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Wall Street Journal report on college admissions names two Oakland high schools

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal found that two of Oakland’s private schools are grooming a great number of their students for elite universities.

The College Preparatory School and Head-Royce School, respectively, sent 17.4% and 9.9% of their graduating seniors to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Williams, Pomona, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, or Johns Hopkins.

The report may not come as much of a surprise to some — after all, most of the high schools themselves are elite. But it does reflect the disparate realities of the Bay Area’s young people. In Oakland’s public high schools, less than 40 percent of 2006 graduates had the credits necessary to attend a state university.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John

    Do Oakland public school communities reflect the competency of its learning cultures or its educators? Can you respond to that question without being labeled racist or insensitive? How you respond will affect the viability of your candidacy to become elected Governor or school board member. One thing for sure! The Head Royce and The College Preparatory Schools, unlike Skyline and McClymond’s High Schools, reflect a grossly under achieving football culture!

  • Caroline

    There’s an interesting new blog in San Francisco, TheSFKFiles, about one family’s search
    for a kindergarten, a San Francisco ritual. This family is looking at both public and private
    schools. The blog’s comments section has become a major community discussion forum,
    and the site for a heated debate about the morality of choosing private school. Considering
    you don’t hear this spoken much in public, a surprising number of posters are making
    strong comments about the fact that every family that chooses private school does harm
    to public education and to the children in public schools.

    You don’t see this discussed much because all of us who feel strongly are loathe to
    blast our own friends who choose private — there’s really no way to be nice about it.
    (I guess we’d feel the same way if our friends chose to buy a Hummer.)

    When I saw those two schools on the U.S. News list I did wonder if Oakland has a lot of
    high-end private schools further weakening its struggling public schools. Just thought I’d
    air that issue.

    http://www.thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    While Oakland does have a number of very good elementary schools, the middle and high schools are weak overall.

    I hear some good news about new programs or principals that may make a difference down the line, but frankly I’m concerned about the “ghetto” aspect of these large upper schools.

    Unlike the neighborhood elementary schools, which pull from a small area and where a committed group of parents can make a positive difference, the middle and high schools cover a broad section of Oakland. There are a lot of kids who are at the schools who don’t seem ready to learn or certainly do not focus on education. I hear about a lot of misbehaving, fighting and trouble at many of these schools. That’s worries me. I don’t want my children to be exposed to that on a daily basis.

    I want my children to be at a school with other like-mind children – kids who are reasonably well-behaved and are there to learn and excel. So far no public middle or high school (beyond perhaps the ultra-small & exclusive Hillcrest which no one can transfer into; see one of the previous threads) seems to offer a stable, secure, cozy environment where education is the focus. So, unless things change drastically, I think that our involvement with Oakland public schools will end at 5th grade…. an all too common decision for many parents in the hills.

  • Mr. G

    Hills Neighborhood Mom makes clear the big problem with what Caroline seems to be suggesting. Even if one were willing to concede that the harm of choosing private school outweighs the benefits, it is unreasonable to ask parents who feel their children’s future will be negatively impacted by the family’s public school choices to sacrifice their kids for the greater good in the hope that their doing so will help the public school system in the long run. If more people are to make that choice, the system has to be fixed first. Admittedly, there is a limited resources problem, and it is true that fewer kids in public schools equal fewer dollars to improve the situation, but what other way is there? Is there not reason for concern with respect to the current state of public schools in Oakland? And if there is cause for concern, and if education is a priority for both child and parent in a particular family, how will you ever sell them on this sacrifice? Even if they had total confidence in the fact that their child’s sacrifice would actually help the system to improve, most parents place their child’s future above the future of the public education system on their list of priorities.

    -Mr. G

  • John

    In response to the “morality of choosing a private school” in Oakland, perhaps the immorality of choosing an Oakland public school, especially a middle or high school should be the issue under discussion? I applaud ‘Hills Neighborhood Mom’ for putting her children first. She comments that, “There are a lot of kids who are at the schools who don’t seem ready to learn or certainly do not focus on education. I hear about a lot of misbehaving, fighting and trouble at many of these schools”! Her comment is honest, accurate, and contrary to the interests of motivated learners. There are some who seem to to have a sense of guilt about putting their kids first, as though it were some kind of disservice to non-motivated “learners.” After
    teaching 25 years in “flat land” schools and now having a young daughter (student) of my own my position my position is 100% consistent with ‘Neighborhood Mom’s.’ Ahhhh, the sweet smell of marijuana stimulating learners in the halls at Skyline HIGH! “Hey bro want to share a toke before taking another shot at remedial math class!?”

