Oakland honors high-achieving black students

African-American Honor Roll (courtesy photo)
photos courtesy of the Oakland Unified School District

Each year, African American students drop out of Oakland’s public schools with disturbing predictability, a phenomenon that Superintendent Tony Smith has decried in his speeches and vowed to “interrupt.”

An annual event held at an East Oakland church calls our attention to those who are thriving despite a dropout crisis in which more than one-third of the city’s black high school students quit early.  

African-American Honor Roll (courtesy photo)This year, about 1,217 African American students in grades 8 through 12 hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher, by the school district’s count. (In 2008-09, the most recent data available on the state department of education’s website, Oakland enrolled 6,325 African American students in those grades.)

Their achievements were celebrated last night at Acts Full Gospel Church, a celebration organized by the African American Education Task Force and co-sponsored by OUSD. UC Berkeley Sociology Professor Harry Edwards gave the keynote speech, and representatives from various universities and organizations were on hand to answer questions about college selection, scholarships and grants.

In a prepared statement, Smith said, “At a time when the achievement gap between African-American and Latino students and their peers remains persistent, it’s critical that we celebrate students who present a model of scholastic accomplishment.

honor roll ceremony (courtesy photo)“Their academic success, while notable in its own right, can also serve as an inspiration for other students striving to succeed. More than that, it is a reminder of the potential inherent in all our students and our obligation as adults to help them fulfill it.”

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Part of the problem with the black students is getting praised for weak/substandard performance. Those grades are worse than “can’t be trusted”. So 1217 of the 6325 students have an “OUSD 3.0″ which means what? What is their reading, writing and math performance levels on a national comparison??

    Despite the fact that OUSD gets rid of a huge number of blacks well before age 18 the OUSD state scores (of the students who hang around to get tested) are still in the sub-basement. Are we to believe the B grades actually mean these students perform comparable to B students in Montana, or Utah or elsewhere?

    No amount of award ceremonies are going to pursuade me that everything is fine with the OUSD Black Students. And I don’t trust the educrats involved to do anything other than to hide the real truth. Just as they constantly misdirect gullible people to notice some progress at the primary grades (where you can more easily cook the results) we are being asked to be impressed by “grades” instead of SAT or PSAT scores.

    And of course the students don’t know any better – they’ll actually think the have accomplished something because these adults tell them so. Then the SAT scores arrive. And since you can easily get colleges to overlook failing scores and admit black students (for the “diversity” chits and the Student Loan money). When they bomb completely at College, the students think there is just something wrong with them personally.

    I prefer brutal honesty throughout the academic career of the students. I doubt that is what we see here. I’m sure these people all mean well but that’s just not good enough to get these kids where then need to be in life. They are not in High School to have a good time.

  • Sue

    Nextset, maybe you’re what’s wrong with black students?

    Here you are an accomplished, successful, black attorney and all you can ever, ever, *ever* do is tear down the kids who have accomplished something. Nobody of your own race is ever going to be good enough, are they.

    If the women I looked up to in the 70’s and 80’s (my role models) had been as nasty and negative, I doubt I’d have gotten as far as I have. And believe me, when I wasn’t up to standards, they let me know I was disappointing them, and that they expected more of me. If they’d just told me over and over that I was no good, eventually I would have given up on myself (too?).

    All the people you should be mentoring – all they ever get from you is, “You’re a failure. Give up.” Even when they’ve succeeded at something. And since you *are* their role model, they believe you. And they give up. And they fail.

    It’s a lot like the “queen bee” syndrome that women have had to deal with since at least the 50’s. You made it, so now you’re going to pull the ladder up behind you, so that no one else can ever climb it. I didn’t face a really nasty “queen bee” until I was nearly 40, so when she got nasty with me, I had the strength and self-confidence to face her down. But kids in school aren’t there yet, and when you get nasty with them, they don’t have the tools to defend themselves.

    I’ll say it (even though nobody is likely to listen to a “wasp”): those kids worked hard for those grades. nobody gave them a good GPA; they earned it. And they deserve to be honored and recognized for their work and effort.

    And even if a few of those 1200 kids did cheat, or got a free pass for the color of their skin, well those few know it. But the rest don’t deserve to have you accusing them and tearing them down for something they didn’t do.

    You want brutal honesty – your post makes me wish we were face to face, because I want to punch you out – which was the threat I made to that nasty old “queen bee” before I stormed out of the office without touching her. And when I calmed down and came back 20 minutes later, I still had a job, and she never spoke to me (or anyone else) the same way.

