Nerves, crowds and competition: A family starts its search for an Oakland high school

Nia Lozano, whose daughter attends Edna Brewer Middle School, tells us her impressions of a recent open house at Oakland Tech. (At 6:15 p.m. tonight, Skyline High School holds its event for prospective families.) -Katy

photo from Oakland Technical High School’s Web site

Last Wednesday I attended the Oakland Technical High School open house. This was unusual, as I normally find it taxing to come out to any extraneous school events and have missed my share of Halloween parades and school performances. What is even more significant is that my oldest child will not start high school until the year after next, and I generally consider myself to be a pretty low key parent. But I was not alone. I ran into half a dozen other seventh-grade families I know, checking out this Oakland public high school early. 

The Oakland Tech building is architecturally striking, with huge columns and a white marble foyer, but what really struck me was the number of people swarming through the doors. We were directed to an auditorium that looked to hold about 500 people and was nearly packed!

The evening consisted of a series of six short periods in which you visit classrooms and learn about the various academic programs. Apparently, everyone had heard about the successes of Paideia and the Engineering Academy as there was a monumental rush to get into these classrooms. My daughter and I were turned away from the Paideia classroom twice, and when we finally got in, it was standing room only. I know of one family that attempted to get in three times, and never did. This is not to say that there was not significant interest in other academies and programs. Rooms were full with people standing around the back of every classroom I visited, including Health Academy and World Languages.

I noticed several other things as well. First, the people who attended the event appeared to be mostly Caucasian. Granted, this is only my impression of the identity of the crowd, but this was surprising given that the demographics of the school is listed at only 10 percent white on the Great Schools Web site. 

Second, I personally recognized families from Hillcrest and Redwood Day, and overheard parents chatting about tours they had scheduled at College Preparatory School and Bishop O’Dowd. In my mind this places the crowd as solidly middle class or above. While the downturn in the economy may be driving some people to check out their public options, it was not clear to me that economics was the motivating factor for the turn out at Tech.  

Third, and the point that requires the most of my processing powers, was the way I felt throughout the evening. Over and over, I had the mildly anxious sensation of having to compete. Sure there were moments of relief as I realized that kids could enjoy a rigorous, quality education all the way through high school in our public school system, but this was attenuated by that whispered assumption, and niggling worry that this opportunity was severely limited.  
The most concrete way in which it is limited is space. Many families, including mine, live outside the Tech High boundaries and would have to rely on the lottery or Options program to gain admission.  With all the popularity of this school, that may be challenging.

There is yet another way that this opportunity is limited. In 10th grade, each student must be recommended and/or apply for entrance to the elite academies or programs. On the surface that sounds reasonable enough, but this is the point where I stop operating on reason and sink into that heart-racing, gut-twisting realm of emotion. 

Sitting in the Paideia classroom, I was actually quite daunted by the incredibly high academic level at which the children must work. When the staff dropped a few choice names like ‘Machiavelli’ and mentioned the ‘Socratic method’ my smile tightened. I had immediate questions of whether my bright child was really bright enough to perform at that level, and a certainty that I could not have done it at that age. My mind whirled with crazed plans for my child to start reading novels in a foreign language, and assigning reading in The New York Times so she could learn the names of the politicos taught in history class. 

It has taken a few days for me to add these plans to the long list of things that I have considered meritorious, but will probably never do, and have resumed my ‘good enough mother’ and ‘good enough child’ attitude. In this time, I have reflected back on the unpredictable and circuitous route that I traveled in my own education and personal development. I come away from this experience with the knowledge that there are great opportunities out there, including some extraordinary programs at Oakland Tech, but also with the realization that our children will make their own opportunities in their own due time.

Katy Murphy

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

  • cranky teacher

    Your kid is smart enough to do any of those programs.

    The only question is whether he’ll want to work that hard at an age and place when the rest of the universe will seem to be calling him in a different direction!

  • Edmund Burke

    I have a daughter at Oakland Tech and I have heard a pre-Paideia (sp?) teacher say they do not turn down anyone willing to do the work. It is a lot of work though.

