Should Oakland stiffen its grad requirements?

Education Trust-West thinks so, and so does Brad Stam, OUSD’s chief academic officer.

Right now, less than 40 percent of Oakland’s high school seniors graduate with the requirements needed to attend a state university. At some local schools, Ed Trust reports, barely more than half of the classes offered count toward those 15 course requirements, known in the education world as “A to G.”

photo by Alison Yin

There seems to be a movement afoot to adopt those college requirements — a `C’ grade or better on all 15 “A to G” courses — as the new standard for graduating high school in Oakland.

An Ed Trust West audit of 2,000 transcripts from the Class of 2008, to be presented to the school board tonight, found that many Oakland students are taking watered-down academic courses that will get them out of high school, but not into college. It also found that kids take a “hodgepodge” of career technical education courses, rather than coordinated programs that prepare them for college or careers after high school.

But is the answer to such systemic shortcomings to make graduating from an Oakland high school more like getting into a 4-year college? Would more students rise to the challenge, if they had to in order to earn a diploma?

You can find a copy of the Ed Trust-West report here (which includes some school-by-school information), and the district’s response here. There’s also a story about this issue in today’s Trib.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Judy

    Has OUSD provided information as to how many OUSD graduates actually make it pass their first or second year of college? Getting into college is one thing, particularly if high school rigor is rare or non-existent. Staying in college is another matter.

    These students will be competing in college with students who come from high schools with rigor. There are always the exceptional OUSD high school students who will be successful regardless of where they attend high school. However, would even these students have gained from attending more rigorous programs? Are they being shortchanged?

    I can tell you that the curriculum and rigor of my daughter’s first grade class makes her previous Oakland elementary school’s first grade curriculum look like a remedial program. Higher expectations begin at the early grades.

  • Oakland Teacher

    If we hold students to a higher standard, they will meet it. Some will falter, but it’s worth it.

  • Nextset

    Hell No.

    Using National Averages, which puts Oakland at a disadvantage, less then average students don’t finish high school to a large degree. Average students are able to finish high school but are in no way college material. Above average students may be college material to some degree or other. Since a large ratio of students nationally are “average” with relatively smaller numbers to the left and right of that, the graph looks like a BELL CURVE.

    And that’s using national numbers. Guess what, OUSD’s average is to the left side of the national Bell Curve. OUSD students have a larger number of the left side and fewer numbers of the right side. Oakland’s average is lower. So what, it’s no secret.

    Remember very small changes in qualifying scores produce huge changes in disqualification when you are dealing with these situations. One more graduation requirement will push on heck of a lot of students into dropping school entirely since even they can see that they cannot reasonably be expected to graduate.

    It is wrong to condition a High School Diploma on handling college entrance requirements. it’s just immoral. The people behind this know exactly what will happen although they’ll lie to you and say it won’t.

    We need a debate on what a High School Diploma is supposed to mean. And what it doesn’t mean.

    Deliberately manipulating the standards to put massive numbers of black and brown students out of High School prematturely and without diplomas only for caprice is malevolent. If I want to hire a higher functioning employee I will require an AA/AS or a BA/BS or higher as I feel the job requires. High School diplomas are used to sort out the workers who are housebroken.

    What’s worse, if Oakland and CA raises the bar for a High School Diploma while NV, OR, ID, MN and the rest of such states (and the southern states?) with blue collar populations don’t, our students will have competitive problems with those residents who are similarly educated. remember, the HSD is a qualifier for military enlistment. Even with the upcoming military draft, placement will be made using HSDs.

    College admission has little or nothing to do with a High School Diploma. We must not tie one to the other.

    The High School Diploma requirements must be reasonable, not some pipe dream of starry eyed liberals who don’t know people and who send their own kids to elite schools.

  • Catherine

    Yes, we should stiffen graduation requirements. I cannot hire the majority of “graduates” from Oakland High Schools. These students cannot read, write, analyze, make change, be on time every day, shake hands, make eye contact or carry on a coherent conversation with people older or younger who speak standard English.

    After interviewing hundreds of so called Oakland high school graduates over 25 years, I can tell you that the tests we ask them to take rate them, on average, at a functional level of a third grade, 9 year old.

    It is difficult when we have the Mayor of Oakland in our institution asking us why we do not hire those educated in Oakland; we respond with the truth and then are told that we should spend corporate money on hiring and remediation to help them fit into the work place.

    A high school graduate should be capable of 12th grade work on all levels or remain in school until they can.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: I agree we should stiffen graduations, just not in the direction of college entrance standards. I believe we should increase deportment standards (including dress and grooming) and expel those who fail them so they are not even on a normal campus by 11th grade.

    I believe by 11th and 12th grade we should have basic reading, writing and math down or transfer the kid out to a continuation school.

    I would like those on track to graduate at OUSD who don’t go to higher learning all be able to function at a level where they could be considered for a job as a hotel maid, a clerk or a parking lot attendant, or a grocery clerk, bank teller (will be relatively extinct soon), a McDonald’s worker, or any typical entry level job. If things were running well they would have these jobs, even be asked for.

