Oakland’s latest list of “focus schools”

NOTE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint says that while closure or merger is a possibility for each school, the district is not planning to recommend this outcome for all of the focus schools. Other possibilities include increasing enrollment, support, etc. So, the same as in previous years.

OUSD has released an updated list of schools that have not measured up academically, that have too few students to be financially viable, or both. They’re called “Focus Schools,” but as anyone who’s ever been on the list knows, it really spells the possibility of a merger or closure. Especially now, when the district is looking to cut $27 million from next year’s budget.

The list doesn’t look much different from last year’s, even though the criteria have changed slightly:

  • North Oakland: Far West High School and Sankofa Academy (elementary)
  • West Oakland: Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and Lafayette Elementary
  • East Oakland: Burckhalter Elementary, Howard Elementary, Explore College Prep Middle School, Leadership High School (Castlemont), East Oakland School of the Arts (Castlemont), Castlemont Business and Information Technology School; Youth Empowerment School (new high school on old King Estates middle school campus)

It’s worth noting that Sankofa made the list, even though the district’s first criteria is academic growth and it has made huge leaps on its Academic Performance Index. The elementary school is tiny (one classroom per grade and only 111 students last year), but its API is 718 this year, up from 535 in 2007.

This presentation is on Wednesday night’s agenda, and it was already discussed by the Teaching and Learning Committee. The superintendent makes his recommendations Dec. 9, after a series of community meetings, and the board is scheduled to vote on the supe’s recommendations on Dec. 16.

Katy Murphy

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

  • TheTruthHurts

    It doesn’t appear “small schools” has “worked” at Castlemont by these criteria.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I am a new teacher this year but am surprised all 3 Castlemont schools are on there as EOSA just made a huge stride in API scores….this is interesting

  • Nextset

    Interesting Article and commentary from the UK regarding public complaints a grovery store executive is making about the decining quality of High School graduates. Here’s one comment from a female exec:

    “In totality, I would say 90% of all school leavers and graduates I have had the misfortune of appraising and interviewing possess the following: CVs full of mistakes and awful general English and layout. Grunts and spoken English that can barely be deciphered. Laziness, no enthusiasm, no curiosity, no common sense, an arrogance that is distasteful, inappropriate attire, lack of basic manners and respect, lack of intelligence, lack of awareness, lack of drive and ambition, a large clutch of A and A* A-levels/2:1-1st degrees and fundamentally a complete lack of knowledge and ability.”

    The article is at:

  • Turner

    That’s a good article, Nextset.

  • Katy Murphy

    NOTE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint says that while closure or merger is a possibility for each school, the district is not planning to recommend this outcome for all of the focus schools. Other possibilities include increasing enrollment, support, etc. So, the same as in previous years.

  • del

    I want to read an article about superintendents at an educational summit giving speeches about low quality grocery stores.
    You know, back in the “good old days,” we all pitched in and made sure that everyone knew how to do what we needed them to do. In our brave new world, we blame the lousy schools because employees don’t know how to do their jobs, blame the parents for the lousy kids going to schools, and blame the lousy jobs the parents have that prevents the parents from parenting. I try to teach taking responsibility.
    My favorite part of the article is explanation of how diapers in the liquor aisle is the school’s fault. In that case, I blame their grocery stores for all the hot cheeto wrappers in my school hallways. Using their model, it’s not my job to teach them to do what I want them to do.
    As far as interviewing skills, what would you rather have schools teach—the state standards your elected leaders & hundreds of experts have deemed appropriate or just whatever I deem appropriate?
    In retrospect, where did I learn my interviewing skills? Oh yeah, it was after getting rejected by jobs for answering to all of the above descriptors. Finally someone told me how I was blowing it, and now I don’t have to interview for jobs. (Nextset, I tried to read the context of the quote you posted but I could not find it in the article).

  • Nextset

    Del: That quote wasn’t in the article, it was from a reader’s comments underneath the article.

    As to the parental failure: It’s my contention that the public schools are expected to “teach” deportment regardless of the absense of parental units or the fact that the parents are trash. Public schools are the lowest common denominator in education. They provide a floor which the students are not supposed to be falling below. It doesn’t matter that the parents are degenerates, drug addicts, prostitutes or convicts or just plain losers. The public schools are here to make sure the proletariat get the minimum instruction of what is acceptable in society and what is not. This is not a new concept. This is how America absorbed the immigration waves at the end of the 19th Century which eventually led to the WWII generation and the absorption into our great cities of the huge migration from the rural areas (including blacks from the deep south into Ohio and Illinois, etc).

