planning. By creating an instructional program that respondsto student needs, ECP has laid a foundationfor long-term success, as teachers refinetheir instructional practice.Although many attribute much of the success at ECP to the considerable skill of itsprincipal, success has also occurred becauseSchool Redesign Network at Stanford University

Duffy has also been able to build capacity inothers by distributing leadership throughoutthe staff. Teachers are expected to show initiative for improving ECP and are supportedin their efforts. Although the small schooldesign fosters a more communal relationshipamong staff members, ECP illustrates thelimitations for small schools that look internally for the majority of capacity building.With respect to parent and communityrelations, ECP has been successfulat organizing specific events, buthas not yet realized its initial visionfor interacting with the community.ECP faces continued challenges inthis area as it restructures the familycoordinator position because of a lackof funds.OUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep3

ESection One: ECP’s Academic Trajectoryand Development StoryCP opened in stages, beginning in 2006 with grades 6 and 7, while the eighth graders spent their last year at the old Elmhurst Middle School. Although ECP justcompleted its second year, its students have already demonstrated improved academic performance that began under Duffy’s leadership of the old Elmhurst MiddleSchool. Opening the two new small schools accelerated the gains made by students in theElmhurst community, even in year one. ECP, Alliance Academy, and the eighth gradersattending the old Elmhurst Middle School exceeded the test scores achieved by the samestudents when they all attended Elmhurst Middle School (see Figure 1).The similar school rank3 improved as well.In 2006-07, Elmhurst Middle School eighthgraders scored high enough to move theirschool to a similar school rank of 4. The2008 California Standards Test (CST)scores reveal a similar trend. A documentcompiled by Duffy, which he shared withhis staff, outlines the highlights in EnglishLanguage Arts (ELA), Math, Science, andSocial Studies, summarized here.English Language Arts (ELA)Increase or decline in cohort-matched data of average scale scores, for ELAGrade/ProgramSixth GradeSeventh GradeEighth GradeSpecial Day Class*Sheltered English language learners**Read 180***ECP 30.1 points 15.9 points 1.6 points 15.9 points 8.8 points 14.4 pointsDistrict-2.4 points 10 points-5 points-8.2 points-2.4 points 5.2 points*A special day class is an intensive educational program designed for children with special needs. A childmay be eligible for this program if he or she suffers from severe mental or emotional disorders and learning disabilities. These problems must be severe enough to cause a child difficulty in performing in a regularschool setting, or in alternative less intensive special education programs, or to be at risk for harming himself/herself and/or other classmates. s.htm**Sheltered English instruction is an instructional approach that engages ELLs above the beginner level indeveloping grade-level content-area knowledge, academic skills, and increased English proficiency.***READ 180 is reading intervention program that incorporates computer-assisted instruction and audiobooks, along with teacher-led instruction.4School Redesign Network at Stanford University

MathIn cohort-matched data of average scale scores6Grade/programECPDistrictSixth grade 35.3 points-15.4 pointsAlgebra students18% Proficient/Advanced13% Proficient/AdvancedSpecial Day Class 17.5 points 1.1In cohort-matched data, 20% more sixth graders scored Proficient/Advanced in maththan in 2007.Science52% of ECP eighth graders scored Proficientor Advanced, compared to the district’s 36%.ECP’s average scale score on the science testbeat the district average by 23 points.Social Studies36% of ECP eighth graders scored Proficientor Advanced, compared to the district’s 23%.ECP’s average scale score on the social studies test beat the district average by 18 points.Overall, ECP increased the number ofstudents who are Proficient or Advancedin ELA by 5.8%, and moved 15.5%of students out of Far Below Basic/BelowBasic in ELA, the largest growth of anydistrict middle school.7Given the newness of ECP, it is difficult todetermine its long-term academic trajectory, but it is clear that replacing ElmhurstMiddle School with new small schoolshas markedly improved the performanceof students in the Elmhurst community.Figure1: Elmhurst Complex APIE lm h u r s t Co m p lex A P I650641629610600594587550APIElm hurst C om m unity Pre p547Elm hurst Middle S chool527500A lliance51145020042005200620072008Y earOUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep5