    When I worked in downtown Oakland in the early 1970s my employer told me they didn’t hire (entry level) OUSD (black) students, as they never worked out. They hired Catholic School students and those from other districts. And that was a lifetime ago. And I’m black. I laugh at what the situation is now. My relatives can’t find qualified black help and they look for them. (How’s that for ironic, a black run establishment with no black staffers??)

    12th Grade work doesn’t have to include much college prep. I like college prep, I did it, but it’s not for everyone and it’s not for people who don’t want it (and their parent’s don’t want it for them either).

    Forcing people who have no aptitude for college level work to take college prep is not education. It’s gameplaying. And a High School Diploma only means the recipient has covered the minimum basic education for entering military, vocational training or entry level work. That doesn’t require all the college entrance classes.

    And it’s not just happening in Oakland. I was in LA last month and went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (You can’t get any blacker… great food!) – I got a black waitress and my party immediately got into a conversation with her about how things are going. She complained that the black help are going and being replaced by hispanic employees. We looked around…

    We all sympathized with her. The elderly guests were really sympathetic. Times are changing, and it’s a Brave New World.

    If I could run OUSD my way I believe I’d get better results after the screaming stopped.

  • Chauncey

    Problem is, Nextset, that with your view, then you just gave the teachers, many of whom are extreme leftists, the opportunity to water the academics down and replace college standards with their form of social beliefs for ALL students in the inner city. You notice that the report simply did not say black, Latinos are falling by the wayside.

    Many of the schools and Departments of education in this state and perhaps country, cant wait to spit out their socialist ideals to poor kids- because they know what? Most parents dont care, and kids dont care.

    If an establishmenet is hiring Latinos, Turks or womever over Blacks, could it be that they want to work? Most everywhere I go my peeps feel that something is owed to them and all against them is racist.

    I say raise the standard for all so that those that want it will be prepared and thos that dont will simply do what they have been doing-tuning out.

  • Nextset

    Chauncey: You have a point that by watering down the courses – say offering a lot of survey courses but little college prep – we risk degrading OUSD to the status of “non-school”. I’ve thought of that. I must regrettably inform you that despite the fact that OUSD does send some students to Cal and even Stanford every year, that district is already considered a “school” in name only.

    Those students who made it out of OUSD to Standford and actually graduate from Stanford are few and far between and would have made it anyway.

    OUSD exists to “educate” the lower class, most of which don’t graduate from OUSD or anywhere else. The numbers mentioned from the last 12th grade class omit the large number of students who started at the 1st grade and dropped out or when to jail or the graveyard by age 18.

    I believe that increasing the college prep requirements will run out an additional large number of students by the end of 12th grade who could have been managed in school with a more moderate and reasonable graduate requirement that would have earned them a diploma with survey courses (“Science” instead of “Chemistry”, “Math” instead of “Algebra II” or whatever).

    I believe the mission of the public school is to provide the lowest common denominator education for the lower class at a minimum, which we are not only not doing but will run more of them off by adding college requirements. We will not serve the city of Oakland or the students by “graduating” 20% or less of the 18 year olds in the name of supporting college prep.

    I do believe OUSD should have a college prep campus, with enrollment by application, testing, acceptance and continued performance only. The rest of the students should be worked as hard as possible consistent with their interests and abilities and the needs of the military, local industry & trade schools and the Jr Colleges enrollment.

    It is possible that some of the proponents of the new policy actually believe that by imposing college prep requirements, students reading at 3rd to 6th grade level 5 years after puberty will magically begin to function at 12th grade level and handle the college elgibility classes. Myself I’d suggest you look carefully at the horns and tail. They really do know better and they have an agenda.

  • Nextset

    Chauncey: One reason people can’t get work is that they are unable to compete with other applicants, such as Paco and Josefina from TJ. If they went to decent schools these people would be able to compete. The Catholic Schools of the East Bay took in poor children of working class mothers and fathers (including blacks & hispanics) going back to WWII and before. I went to school with some of them. Some of my classmates were latchkey kids, both parents worked or 1 parent if that was it. And some of the kids were not “gifted” in the least.

    But every one of them could get a job at 16 much less 18 and hold it, no matter how ungifted they were. If you could get to that age without the Nuns beating you to death you generally had something you could use for job skills and you knew how to live with authority and how to fit in. Hell, Blacks had advantages in some job lines – they had jobs, at least entry level jobs. And they couldn’t be so easily out jobbed by the other ethnics either. My Brother started out as a Milkman in the East Bay at 18 during the summer before he went away to college.

    Times have changed, but the current crop can’t get a job because they aren’t housebroken (my term for it) and the other applicants are. A good school does that for a student. OUSD doesn’t.

  • Katy Murphy

    The report is being discussed at the board meeting right now.

    Brad Stam, the chief academic officer, said that district staff have already eliminated 175 non “A to G” classes from the course catalog that they determined to be potential “trap doors” or “pitfalls” for students.

  • Chauncey

    I dont think parents from the hills will agree with you, and many from the flats wont either. Oakland has the potential to produce scholars, not all i agree, but some. If we water down the classes and allow the idealism to run rampant- then expect more crime, cop shooting and all that.

