The leap from middle to high school

Guadalupe Rodriguez attended Westlake Middle School and will go to Oakland Technical High School in the fall. She tells us what it’s like to be a California public school student right now. -Katy

Hello readers,

This summer went by pretty quick. Registration is Aug. 20 for all ninth-graders at Tech, and the first day of school is Aug. 31.

Some teens say that they are not sure what to expect for their freshman year, and honestly I don’t either. It was hard adapting to middle school, and now that I got used to it I am headed for high school. Those three years went by really quick.

I had my ups and downs just like anyone else, although it is a hard time to be in school due to all the budget cuts and without privileges like better school materials and field trips, which we cannot have easily anymore. The less money the schools have, we have to face it, a worse education Oakland has.

This summer I went to Texas to visit some relatives. While I was there I took a look at the school summer programs and asked how it was for them during the school year, both students and teachers. Truly there is a huge difference. Their schools look very different than ours, inside out. Students do look more happy and complain less, and so do the teachers. Parents also look more pleased, but if we all work together in Oakland then maybe we can have a better future for the new students to the district.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Guadalupe: No, School District Money and less of it does not mean you have a worse education. Throwing cash at OUSD and it’s programs would not be expected to raise your test scores which are a measure of your proficiency in the subjects tested.

    The notion that pouring cash into an urban school district would change student performance was debunked in the Kansas City experiment where a renegade federal judge took over the schools and imposed unvoted local tax increases to pay for some of the most lavish school spending ever seen in the USA. Years later, no significant improvement. Other than the new buildings, swimming pools enlarged staff and all the materials the teachers could dream of there were no disiplinary and screening changes – so no performance changes occurred.

    It’s not the money that makes the difference, it’s the way the educational program is run. Competition and enforcement of standards, deadlines and culling non-performers will improve school performance. Money just won’t.

    Having said that I wish something could be done about the field trips. You should have them. Failing that, at least a good assortment of visiting speakers.

    Make the most of your high school years, you will never have another run at them.

    And the internet you have access to is the same internet the richest students in school have access to. Use that well. When I was in high school there was a difference between the libraries of the rich schools and the poor. Wealthy schools had subscriptions to a ton of current material in technical and cutting edge subjects. Now all draw from the same sources at once. Things are getting better for the poor. Our high functioning immigrants are laughing all the way to Ivy League – well, not actually laughing. Go For It!

  • Nextset

    Here is an article on the Kansas School experiment. There is more material about it online. One was captioned, “Money for Nothing..”


  • Yastrzemski

    Wow Nextset….that is an eye-opening article, especially the post-script with the Sausalito comparison.

  • Pepe

    Careful what you believe–the CATO institute is not necessarily the impartial think tank you might be led to believe it is.

    From a search online (linked from wikipedia page on CATO):

    “A “libertarian” quasi-academic think-tank which acts as a mouthpiece for the globalism, corporatism, and neoliberalism of its corporate and conservative funders. Cato is an astroturf organization: there is no significant participation by the tiny libertarian minority. They do not fund it or affect its goals. It is a creature of corporations and foundations.

    The major purpose of the Cato Institute is to provide propaganda and soundbites for conservative and libertarian politicians and journalists that is conveniently free of reference to funders such as tobacco, fossil fuel, investment, media, medical, and other regulated industries.

    Cato is one of the most blatant examples of “simulated rationality”, as described in Phil Agre’s The Crisis of Public Reason. Arguments need only be plausibly rational to an uninformed listener. Only a tiny percentage will notice that they are being mislead. That’s all that’s needed to manage public opinion.”

    I don’t completely disagree with the notion that more money does not solve our problems, but I am skeptical of anything put out by this organization. In order for money to have any effect on the school system and training of teachers, there needs to be a complete overhaul. Money cannot accomplish this alone.

  • Nextset

    I’m not touting CATO – and I’m not down on them either. They are what they are. The Kansas Experiment has been discussed a lot by many different researchers.

    My point is that A good school is not good because it is flush with money. To the contrary, bad schools have been well funded and lavishing money on a school that is already bad does not make it good – it’s been tried.

    Guadalupe may have to do without material things in her classwork – the field trips, for example – and that’s frustrating. I think field trips are important but I also think guest speakers are more important and that doesn’t cost anything. In this Brave New World there have been changes that allow education to really move without a huge outlay of money. The Internet.

    When I was her age parents signed up for booksets at home such as World Book Encyclopedia and a number of other booksets. That took money and motivation or a good traveling salesman. Some of my classmates homes were filled with books – research and reference books as well as two daily newspapers, Wall Street Journal, Weekly and monthly magazines, etc. We didn’t have the WSJ because my family was indifferent to business & commerce (still po’ed about the bank holiday in the great depression) but we had the 2 dailies, the magazines and a ton of books. All this took money.

    Now all you need is a Wi-Fi connection (or your neighbor’s Wi-Fi password) and a Netbook. Or go to the library.

    Guadalupe, if there is something poor at your school I guarantee you it’s not the funding.

    Brave New World.