Photo: Mindy Pines, courtesy of Oakland Unified School DistrictESection Two: The Design ofElmhurst Community Preplmhurst is located in East Oakland in a traditionally African American communitythat is becoming predominately Latino and faces racial tension. According to Duffy,one third of all murders in Oakland in 2007 happened within a one mile radius ofthe Elmhurst complex. The community has few commercial areas, with limited commercial and social service resources for the community.When Duffy arrived as the new principal ofElmhurst Middle School in 2003 after helping to turn around a failing middle schoolas an assistant principal in New YorkCity’s Harlem community, he found a newand daunting challenge. Elmhurst MiddleSchool was the lowest performing middleschool in Oakland. It had 17 teacher vacancies, the school was covered in graffitiinside and out, with 8-foot high weeds andabandoned cars on the school grounds.6In an incident in Duffy’s first year, a schoolcounselor beat a student so badly that thestudent needed medical care. Duffy recallshow a group of truants from his and otherschools sat outside on the bleachers andmade “strategic runs” inside to vandalizeand tag the school. He and the other administrators would chase them back outside. Fights among students were the normand Duffy describes a “combative culturefrom students against staff.”School Redesign Network at Stanford University

ECP has not duplicated that contentiousclimate. The school has developed apositive culture and is tackling thechallenges of raising the rigor of itsclasses through reflective professionaldevelopment and through intentional andcarefully managed coaching of teachers byadministrators and external subject-areacoaches. According to ECP’s NetworkExecutive Officer (NExO),8 “Matt (Duffy)knows how to turn around a large,tormented, pathetically underperformingand terrible-looking school. He whippedthat school into shape.”Duffy found himself at a school that wasunsafe, not fostering academic success, andwith an instructional program with no coherence. He described students’ haphazardchances for learning, such that “success wasdependent upon the individual teacher”rather than a consistent approach to teaching. He recalled how difficult it was to planeffective staff meetings because “peoplewere generally [angry] and needed to beheard.” It would be a significant challengeto turn the school around.Duffy began by transforming the schoolculture — a strategy that began in the oldElmhurst and continues today at ECP.Duffy’s strategy included changing howthe space was used physically, celebratingstudent success, and holding all studentsaccountable for problems. He began byphysically placing each grade level in itsown section of the building and assigningan assistant principal to oversee each gradelevel. “It’s not rocket science but it neededto happen,” he says. He then worked witha supportive assistant principal who hadbeen at the school for several years, deciding how to move students through theschool building in ways that limited placesthey had to hide out and disappear.While Duffy instituted a zero tolerancepolicy for fighting, he did so in a waythat created a sense of ownership andcommunity among all the students. Heexplains:I started doing a lot weird things,like holding all kids responsiblefor the actions of one or twokids, even if that was 800-900kids. I made the whole schoolstay after school because therewas a fight. Because the schoolwas so big, if you were on oneside of the school and somethinghappened on the other side,you’d have no way of knowing.So I tried to create a sense ofcommunity.In addition to building a shared senseof ownership for the problems facingthe school, he also worked to createa school in which students and stafftook pride in the accomplishmentsof the school. Duffy built pride atElmhurst Middle School by aggressivelycelebrating student success with bothstudents and staff:We started doing elaborate awardceremonies, so kids got firedup; now they were walking outof here with trophies, medals,and certificates. We startedcelebrating every little thing. Wehad the highest improvementin attendance in the district oneyear; we had great CST resultsone year. You start to celebrateand then people [staff] start to seethat we are doing something here.A teacher describes Duffy’s philosophyas “showering kids with love.” SheOUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep7