  • Donna

    Chsllenging, rigorous courses are available at Oakland Tech and Skyline. I am not as familiar with Skyline, but multiple Tech grads regularly get into the Ivies (at least one recently received his acceptance into Dartmouth; last year three were accepted into Harvard, the year before three were admitted into MIT). HOWEVER, tracking begins in middle school, so some kids have classes with expectations and speed on par with private schools and suburban schools but most do not. This extends to and is exacerbated in high school.

    Middle class, English speaking parents fight to make sure their kids are in the highest tracks and stay on top of things. But kids who are placed in the lower tracks from the get-go don’t really have a competitive chance which I find very sad.

    We need to make sure all our kids pass the CAHSEE the first time around in the tenth grade. Unless kids have the quantitative and verbal fundamentals to pass that test, I question whether they can pass Cal a-g requirement classes AND be successful at a UC. The academic push and expectations need to start in middle school.

  • Chauncey

    Let me tell you, Latinos and Black at my sons middle school complain vigorously because the standards are too high (basically). Too much homework, too much dicipline etc.Ask the principals and they say Most do.

    So I dont feel bad for the parents , I feel bad for kids. One thing USA must revisist is this damn Parent Involvement crap! Keep those parents away from schools, and kids will succeed. I have seen so many ignorant a** parents show up with – Uh UH , not my Baby routine that its ridiculous!

    I say give high standrads early in a kids life and keep parents away. This is true for the hood at least. In Marin this would spur tons of anger but then again, they dont have issues as OUSD does do they?

  • Nextset

    Chauncey: I agree with you OUSD needs college track. I disagree with you that college track at OUSD should be the norm. It should be optional. The bulk of the OUSD are not college material (and by this I mean to include in the total all the students who have dropped out by age 18).

    A HSD does not require UC entrance eligibility. The diploma requires a lesser mastery of math, verbal & science coursework. The distinction needs to be kept. I’m afraid even so a large percentage of the Oakland 18 year olds (maybe 40%+ of the total??), can’t manage a HSD as it is. These changes risk pushing the unable to graduate percentage to a large majority. Remember the state graduation test. The original pass level was set at 10th grade verbal until it was realized that a large majority of the black students in CA would never get a HSD at that cutoff. The pass level was set to 8th grade verbal and that is where it is today. Does the readership believe we should raise it now?

    Adding these requirements is similar to bumping up that pass requirement. It will have dramatic and racially disparate results. I don’t mind dramatic and racially disparate results if I believe it is the way things need to be, The state Nursing exam, CPA exam, Bar exam, Medical Boards, etc. etc. (And these boards wrestle with these racial issues constantly behind closed doors.)

    Be careful what you do with the High School Diploma. I would support perhaps a 9th grade verbal proficiency on the state test. I would entertain 10th grade maybe but not now. I oppose requiring taking or completion of college prep courses because the cons far outweigh the pros and I don’t believe the proposed change accomplishes good.

  • aly

    Chauncey- the problem is that many parents don’t understand or care. over-involvement is not an issue. i wish to high heaven that parents at my school were involved. if someone read the report cards i send home or returned my calls… the level of success would undoubtedly increase. the ignorance of the parents is what produces the ignorance of the children.

    the kids can’t be given high standards at school only to have them degraded or disregarded at home; it creates a conflict between school and home that is very, very difficult for school to win. teachers change every year; your family is around you for life. if you bring home homework and no one is willing to help you complete it, or you bring home a’s and no one responds, you start to doubt what the people at school are telling you and stop believing their message.

    i agree with nextset for the most part. my only reservation is that we are becoming an increasingly college-attending society. many employers for menial office jobs now require BAs simply because they can, not because the job requires the knowledge or skills gained in college.

    conversely, i worry about raising standards because of what we would be considering essential education. the fact that our students can’t read, write, speak or dress for the blue-collar workforce, let alone college, has me far more concerned than if they understand trig or a second language. i would prefer to be given standards for them that focus on their weakest skills and be allowed to really hone them in ways that they can apply.

    at the end of the day, i’ll teach to the standards i’m given (and sometimes higher). no matter what, though, if the district is serious about raising the bar, we better step the hell up to the plate from kindergarten on up because we don’t graduate 50% of our kids as it stands now. it would be an awful shame to make that number any lower.

  • Sara

    Most of the 8th-grade parents I know are either sending their children to private high schools in Sept or if they can’t afford that, Oakland Tech and hoping they get into the Engineering or Paidea Academies. The other option is Millineum. The idea of a Lowell-type high school that requires an entrance exam and has the expectations of a private school is exactly what Oakland needs. But being Oakland, it will be perceived as racist. That could be overcome by reserving a percentage of spots for various races and then if they weren’t filled, instead of dropping the standards to fill them, allowing those who would be on a waiting list to get in. Then use the other high schools to give kids who don’t care about learning math, history, science and English the basic skills they need to survive in the world, such as Automotive classes, or Carpentry and Air-conditioning repair for example. Of course in order to do those things you have to learn math and science but at least they would be hireable and kids who want to learn wouldn’t have to deal with their bad behavior.