  • Skyline Teacher

    Yeah, the problem with a lot of advanced programs at high school is getting kids AND PARENTS to commit to a level of homework and intellectual challenge the school system has not prepared them for at all.

    We have a million awesome things going on at Skyline … and the same 25 percent of the school taking advantage of all of them (and no, they are not limited to just certain ethnic groups), while another 30-50 percent drift toward dropping out or barely graduating.

  • oaklandmom

    I was actually horrified by the event at Tech. I found it disorganized and disingenuous. We could not get into the Padeia discussion because they closed the door after they filled the chairs. The math program had people standing in the doorways unable to hear anything. I went to an English presentation that was fairly appalling – the teacher was incredibly frustrating to listen to – discursive, unclear and monotonal. I really, really wanted to like Tech, but I came away with an extremely negative impression of the school.

  • Oakland Tech Mom

    I have a freshman and sophmore at OTHS. the Soph is in a AP class and Paideia and has a lot of homework, but very intellectually chalenging which is a good thing. gets ’em to think about social and political issues, what is going on? how can I make a difference? How can I contribute to society or our culture? there are xtracurriculure activities that are mind bending and physical such as Mock Trial (check out the Alameda county courts) and Students Run Oakland (SRO-training for the LA Marathon). learning how to get along with all types of people-socialeconomic, cultures, races, personalities…life lessons that we all need (some still do as adults). If you are white and middle class, appreciating what you have and this is an opportunity to give to the less fortunate.

  • Donna

    As far as I know, to date no out of boundaries student has been turned down at Tech, at least if the deadlines have been adhered to. I think the 10% figure for white students is a bit out of date; now there are enough to show up on the racial/ethnic break-outs in the standardized testing scores for the school. Due to the hard, persistent work of a Tech parent, AC Transit is now running a school bus (#600 series) from Montclair which I find pretty impressive in this time of service cuts. And yes, kids come from the private schools, incl. a few sophomores this year who transferred from O’Dowd.

    I agree with Edmund Burke (#2), if a student is willing to do the work (and whose grades I imagine are therefore at least B- in social science and English), he or she should be accepted in the pre-Paideia and Paideia programs.

    The Engineering Academy is another matter. There is a test to get in, but there is also a wait list. Many kids decide it isn’t for them, so the teacher can go down pretty far in the wait list.

    As to the other academies: Not sure if they reject interested students. We know quite a few kids who are not interested in the engineering curriculum or the other academies so are just in the Paideia program which is not an academy.

    Glad to hear the program started in the auditorium. Last year, the program started in the library which became as crowded as the Paideia classes. I think the school will have to add an additional Paideia teacher or two because those classes are becoming huge (as in 40 kids in sophomore classes).

    One thing great about Tech this year is that you can track attendance, grades on assignments, and term grades online. It is a pilot program that OUSD hopes to implement throughout the District. I don’t know if it is as good as the system at Brewer or O’Dowd. A parent volunteer has been great about helping parents through the sign-up process. As with all things technical and that involve extra work, some of the teachers are slower than others to get on board and figure out the system. The teachers without IWEs (student aides) who have huge classes are probably struggling the most.

    Kids come from all over Oakland to attend Tech. Since there is not a single feeder school, it is a pretty friendly place. And where else can a girl learn ice hockey, figure skating, and broom ball for PE, and be taught swimming and be picked up for crew (rowing) after school? Is it for every student? No, like any school, including private schools, it is not perfect and will not be a match for every student.

    Just breathe. Those open houses and even Back to School Night can be pretty overwhelming. There’s also the tours….Eighth graders can sign up for a Shadow Day with a freshman or sophomore. Girls luck out because more girls than boys sign up to be shadow hosts. The experience is not as intense as elementary school, but you may also want to consider how you feel about the school’s parent community.

  • Katy Murphy

    To Donna’s question about demographics:

    Nia’s statistic about the percentage of white students at Tech is accurate — at least for the 2008-09 school year, the most recent data posted on the California Department of Education’s Web site. It seemed low to me, too, so I checked it before posting her essay.