  • another hills parent

    As a public school educator I was previously critical of my colleagues who placed their children in private schools. That is, until I moved into Oakland. Even in my daughter’s hills school the quality of education is less than desirable. The high test scores are not reflective of the teaching. It is clearly reflective of the student and families entering the schools. I fear what I can expect from the middle and high schools. I will not be remaining in Oakland beyond the elementary years. I wonder how many other families are also looking to leave?

  • Caroline

    In San Francisco we have many good public-school options, so the discussion CAN focus
    on the morality and values of choosing private school. I can’t speak for Oakland. My point
    was to wonder if having such strong private schools is linked to having such troubled public schools, though which came first is a question.

  • Sue

    I want to look at this whole morality question from another viewpoint – what does my child’s future look like?

    Assuming that we send him to a private middle school next year, and he thrives, but the public school system crashes and burns because all the involved parents and motivated students like our family have left the district – what does his future look like? Pretty grim it seems, if only a small percentage of 20-y-o’s are employable.

    Now let’s assume that he goes to one of the three public middle schools we chose. We’ll be involved at the school, my husband chaparones events and drives on field trips, my employer matches my tax-deductable donations to the school and they have an extra $2k each year, and my son, who is bright and charming and will thrive anywhere, gives some extra support and motivation to his friends who need it, and brightens the days of his teachers, reminding them of why they chose that career in the first place.

    Taking off the rose-colored glasses for just a minute, I know that my family can’t fix everything that is wrong in the school district. But we can make a difference, and if we do what we can, and make things just a little bit better, and if other families do the same, all of those little bits will add up to something bigger. And the future of everyone who lives in Oakland can be improved.

    We’ll do our part. Not to sacrifice my kid’s future, but to give him a better one. The other choice seems short-sighted to me, but then, my choice probably looks Pollyanna-ish to those who take the other path for their children.

  • Caroline

    Sue’s comment is just what many, many posters on the aforementioned blog are saying,
    along with much discussion about the Bush administration’s pro-privatization agenda. I’m
    really happy to see that discussion on the table, but as I say, it may be an entirely
    different situation in Oakland. In SFUSD, we have many, many good schools at all
    grade levels, so it’s really those who insist on Only The Best For My Child who
    feel they need to pay $20,000-$30,000/year for private. But there are a lot of those
    families.

  • Maria Ku

    It is ridiculous to be “discussing” Oakland middle schools based on hearsay – how many
    of those who pour dirt over Oakland middle schools in the above discussion do it based
    on their own personal experience?

    My child is highly-gifted (was tested to be at 8th-grade level when she was in 3rd), and
    we visited, got involved, participated in our middle school before it was our time to choose
    where she’d go and we decided that with her interest in math, science & music, Montera
    Middle School is the perfect choice for her. We visited every classroom in the school,
    talked to teachers & students & attended school events.

    We couldn’t be happier – our child is constantly challenged in her classroom by 30-yr
    veteran teacher devoted to teaching & by younger full-of-enthusiasm-and-energy teachers,
    , she got such outstanding set of teachers it felt like
    winning a lottery. She is involved in every, academic & non-academic, club after & before school. She learns advanced math curriculum in Mathletes club, for example.

    She made lots of new friends from all social backgrounds. Parents are involved in Montera big time. They are always present on camputs – I can tell because I am present before and after school and see other parents. Every lunch
    period, 2-3 parents are present. There have not been a single incident when she felt
    unsafe, not cared for and communication with school administration & teacher is on-going, open and easy.

    Perhaps we live in different worlds – in my world there are excellent middle schools in Oakland, and my child attends one (should add to my credibility).