  • cranky teacher

    I skimmed, so I could be wrong, but nowhere in this stream of comments do I see any acknowledgment of WHY the education establishment is pushing college-prep so hard: Our economy has shed most industrial jobs over the past half-century.

    Service jobs, the ones Nextset proposes a high school diploma secures one, do not provide a decent-quality of life for a family. Two-to-four years in the military is not going to cut it either, unless it leads to college or a marketable skill like electronics.

    And yes, non-immigrants do have a sense that certain jobs are “beneath” them. They would rather live with their parents or turn to the black market economy than work at McDonald’s. However, part of that is straight economics: You weigh the calculus of degradation, dollars and risk and decide that stripping or slinging is a better bet than flipping burgers.

    I teach high school and one thing I would like to see would be to get rid of Ds. Ds are just Fs with sugar coating, allowing kids to think they “passed” while they have really failed to advance in any real way. One idea in vogue these days gets to this, replacing letter grades with a concept called “mastery” — you can’t advance to the next level until you show you can understand/use/deploy the previous knowledge.

  • Nextset

    C: In this awful economic time, a service job that doesn’t pay a living wage is better than the alternative. And it allows the worker to rent a room if not support a family they shouldn’t have yet anyway. And of critical importance is it gets them started on the ladder to something more (like on the job training).

    As far as the military I have experience with people who joined to escape bad situations from addict parents to incest or worse. They have turned out well. One foster child with an addict mother is now a surgical tech in San Diego after 10 years with the Navy all over the world. He should have been dead or in jail if left on his own in Urban USA. Instead he actually enjoyed the 10 years, living in Japan, around the US and fighting in the Desert Storm wars. As a child he was damaged enough by parental neglect to require surgical repair. It seems that got him interested in medicine, and he used the Navy to get that training. Just getting him a HS Diploma is another interesting story. He enlisted a year early (beginning 12th grade) subject to getting the diploma and the Navy helped during his last year of HS. He had been flunking out in 11th grade.

    The diploma is important and I don’t want to shut tons of black folks out of one because some liberal (probably female) thinks you can’t have a diploma unless you have UC entrance requirements or anything of the sort. A diploma is a low standard intending to establish only that the student has met minimum requirements for military enlistment, vocational school enrollment or work entry.

    The left side of the bell curve makes their living through physical labor, not their brains. They need to start work early in life. Don’t tell them they have to play your college games in order to exist. It’s nice to have Algebra 2 but that’s optional.

  • Nextset

    C: Sorry, I didn’t mean to complain about you in that last paragraph. It’s a rhetorical statement about the other side of this argument in general. I do wonder how the classroom teachers feel about proposals to increase the diploma requirements sharply. What do you think??

  • cranky teacher

    As usual, you avoided my main points entirely.

    The pure “physical labor” jobs you tout are by and large GONE as significant employers in this country.

    The bulk of viable CAREERS — 60% — are in service industries with a path for advancement, such as nursing, managerial, education, bureaucracies, marketing. To advance beyond the base level in these avenues, you need EDUCATION BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL.

    The other 40%? Divvied up among the professional and ownership classes at the top, the remaining manufacturing jobs in the middle and the menial labor at the bottom (which generally does NOT lead to career advancement; a hotel maid will not see much of a raise over 5-10 years).

    Finally, your tired bell curve references are simply out of place here. We are not talking about making sub-average intelligent humans build rockets, we are arguing for the normally intelligent children of poor and/or dysfunctional families to be given the means to compete in a capitalist society as adults despite starting life at a severe socio-economic deficit.

    The intelligence bell curve and Social Darwinism are not the same thing. Admitting people have different potentials from birth is not the same thing as endorsing economic determanism.

  • cranky teacher

    Wait, Katy — 175 courses ELIMINATED? When does this happen, or did it already?

    Are we talking electives? Or “core” classes that not a-g?

    Or was this just cleaning up the books form 40 years of class creation?

  • Katy Murphy

    That’s what the board was told last night. I don’t know how many of those courses are currently being taught, though. I guess the course catalog is quite thick. I’ll try to find out.

  • Nextset

    C: I sighed reading your post above… Mainly because I wish your post were true. I suspect that the people you see are working in urban jobs where they push information around. The people I see aren’t. They work as laborers. A retail sales job they can’t get. And when they are working the make a higher hourly wage than the retail clerks, but they work under direct supervision and in no-work, no-pay jobs such as building trades and other laborer jobs – including day laborers. Some of them are Union members. They work hard.

    As far as my bell curve references, sorry, you’re stuck. When we discuss large numbers of people such as the students at LA Unified or even Oakland Unified, you are dealing with the curve. Because that’s what the issue is, large groups and their actions and scoring. If we were talking about a smaller group such as my pre-school group at Berkwood or a high school class of 200 at an Air Force Base, then no.

    And as usual you seem to think that I’m somehow generating these issues or willed them into being. Have you ever tried to talk a 21 year old Day Laborer into not being a day laborer? I have. Do you think I want children I’m seeing with their parents grow up and be prison inmates, drug addicts, morbid alcoholics and manual laborers? Or single mothers? People chose their path driven by genetics largely with some help from culture and circumstances. In any event people do as they damn well please – especially when families and government enable them.