  • Nextset

    The point I’m trying to reach – maybe inartfully – is that the WWII generation of black educators made a point of challenging their students and in no way accomodating the student’s comfort zone. I believe that produced better results.

    Since the Civil Rights/Vietnam era educators seem to have a higher premium in making the chillun comfortable – stroking their self-esteem – praising them a lot more. That is just a disaster for the black students. The TV Show “Different World” (apparently intended to portray life at Morehouse/Spellman) tended to display an in-your-face, confrontational, you-have to-prove-something-to-us style of education which I believe Bill Cosby would have remembered from his own education.

    If the black students are not made ready to handle themselves in the mainstream world they are not going to fare well at all. It’s dangerous to pat them on the back all day long for nothing but being there, and then send them to college (or work) with Whites, Jews, (competitive) Immigrants, and all the people they never went to public school with – with a grading curve to boot, never having known what a real competitive academic life is like. You don’t get praised for average performance in the real world. You’re lucky if you are even retained.

    When I see these ceremonies – and I have been to a few – I just see Red. It’s usually over the top praise for meager performance. That is never a good thing for anyone, least of all black kids. You can have a party without the “you are wonderful” part.

    Sorry if this pops people’s bubbles. I’m contrarian that way.

  • Nextset

    Sue; What are you? White/Black? Physician, Teacher, Counselor??

    I think I know what it takes to get black kids into the professions. Do you?

    I have seen black professional wanna be’s kicked out of school, fired from jobs, blocked from occupational licenses and revoked after once obtaining them, and jailed – over decades and decades. I have seen failures and I have seen many black people make it. More than enough to get a feeling for what separates the winners from the losers.

    And in my experience the losers were typically coddled, and not prepared for what was needed to complete professional education and training and have successful practice or corporate life.

    In fact – over the decades I’ve watched the train wresks in slow motion. Some of the people who didn’t make it were friends or relatives. Many of those who did were friends and relatives. And it is not fun to see people you care about hit a wall.

    So what I said above is a reflection of the way I was educated and trained as well as the other winners. Our teachers – both white and black – were more like Debbie Allen in “Fame” or drill sargents. And it was not always pleasant to have a lot of these people teaching you but when done we were capable of holding our own with anyone.

    In my experience the common theme blacks who made it in white dominated fields had this type of training. Not the endless awards for nothing. Those students didn’t make it at all.

    As far as I’m concerned I know trouble brewing when I see it. And I’ve seen this syndrome a lot with the black students. I’m writing this for what it’s worth to let other people consider the position.

    if you want to help the OUSD black students there are better ways to do it that giving them public awards for Bs. Or for being alive. Or for staying in school. Even Chris Rock alluded to this in one of his monologues.

    Another thing. Is it just me or is it possible that there is a difference between how men look at all this and women? Are the female teachers more concerned with the pats on the back and the “self-esteem” business?

    I can build up self esteem in a student also – it’s sone by giving them a series of superficially intimidating tasks to do that are actually within the capabilities of the student although they’d rather not have to make the effort. In the end they are doing something they’d never have volunteered for that might be a little dangerous so to speak – they feel very good about themselves when they complete it well. If they survive the experience.

    Much better than a gold star and a hug.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogpost.com maestra

    What’s wrong with a public award for Bs? Bs are above average. As are not the only good grades around.

  • aly

    nextset- i truly appreciate WHY you are so hard on black youths. there is an attitude that existed prior to desegregation that black students had to do 110% just to get in the door and have a chance, and black teachers never let their students get by with the “excuse” of racist obstacles. integration put students of color in classrooms with white teachers who could be any of the following: racists themselves; emotionally involved to the point that they lowered the bar for their students of color out of misguided pity; or unable to tell their black students to suck it up because it would be interpreted far differently than it would from a black teacher.

    i consider myself a socially progressive young woman, yet i can’t help but think that integration was the worst thing that ever happened to the achievement of black students. as a white teacher, my black students consistently want to throw back at me that i don’t know their experience and therefore can’t make demands of them. while i agree wholeheartedly that i cannot know what their lives are like, i DO know what their futures will hold unless they (and their families and communities) stop making excuses for their situation and start working for what they want. unfortunately, this falls flat and it makes it difficult to be a demanding teacher without being accused of being racist because i’m holding my black students to high expectations. how ironic!

    despite all of my agreement with you on the softening of expectations for students of color, particularly in OUSD, it is tiresome to be constantly exposed to your rain of negativity. there has to be recognition that at least SOME of these students are model students. they are kids making it without asking for relaxed standards, pity or inflation. they are kids who CAN (and do!) score well on standardized tests, benchmarks, and college entrance exams.

    your attitude is a trademark of the era in which you were raised; however, even grant wiggins acknowledged when his students were successful. can there be a moment when you say “good job” to anyone? are you currently (or willing to be) a mentor in the community? i think our black students could benefit enormously from your WWII-era perspective, but only if you can recognize their successes when they deserve it, too.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Re posting #2 – “You go girl!”. I started to read Katie’s article and thought, oh no – I know who the first poster is going to be and what it is going to say. So I did not even bother.