    You can find the racial/ethnic breakdown for Tech here:

  • Jen

    I know several students of color who have basically been pushed out of Tech. I do think it “works” for white, middle class kids because that what it’s designed to do! Rather than support kids during their 9th grade year by putting them into small schools (academies) to help them navigate the enormity of Tech and all the issues that arise from the transition from middle school, they throw all the 9th graders together with little support and those who make it through are able to apply to the academies (or small schools within the larger school)…it’s no surprise that white kids with all the privileges afforded to them are the ones who make it into the academies. I’m sure the successful white kids work hard, but my question is this: do you want your child to attend a school that, by its very design, pushes out low income kids and kids of color thereby reinforcing every negative stereotype that we parents and educators have worked so hard to disprove??

  • nancy

    my daughter is a freshman at Tech this year, her first time in a big public school and she’s really enjoying it-meeting a lot of really nice kids and much happier than she ever was in middle school. I also have a really good feeling about the school overall-it’s not perfect (no school is) but it feels so right for us. my advice would be to try and relax about this process and not take the open houses at any of the schools too seriously-what really matters is how the school feels during a real school day and if it’s the right fit for your kid, socially as well as academically. the only way to find that out is for you and your child to go on a tour and especially for your child to schedule a shadow visit. My daughter was hooked after her shadow visit, she could tell Tech was a place where she would feel comfortable and happy (and she was right). good luck!

  • Aware Parent

    There are two schools at Oakland Tech: (1) The 42nd Street Campus (Paideia, Engineering, AP Classes, etc.) and (2) the 45th Street Campus (Regular Classes). The 42nd Street Campus is nurtured while the 45th Street Campus is neglected. Remember, Tech was listed as “Drop Out City”. I would never enroll my kids at Oakland Tech!

  • Would be great if…

    Teachers believed that all students could participate in socratic seminar….

    I talked to a student there who told me her math teacher used to pay his bills in the back of the room.

  • Oakland Tech Teacher

    I teach 9th grade at Oakland Tech, and I want to respond to the post that states that Tech throws 9th graders into the school with little support and the school pushes out low income and students of color.

    1. One of the major goals of our school is to support and build our 9th grade program. This year we implemented small learning communities for 9th grade students. Teachers work in teams similar to a family structure and share students. We meet often to discuss how we can better support our students.

    2. Our school offers a structured senior mentor program, comprised of older students who mentor 9th grade students. We have a class to train the seniors on how to mentor younger students. Last I heard, we have 40 mentors and some seniors mentor more than one student.

    3. Before school started, all 9th grade students and their parents were invited to an orientation. The Tech PTSA also hosted a welcome picnic for 9th grade families. There is a picture of the picnic on the website. The goal is to welcome incoming students and parents and provide information about our community.

    4. The 9th grade teachers meet to discuss instructional strategies that we can implement to help our students be more successful. In two of the houses, we also started a binder system to support our students with organization.

    5. During the first quarter, 9th grade teachers invited the parents of struggling students to a meeting. The ninth grade teachers were present to meet with parents to discuss how we can support their student.

    6. Our excellent parent volunteer has been visiting 9th grade classes to teach students how to access the online grading program, so students can track their progress and assist their parents.

    7. The majority of the staff that works with 9th grade students are committed to the 9th grade program. Most of us only teach 9th grade, and we have a counselor and administrator who only work with 9th grade students.

    8. The school purchased planners for 9th graders only, to assist them with organization.

    9. The school started a parent group called AASAP (African American Student Action Planners) whose primary goal is to support African American students, of all grade levels. Tech’s student population is 55% African American.

    10. Even though the academies seem to have the reputation of being exclusive, they were created to help at-risk students. We have a lot of high achieving students in the academies, but we also have a lot of struggling students who receive additional support and a sense of community from their academy.

    Should I keep going? I can, there are other things I did not bring up. My point is that it is a very untrue statement that Tech does not have support systems for 9th graders. If that was your experience, I am sorry. Our 9th grade program is a work in progress. We also DO NOT push out low income and student of colors. Please attend one of our tours (the dates are on the website) and learn more about our community.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Information obtained from DataQuest: http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/
    *As of 10/23/09, DataQuest had not yet posted SAT or ACT results for 2008-2009.