    I see 3rd generation + convicts and single mothers. That’s not saying much because a generation is 16 years. (Did you ever see the Washington Post story on RosaLee Cunningham and her children??)

    We have to talk about minimum qualifications on HS Diplomas and how we keep pathways reasonably open to people who hate to learn and don’t want to read and chose the thrill of living for today. Or at least working for today. And I’m not talking about the monsters such as Mixon. These are people who will work all their lives and not go to prison. Some DUIs maybe…

    C: People who read at 6th grade level at 11th grade are never going to have the careers you mentioned. We need to teach them to survive with what they have, not to make them take college prep and fail.

    Maybe we are talking about different people. If you are working college prep in your school you may see things differently. But only a small percentage of the total students who should be in OUSD (or Los Angeles and other urban districts) are College Prep.

  • Pepe

    Would it not be more valuable to concentrate on getting the best teachers in classrooms and experiencing success with the current graduation requirements? It seems to me that raising the requirements will only serve to “water down” these a to g courses and lead to greater social promotion and drop outs. While students are definitely capable of more challenging academics, this will lead to failure if teachers aren’t found that can tap that potential.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset, I don’t think we’re talking about different people, I think we’re talking about different things altogether. We are not having a conversation.

    You are talking about the bell curve as POTENTIAL. Of course a 20 year old who can’t read or look anybody in the eye is at all likely to suddenly hit the books and transfer to Cal. That’s not the point. You want to wall off the DOMINANT CAREERS (as determined by economic statistics) based on RACE and to YOUNG children. That’s where you lose pretty much everybody else on this board besides “John.”

    Did you read this East Bay Express article on “King Jorge” at the Oakland Charter Academy?


    I would actually be very interested in what your response to it is. The guy, a true megalomaniac, adopts many of your “tough love” super-discipline approaches on genuinely poor Oakland kids but emphasizes a completely different outcome than you: College and “getting the hell out of the hood” as middle-class families.

    Nowhere does he talk about preparing these kids for work as day laborers. And, if the article’s stats are right, the same f***ups who were getting low test scores before are now getting great scores and take part in “gifted” programs at Johns Hopkins, etc.

    His results are impressive, although I believe them to be particularly tied to a) his UNIQUE personality and experience, b) the extremely small size of the school, c) its charter status and d) that it is a middle school.

    I found many of his tactics disgusting — paying kids for doing homework, cussing them out, extreme public humiliation, cutting parents out of the loop, etc. However, I think everybody who is serious about urban education needs to acknowledge these situations.

  • Nextset

    C: Still processing that last paragraph. This is an interesting case study…

    And I have some experiences with meglomaniacs. I want to look into this story.

    Before I get time to do it, I wanted to say that I agree that getting out of the hood is essential. It doesn’t pay for young people to try and stick around to save someone or change things.

    I also point out – or agree with you – that strong (and maybe unpleasant) force can make a difference in small cases. In my posts here I typically am speaking of large groups of people being worked with. Once you get down to the small groups there are individual factors that override projected results. I lived the same issues with credit granting. Eventually I learned the hard way about the costs of overriding credit scores (same as playing against house odds for long periods of time).

    Your use of the word “disgusting” reminds me of people’s response to politics and making sausage. You still have to eat.

    You are wrong about me walling off dominant careers. You jump to conclusions. But my first concern is basic survival for at risk populations. By trying to qualify large groups of at risk population kids for higher aspirations I believe you are at the same time not making them employable for anything at all, including the menial jobs they should always control as a safety net. I hope I expressed that the way I wanted.

    I don’t think Sapphire needs to make a living as a hotel maid. But if infuriates me that Sapphire can’t get a job as a hotel maid to save her life and Josefina breezes in from TJ not even speaking English and is on the payroll at the Marriott. Or TSA or Food Service at the Airport. Or UPS sorting station, etc.. Meanwhile you have created a school program for Sapphire that requires Algebra 2 which isn’t going to happen, so Sapphire droped out and can’t even enlist in the Army to do clerical work in Germany or Japan and get out of Dodge (Oakland).

    Have you seen the Eastern European refugees in the Sacramento region? ESL and they are taking one service industry after another. And you-know-who can’t get an interview.

  • Nextset

    C: Read the article.I find the principal commendable. All his methods were wise and well executed. rather dignified considering the circumstances. I approve completely.

    The amazing thing is, he actually seems to care about delivering the top performance of his students. He’s avoided getting discouraged or burned out by the entrenched garbage teachers and administration of the school or the bad parenting. I always thought bad parenting is no excuse for bad teaching or bad student performance.

    Did you think I’de feel otherwise? Have you worked with people who came from Catholic School education in the ’50s and ’60s? Caning, corporal punishment, students being berated and punitive writing of sentences were carefully balanced with gold stars and field trips. Could you really think I’d have an objection to the relatively mild tactics here?

    This man knows how to educate at risk kids. And maybe he knows how to get rid of worthless so-called teachers. Good for him.