    But then curiosity got the better of me and I read what you wrote. It was worth reading and I appreciate your response. I am not coming back to the thread however; it is too offensive to keep reading that right wing racist blather. I still don’t believe that an educated black man would write the stuff he does. I challenge Nexset to prove his identity/persona to Katie privately and she could confirm he is actually who he says he is; I would take her word for it.

    You say you wish you were face to face with him. I wish he would somehow prove who he is to Katie, but hope I am never in the same room as him, knowing or unknowing. Hate has an ugly face.

    Also, 3.0 and above can also include 4.0. School districts do NOT count weighted gpa, so it could include people who have a 3.0 while taking 5 AP classes.

    I know for a fact that those states mentioned as being somehow superior, are not. I have read SAT and college entrance essays from students (with 4.0 gpa’s) in other states that were horrific.

  • Nextset

    Hmmm. Public School Teachers seem to believe things are just dandy the way they are. At least the posts on this blog seem to so indicate.

    I don’t.

    And as far as the racism line – that is a clear sign of a weak mind. Claiming that any “negative” lines of discussion is bad and should be suppressed is a huge part of why the performance problems we complain of got this bad and are getting worse.

    I am old enough to remember when prisons were white and black unemployment was not a problem. I don’t like the state of affairs we have now with unemployment & institutionalization and I don’t thinkl they are normal at all. They are artifically boosted by state policy involving blacks (ie welfare and education).

    This is just debate. The public schools are on the way out. The public teachers are on the way out. Maybe this Brave New World will result in something getting better.

    But you will still have me and others like me pointing out the Emperors lack of garments. The positions taken by the teachers here are exactly the reason why their students grow poor and others with different school don’t. The public teachers are fundamentally looking to give the kids a comfortable time, not getting them ready to make it in the Brave New World. Award ceremonies for B’s….

  • Sue

    Nextset, I’m not going to bother with *RE*introducing myself to you any more. If you haven’t paid any attention the last three or four times (or you can’t be bothered to remember), then repeating myself again is pointless.

    You said: “The point I’m trying to reach – maybe inartfully – is that the WWII generation of black educators made a point of challenging their students and in no way accomodating the student’s comfort zone.”

    The point you can’t seem to get is that there’s a difference between challenging someone, and continually and relentlessly bashing them and running them down.

    Challenging is what my mentors and role models did for me. It’s what I’ve seen from the mentors and role models of every successful person I’ve known.

    But that’s not what we see from you on this blog. What we see here is you continually and relentlessly running down blacks, and bashing them, even (especially) when they have succeeded at something challenging. Big difference.

  • Nextset

    Sue, Sue:

    You are way too thin skinned. I don’t have any problem with a good party for the black kids. I have a real problem with insulting a student by publicly awarding him for getting Bs – If that is what even happened here.

    I would have liked to see the annual get together done as a sit down dinner at Nellie’s for the better students and Kamala Harris, Willie Brown, or the large number of Bay Area Black Professionals in Medicine, Computers, Business, Government, etc. One of the ways to do something for the students is to get them exposed and networked to those who have gone before and done well. Not giving them awards that college bound Whites, Asians and Jews (poor or not) would laugh at them for.

    As you can tell I am horrified by praising black students to the stars for performance or behavior that is merely expected in normal society. And I read this is one of those many such ceremonies. If you think this is bashing blacks you are just part of the problem in my book. We agree to disagree.

    So I haven’t heard the group here has “succeeded at something challenging” as you put it. I don’t read here that the awardees are nationally ranked or even statewide. I don’t give awards for just being a “high scoring black”. I think that’s prone to being insulting. I remember the “credit to the race” lines that were so popular in the late 50s which were run in the local newspapers.

    And we have plenty of blacks in the bay area who really did something to be proud of and get awards for. Getting a “B” at OUSD doesn’t cut it with me. Sorry I can’t make you feel better – but I’m not here for that.

    Understand me – when I was in high school – white schools – my parents would bristle if I was praised for average performance. I was taught that those who did that were no friends and not to be trusted as teachers or advisors. I later heard plenty about how my grandfather and his brothers (all teachers) ran their classes and their wives – also teachers. You do not praise ordinary. Life is not the Special Olympics.