  • left oakland

    Caroline, Aren’t some of the above comments the same as what existed in SF not too long ago? That there were only 5 good schools+Lowell and your kids will become criminals if they don’t get into one of them? Something has changed in SF – the public school advocacy is on fire and there really does seem to be a huge shift in attitudes regarding public schools. Do you have any insight as to what caused this to happen? I hope that this is achievable in Oakland as well at least in some of the up and coming neighborhoods (Temescal and Diamond Heights). Oakland would do well to create a PPS (Parents for Public School) chapter there.

    Sue, I just wanted to chime in and applaud your commitment to public schools. It’s exactly the kind of attitude that’s needed. If enough parents band together, a school’s reputation can shift dramatically in a very short time indeed. At least this is very much happening in SF.

  • sharon

    Duh. If students are attending CPS, Head Royce or Bentley in the first place, their pathway to the Ivy League and other premium schools has been paved by their parents’ extreme wealth and connections. Who else can pay $25,590/year for high school tuition (Head Royce) other than wealthy parents who can also afford $40K+/year college tuition and all the other expenses (airfare back home, etc.)? Don’t forget that there is sometimes a “legacy” component to those admissions, too.

    For those of you who just LOVE to broadly bad-mouth every-single-one of Oakland’s public middle and high schools with your rigid set of strongly held negative opinions, you need to listen up. You love to gripe but you’re too afraid to walk the walk, so what do you really know? We did (Skyline’s Class of 2006), and still are (Skyline’s Class of 2010). I can’t speak about other schools, but I do know about Bret Harte and Skyline.

    You don’t know (and maybe don’t want to know) about the high-performing kids who have always attended those two schools over the years. They are smart and hardworking and could absolutely compete with a lot of the private school, and Orinda, etc., kids. You won’t necessarily see them attending the elite private schools because their families can’t afford those schools and/or because it is important for them to attend college locally. UC Berkeley (the top ranked public national university, overall #21) is a great bargain for these families, right? Every year, you’ll find a significant chunk of Skyline kids going to UCB and elsewhere. These students have what it takes to get admitted to other places, but they often can’t afford those schools.

    As someone who has been an OUSD parent since 1993, I’ll be the first to say that it isn’t always easy to deal with these public schools. They do, however, work for parents who are attentive and for kids who aren’t lazy. Maybe they won’t work for your family because you’re not willing to be attentive enough and/or you suspect your kid is lazy. Maybe you’re perpetually fearful and prefer to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education that your child could get for nothing more than a little effort from you to help keep the school on its toes.

    Contrary to popular opinion, not all of the public middle and high schools in Oakland are worthless. Although as a nervous parent YOU might freak out, at Bret Harte and Skyline your kids would most likely do fine. They also might do more than fine, as my older child did, getting a full merit scholarship to Emory University (Ranked #17). Sure it’s boasting, but it’s also one of the many positive Oakland public high school truths that needs to be heard.

  • Charlotte

    I agree with Maria Ku. My daughter is an 8th grader at Montera. She is also a gifted child, but is on the shy side. She has never felt unsafe at the school. There are many GATE students at Montera and the school has done a good job of challenging those kids. In the past three years, she has had some wonderful teachers (and a couple of not so good onces, like any school), and has participated in before and after school activities. Last year was rather chaotic at Montera but, with the new principal and a renewed commitment by teachers and parents, things have really turned around. My daughter is very sad to be leaving Montera. The school has prepared her very well, both socially and academically, for any high school, which can’t be said for many of the small private K-8 schools in the east bay (according to friends who are also looking at high schools for 8th grade kids).

  • Sue

    Yes, there are some *great* public schools in Oakland. My older son is at Skyline, and he’s thriving. He attended Montera Middle, and it was terrific just like Maria describes it. Montera is our first choice for our younger son, who is a 5th grader at Carl B Munck this year. And Munck is a wonderful school, too. We’ve also had contacts with Piedmont Ave, Marshall, and Tilden Elementary schools, and I would happily recommend any of them to families with elementary age kids.

    If someone believes that all Oakland’s schools are bad, they just don’t know any better. If that someone doesn’t want to learn, there isn’t anything we can say or do that will open a closed mind, but we who know the good schools don’t have to listen to this garbage being spewed.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Of the large middle schools, Montera is probably be the best (test scores etc). I don’t know, I’m still learning, but there is a BIG perception among elementary school parents that OUSD middle schools are scary places. How do places like Bret Harte or Edna Brewer compare to Montera? As Montera is in the hills, they draw from a more enriched area and will have students who, on average, are more motivated and better behaved.