    And he is no megalomaniac. You abase yourself by casually throwing that term around. Such specific terms, pedophile for example, have very specific meanings. Careless people throw them out when they want other people to jump. I don’t jump easy at all.

    The Charters are going to eat OUSD.

    Brave New World.

  • aly

    i am going to read that article because i am super curious, but i have to say- nextset: the way you framed your argument around hypothetical student sapphire made it seem far more balanced than i had interpreted your position to be. i had initially thought the same thing as cranky as far as your desire to wall off certain careers. i actually totally agree with your concern and preferences.

    but please. for the love of all that is good… no mas brave new world! i had enjoyed its absence tremendously (insert happy face for john here)

  • Nextset

    Aly: I don’t wall off careers. My generation wound up in careers our parents never heard of. Our parents never met people who do the work some of us do. Why would anybody think that my generation of blacks, many of who are the “firsts” and the “only”s in some of our fields and subspecialties – want to wall off careers for black kids? (A rhetorical question – I know the answer)

    But even I worked in a downtown Oakland Camera shop (operated by total strangers – not a family placement) once very briefly as a retail sales clerk. You have to be able to walk into an entry level position whenever you need a job for 3 months and be able to have them be glad you’re available and willing to hand over a cash register and the keys to a facility will $$ worth of inventory and equipment – at age 18. Or whatever else an entry level job entails (A summer job and yes, I closed the store alone.

    OUSD makes sure the (typical) blacks aren’t housebroken and unlike the Catholic School Black Kids the OUSD kids can’t walk into JC Penney’s without fitting every shoplifter profile in the book. OUSD and the other urban schools won’t work on these kids deportment because the kids like keeping it real and the urban schools above everything else want the kids and their parent to be “happy” which means no challenges, no changes and no progress and bad scores. But OUSD probably gives lots of phony hugs and congratulations for nothing.

    As far as the Brave New World/Bell Curve thing – the reason I am pounding it into the ground here is that educated people (which I don’t count public school teachers as being) are taught from University Classwork and research that what is happening to USA Society has been charted, researched and discussed for generations now. All of us may not like the research or the trend lines but they are there in the literature and they have forecast these problems from a long long time ago. Because the forecasts have been accurate it is reasonable to look to research to see what comes next or (likely to be) going on already.

    Oh, and keep an eye on the AIDS charts, Washington DC is worse than Kenya for black AIDS infections. Remember the black “upper” classes are infected at higher rates in Africa.

    Both BNW and BC discusses a society where the haves and have-nots settle into their respective roles and seperate from each other in basically every way, a class-defined society where one is born into their role in life with people not even wanting, much less being able to have upward mobility. The processes is helped along with government policy and legislation.

    Exactly what I see as I get older.

    One of my four grandparents was an Iceman, his wife my grandmother was a laundress. Our family can track our geneology into slavery where things get interesting. House slaves, you know…

    So if I am ever responsible for the career or the advancement of little Otis and Latifia when I get through with them they are going to be ready, willing and able to jump through any interesting/promising doors that open – if for no other reason that to prove something to me. I would have stressed them enough so they would have a calculated belief that they can handle something new or unknown. All my family who were public school teachers were very notorious tyrants/taskmasters whose black students usually did much better that the others. Many are in professions now such as specialty physicians and Judges. One became the first Black Police Chief in a Bay Area City and long time ago (they grew up when there were no black cops at all). My point of view is that being very tough with these kids in public schools pays off big time. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do well in this society.

    Being tough on schoolkids is not the same as making Algebra 2 a graduation requirement for all – black, white or anything else. Different issues.

    Anybody who makes the jump from that to thinking I want to wall off careers for black folks is deluded. And deluded teachers hurt their students.

  • aly

    you’re obviously out to offend with ridiculous comments like not including public school teachers in your idea of an educated person, and i have no idea why you would say something so brainless in the middle of an otherwise intelligent, reasonable post. you seem too intelligent to make such an inflammatory generalization.

    your perception of our situation is absolutely correct. i imagine that right now i am struggling with a select group of my students because i am not following the feel good method of teaching. i “keep it real” with them by letting them know what “real” is and if they keep up the BS they are trying to skate by with, this is it. i am hated because of my expectation that they come in and work. i am hated because we are reading and writing instead of “doing projects.”

    now, i don’t know about being able to kick people out of school because they can’t meet a standard of dress. but i agree that one of the worst things to happen as a result of integration is the decline of black students. education used to be a weapon; hard work was the standard, and now it’s an inconvenience.

    i completely agree that raising graduation requirements is not the answer and that it will in fact be a terrible mistake. we are not failing our students right now because of the classes they take. we are failing them because of the expectations that are set and the discipline we lack.

    all that said… i still don’t know how to fix it on a level as microscopic as my classroom. maybe it can’t be fixed on that small of a level, but even for my school, i can’t say i’m sure of how to get the kids in line. perhaps it is because they are high school students with their habits and expectations about education (and life, for the most part) set. i still feel that a huge obstacle is the ignorance and absence of the families we work with. school cannot be the only place these expectations are enforced. i cannot spend my career contradicting the messages from home expecting to win.

    so what then?