    Work with the students yes, baby them, NO. Unlike you I have no fear that the black students are (whether they like it or realize it) tough enough to be treated and brought up like real people and not babied.

    But again, my background is not yours. My Father & his friends all served as Officers in WWII. I was born on a base. You and I will never have the same approach to life and to teaching. If you cannot get it and whine “racism” every time you are confronted with this difference you are of no help to the students in my book.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Nextset, you appear not to appreciate the benefits of praising progress. That is unfortunate. I have worked with MANY students, of all ages, in multiple disciplines and recognition of progress is always an element of continued motivation and growth.

    This concept of an absolute standard is illusory anyway as the chief skill going forward will be adaptability. I didn’t do algebra in kindergarten, but thankfully some teachers praised my progress in addition and I eventually got there. If they had shot me down saying “you can’t do ___,” there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have made it to calculus or found enjoyment in learning.

    I’m not a credentialed teacher, but from what I’ve witnessed it’s as much about fostering a spirit and hunger for learning as anything else. Heck, I can go learn anything I want now. I could have learned from books from the time I could read. I didn’t know that then, but it was teachers that fostered that spirit that led me to it.

  • Nextset

    Aly: You get my point. I’m further considering yours. My rather strident posts may be a reaction to the contra view posted here as if from God’s Tablets. It’s easy to take harsh views in writing rather than in dealing with people. Yes I understand that in dealing with real people morale has to be managed. I do so in that context. But not too much.

    What I will say is that the students I have worked with ended up further professionally and faster than they and their families thought likely. And it didn’t happen by keeping them comfortable. This is what works.

    Telling people they need to get out of their comfort zone and change coming from a teacher or mentor is not always welcomed. And it may seem to some as being negative. I don’t care because I have seen the results that flow. We do not have the luxury of time in working with young people, even less so nowadays. I know how to make someone happy. I don’t see the need to do it often – and I never tell someone what they want to hear to make them feel better unless they are dying or doomed.

  • Nextset

    Truth Hurts: I do agree in praising progress. To a point and within reason. I don’t agree with praising what is expected. Black Students in OUSD are not in the Special Olympics. They must learn well to not expect praise (or rewards) for doing what is expected of them. Others may disagree with me. Party On.

    For example, you do not accept a reward for returning found property to the rightful owner. And you are wary of any such offer.

    However, a party for it’s own sake is not a problem. My issue in this thread is misplaced praise on impressionable young people. It’s corrosive.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I don’t know a single teacher who is satisfied with the status quo of education in this city, state or country. Some even believe in giving tons of Fs because they agree with Nextset.

    And yes, grade inflation is a problem at Yale just as it is from OUSD to Orinda and beyond.

    (Try giving an intellectually mediocre student at a suburban private or public school a nediocre grade and then duck, because there is likely a helicopter is about to mow down your door…)

    However, Nextset’s simplistic analysis “60s lead to coddling lead to downward spiral (and nobody succeed in OUSD)” simply ignores the economic and political history of the past 50 years. It’s as if he removes all factors from the discussion but one: The attitude and, less so, the practices of urban public school teachers.

    In other words, his argumentation earns a solid C-!

  • Cranky Teacher

    going to fast…the paragraph was supposed to say:

    (Try giving an intellectually mediocre student at a suburban private or public school a mediocre grade and then duck, because there is likely a helicopter PARENT about to mow down your door…)

  • Donna

    I believe I understand Nextset’s point. A 3.0 (unweighted) doesn’t mean a whole lot as far as colleges are concerned unless within that GPA are crammed as many Honors and AP classes as the student can cram in. We are not told how many or what proportion of the honorees cluster close to the 3.0 end and how many are way above, nor anything about their choice of classes. I remember the blog (or was it testimony before the school board?) posted here within the last year of an OUSD student who had done well in his classes and received good grades, yet was stunned and stymied by the questions he encountered on the SAT. He was furious. Had he been given greater challenges, I think would have risen to whatever was demanded.

    On the other hand, I can see this celebration as a way to counter the peer influence that says that getting good grades is *acting white* or being an Uncle Tom. Kids with 3.0 GPAs can go either way: They can be inspired and strive for even higher grades after seeing Prof. Edwards who is by no means an Uncle Tom — or be another kid who just skims his or her way through school without ever reaching his or her potential. The African American students with the very highest GPAs have made their inner peace with bucking the tide.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogpost.com maestra

    A B is still above average. I hate this argument. It’s what contributes to grade inflation. A good student doesn’t have to be someone who has a 4.0. A good paper can earn a B. It is ABOVE AVERAGE. And the argument about the level of classes – well, the kid might be taking all easy A classes or he may be taking AP and honors classes. In which case a 3.0 is fine.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Nextset, I get your point about “lying” to students about where they need to be. I agree. I just don’t think rewarding their efforts in that direction is a problem. Is the curve in Oakland low? Probably.