    I honestly don’t know that you can say that about most of the other OUSD middle schools, but I do know that more middle class and upper middle class parents are at least considering their public school options here in Oakland, which is a good thing!

    Things I noted from the OUSD’s website:
    Montera: 30% white and 22% socio-economically disadvantaged
    Bret Harte: 8% white and 57% socio-economically disadvantaged
    Edna Brewer: 7% white and 73% socio-economically disadvantaged

    I cite only the white % and the socio-economic numbers because we are a upper middle class Caucasian family and I do am concerned that my child will feel alienated or picked on in an environment where he or she will be a small minority (I’ve heard stories…). I value diversity, but I’m honestly not sure how comfortable I am with some of the numbers. Just being honest. See the recent threads on race and academic performance; on the whole some groups of people don’t value education as highly as others (I believe all races can perform well in the right environment, but sadly that support is missing in some communities).

    Overall, I’m glad that we have the option for private down the line if needed. And if we go private, I’m not going to feel like a “sell-out” either. If it is the best option or the right choice for my child and we can afford it, then we’ll take it!

    We’re happy in public elementary school and would stay in public school if – or when – we feel that it offers what we are looking for. I wish Oakland would think about offering some smaller middle schools that draw from the high performing hills elementaries and that neighborhood families supported that option. I’d love to be able to continue in public school beyond fifth grade and not feeling like I was sacrificing something….

  • sharon

    By the way, here are the colleges that accepted Skyline High School students from the Class of 2006. Glance through them and you might be surprised: Alabama, Alabama State, American, Amherst, Arizona State, Arkansas, Bard, Barnard, Brandeis, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Clark Atlanta, Cal Poly-Pomona, Cal Poly- SLO, California State Universities (at Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Chico, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Humboldt, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Northridge, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Sonoma, & Stanislaus), Cornell, Dillard, Dominican, Emory, Evergreen, F.I.D.M., Florida A&M, Franklin & Marshall, Grambling, Guillord, Hamilton, Hampton, Harvey Mudd, Holy Names, Howard, Jacksonville Univ., Johnson C. Smith, Kalamazoo, Kentucky State, Langston, Lewis and Clark, Linfield, Loyola Marymount, Macalester, Michigan, Millikin, Mills, Minnesota State, Morehouse, Morgan State, Montana State, Moorhead, Univ. of New England, New Mexico, Norfolk, Northern Michigan, Notre Dame (Belmont), Oberlin, Occidental, Oregon, Pitzer, Pomona, Penn State Univ., Portland State, Puget Sound, Redlands, Rensselaer, Ripon, Rochester, Rutgers, St. Johns, St. Mary’s College, Scripps, Smith, Stillman, St. Johns, Temple, Texas Southern, Universities of California (at Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, & San Diego), University of the Pacific, USC, USF, Valparaiso, Vassar, Vermont, Virginia State, Washington, Washington Univ. (St. Louis), Wheaton, Whitman, Williamette, and Univ. of Wyoming.

    Not bad for one of these “terrible” Oakland public high schools. Sorry, I don’t have last year’s, but the rate is usually about the same.

  • Sue

    Hills Neighborhood Mom – I think your race concerns are pretty much unfounded. My family is also “pigment challenged”, but we’ve never had any problems. Our children’s generation seems to be color-blind. I’ve talked with friend, a caucasian woman in her late-30′s who attended OUSD schools, and she ran into hassles 20 years ago and warned us to watch out for our boys, but I can honestly say that problem seems to be gone now – hooray!