  • Yastrzemski

    Pepe…I don’t thinnk the author, Paul Ciotti, wrote the article for CATO…I think they just put it on the web site. He usually writes about technology stuff in LA and I think he’s written a couple of books. Your post is interesting as to why it is there though.

    Anyway…I didn’t even notice that the article had any “slant”. It seemed to be relevant to many of the problems that we have here in Oakland. I had to go back to the link and actually look at the site after I read your post, to see what CATO was.

  • MDUSDMom

    Look money is not the end all be all in public education but it goes a long way to providing a good education.
    Nextset you are right when you say, “Competition and enforcement of standards, deadlines and culling non-performers will improve school performance.” However money for education and these items listed above are not mutually exclusive. Schools need both, I become frustrated when people give examples like Kansas City or Washington DC and say see money won’t fix schools. Of course it won’t, but when standards are enforced and when teachers are held accountable it will be important to have money to provide engaging programs that prepare our students for 21st century jobs. Schools with well run programs, accountability, AND MONEY are successful schools.

  • Nextset

    MDUSD Mom: Until the schools start showing me that their programs are that of “real” schools I’m not inclined to support them with any more money.

    OUSD won’t do this. They want to continue this terrible status quo forever.

  • Chris Vernon

    Dear Guadalupe,

    Despite the myriad problems within OUSD and all the naysayers – if you work hard, you can get a wonderful education at Oakland Tech. The list below speaks for itself.

    These are the colleges and universities that accepted graduating students of the class of 2009 who took advantage of Tech’s rigorous Paideia program. The first university listed for each student is where they will attend. The subsequent universities are where they were also accepted:

    1 Boston University, University of Illinois
    2 Brown University, UCSD, UCD, UCSC, New York University, Princeton University
    3 Brown University, Dartmouth, Georgetown, UCLA, UC Berkeley , UCSC, UCSD, Reed
    4 Chapman, UCSD, UCLA, UCSB, UC Berkeley , Cal Poly, Occidental, Willamette, UOP
    5 Columbia, University of Chicago, Georgetown, NYU, UCLA
    6 Dillard, Florida Memorial, Xavier, Southern, Stillman
    7 Harvard, American, UCSD, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, Georgetown, Brown, University of Chicago
    8 Harvard, UCD, UCLA, UC Berkeley , Harvey Mudd, MIT, University of Penn
    9 Humboldt State
    10 Humboldt State, SF State, Sac State
    11 Johns Hopkins, Cal Poly, SLO, UC Davis, Johns Hopkins
    12 Marquette, DePaul, Loyola University, University of Chicago, UBC
    13 Montana State University
    14 Morehouse
    15 Oregon Tech Institute, UC Irvine, Pacifica, Oregon Tech Institute
    16 Pratt Institute, UCSD, UCSB, UCD, Pratt Institute
    17 SF State, SCU SF, CSU Fullerton, CSU San Jose, CSU Chico, CSU Monterey Bay
    18 Syracuse, UC Santa Cruz
    19 UC Berkeley, All UCs, CSU Northridge, SF State, and CS East Bay
    20 UC Berkeley, Spellman, Stillman, UC Berkeley , UCD, UCSD, UCLA
    21 UC Berkeley, UCD, UCSB, University of the Pacific
    22 UC Berkeley, UCD, UCSC
    23 UC Berkeley, UCD, UDSC, CSU San Jose, CSU Sac, CSU East Bay
    24 UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis, UC SD, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly SLO
    25 UC Berkeley, UCSD, UCSB
    26 UC Berkeley, UCD, UCLA, UCSD, CSU Sonoma, CSU SLO
    27 UC Davis, NYU, UC Davis
    28 UC Davis
    29 UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, SF State, East Bay CSU
    30 UC Davis, UCSC, California College of the Arts
    31 UC Davis, UCSC, UC Irvine, Whitman College
    32 UC Davis, UCSC, UCSD, San Jose State, San Francisco University
    33 UC Davis, UCSC, UCD
    34 UC Riverside, CSU Long Beach
    35 UC San Diego, CSU Humboldt, CSU Long Beach, UCSB, UCSC, Cal Poly, UCSD
    36 UC Santa Barbara, Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan, UCSC, UCSB
    37 UC Santa Cruz, SF State
    38 UC Santa Cruz, Goucher
    39 UC Santa Cruz, SF State
    40 UC Santa Cruz, UCD, University of Washington, NYU, Sarah Lawrence
    41 UCLA, Hofstra University, Dillard, Stillman, CSU SF, CSU SJ, UCD, UCR
    42 UCLA, Oberlin, Tufts, UCSB, Carnegie Mellon
    43 UCLA, UC Berkeley , UCD, CSU San Jose, CSU SF
    44 UCLA, UC Berkeley , UCSB, UCSD, Northwestern, George Washington
    45 UCSD, Northwestern, Macalester, University of Rochester, UCSD, UCSC
    46 UCSD
    47 UCSD, Cal Poly SLO
    48 UCSD, UCD, UC Riverside, Pomona
    50 University of Manchester, University of Greenwich, European Business School London

    Meager public money well spent, I’d say! Imagine what they could do with additional resources…

  • Nextset

    Chris Vernon: I’m gratified by the post of the college acceptances.