adds, that students and staff celebrate 4.0grade point averages (straight As), and“It is really cool to do well here.”In 2005, Duffy was asked to co-lead theredesign of the Elmhurst campus intotwo small schools on the site. The planwas that he would go through the incubation process in the 2005-06 schoolyear, and then the following school year,2006-07, two new small schools wouldbe opened for sixth and seventh graders,while the eighth graders would attend theold Elmhurst Middle School. In 2007-08,all students would attend one of the twonew small schools.Duffy was very reluctant to lead thiseffort for several reasons. First, he wasbeginning to experience success withElmhurst Middle School, which he hadworked very hard to achieve. Second,Elmhurst had been in the communityfor 100 years and he thought to himself, “Am I the guy that is going to endElmhurst Middle School? That is going to be me? I wasn’t really comfortable with that.” Third, he was nervousabout continuing to serve as principal ina school where it was known that someteachers would not be rehired in the newschools. Fourth, the time commitmentfor participating in OUSD’s incubationprocess, and the lack of recognition forhis individual challenge incubating aschool while running a big school, madehim resistant:I was definitely difficult to deal with.I was running this big school, had totake off every Friday [for incubatorsessions], had to plan another school,and I knew I had to let go half thestaff here. It was so stressful itwas very difficult for me to leave the8school on Fridays. Friday afternoon?That’s where I make my money; thatis where a principal earns his worth. Ifyou can hold down a middle school ona Friday afternoon, that is when stuffgoes down. I was [angry] to have toleave.Eventually, as he became engaged in theincubation process, however, Duffy increasingly bought into the idea of startinga small school. He was initially sold onthe idea that he could pick his own staff,and recognized that although his schoolwas a much calmer and safer place withsome academic improvement, he was stillnot going to meet the adequate yearlyprogress requirements of No Child LeftBehind and therefore had to make somesubstantial changes. Furthermore, once hebecame engaged in the incubation process,he started to get excited: “You have to gothrough these weeks of lessons, like who isyour community. I had to get a little teamtogether and that got exciting.” He becamevery focused on selecting a strong team ofteachers; however, that also proved tremendously challenging:The incubation process is an uglyprocess. Nobody really recognizedwhat I was doing, or if they did, theywouldn’t let me get distracted by it.Every other leader who came in totake over [new] schools came fromthe outside. I had to look all thesepeople in the eye who worked withme for many years and say you weregood enough for Elmhurst but notgood enough for ECP. My soul waswrenched all the time. There was noback-up. [The incubator team] werethere for moral support, but I wasgoing through it alone. I was notmaking any friends. They could haveSchool Redesign Network at Stanford University

paid me a little bit more for runningtwo schools. The amount of work Iwas doing was ridiculous.Three district practices were particularlyhelpful to Duffy as he worked with histeam to create ECP. The first was the veryexistence of the incubator. Incubationconsisted of being walked throughthe process of designing a new school,learning about the community, developinginstructional goals and creating a hiringprocess. Duffy explains, “They [incubatorteam] helped me do a lot. They helpedme do the interview questions, shape theinterview process. I think they were reallyhelpful on that.”Second, quickly being given the support ofadditional strong administrators to lead thenew school creation process was tremendously helpful. Hae-Sin Kim and MoniqueEpps, as the leaders of the incubator, arranged for a participant in the New Leaders for New Schools9 program, Renteria, toserve as an assistant principal mentee forElmhurst Middle School, while incubating the second new small school, AllianceAcademy, to be co-located on the Elmhurstcampus. In addition, assistant principalLucinda Taylor ran the school when Duffyand Renteria were off site at incubatormeetings every Friday.Taylor was also in charge of the eighthgrade at Elmhurst Middle School the following year, as Alliance Academy and ECPwere phased in. According to Duffy, severalaspects of these strategies were essential.The quick assignment of administratorsto the site “set the tone that this was really happening.” Also by incubating theirschools concurrently, Duffy and Renteriaestablished a strong collaborative relationship upon which they draw now that theirschools are up and running. However, thisprocess was particularly challenging forRenteria, who learned to be an administrator while simultaneously designing anew school. Renteria was out of the building frequently for New Leaders for NewSchools work as well as for the incubatormeetings. She was also in charge of thesixth grade at Elmhurst Middle School, andDuffy felt her heavy workload was particularly difficult.Now that the schools are autonomous, thefact that Duffy both mentored and collaborates with Renteria has greatly enhancedtheir ability to share the facility. They sharethe library and gym, a strong instrumentalmusic program, a newcomers program, andseveral staff members, and they have a verypositive and mutually supportive relationship.In addition to the district incubator andworking with strong leaders such asRenteria, a third district practice thatprovided support for the creation of ECPwas the year of hiring autonomy thatthey were given. Duffy recalls that, “Thisfirst year it enabled us to hit the groundrunning [he thought to himself], ‘Ohmy god, I really just get to work with theseteachers? Is this really happening?’” Oneteacher commented that in her third yearas a teacher (ECP’s second year), “All theteachers are passionate about students andteaching,” which was not the case in theold Elmhurst Middle School. According toa design team teacher, prior to the smallschool, there were teachers that were stronginstructionally, but were not “connectingwith kids; we are not intentional with theirrelationship building with kids.”About 25 of the 30 original teachers stayedat either ECP, Alliance, or the eighth gradeOUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep9