  • Mr. G

    I don’t think that anyone is saying that all Oakland public schools are bad. I also don’t think that anyone would be willing to suggest that all Oakland public schools are effectively doing their jobs.
    It does seem a bit stubborn to suggest that there is a one-size-fits-all answer to a problem of this magnitude. More clearly, it seems overly political. If one believes that the class structure in this country is a problem, and they want to send their kids to public school to combat the problem, fine. If one wants to harbor feelings of ill-will towards those who can afford private school and choose to send their kids there, perpetuating this problem of disparity between social classes, fine. But I think there needs to be a realization and an admission that this is the larger issue and the motivation behind many of these arguments.
    It is wonderful that principled individuals want the best public education system possible. It seems right. But here is the rub. If everyone has access to the same opportunity, you are doing two things: raising the bottom up and lowering the top down. And perhaps in many cases this is a good thing. God knows we could do a better job of educating those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. But the flip side is that I want the doctors who are performing surgery on me and my loved ones to have the best education available. Not the best education available to everyone, but the best education available to the top 1% of the population, because if there is access for everyone, quality suffers. It is not possible to attain the same level of quality through mass production as it is if you provide individual attention.
    We should be doing everything we can to raise the base level of performance in our public schools, but suggesting that we do so at the expense of other institutions is short-sighted. Students who achieve greatness should be awarded the greatest opportunities, and those who achieve only mediocrity should be afforded lesser opportunities. This is the way the world works. Change that, and you wake up to the world of Harrison Bergeron.

  • Caroline

    Left Oakland, you describe the San Francisco situation perfectly.

    The catalyst for change was definitely the organization Parents for Public Schools –
    it’s a national organization, and two parents (Deena Zacharin and Sandra Halladey)
    got the San Francisco chapter going in 1999 and it took off. Now the momentum is
    going on its own.

    There are still many families (too many) going private without much consideration to
    public schools, but the current discussion about the values and morality of private school is ra
    is raising new questions about that choice.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Caroline, I would really be unhappy about the enrollment procedures in SF. I value public neighborhood schools and love the idea of walking my children to school. I want to build ties with my neighbors and in my community. I want to move into a neighborhood and know where my children would go to school (and I’d only move into a neighborhood with a school that we wanted to attend).

    The lottery system in SF and in other places like Berkeley where you can be assigned to any school in your zone makes me uneasy. I don’t doubt that there are many, many great schools in SF, but I wouldn’t want to drive all over town doing drop offs and pick ups. That also wouldn’t help me build ties in my immediate community. It’s too random who ends up at which school.

    As someone who places value on certainty, I moved from SF to a school system based on neighborhood schools. Oakland certainly has significant problems with many of its schools, but there are a number of very good elementary schools with a near guarantee of entry for neighborhood residents. That’s what works for our family.

  • Caroline

    I know, Hills Mom, it sounds like that in theory. But only a minority of SFUSD families list their neighborhood school as their first choice. With a wider range of attractive options than perhaps Oakland families have, many San Francisco families find schools outside their neighborhoods appealing. It’s a compact city, so we’re not talking great distances anyway.

    There are certainly loud voices in San Francisco clamoring for guaranteed assignment to
    neighborhood schools, which also equates with mandatory assignment to neighborhood
    schools. But as I say, the numbers speak for themselves.

    When schools vary widely in quality, naturally enough, people who live near desirable
    schools want mandatory neighborhood assignment and people who live near unpopular
    schools don’t. The people who live near desirable schools tend to be wealthier, needless
    to say. To me it seems pretty difficult for a person of conscience to demand mandatory
    neighborhood schools in that case. But I’m not telling any other district what I think it
    should do. It seems pretty clear that San Francisco’s schools are functioning better than
    Oakland’s overall, though. If you actually moved from SF to Oakland for the schools,
    I hope it all worked out for the best, but moving for that reason was unnecessary, I
    can assure you. (My kids are in 8th and 11th grades in SFUSD schools, so I have plenty
    of kid-years as an involved SFUSD parent to base that on.)

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Caroline, with all due respect, if you have never lived in a neighborhood and been part of a neighborhood school, then perhaps you can’t understand the benefits of such a community. You could offer me a spot at a higher-ranking school that is further away and I wouldn’t take it. My hills school is a good school, but what makes it a great experience is that we live very close by and can attend school with our friends and neighbors.

    In addition to the tight community, I love not having to commute to school. I know people who do drive their children here and there and it can take about a hour or two out of their day! I don’t have to do that and instead can spend that extra time with my children or doing things that are important to me. Neighborhood schools work on many levels!

    Aside from that, not everyone likes the uncertainty of a lottery or the excitement of dozens of prospects. I am perfectly comfortable skipping the choice and just going with our neighborhood school.