    Let’s just say that there are enough wise old Black folks to tell their kids the truth and when they get to college there are enough mentors to remind them. Will they listen? Some do? Are they willing to do what it takes to compete on the new stage? Some will, some won’t. However, giving them F’s in OUSD won’t create more success, just more failure. I believe this is studied and proven.

  • Sue

    1217 students got recognized out of 6325 enrolled. That’s 19.2% of enrolled students. If we had the number of OUSD dropouts to add to the calculation, what would the percentage be? 15%? 10%?

    Darn right, these kids accomplished something.

  • Nextset

    Truth Hurts: How does this thread involve “giving them F’s in OUSD”? Although that should occur whenever people don’t show up, don’t turn in the work, or shoot the teachers.

    I am concerned with B students who end up having no grasp of the subject matter involved. This would be when the standardized tests come back with failing marks on students who were given passing scores in the classroom. Does this happen at OUSD? If it does it shouldn’t. Grades should not be inflated to the point they are lies.

    I see too many minority products of the public school who do have grades but cannot function at all in comparison to similarly graded non-public school peers. That grade inflation should be stopped. But that is another thread for another day. The thread here hits me on the nerve concerning black kids being babied for no good reason. I see that a lot. Their mothers are usually the ones doing it, perhaps they have the public teachers doing it also.

    Students do live up to the reasonably high expectations placed on them especially in packs and especially when the pressure applied is planned and staged. Boot camp, for example. Some people just don’t want to make demands on black students. I like doing it. It’s fun when you watch them realize they are capable of something they (and their posse) didn’t realize. That doesn’t mean we go from crayons to surgery. But we adults can see what teens are capable of well before they do. And I still don’t hand out awards to fully grown children for doing satisfactory work.

    I might want to propose them for the next good thing that comes along. Or try to get them a sit down at Nellie’s with a public figure, or write a reference letter for a vocational/college/military program they are applying for.

    So Sue, I’m not saying these kids didn’t “accomplish something”. I am saying you don’t treat them as some kind of star with an “award” because they managed to get an average score compared to the mainstream. Unless this is Special Olympics.

    Maybe it’s just me that sees the difference here.

    Cranky: No good teacher worries much about the complaints of an unreasonable parent. If the parties cannot respect each other the student needs a transfer.

  • Hot R

    Hmmmm I teach in a neighboring community where many Oakland kids attend. I will tell you what they say – “in Oakland, if you filled out the worksheets you got a B – that’s not enough here.” Whether totally accurate or not, I have observed kids go into shock when they realize that is just a starting point. Thus Nextset’s criticism has some basis in fact . However, I absolutely agree that celebrating achievement is important to encourage yet more achievement – thus more power to the educators who support this event. In a world where only 19% bother to go to class regularly or fill out the worksheets one must start somewhere to build a culture of achievement. There is way too much emphasis on the bottom.

  • Sue

    So, Nextset, what you are saying:
    “I am saying you don’t treat them as some kind of star with an “award” because they managed to get an average score compared to the mainstream.”

    In response to my point that this is the top 20% (or top 10%, maybe?) is that getting into the top 20% is the average?

    Maybe what’s needed is some remedial math and statistics training on your part. The average (or median) would be at 50 percent, not 20. If the awards had been given to 3150 students out of a total 6325 – approximately half – then your “average score” criticism would be valid.

  • Nextset

    Top 20% of WHAT Sue??, The local Negroes?

    I would no more do a public award ceremony for a black student who gets a mediocre level performance on a mainstream scale than I would give any other ethnic student an award because they were the best “minority” to score average on a national/statewide scale.

    I don’t believe in giving awards because somebody is the best black low-scorer. If that is what is going on here. And I believe it probably was because I do not remember reading the awarded students were even a regional champs, just black champs.

    It’s wrong to train black public students that they will be taken seriously just because they beat out other blacks this time this place. They are supposed to be brought up to compete with everybody, not just other blacks.

    And as I may have mentioned, getting a B in OUSD carries no weight. OUSD has no reputation to impress anyone for it’s Bs.

