A Brief History of Oceana

  • Oceana High School first opened in 1962, but our identity as a small restructuring school began in 1991. With district, union, and community support, the old Oceana closed as a traditional comprehensive high school and reopened as a small school with s design borrowing heavily from the work of Theodore Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools, especially the Ten Common Principles.  As part of its redesign, the school adopted the following features:
    • Students would be required to demonstrate mastery of the school's five outcomes primarily through an instructional program that stressed authentic assessment and project based learning. The school's schedule was changed to a block schedule to support the shift in instructional goals and methods.
    • An advisory class was added to support student-teacher personalization.
    • The Oceana graduation requirements increased in rigor requiring students to complete 100 hours of community service, a Senior Exhibition, and four years of humanities - English and social studies.
    • The school's governance structure changed to include an Academic Council comprised of five elected teachers, the principal, a clerical representative, students, and a parent representative.

    We applied for and received an alternative school designation from the California State Department of Education (CDE), which included a time waiver on instructional minutes. Our time waiver enables us to release students early on Wednesdays to accommodate their community service requirement. It also enables our faculty to meet weekly. We use these weekly meetings to review student data and to discuss and collaborate on common assessments and teacher practice. We submit an annual report and a bi-annual renewal application to the CDE to report on student performance and the use of our time waiver. With each bi-annual application since 1991, our time waiver has been renewed.

    Since we began our restructuring program, we've continued to change, adapt, and grow to meet the needs of our students. Along the way, we've won awards and accolades from the goverment, public agencies, foundations, community members, educators, and--most importantly--parents and students.


    The Ten Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools

    These principles were instrumental in the design of Oceana's program and overall educational philosophy.
    For more information, visit the CES site.

    1. The school should focus on helping adolescents learn to use their minds well. Schools should not attempt to be "comprehensive" if such claim is made at the expense of the school's central intellectual purpose.

    2. The school's goals should be simple: that each student master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. While these skills and areas will, to varying degrees, reflect the traditional academic disciplines, the program's design should be shaped by the intellectual and imaginative powers and competencies that students need, rather than necessarily by "subjects" as conventionally defined. The aphorism "Less is More" should dominate: curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement rather than by an effort merely to cover content.

    3. The school's goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of adolescents.

    4. Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. Efforts should be directed toward a goal that no teacher have direct responsibility for more than 80 students. To capitalize on this personalization, decisions about the details of the course of study, the use of students' and teachers' time and the choice of teaching materials,and specific pedagogies must be unreservedly placed in the hands of the principal and staff.

    5.  The governing practical metaphor of the school should be student as worker, rather than the more familiar metaphor of teacher-deliverer-of-instructional-services. Accordingly, a prominent pedagogy will be coaching, to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus teach themselves.

    6. Students entering secondary school studies are those who can show competency in language and elementary mathematics. Students of traditional high school age, but not yet at appropriate levels of competency to enter secondary school studies, will be provided intensive remedial work to assist them quickly to meet these standards. The diploma should be awarded upon a successful full demonstration of mastery for graduation by an "exhibition." This Exhibition by the student of his or her grasp of the central skills and knowledge of the school program may be jointly administered by the faculty and by higher authorities. As the diploma is awarded when earned, the school'sprogram proceeds with no strict age grading and with no system of "credits earned" by "time spent" in class. The emphasis is on the students' demonstration that they can do important things.

    7.  The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of unanxious expectation. ("I won't threaten you but I expect much of you"), of trust (until abused) and decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance). Incentives appropriate to the school's particular students and teachers should be emphasized, and parents should be treated as essential collaborators.

    8. The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first (teachers and scholars in general education) and specialists second (experts in but one particular discipline). Staff should expect multiple obligations (teacher-counselor-manager) and a sense of commitment to the entire school.

    9. Ultimate administrative and budget targets should include, in addition to total loads per teacher of 80 or fewer pupils, substantial time for collective planning by teachers, competitive salaries for staff and an ultimate per pupil cost not to exceed that at traditional schools by more than 10 percent. To accomplish this, administration plans may have to show the phased reduction or elimination of some services now provided students in many traditional comprehensive secondary schools.

    10. The school should demonstrate non-discriminatory and inclusive policies, practices, and pedagogies. It should model democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school. The schools should honor diversity and build on the strengths of its communities, deliberately and explicitly challenging all forms of equity.