  • left oakland

    Hills Neighborhood Mom: I would like to share my experience and perception of the SF school assignment system as a prospective elementary school parent.

    I know the assignment system seems rife with uncertainty and chance; however, the statistics are very much in favor of getting one of your choices (for elementary school, it’s 87% get one of their choices and 67% get their first choice). I have to say school choice has been a boon for us in providing a sense of opportunity. There are very many good schools to choose from, each with their unique aspects including many bilingual language immersion programs. We have visited 15 schools so far and I would have no problem sending our child to at least 12 of them with no feeling of “settling”. And none of these schools are “across town.” I believe school choice provides opportunity and equity in providing fair access to good schools regardless of which neighborhood a family might be able to afford. As I understand it, there are a healthy number of students coming from neighborhoods at least at the elementary school level. It’s also been interesting to see the effect the process has had on individual schools. I may be completely off base, but it seems to me the process has bolstered the PTA’s and principals at emerging schools to build and strengthen their programs so that they will attract like-minded dedicated parents and families.

    I am very curious to see what effect, if any, limited school choice will have within OUSD. When we left Oakland, we felt our options were too limited. Even though we had PI priority transfer status (neighborhood school was in PI), transfer options felt too limited with what seemed at the time, not enough good schools from which to choose, especially with the hills schools being overenrolled. The process also seemed very chaotic since it was newly implemented. Since having moved, we have been encouraged to hear about up and coming schools in various neighborhoods that are not the 8-10 hills schools you always hear about. It seems to me absolute school choice within OUSD would not be feasible; however, I am hopeful limited school choice will have positive effects at some schools.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    There is hardly any chance of transferring into one of the good hills schools in Oakland. For OUSD to tout their “options program” really does seem unfair to a lot of non-neighborhood families. The option to transfer to Hillcrest, Thornhill, Montclair, Joaquin Miller, Redwood Heights, Crocker Highlands, etc is probably very very limited and getting harder each year. There are a handful of other good or up-and-coming schools that may offer more spaces. I don’t know but perhaps schools like Glenview or Kaiser or Peralta? But they will probably start to fill up with neighborhood kids too, in time, as they garner more neighborhood support.

    So where does that leave most of the other Oakland residents? With pretty crummy options. There are so many schools that are performing at a very low level.

    But I can tell you that if OUSD tried to implement a lottery-style enrollment program in Oakland than it would fail. Most of the hills residents with their high-performing students would simply flee – move or go private. There is just too great a disparity between the good schools and the poor schools and I would not accept something in the middle. My education aspirations for my child are mucher higher than that.

    I think that some of the unique offerings, like language immersion, at some of the SF schools are a big draw. Something like that might be worth a longer drive. But, for the most part, if you live within the boundaries of a good school or if you could walk up the street to a school that you wanted your child to attend – and you couldn’t get in – then you might be pretty angry or frustrated.

  • Caroline

    I’m not endorsing OUSD’s changing its assignment system, just to be clear. I’m an
    outsider and would be out of line to make any such suggestion!

    I’m just pointing out that with an all-choice assignment system, SFUSD is pretty clearly
    functioning better (I might even say far better) than OUSD, so the facts don’t show
    that a mandatory neighborhood assignment system benefits the district overall. It does
    obviously benefit the lucky folks who want their neighborhood school. If I were in that
    situation I’m sure I’d fight for it too, but with guilt pangs, since it’s so very shortsighted.

    In our family’s case, my oldest was initially assigned to our neighborhood school, which we did
    not want — it had a principal who practically had DEADWOOD tatooed across his forehead,
    and was generally not functioning well. We fought through the appeals process (in a former
    incarnation of the SFUSD assignment system) to get a school we did want. This was 1996. Then
    our younger got in via sibling preference. However, we did request our neighborhood middle
    school, Aptos, and both my kids have gone through that school — my younger is now in 8th
    grade. So, I have experience with both situations.

    Good news for kids, families and the school district is that our neighborhood school, the one we had to fight to get out of, is now very successful and popular (Miraloma Elementary, for the record).