    1. 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Report English Language Arts Percent Proficient (Target 44.5%)
    – Skyline = 50.7
    – Oakland Tech = 47.7
    – Oakland High = 43.8

    2. 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Report Mathematics Percent Proficient (Target 43.5%)
    – Skyline = 50.3
    – Oakland Tech = 46.6
    – Oakland High = 52.2

    3. 2009 API
    – Skyline = 667
    – Oakland Tech = 643
    – Oakland High = 633

    4. SAT SCHOOL LEVEL SCORES – Year 2007-08
    Critical reading average
    – Skyline = 477
    – Oakland Tech = 454
    – Oakland High = 405

    Math average
    – Skyline = 499
    – Oakland Tech = 459
    – Oakland High = 452

    Writing average
    – Skyline = 474
    – Oakland Tech = 452
    – Oakland High = 406

    Total >= 1,500 Percent
    – Skyline = 44.0%
    – Oakland Tech = 32.3%
    – Oakland High = 16.9%

    5. ACT SCHOOL LEVEL SCORES – Year 2007-08
    Average score
    – Skyline = 20.02
    – Oakland Tech = 19.81
    – Oakland High = 18.13

    Score >= 21 Percent
    – Skyline = 40.34%
    – Oakland Tech = 39.82%
    – Oakland High = 28.57%

  • Skyline Mom

    Eighth grade parents who are considering Oakland Tech and Skyline should compare the classes available at each school before making a decison. Skyline offers 16 Advanced Placement and 5 honors classes beginning in the 10th grade. In addition there are 19 UC approved courses in the visual and performing arts, including jazz band, marching band, orchestra, dance, drama, ceramics, film, and graphic and architectural design. There are also 9 electives ranging from media studies to psychology to journalism. A complete listing of the UC approved courses at each school can be found at http://www.ucop.edu/doorways.

  • Cranky Tech Mom

    We have a 9th grader at Tech (via Options program). We also attended information nights at CPS, Lick, O’Dowd, Skyline, OSA and several other charter schools and many of those were at times disorganized, chaotic and uninspiring. Do not judge a book by its cover or marketing materials; attend shadow tours, open houses, performance or sports events and look for a school that fits your child and family. All public schools are struggling from a lack of funding and therefore organizational help; Tech is doing an amazing job considering their resources. Though it’s early for us, I have not seen evidence of students of color being discouraged or pushed out of academies.

  • Beyond Bakesales

    It is an exciting time for Oakland’s three remaining comprehensive high schools in that there is some healthy “competition” and “bragging rights” going on, especially in light of the perpetual youth brain drain to private schools, charters, and to other districts. Oakland High, Oakland Tech,and Skyline High serve a wide range of students and they each need as much community support as possible. The students who successfully navigate these schools develop incredible personal skills that they’ll take with them into their future without any of the false sense of ethnic superiority or entitlement so imbued in private school educations. Don’t overthink it, concerned 8th grade parents. Your kids are the ones who will do fine at any of these three schools and if you’re considering private options take the $25,000 you’ll be saving each year and put it into a college fund. Your student will thank you.

  • Connie Adachi

    Our daughter, now in 11th grade, selected Skyline due to her interest in performing arts, and also interest in staying with her neighborhood friends who were also going to Skyline. We have been very happy with her experience in the Performing arts program (she is in the jazz and marching bands), and now is involved in three Advanced Placement classes which we are very pleased with.

  • E Caraher

    We have just started at Skyline. I am a district employee in a neighboring school district and have been involved in public education for the past 15+ years professionally, and at times administratively.

    I am happy at Skyline for our son. He seems happy, misses some friends who went to other schools, but has made friends easily. he also says people are not ‘bullied’ and made to feel different. This is important for me as I want my son in a comfortable learning environment where he can grow.