    How many of these students are boys, and black boys?

    One of the points I make about the public schools is that the bright students are going to be fine anyway, it’s the middling or the poorer students that a good school can promote (or give social mobility to) where a bad school seals their doom.

    While it’s great that students of one sort or other are going to nice colleges, as a black male who is frankly interested in what the public schools can do for blacks (especially black males) as opposed to the rest of the immigrants – how many black males graduate from anything in OUSD much less go to a nationally ranked university? And don’t count the Nigerian and Ethiopians here, I mean the American Negroes. We are the canaries in the mines in this great post Great-Society experiment with the Urban Public Schools.

    My concern is that OUSD continues policy that leads to further reduction in social progress of the black students while masking this with progress of Indian, Hispanic and foreign born & foreign parent students. Is that what we see in your post above?

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    Nextset: I read the Cato report about the events in Kansas City between 1985 to1997 and interpret it somewhat differently from you. The issue at the time was more about a desegregation plan and the state funding that was given to implement it. Yes, the judge ordered the state to flood the district with money, but 54 percent of the budget never made it to the classroom. Enormous amounts of money were spent on food service, transportation ($50,000/month to bring students to school in taxis), “and, most of all, central administration.” The whole reason for the funding was to entice white students to return to schools in the district.

    The report tells us that the origin of the problem what that KCMSD schools suffered in the three decades following the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision as white flight totally reversed the demographics (racial composition going from ¾ white to ¾ non-white). “As whites abandoned the schools, the school district’s ability to raise taxes disappeared. The last year that the voters approved a tax increase for the schools was 1969, the same year that blacks became a majority. Over the next two decades, the voters of the district declined to approve a tax increase for the school district 19 times in a row.” The report tells us that the majority of the local voters were older and white.

    If a decent budget for the district had been better provided over time, would the schools have become so shockingly degraded? I expect that the white-attended suburban schools were provided for quite generously by the voters who had move to those communities.

    The report did note this phenomenon: “After middle-class whites pulled their children out of the school district, [school board] leadership declined…Those who did run tended not to be particularly sophisticated, usually earned less than $30,000 a year, and had difficulty dealing with complex financial issues.”

    In addition, during the time of the desegregation effort, there was a extreme tension among school board members, caused by mutual racial distrust. The intense discord caused a constant turnover of superintendents, “10 superintendents in the last nine years.” The judge complained it was hard to hold anyone accountable because of the turnover.

    In the end, despite the huge budget which was supposed to produce desegregation, the white students were happy in their suburban schools and weren’t tempted by the swimming pools, magnet schools, and other enticements. “By worrying so much about integration in a district that was already three-quarters nonwhite, the judge and the plaintiffs ended up ignoring a whole list of far more likely reasons for students’ lack of achievement.” “Although the plan was ostensibly designed to benefit black inner-city students, in practice it required spending hundreds of millions of dollars on fancy facilities to attract white suburban students—who didn’t need help—while NEGLECTING [my caps] the needs of inner-city blacks for health care, counseling, and basic instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

    So, to me the Kansas City story is not about how money being spent ends not mattering, but how people make decisions to spend a lot of money when they are completely misguided.

  • Anonymous

    In response to nextset:

    I am one of the students on that list. To answer your question, 9 were African American, and of the 9, the majority were boys (6 to be exact).

    I can’t come up with the exact ratio of males:females off the top of my head, but rest assured it was very close to 50-50.

    That list shows only a part of the brightest at Tech. The Engineering Academy students (which has been tailored to ALWAYS be 50-50, male:female) also turn out to be accepted to great colleges.

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree that everyone can get a quality education at Oakland Tech, for I am a graduate of that school. I entered Tech as a sophomore when my family moved from New Orleans to Oakland; because I had good grades and an awesome counselor, who saw pass my skin color and gender, I was placed into the Paideia program.

    The Paideia program changed my life! I was introduced to books and people that I never heard of and really enjoyed the emphasis the teachers, Ms. Wolfe, Ms. Joe, Mr. Zuckerman, and Ms. Miller, placed on cooperative learning and high standards. There is no possible way that a student who goes to class everyday, listens and participates, cannot do well.

    Your education is your responsibilty. I am tired of hearing the excuses from the younger students, step up, and make the decision to be the best you can.

  • Le Tran!

    To answer your question, NextSet:
    Of those Paideia students, 13 were self-identifying African American.
    And I understand your point completely about bright students doing well; furthermore, I feel that Oakland Tech is a good school, in your definition, in the sense that it gives the “middling and poorer” students the chance to do well.

    I understand completely the polarity we often see in schools between the students who do extraordinarily well and the ones who are left by the side way without much attention. Undeniably, Tech is affected by this dichotomy, but I feel that it also gives the opportunity to students of unprivileged backgrounds if they are motivated and driven.

    At the bottom line, OUSD has its problems, as do any other inner-city public school systems. I truly feel Oakland Tech is the best high school in Oakland. I have to say that Oakland Technical High School has been extremely instrumental in my success, in addition to my growth as a student, a person, and a member of the community.
    I am student number 3 on that list of college acceptances.