    Can you imagine Piedmont Schools giving out an award for Top Negro? Or Belmont? Or any of the other Monts?? Even if the local NAACP privately threw a party and gave an award for the top Black Students in Piedmont…

    But it’s OK to do this in Oakland because there are more of them I suppose.. Not in my book.

    As I have said, I don’t have a problem with a segregated private party for the black students. I believe the networking is very important and that is typically done on Clan lines. That’s not the problem. Gifts and token for the participants in the private segregated networking party is not a problems at all. Recognition to particular students that they are important to the group and are being watched, etc is welcome. Giving a public Gold Star to a student for getting Bs in a weak school such as OUSD – because they are a black student getting Bs and not Ds is not a good thing to be doing.

    In my book. Not yours. Viva le difference!

  • Nextset

    Sorry about the typos.. fast edits were not fully completed. Have a good day…

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, wasn’t trying to say a teacher should allow themselves to be intimidated by an overprotective parent, just that it happens everywhere — some private school teachers have told me that principals there are quite receptive to lobbying by wealthy parents over grades and will side against the teacher.

    There is no doubt that, in general, many Oakland students see the grading scale this way, and we have the obligation to disabuse them of this:

    F — Never came to class and/or was a terrible behavior problem when there.

    D — Came to class most of the time and rarely caused problems. No work to speak of, no tests passed.

    C — Came to class most of the time and put their name and some mild effort into most classwork and the occasional homework, when nagged or threatened.

    B — This is actually the grade where the real work starts, and a significant test or essay even passed!

    A — The exception to the rule, the kid who acts like a real student most of the time.

    Sadly, far too many kids shoot for Cs and accept Ds, complaining bitterly about F’s because “I came to class!”

  • Nextset

    Cranky – A real school would remove from the classroom students who do not show up or do the work. Even more, students who want to enroll in advanced classes would have to first have pre-requisites such as test scores and grades in previous classes.

    The wouldn’t be around to get the F they would have been expelled/dropped from the class if not the school.

    In my high school, the D students were forced into counseling with the parents and (quickly enough) transferred out into Continuation School. We didn’t keep them around to rack up Ds and Fs.

    The alternative/continuation schools did a better job of getting life back into them. It’s just more humane that way. A student that fails at a regular high school can have something made of them elsewhere and the humane thing to do is get them out of the building and campus to somewhere else where they can be happy and productive and we don’t have to see them (fail in the regular program).

  • Cranky Teacher

    What you have, de facto, is giant “continuation schools” all over Oakland. Remedial, triage, intervention. In some ways, that’s what charters and small schools often are — an attempt to find ways to support kids who can’t function in a “traditional” school environment.

    We have kids at our school who were kicked out of here, went to an actual continuation school (street, dewey and the other one I’m forgetting), then they get kicked out of there and somehow … end up back here! Nice kids, but dysfunctional to say the least…

    Can’t just keep kicking them somewhere, gotta help ’em where they are.

  • late night thinker

    wow, a lot of strong reactions, and dare i say, assumption making.

    the point of celebrating achievement is to promote achievement, it feels good to experience success, and that breeds the desire to succeed.

    we have a deep and abiding problem in oakland with our african american youth. everyone seems to have an answer, a criticism, but the problem persists. worsens. why? these kids are not the problem, it is the system that has failed them. but they do become the problem. and then, and then…

    we don’t value our children’s future as a society. and the society really doesn’t value black children at all. so. what can be done.

    maybe all this push toward achievement isn’t working for kids who are traumatized by poverty, killing, drug abuse and violence around them. maybe they just need to come to school and be nurtured. some people just can’t learn until they heal. and they can’t heal because they are constantly punished for their behavior, caused by circumstances beyond their control.

    but there is no denying it. the system is utterly broken.

  • Nadja

    I agree with Nextset.

    One of my student jobs was tutoring “disadvantaged” students at an agricultural college in a nearby western state. I had a student, a young Black woman, who was functionally illiterate and failing a freshman history course; when I suggested that she needed some fundamental tutoring in reading she proceeded to inform me that she wasn’t interested in studying what Mr. Charlie was attempting to teach her and that somehow the entire college experience was some sort of White conspiracy to subjugate Black people. I finally went to the tutoring center where after much roaring and blathering of confidentially I was able to learn that she was functionally illiterate – not only was she incapable of reading a history book, it was unlikely that she could fill out a job application in the fast food industry.

    What to do? I went to the professor and talked with him at length. He was and is a man of the highest integrity and noted that in his section she would fail – but that he had a solution. The solution? She was quickly transferred into a section taught by a leftist who always passed Black students. This is the very worst form of racism that exists – because it contains the implicit assumption that Blacks are stupid and cannot attain the minimums expected of others.