  • Caroline

    An Oakland parent posted on the sfschools.org blog that there’s now discussion of whether
    to start a Parents for Public Schools chapter in Oakland. Cool!

    It’s worth noting that PPSSF has grant funding and paid staff, which has been key in making
    it so effective. I assume that the national PPS organization provided both support and credibility
    in securing grants, as well as the structure needed to operate the local chapter on that scale.

    For anyone interested, the website is http://www.ppssf.org

  • Pamela

    As a parent of a current Skyline student, I must say that I find this discussion refreshing.
    My son has attended both private(k-5), Charter(6-8) and now public school in Oakland.
    I must say, that I did not want him to attend skyline. My intent was to send him back to
    private school. My thought was that he was too smart to go to a sub standard school like
    skyline. It was actually my brother who made a very important comment to me. He stated
    that my son needed to “Learn” some thing. That it wasn’t just about his academics, but
    also about his ability to work with all types of people. He also stated that the major reason
    why a child succeds in school is because he has his parents support. He needs to learn how
    to ride the bus home with people who don’t look or act like him. He needs to learn how to
    make choices about weather or not to smoke weed or cut class. He needs to have some
    of his perceptions about people challenged, and even changed. And I must say that he
    was, for the most part, correct. It has been a really tough semester. Lots of changes. My
    comfort zone has be dismantled. He has had some tough moments. However, if you ask
    him if he likes his school, he would tell you in a minute that he loves it. He has been to
    football games, and dances, plays and club meetings. He has come in contact with children
    who think like him and children who would not do there homework if you paid them to.
    I have learned that high school, even with all of it’s changes, is still just high school. It
    is what you make of it.

  • Caroline

    Great post, Pamela!

    I’m sharing, with permission, a commentary by a San Francisco parent of a kindergartner that started out on one blog and that I reposted on my blog (my commentary included here):

    ***
    The fantastic new blog TheSFKFiles chronicles a parent’s intensive search for schools and has attracted amazingly lively and thoughtful readers — most of them terrific writers, too. There has been a lot of discussion of the morality and values involved in choosing private school over public (these mostly being parents in the demographic that’s likely to consider private). One anonymous poster who has been looking at both public and private made this comment, which just awed me. I’m reposting it with permission:

    “Instead of looking at what is right in front of us right now, I hit the fast-forward button and tried to think about what I wanted my children to learn from their childhood — when the tumultuous teen years and the invincible college years are over, what will they say about the lessons and the values that they learned as children? And then it was crystal clear: What I care about most is instilling a sense of justice, fairness and a commitment to bettering society. Yes, my children may be the most important people in the world to me, but let us not confuse that with thinking that they are the most important people in the world. And with that, we wiped the private schools off the table as inherently inconsistent with our core values.”

    http://www.sfschools.org/2007/12/parents-comment-on-private-school.html

    http://www.thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/

  • CPS student

    Hi everyone,
    (please post this message instead of the previous one I sent)

    As someone who graduated from College Prep just a few years ago, I’d like to set the record straight about tuition and financial iad. Despite what appears to be the case, it is certainly possible to attend a school like CPS and Head Royce without having to spend a fortune. Yes, full tuition is quite high, but many students do receive need-based financial aid and some even get a full ride. CPS strongly encourages low-income students to apply and makes every effort to help them financially. This does not refute the broader point made by Sharon that family background is an intrinsic confound to college matriculation; I am simply saying that the financial situation is not as extreme as it has been portrayed.

    I’d be happy to hear any further thoughts.

  • Head-Royce Alumni

    As a current college student and alumni of Head-Royce I would just like to make a few comments. 1. CPS student is right, both school have considerably large endowments and make very large efforts to bring in lower income families(my three best friends were all former students who had financial aid). 2. Another point I would like to make is that although skyline and other schools are getting students into elite colleges they are not getting anywhere close to even 60% of their students into college at all. Of course at a certain size school there are going to be people smart enough to go to great schools. 3. What also matters and is not discussed at all is the amount of collegiate preparation students of the private schools get. Though i make no sweeping generalizations, it is often the case that while I do homework for significantly less hours than my public high school classmates, I get better grades and am more competent in collegiate level classes. There are many things that seem very simple to me which other people have no idea about, like how to form an essay or a thesis.