    It is the modern failure to keep up this in loco parentis mode that contributes to the sky high mortality and imprisonment rate we have now.

    Good families, smart families, don’t have the need. For the most part they are in better schools with better students and families anyway. It’s the poor, the black/brown and the immigrants that need to service and the attention that has been discontinued in this Brave New World. The rug has been pulled out from under them. We made a decision circa 1968 to discontinue teaching values and norms (ie dress, deportment, formal speech, all of that) and the results are all around us.

    It is very easy to keep these public school students I speak of out of employment, housing and good restaurants. They were never taught to pass.

  • del

    Thanks for explaining where the quote came from.
    As for what public schools are supposed to teach, I PERSONALLY agree with you, behavior & code switching are incredibly important. I will never excuse behavior or set artificial ceilings for kids who have lousy parents, and I wasn’t suggesting that anyone do so. What I am saying is that we ALL own this problem, and grocery store owners saying that their unprepared employees are the fault of the schools is like me saying that a high school senior in my class hasn’t done all his work because of his dad’s absence, or that the stain on my shirt is my wife’s fault for not doing the laundry.
    As for public education being the floor that no one should drop below, I agree. BUT remember this: what we teach is mandated by the state. I am an expert in the educational standards of many grades, and none of them mentions behavior. Also, my school, my students & my colleagues are evaluated on the state test—which does not evaluate social norms, behavior, job readiness, and in many cases is generally a glorified trivia quiz. Unfortunately, this is one of the basic questions about public education that the public cannot answer, as some complain about poor behavior and others are up in arms about 4th grade math scores.
    Further, if we follow the latest fad and talk about education in terms of “competition” between schools, where does the floor go?
    And, historically, going back to the issue of absorbing waves of immigrants that was done, you guessed it, as a whole community, not simply by the schools. Businesses that hired the immigrants also provided English classes for them. The community members who did well donated huge amounts of money, time, and expertise to assist the newest waves, as well as teaching “culture” classes at the schools on Saturdays. This didn’t disappear in ’68, it disappeared when we decided that our employees should magically have skills we didn’t teach them, that immigrants were some sort of drain on the economy, and that in general, our problems were somebody else’s fault.

  • Nextset

    Del: I wasn’t exactly there, but my teacher relatives always insisted that it was the public schools (which they taught in) that domesticated the lower class students – not the families of the students, not the employers, not the police. It was the teachers that told them how to “be”. Of course I only have their version of reality in my head – they really seemed to mean what they said and I saw how they were, so it seemed like something they would have done.

    Think of it as “To Sir With Love” starting at 1st grade.

    And from the stories I heard it would seem that the teachers also had a hand in finding jobs for the students, as well as placing them in colleges, and vocational schools. These were largely segregated black schools with black teachers running the show. The story is that it was the teachers that fed students – favorites maybe – up the line. The black colleges placed their better students into grad school with letters, phone calls, and personal introductions. A whole lot of things were done by personal placements. The same thing went on in other circles such as union jobs, auto plant jobs. Children of Icemen and Laundresses wound up in college. It wasn’t a matter of working with the upper class – the teachers were pushing up the ladder anybody who would do as they were told.

    Screw ups got the back of their hand and a referral to the draft board.

    In loco parentis, I suppose.

    One of the things about all this I find facinating is how back in the 1930s/1940s/1950s they were sending (black) people to places & states for schools and jobs where there weren’t any blacks (Denver, etc ??). And the students just went.

    If you tell these ghetto kids today that you want them to go to an appointment in Sacramento they don’t want to go. I don’t see the local lower class willing to get on a plane/boat/train/bus for anything. My high school class chartered a PSA jet to Disneyland and thought nothing about it. We had 2 week field trips to NYC & Washington DC, some kids took a school field trip to Europe. The money was no more (and maybe less) than ghetto kids spend on car stereos & rims. Our teachers starting at 4th grade made us want to travel and see the country/world. Besides when we saw that others were going, why get left behind?

    I hear you about the inane state and federal requirements. We need to selectively just ignore them and do what needs to be done first.

    Survival is the first law of the land. Ignore the others until that is taken care of.

    To many kids are settling for ghetto life for lack of imagination, ambition and a good kick in the ass. I don’t care how dull or bright you are, there are lots of opportunities in this Brave New World if you know how to make them & take them.