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Study on black students features Oakland schools

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 6:08 pm in school reform, students.

African-American students seem to be thriving, academically, at Thornhill, Chabot, Grass Valley and Kaiser elementary schools, but the achievement of black students varies widely from school to school in California, a soon-to-be-released report by the research group EdSource has found.

aahonorroll.jpgThe report, Raising African American Student Achievement, lists 45 California elementary schools (out of 615 with Academic Performance Index data on black students) in which African-American children had an average API score above a 785 on a scale of 200 to 1,000. Here is the list.

The full report will be posted Thursday on the EdSource Web site. It includes interviews with the Thornhill principal, Sallyann Tomlin Grass Valley Elementary School Principal Rosella Jackson and others.

As of last year, about 36 percent of Oakland’s public school children were African-American. About one in 30 of California’s roughly 500,000 black public school students goes to school in Oakland.

Notably, none of Oakland’s high schools made EdSource’s list of 16 schools in which the average score for black students was above a 736. Oakland’s average API for black students in 2007 was 602.

One issue that I didn’t see mentioned in the executive summary, one that is rarely raised in test score talk, is the inclusion of first- and second-generation African immigrant students in these statistical “subgroups.” Anecdotally, I hear African immigrants — and the children of African immigrants — tend to do better academically than their black American peers, but I haven’t seen local data to bear that out. Have you?

A reader raised this point with me last week, after seeing our coverage of the African American Honor Roll ceremony. This year, the African American Education Task Force honored 1,100 Oakland students in eighth through 12th grades who earned above a 3.0 grade-point average (roughly 15 percent). After the story appeared, a teacher wrote me with the following observation:

While I enjoyed your article about the awards given to Oakland African-American students can I point out that my students and I were some what mystified as 6 of my best students were among those honored by this particular task force. However, none of them would describe themselves as African-American. In fact they come from Somalia, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory coast and Eritrea. They are bright, intelligent, charming multi-lingual students. Their parents have instilled strong moral values and are very supportive. But I must point out that all these students have suffered at the hands of the A-A students. Interestingly although Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea are at war the students in school they are the best of friends partly it seems because they feel they have the nothing in common with the A-A students.

I answered my students questions and puzzlement with this advise.. to accept the awards in the spirit in which they were given and that all awards are valuable and recognize their personal achievement.

What do you make of this teacher’s statement? And, based on the limited information at hand, what do you think schools might learn from this report?

photo of the May 12 African American Honor Roll Ceremony by Alison Yin

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  • Nextset

    Here we go, people. Remember, OUSD and schools like it aren’t “schools” in the sense that I remember. Above all their purpose is to keep the “students” happy and dumb. Real education is not in the plan at all.

    As part of the “keep ‘em happy” approach you will see dumbing down of standards, false news and the handing out of phony awards.

    The negroes won’t be happy if you confront them with objective indications that they are losing ground – falling further behind the other groups. So you cook the books by mixing the stats for the African immigrants and first generation students – who have academic achievements at par or higher than the whites – with the American Negroes (blacks?). Have you hung out with Nigerians and Ethipoians… They tend to be competitive (an understatement). They also have ways of making sure their children compete.

    I’m black, some of my in-laws Are African immigrants and 1st generation black/african mix. The in-laws have no use for the low-functioning American Blacks, and no illusions about what to expect from them. They wouldn’t have survived Africa if they were in the business of denial. They don’t want to return there either, they really like it here.

    I have seen such relatives come over here as teens, work at 7-11, and finish Med School and go into specialty practice. And they don’t sit around demanding attention or their own way all the time, either.

    And who do you think benefits from AA nowadays? Any attempt to “subsidize” blacks is quickly picked up by the best candidates – which is often immigrants or their children. The locals are simply no match for the competition and that goes double for the children of the black professional class. There are reasons for this.

    Will all this lead to friction between the immigrant blacks and the home grown – does anybody care? You have to want Professional School and the life that goes with the efforts – and what I see is that those who do want it are the only ones left standing after all the prerequisites.

    And lately they are often African Immigrants.

  • Steven Weinberg

    All the high schools on the EdSource list either have very low poverty rates (less than 25%) or are magnet schools or charters that parents would select because they are willing and able to push their children to academic excellence. It is not surprising that these schools would have students who score well.

    Nonetheless, as I skimmed over the results from a number of schools from across the state, it was upsetting to see how many high performing schools had fewer than 20 African-American students, and how many mid-performing schools had African-Americans scoring one to two-hundred API points below the school average.

  • Catherine

    Our “hills” school has a poor record with African American students overall with a gap of about 100 points.

    When asking an African American teacher whose son attends our school, she had suggestions that were different from the “experts” but valid none the less.

    Put computers and software into the low performing students homes. These could be older machines with learning games. These computers do not have to have access to the internet (not affordable for most families to keep up) nor did they need a printer.

    Do not keep the kids after school, it will make them feel more “stupid.”

    Use a “Score!” or “Kumon” model for extra help for the kids over the Summer and have the low performing kids actively engaged in learning to avoid “brain drain” over the Summer.

    Kids learn to read until 3rd grade, then they read to learn from 3rd grade on. Learning to read is critical. I agree with the previous posters about “real learning” and critical thinking. But you have to be able to read for information before you can critically evaluate it.

    I know that our school has tutors who work individually with the kids who need extra help. I also believe that many of these families want their children to succeed but believe it is the school’s job to educate the students.

    I wonder if as a school district we have even thought of sending learning materials home with these kids in the Summer?

  • Nextset

    Catherine; The black kids have talents which can be developed better than OUSD has been doing so. But I believe year round schools are needed, not just sending home learning materials for the summer.

    Frankly the less you depend on the parents and homework the better. As far as I’m concerned everybody would be happier and fare better is the public schools ran an 8 to 5 schedule, especially in the proletariat schools. When the kid is sent home, “homework” should be done.

    If you can’t easily run the schools through summer sessions, every single summer program that can by put together and advertised for the families is a lifesaver. Even if the program has them going to activities together. The parents need to work and the kids need work on proper socialization (deportment) and getting out to see the ocean or something. A class to read the Oakland Tribune aloud every day would help. Then they could graduate to reading US News & World Report aloud.

  • Some Reason

    I am sorry that this person is a teacher. She is a problem for African American students. Read her language again.

    The reason the AA Task Force included the African immigrant students is because the District categorizes all “black” students as African American. I’ve asked. It does not have separate categories immigrant Africans.