    Academically he is smart, I admit. But he has his challenges too. He has one advanced Math class (for Adv Algebra/Trig) an the rest are regular calsses. he has homework each night and enjoys all his teachers. At open house – which was attended by a wide range of families including ethnic, non-traditional and primary language, we were introduced and I was encouraged by theri enthusiasm, experience and interesting ways of teaching.
    next year will be when he/we decide about a specific program. I recall from the orientation visit last year that the programs, which there are many interesting and diverse ones, include different grade levels of students and the ethnic mix is obvious. This is important to me also since his has a mixed ethnic background and in all his preschool years to now has been in ethnically diverse schools in Oakland.
    The scores between the high schools are close. The porgrams may be a bit more competitive than I would like for him at Tech, in addtion to other factors mentioned above.
    We are happy at Skyline and I believe it continues to be an exceptional Oakland school. not without issues – show me any high school that does not have drama!! – the 9th grade scheduling is a great new system, the teachers are high quality and we are a happy high school family.

    Thanks for reading.

  • E Caraher

    ouch – sorry about the typos!!!

  • cranky teacher

    Just remember folks, picking the school is the easy — and, I believe, less important — part of the deal. Supporting your child on a daily and weekly basis is the real deal; they will be pushing you away and telling you everything is fine … but they can fall off the rails REAL QUICK at most any school.

    Most parents pull back as the kids get older, when they need to stay engaged. In elementary they spend all day with one teacher; in high school they have glancing contact with six.

    Interesting to note that all three comprehensive high schools switched to a form of 9th grade “houses” this year — they thought they were doing it independently, but clearly there must have been a district push.

    Done well, this can really help prevent some of the crash-and-burn entry problems that haunt a kid’s progress for the next few years, because teachers communicate with each other and with parents much more aggressively. The key though is maintaining funding for small freshman class size and teacher colloboration on curriculum and shared students. This was made available this summer, after considerable pressure was applied, but may not be there as we enter several predicted years of budget disaster.

  • Chris Vernon

    Although other statistics or bits of information could be provided to highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of the three remaining comprehensive high schools, I’d rather not go there.

    Ultimately, I think it’s much more important to recognize that it’s great to have all three schools (Tech, Skyline and Oakland High) sending kids on to top notch universities and providing great opportunities for OUSD students. This can be seen on the OUSD website every year.

    Why would a family such as ours that lives in the northern most edge of the city want to trek all the way to Skyline if there is a school that also offers a great college prepatory curriculum – and is in walking distance? Isn’t it great that kids in central Oakland can take advantage of O High? Many kids come out of O High and go on to the most selective UC’s (and that’s great!).

    The big question at all three comprehensives, as I see it, is how to better engage the ‘other’ 2/3 of the students at these campuses that aren’t excelling – how to prepare them for life after high school. Not all of these kids will go on to 4 year colleges, but I’d like to see more emphasis on training that will prepare them for good jobs that are likely to be there when they get out – Tech’s new green academy and the long standing computer and health academies are good examples. I believe O High has a very good media academy that offers internship possibilities. Skyline may well have some such training opportunities as well.
    It’s good to hear that all three campuses are trying to find various ways to reach these kids before they drop out.

  • 10th grader at tech

    I am a tenth grader at oakland tech. After reading all the responses I thought I would put a response up for somebody who has been attending the school for the last 2 years.
    Oakland Tech is an amazing school. When i came as a freshman, the first few weeks were hard but I think that is normal with any school. There is a lot to adjust to. I soon got used to being in a large, public high school where before I had been at Julia Morgan and Park Day– no school in any way close to Tech. I soon had a great group of friends, felt safe and comfortable and had good classes. There was a lot offered for me- last year I did volleyball and soccer and in addition put in 4 hours of my week after school to do Mock Trial. I also played futsal (soccer on a basketball court) during lunch in which there is an all Tech student league to play.

    Though Tech may seem chaotic and unorganized at times the things that matter are always are always done at the best of abilities of the administration and teachers. There is some bad teachers, but you will find that at any school. The two worst teachers I have ever had were at my private school during middle school. All 12 teachers I have had at tech have been amazing and I have learned a lot from all of them.

    This year I am doing engineering, paidea and AP Biology. Though it is very tough I feel that I was prepared for the work load and will be in future years. I struggle with engineering but a able to get help. A few of my friends did not get into engineering but are fine with it. You are able to succeed at tech without being in an academy.