  • Nextset

    As I’m thinking about the school situation I’m noticing economic numbers and trends coming in and continue to get reinforced in the notion that we are in a Depression, and unlike the 1930’s it is an Inflationary Depression. A Hyperinflation is now expected. When the crash comes we know it will be sudden, maybe violent (complex economies & societies tend to go with a swift bang).

    What’s going to happen to these public school kids – and how we prepare them for the next 5 to 10 years, concerns me. Mainly my concern is lost opportunity. It’s a lot later than we all think.

    Thus my issues with people (students) wallowing in their comfort zones. I think the more nervous people were likely the survivors of the Titanic. Hope I’m wrong.

    Cranky’s post #27 is very much on point for this Education Blog. And I believe the center of OUSD’s mission is not the right side of the national bell curve, it’s the left side. I wish OUSD would accomplish more with the left side of the curve. And that doesn’t mean getting them into the UC Berkeley School of Engineering either.

  • Kareem Weaver

    Congratulations to the students who were recognized for academic achievement.

    Much respect to Acts Full Gospel for being involved with our schools in such a positive way.

    There are legitimate concerns about schools, and no award is without context. However, this is neither the time nor place to debate those concerns. Surely students emailed this article to family and friends across the country. As they try to attach a congratulatory note to this article, I cringe at the commentary they will read.

    These honored students’ academic achievement is commendable.

    Students – there will always be people who try to make sense of your actions, accomplishments and failures, and ideas. Hear them, but don’t internalize their views. You have handled the challenges put before you with aplomb. Continue to work hard, seek new challenges, ask for help, learn from mistakes, and never waste your talents and gifts.

    My challenge to you is this: Study the adults around you. Learn from us. See how we have crumbled and become tribal under the weight of failures, fear, and disappointments…. See things for what they are, and take the leadership in this community with your zeal and clear-mindedness. Be doers and leaders, not just critics or cheerleaders.

    Never let anyone define your successes OR failures. Struggle and emerge (Luctor et Emergo), knowing that failure and disappointment are just feedback for the thinking person. And it’s ok to strut a little…


  • Nextset


    The problem is not the non-student who had no business being in a “college”. It is with the adults black and white who permitted her to exist there. Obviously such a “college” is one in name only and one should/will shun all their black “students” if not the white ones also.

    You can imagine what I would have said to this woman. I would have flunked her out fast and hard as an instructor. She probably would not be acceptable as a motel maid in my book. At least until circumstances bring her to great change.

    The worst thing we can do for such “students” is to not confront them directly on their bad ways. Then deal with them directly and publicly.

  • Clarence Boyd

    Why does the Oakland Tribune sink to such a level to provide a forum for such venom, ignorance and hate to be spewed, while the writers hide behind a “screen name”? At least the readers who submit letters to the editor have the courage and requirement to include their names.

    Since your paper did not see fit to have an article or even a photograph of this rare positive event covered in your newspaper, is it any wonder that certain elements feel free to vent their rantings. With so many newspapers lamenting the drop off in readership as the Internet presents an alternative, your newspaper is simple hastening the trend.

    Moderation of a blog does not substitute for true journalism.

    Congratulations to the children who played by the rules,worked hard, overcame negativity and low expecatations and earned the 3.0 grade point that is given in the O.U.S.D without relation to color, race, ethnicity, gender or whatever artificial barrier is used to separate us all.

    Shame on the Oakland Tribune.

    Clarence Boyd

  • Nextset

    Clarence Boyd: It amuses me to read your call for censorship – if that’s what it is. You see, normally the people who orbit all the blogs such as this one do not speak to each other (why would we?). We are not interested in debating each other – frankly we mean nothing to the other.

    The reason we are here is public debate – which includes putting political views out for all to comment on, exchanging/testing points of view, experiences and values. Some of think something good may come of it.

    If you are here looking only for validation of your own political views you are in the wrong place. You need to go to a private club or a closed political meeting where only the like minded sit. Kind of like an Ayn Rand meeting, or a UC Berkeley Student forum.

    Your plea to only be given what you want to hear on the Tribune’s website and blog is just sad to me. In such a time as we live in here in the USA why would you only want to hear yourself (and similar?) speak? What exactly does that do for you?

    In case you haven’t noticed, the election of this president and his Chicago Cabal has triggered a conservative response that is likely to push the country to the right as did the Reagan revolution. And California’s Leftist experiment is pushing this state to an economic collapse. Times are changing. There will (likely) be sudden and painful wrenching change for all of us in the next 12 to 60 months.