  • Nextset

    Aly: thanks for feedback. Yes, I do regard the (current crop of) public school teachers as problems. From my perspective which is skewed by working in the criminal & civil courts – the wholesale slaughter of the products of the public schools visible in our courts are mainly the fault of the teachers, who as far as I see do not feel any need to prepare these people for survival. I’m not fair, I’m not balanced. I blame the teachers and their schools and not the bio-parents of these losers nor the losers themselves.

    I probably shouldn’t think that way but I do. I unreasonably feel that since some of the dummies I went to public high school with have done so well, and the kids my teacher relatives talk about and point out have done so well with so little to start with, that good teachers can usually save almost everybody. even the crooks I knew were better, more successful crooks because of our superior public schooling.

    The readers have to take my positions with a grain of salt. I probably compare teachers to my great-grandfather, grandfather, his brothers and the aunts and other relatives who were public grade school and high school teachers. Their products – at least all the ones I’ve met and heard of – were often “firsts” and generally did well in life despite coming from families of laborers. The ordinary students still had good lives and stayed out of trouble. I blame (fairly or unfairly) the current public school teachers for the black kids being so patently non-viable. My anger begins when I walk into my local urban high school classroom and without exception I find the students disorderly and unprepared. They are so full of self entitlement the teachers can’t even assign their seating without a row. The list of behavior problems is so great I’m not suprised they can’t read or write well either.

    Somehow C thought I’d support her derisive opinion of “King Jorge”. I’d probably make him look benevolent if I ran a public school. And I’d be nicer about it compared with my Grandparent’s generation. Teaching is tough and the very first thing is that you’re their teacher not their friend and never their social equal. It’s optional and unusual if they like you. These kids seem to like all their teachers.

    Our current public school teachers tend to have a worldview I believe is counterproductive. Probably a result of their wretched teacher education and training. I’d rather find teachers from military and industry rather than an education major. Just my experience of what works and what doesn’t.

  • Nextset


    1) Revel in the students hating you. It means you’re doing right.

    2) Forget about getting approval from their parent. If their parent was worth worrying about they’d have the kid in private school.

    3) To the extent reasonably possible get guest speakers and distribute literature from which the students will be forced to realize they are deficient and have a lot to learn. Tear down their self esteem don’t support it.

    4) Make sure the students realize that you are not going to be attempting to teach them anything they have no reasonable expectation of managing. Attempts to learn stop if the pack decides things are hopeless. Keep the carrots dangling apparently within reach.

    5) Foster competition. Pit black against white and hispanic, fat against thin, boys against girls, rich against poor, and everybody against everybody else. Cultivate a climate of having something to prove. (The nuns were really good with this one.)

    6) Ration approval and when it’s delivered make sure at least someone else is around to see it confered, preferably the adversaries or competitors of the person to be congratulated. The last thing you want is a group applause because somebody hasn’t had a drink in 5 days. It cheapens the currency you pay with. Keep the approvals to very brief and very rare.

    7) Anybody screws up you take their fruit cup away from lunch. It doesn’t matter they didn’t want fruit cup. Find something no matter how fleeting or token (fleeting is fine) and punish inattentiveness to your wishes or rules. Make sure the adversaries and competitors see it get taken from the transgressor.

    8) Give the kids constant and recurring chances to demonstrate progress. Try having them read aloud a paragraph each. Call on them in class (a lot) and ignore volunteers. Pace the room in loud shoes. Keep the tension/energy level up. Make them look up definitions constantly. Don’t let them get comfortable anytime anywhere. Change seating, terms, assignments often and shower them with pop quizzes.

    Most of this was how my law school classes were run, by the way. Catholic School classes also.

  • cranky teacher

    You misunderstood, Nextset. I didn’t think you’d mind Jorge’s approach, but I thought his high expectations for all his students goes against your low expectations for the majority of minority and poor youth.

    And yes, you have said many times on here that urban public education should be about deportment and subservience to prepare “the left side of the bell curve” for jobs as laborers, maids, etc.

    As for Sapphire, you really think requiring Algebra 2 is the problem? That’s what makes her drop out of school? NOT FOR A SECOND. Sapphire drops out of the race long before that even becomes an issue for graduation.

    As for Jorge, I stand by the word megalomaniac. Obviously, he’s no Hitler, but he is clearly obsessed with building up his own legend, taking all credit, putting down anybody who disagrees with him, etc. Some of the greatest teachers around are megalomaniacs — it’s a type featured in “Stand and Deliver” type teacher flicks. Problem is, they can go haywire.

    All your Catholic school success stories are so anecdotal, it cracks me up. We could just as easily talk about the pedophilia scandals or the “Catholic schoolgirl syndrome.” And if the C-schools are so great, don’t we have to ask if the parents who CHOSE Catholic school and SCRIMPED AND SAVED to send their kids their not have anything to do with the progeny’s success?!

    I’m curious: Do you have children?

    Oh, and I’m a man, btw.

  • cranky teacher


    And if the C-schools are so great, don’t we have to ask if the parents who CHOSE Catholic school and SCRIMPED AND SAVED to send their kids there didn’t have something to do with the progeny’s success?!