    I believe that tech will provide me with an education that will allow me to succeed later in life. My sister graduated in 2008 and went to a great college. She and other graduates I know are proof that you can do great at tech.

    I encourage your children to shadow somebody at Tech and see for themselves what they think. Let your child decide what school they want to go to. They are the ones that have to go there for 5 days a week for 9 months a year for four years.

  • Gordon Danning

    Chris Vernon:

    Quick correction: OHigh has an environmental sciences Academy and a visual arts academy, but not a media academy

  • Nia

    Great discussion! I agree with poster #16 who writes how exciting it is to have some healthy competition and choices with regards to public high schools in Oakland. Sharon in post #13 drives that point home for me with her comparison of Skyline, Tech and O High. I was quite surprised to see how close O High was to the other two schools in terms of stats because this school does not seem to enjoy the same respect and enthusiasm as the other two.

    Everywhere I go, people have Tech on the tip of their tongue, but there is virtual silence around O High (in my experience). O High is our neighborhood school and while many local parents are flocking to Edna Brewer Middle School and (deservedly) singing its praises, O High does not even seem to be on our radar yet! Even among the posters here, there seems to be a lot more support for Skyline and Tech. Lots of us 7th and 8th grade parents rely on word of mouth to supplement our decisions and narrow down our choices as to where to apply, so it’ll take a lot of positive press for parents to even consider O High. Does O High have a strong PTSA? What should neighborhood parents know about this school and why aren’t folks talking about it?

  • Pamela

    I have an 11th grader at Skyline High. Good luck with your school hunt. Skyline is a typical high school. It has it’s ups and downs. My son attended a small charter school and wanted a “Big School” experience. He wanted to play football and go to dances and do all of the social things that you can do at a big city high school. He’s done all of that and more. He’s made lots of friends and is very socially active. We have had some real problems with the teaching staff. Just like in any other school, you have to be an active parent for your child to suceed. I have changed his classes, E-mailed his teachers, and attended many meetings. One of the best organizations on campus for African American Student is Concerned Parents of African American Students or CPAAS. Mrs. Boyd is a fierce advocate for all students on the Skyline campus. I would not have made it through the first year if it wasn’t for this organization. Again, Good luck with your search.

  • UCLA House Teacher

    I am baffled to hear such negativity surrounding the 9th grade. As a response to our WASC self study we recognized that our 9th grade students needed more support to transition to our school. Our response to this need was both swift and effective. This year we have adopted 9th grade Small Learning Communities that are driven by the use of data and we have put in several systems to help our students transition.

    I will not go into detail as it has already been stated previously in this thread…however I will share the results of the work we have done.

    The systems that have been put in place have vastly changed the culture in the 9th grade. The students feel a part of something larger than themselves and they are aware of the work the teachers are doing to support them. Walk into any 9th grade classroom before school, at lunch, or after school and you will find it full with students who are coming for extra support from their teachers.

    The constant contact between teachers (who use a google group to share pertinent information) helps the students to be successful in the classroom. Rarely does a student struggle in 1 class when all the student’s teachers are not made aware of the concern. Through our work in just 1 marking period we have taken many failing students and turned them into college bound students. The support is there and the students are taking off, both academically and behaviorally, because of it.

    In my (obviously somewhat biased) opinion Tech is at the forefront for supporting our 9th grade students. Some of the hardest working and best teachers this district has to offer CHOOSE to teach 9th grade year after year. If your student attends Tech as a 9th grader he or she will be in excellent hands. The staff is 100% committed to working with our 9th graders.

    Clearly, our work with the Small Learning Communities is a work in progress. However, we work tirelessly to change what it means to be a 9th grader at Tech. This is a great school, with a great staff, and we have an excellent support system for 9th graders.

  • cranky teacher

    Nia: One explanation for the lack of hype about OHigh is that it is MUCH more of an immigrant school — half of the students at OHigh are Asian and many are immigrants or first generation Americans. Many of these kids are excelling but they’re parents, for cultural and language reasons, are less likely to be participating in venues like this one.

    Asian 47%
    African American 30%
    Hispanic or Latino 17%
    Multiple or No Response 2%
    White 1%
    Pacific Islander 1%
    Filipino 1%
    American Indian or Alaska Native <1%

    70% qualify for free/reduced lunch.