closeout school (old Elmhurst). Of thosewho went to the eighth-grade close-outschool, a couple were hired at ECP or Alliance the following year, a few went withDr. Taylor to her next school assignment,and the remaining teachers either retiredor went to another school for their lastfew years of teaching.In the first year of implementation, Duffybelieves the district decision to phase inthe small schools did not fit the cultureand conditions of his site. The model wasdesigned to create a new culture. Thesix new middle schools that opened in2006 would each serve sixth and seventhgrade only; the old schools would beonly for continuing eighth graders, andwould be phased in the following year.Duffy felt that since he had alreadysuccessfully created a new culture atthe old Elmhurst, this approach did notmake sense at his campus. It also createdtension between Duffy and the eighthgraders, as they were left out of the newsmall schools and felt alienated:I had great connections withthose kids. So when they gotplaced in eighth grade in theirown school, they felt shafted;everybody felt shafted. They hadthe senior teachers, but they alsohad a group of second-year TFA[Teach for America]10 teachers. Ihad purposely brought in a bunchof first-year TFA teachers theprevious year because I wanted toget them ready for the new school.It was a weird mix of new andveteran.Although Duffy felt that Taylor did anexcellent job running the eighth-gradeschool, he also felt that separating the10eighth graders into a different school washarmful to the school culture.One challenging area of building a smallschool was the different approaches of theincubator network11 and the middle schoolnetwork to which ECP was assigned inits second year. There seems to be littlealignment or articulation between the twonetworks to ease the transition. Duffydescribes his 2 years of experience in the twonetworks:[In the incubator network] we wereencouraged to think outside of thebox, think about different ways wecould work in our environment; wewere supported and protected. Thisyear [in the regular middle school network], we don’t see the same sense ofsupport for trying things differently;it can be interpreted as breaking therules.According to several ECP administrators,whereas compliance with state and districtpolicies and requirements seemed to be theprimary focus of the middle school network,the incubator network for first-year schoolscoming out of the OUSD new schools incubator focused on thinking about what wasbest for kids. On the other hand, the middleschool NExO was critical of the incubator, suggesting that it gave administrators“carte blanche” and did not help them get a“grasp on reality.” Thus when an incubatedschool entered the middle school network,the NExO explained that she had to “crashdown on them . I am not going to let something slide that could cost me my license. Iam the big old hammer.”The lack of alignment between the two networks made it difficult to know what wasexpected of either the school or the district.School Redesign Network at Stanford University