  • Nextset

    C: We disagree on your first 3 points.

    Megalomaniac requires more than we speak of here. You confuse authoritianism with that. Concentrating authority without checks and balances does create problems. An example is a bookkeeper allowed to lock her office, balance her own books, and not subject to on the spot audits. If you think that is the problem here you’ve not developed that issue.

    The Catholic Church is a classic cult (now in decline). What happened with the pedophile priests such as Father O’Grady is not unusual for cults at all. The Nuns ran the schools I attended in the East Bay and their relations with the priests seemed to be guarded. If the priests came onto the school grounds there was a nun escorting him. But that’s just what I noticed a very long time ago.

    By the way, are you black? Or are you white? Did you grow up in a mixed school and neighborhood?

    Our differences probably have something to do different societies – I’m not sure you have lived with and around the people you speak of – as opposed to just going to work.

    As far as anybody’s expectation of poor youth… are you hired and trained so as not to look at stats? Or is it that you just can’t get your mind around large groups of numbers and only want to deal with a student you personally know. This dialog is not about one to one. It’s about large systems handling large groups of people – and how to create sound policy to benefit those large groups. You are not the professor in “My Fair Lady”.

    The only one with low expectation around here is yourself. Becuase that’s what your policy arguments deliver. You pretend to want med school for Sapphire. Do you remember hearing about Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard? She’s been called the Cinderella Justice. She is Indoneasian, was held in a prisoner or war camp, lost her leg there in early adolescence. Saw an electric light bulb for the 1st time at 14. Not sure what happened to her father, her mother died when she was a teen leaving her alone. Kennard migrated to the USA at 18 with no family here. Wound up in Los Angeles working as a clerk and secretary. Went to night schools. You get the rest.

    You will see to it that Sapphire can’t get a job as a clerk or a secretary. My policy would make sure she could. You don’t give a damn about the Sapphires of the world, you won’t even discipline them. Jorge does. Before one can be at the top of a field they must be easily able to manage the entry levels. OUSD has a big problem turning out 18 year olds ready for industry, military, or higher learning. We’ve done better in the 60’s than this. We can do better again.

  • cranky teacher

    I don’t discipline students? I don’t know about the kids I teach? I have low expectations?!

    Whatever. You don’t know anything about me or anybody else you trash on here on a daily basis. Forget it. I’m not going to let you get me mad again, it’s a waste.

    It’s just that I forgot sometimes, you don’t actually LISTEN. You just hear what you want to hear and respond to that. You’re intelligent but you don’t actually want a conversation.

    You’re all about straw-man arguments, marginalizing others’ opinions, black-and-white thinking and relentless certitude based on anecdotal personal experience and few extreme, deterministic visions of human nature and society.

    I never said Sapphire had to be a doctor as opposed to a clerk (or first one and then the other). I never said anything against firm discipine in the schools. I never focused on an individual rather than larger numbers (instead, I’ve been trying to get you to look at the economic realities of the job market.)

    Simply put, I don’t believe or represent half the stereotypes you pin on me. You have a stereotype of teachers who question abusive tyranny as an effective educational model and you’re going to stick with it no matter what. If I question SOME of King Jorge’s methods or its viability in other schools, I must believe the the complete opposite, right? Sit in a circle and sing kumbaya?

    First you assumed I was a woman because it fit your stereotype of the weak, over-nurturing female teacher. Now you’re assuming I’m white, or rich or whatever else. Well, I’m not going to put my bio on here — the benefit of this venue is ANONYMITY, and this is a small town in many ways. So, my words either stand on their own or they don’t.


  • Nextset

    C: All of our words stand on their own. And time will tell as far as our ideas and policy suggestions. The blog is only a test. You do your job and I’ll do mine.

    And get used to the stereotyping and profiling. That’s what I do – profiling is how large groups of people are managed and quality control is done. You apparently didn’t train in that area in University – Statistics and Economics, Financial Analysis, History, etc. Maybe you are an Education major. As a teacher you may have the luxury of a lot of one to one work. As policy designers one doesn’t focus that way. Much of your argument towards me reminds me of silly people railing against credit scoring, or any other kind of actuarial scoring. The central theme is usually “unfair” as if somebody owes them a break.

    I think I’m far better aware of the job market that you will ever be. My work with people and organizations in trouble and with government agencies (shudder) gives me a broader point of view.

    And I’m the first to admit I am not tolerant of failures. I don’t feel time is on the side of my constituients. Your dialog belies your denials about you never such and such. I just don’t buy what you are selling. That should be obvious. You don’t need to try to sell me again.

    What I would love to hear from all OUSD teachers is how they believe their students are being prepared for this Brave New World by whatever it is the teachers & OUSD happen to be doing. Especially how the black students (because OUSD has a lot of them) are being help to make it in society by whatever it is OUSD does. I’ve got to be missing something there because I have a hard time seeing the added value. Please inform.

    While bio helps understand your point of view I agree with your post about bio. But when it comes to race – which is important – well.. Save us from white liberals.

  • cranky teacher

    Tell me what I am selling, Nextset.

    I guarantee you don’t have a clue.

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