  • Sue


    I’d agree with almost everything you say about Skyline. My autistic son is a senior there this year, and doing fabulously well. Every year he’s had the supports he needed, and things just keep getting better and better for him. We’re going to miss our Skyline community after he graduates.

    The one thing I don’t agree with is your opinion of Wandra Boyd. In my family’s experience, not being of African decent, we weren’t worthy of her notice. Mrs. Boyd is a “fierce advocate”, and a tireless one, but *only* for the African American students, not for *all* students.

    That’s okay with us because we didn’t need her advocacy. We’ve done a pretty good job of self-advocacy for our son. And the Family Resource Center at Skyline has other involved parents who seem to be much more nearly color-blind. CPAAS isn’t for every student and family at Skyline, but there are other good resources available on the campus.

    (I’ve tried to write this in a way that wouldn’t be offensive – discussing race can be so difficult – but if I’ve inadvertently offended anyone of any race, I most humbly apologize.)

  • Pamela

    Sue. Point taken. Not at all offended. Skyline has lots of resouces if you need help. CPAAS is only one. The Family resource center and SOAR are 2 others. SOAR has really been a big help to my son.

  • Debora


    I just re-read what you wrote about Machiavelli and Socratic Method – It’s kind of funny because I just had discussions last week with my fourth grade daughter about both of those topics. They came up this way – – –

    Recently, I have been working as a contractor with a company in which the “rules of the game” are not stated, not even implied and if you come in one day, you may find that you can no longer send email with attachments. We were talking about the CEO – rather than being direct – was behaving in a Machiavellian manner – then we talked about a series of books we have been listening to on CD (The Immortal Nicholas Flamel) and how one of the characters is named Machiavelli and his lack of direct manner is where we got the term.

    We discussed Socratic discussion because instead of having literature circles my daughters teacher has the students answer 10 questions about a book they have read using Scholastic “Reading Counts”. My daughter believes this is to “prove” she read the book rather than to “explore the meaning of the book deeply – like, you know, Socratically.”

    Yet, we recently went to a couple of middle school open houses and they talked about Latin being easy for the students who knew Spanish well and I did the same tight jaw and wriggling in my seat.

  • Nia

    Thanks Deborah, Cranky and others! I really appreciate all the supportive, informative and heartfelt responses. I’m sure that they were tremendously helpful to the parents navigating HS for 2010. I know I will refer back to this blog next year when the pressure is on to choose a school.

  • Parent of Freshman at Skyline

    Hello All,

    My daughter is a Freshman at Skyline. Thus far, it has been a horrible experience for both my daughter and I. First, she didn’t get in to any of the elective classes that she chose. Spanish class was her first and really her only choice. But,due to one of the spanish teachers leaving and not being replace (other spanish classes full/ over-crowded) it left a substantial amount of students having to elect other classes.
    Our major and most concerned problem with Skyline is the structuring of the 9th grade “Atlas House/ System”. In the Atlas system, each ninth grader shares the same four teachers for Math, Social Studies, English, and Science. The students are divided into 6 different groups/teams. So basically your classes 1-6 period are made up of your Atlas House teammates/ students. The purpose is to provide teachers with a greater opportunity to intercommunicate about the students social and academic development(this sounds great,right?).
    However, when the teams were implemented I don’t believe any consideration was given for students GPA, behavior problems, and social and academic development. In other words not all of the teams have a well balance of students. Unfortunately, my daughter was placed on a team with a majority of students who are failing (insufficent GPA) and who has behavioral problems/ constant class disruption. The worst part is these same students feed through all of her classes/ periods.
    This program could work with well-balanced teams.
    On a good note: My daughter will be transfering to another house 2nd semester! (I had to provide proof, examples and constant visits to the 9th grade Admin)
    Noted: To date Skyline has not provided me with specifics on how teams were assessed.

    Noted: I think Skyline and the other Oakland Public Schools mentioned can work only if you are a dedicated,active always present parent.


  • Skyline HS

    If you have a supportive family any of the comprehensive schools can work.