Photo: Mindy Pines, courtesy of Oakland Unified School DistrictSection Three: Organizational SupportsWSchool Learning Climatehile the school learning culture began to change when arrived at the old Elmhurstin 2002, the small school size of ECP further fosters a sense of community. AsDuffy explained:I was convinced that we could makesomething happen in the big school,and I think we really did. I thinkthat is what helped us in the endmake such a good transition to smallschools is that there was alreadymomentum.Once the new school opened in 2006, thedesign team had already identified creatinga positive school culture as the school’sfirst goal. “We went after it really hardin that first year,” recalls a teacher whohad served on the ECP design team. In thefirst year, at the summer retreat, the staffspent “a lot of time talking about what wewanted the school to be what are wegoing to focus on, what are we going topush?” according to a veteran teacher. Theyfocused on grade levels, set high behavioralOUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep11

and academic expectations for students,and created personalization structures suchas advisory to establish a strong schoollearning climate. The staff also workedto build informal camaraderie amongteachers and students. By grouping studentsin separate spaces by grade level andassigning an assistant principal to eachgrade level, Duffy created a strong gradelevel community for the students within thealready small school. In addition, cohortsof students who travel from class to classwithin grade levels are given college names,further helping students to develop anattachment to each other and the school,and also help students “get college on thebrain.”High behavioral and academic expectationsare set and upheld by administrators andteachers alike. For example, when a fewstudents are seen pushing each other in linewaiting to get into class, the principal holdsthem out of class and talks to them aboutbeing respectful of each other and theirteacher’s time, before he allows them toenter the classroom. In another instance, acouple of girls are waiting for a third girl inthe office to settle an altercation, and Duffyspeaks to them about his expectationsof them and not wanting them to missmore class. To one student he says, “Youmissed two classes. You still haven’t madethe honor roll, which we are expectingof you.” He then turns to the other andsays, “And you just had the best markingperiod of your career here, and that is notgoing to slip, you are going to stay up ontop. I’ve got to get you back to class, but Ineed a commitment that you are going tobe focused on your work.” Then to bothstudents he says, “I hope in your hearts youare thinking of a way to solve this, becauseyou two are terrific people and you are notgoing to end your ECP career like this. The12school year is almost over and we want toend on a positive note.”High expectations and an academic cultureare also promoted through the posting ofstudent work and pro-college messagesposted in the hallways.Being a small school has made a tremendous difference in the staff’s ability to knowtheir students well. According to a designteam teacher:The attention on the kids is throughthe roof . The adults know thekids. We know so much about them.When it was a large urban schoolwe couldn’t keep tabs on the kids .There is a sense of family and caringon campus that did not exist before.Other teachers agree that it has enhanceda sense of community among students andbetween students and teachers. Anotherteacher adds, “It is the kind of close-knitfamily that it needs to be for us to supportour kids.”Creating a small school does not buildcommunity by itself, but being small canfacilitate certain practices, such as advisoryperiods, that increase personalization.ECP has created an advisory programto support the types of relationship theywant to develop among all members ofthe school. Students meet in advisory 4days a week for 40 minutes, with a gradelevel teacher/advisor. One teacher servesas a school-wide advisory coordinatorwho plans the curriculum and provides allthe materials. She also folds in additionalprograms, such as drug prevention andanti-violence curriculum, so that these areasdo not have to be inserted into the coreacademic classes. Advisory has four mainSchool Redesign Network at Stanford University

goals: 1) to monitor and support studentsacademically, socially, and emotionally; 2)to ensure that each student has a primaryadult connection on campus; 3) to buildcommunity and culture school-wide;and 4) to support family involvement inthe school. During the advisory period,advisors monitor their students’ weeklyprogress reports, hold 20 minutes of dailysustained silent reading, and preparestudents for their student-led report cardconferences with their parents. All majorschool events are channeled throughadvisory, such as regular communitybuilding activities, holding beginning ofthe year advisory potluck with families,and having advisory field trips. Advisors

OUSD Case Study: Elmhurst Community Prep 1 fter helping to turn around a failing middle school as an assistant principal in New York City’s Harlem, Matthew Duffy came to Oakland in search of another chal-lenge. When he became the principal of Elmhurst Middle School in 2002, it was the low