    And you want only not to not hear a discouraging word.

    Please tell us something of yourself so we can better understand where your point of view comes from, age, education, occupation?

    PS In case I didn’t make it clear, I think the black students (specifically) of OUSD are being set up for a slaughter when the bad times come, not taught or trained to make the most of their abilities and assets and generally kept undisciplined, childlike and stupid – above all ignorant of the world. I believe this is being done across the USA in the Urban School Districts because nobody wants to take any trouble to fight with them or have to hear them complain. Plus it’s real easy to get away with this, it’s not like the parent(s) will fight to have the kids trained well.

    You can call my political views anything you want. This is a free country so far.

  • Katy Murphy


    I can see how the discussion that followed my mention of the event could be offensive, especially to those who work closely with the students who were honored last week. I blogged about the ceremony because I wasn’t able to make it in person this year, not to prompt such a debate. But you’re right, I didn’t stop it from going in that direction. (I rarely censor comments.)

    On another note, we have covered the ceremony in recent years, and the blog post about it — without the reader commentary — ran in today’s paper, if you haven’t seen it.

    Thanks for sharing your sentiments here, and for using your full name to do so.

  • Sue

    Hey, Nextset,

    I googled “Clarence Boyd” out of curiosity – wondering if he had any connection to Wandra Boyd, a previous candidate for the school board.

    There’s somebody by our poster’s name in Tulsa OK, and a *Doctor* – orthopedic surgeon with 30 years experience – here in Oakland. I didn’t find a connection to Wandra, but that doesn’t mean anything except that my search efforts weren’t serious enough to find it if it exists.

    Anyway, you could always try googling when someone is using their full name.

    (And the reason I don’t use my last name is that I have several “name twins” – one is a shrink – who I don’t want to be confused with, and who’d likely also be less than happy to be confused with me. I used to have comments printed under my full name and picture pretty regularly in the SF Chronicle’s Two Cents columns, until someone found my email on another (minority religion) web-site and sent me a pretty scary message in response to a comment I’d made about my children. Last thing I wanted was scary weirdos hunting down my *sons* because the weirdo disagreed with my opinions. And I’d *love* to know your reason(s) for hiding behind your handle?)

  • Nextset

    Sue: I don’t see the need to turn this blogging into a 24/7 thing in my life. So I don’t use my name when blogging. The political positions can stand or fall without it.

    As far as C Boyd goes.. it really is sad the way the red-libs run to facism when they can’t sweet talk their lies into public policy.

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

    Clarence: I don’t know if you’re a regular reader of this blog or not, but those of us who are know that Nextset is African America/Black (sorry Nextset, I don’t recall which term you prefer).

    To all re Nextset’s intuitive point in his PS of post #34: Please take time to watch the Bill Moyers interview with Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04022010/watch.html

    Alexander is the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Her message is absolutely chilling, and totally correct. Then know that the number of prisoners (per 100,000 people) in the United States is # 1 in the world at 715. Russia is #2 at 584. Canada is #73 at 116. Japan is #126 at 54.

    And also know (from the Kirwan Institute report “Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today”) that since 1957, the proportion of the African American population with a high school degree has increased by 300% (18.4% to 79.2%) and the proportion of the African American population with a 4-year college degree increased by almost 500% (2.9% to 17.2%).

    Even with such an increase in educational attainment, African American unemployment has been approximately twice as high as white unemployment, at least since the 1950s. Even worse, the number of incarcerated African Americans has increased 800% since the 1950s. Despite only small fluctuations in the violent crime rate in the past 35 years, we’ve gone from 300,000 people in jails and prisons in 1972 to 2.3 million today. An additional 5 million are on probation and parole. This has devastated families and communities and is the true crisis.

    Having studied this current ed reform trend seriously for some time now, and understanding its source (it was instigated by the Business Roundtable and Milton Friedman, eventually pushed, funded, and refined by the billionaire venture philanthropists, and is now being backed up by Wall St. hedge fund managers who are making huge campaign contributions to their cause, see: http://www.dfer.org/2010/05/charter_schools.php ), I have come to understand that that the fixation on promoting college-for-all as the cure for what’s ailing low-income kids is a ruse and a distraction from much larger issues.

    The true goal is to permit the incarceration trend to continue, and to eliminate both the teachers unions and local control in order to privatize education. The point is to control the masses and direct more and more public dollars to the now-booming education industry.

    This country chose to disinvest in urban public education long ago, chose to maintain high unemployment in urban communities, and chose to follow policies that would incarcerate up huge numbers of African American men. Any failures of the schools are because of the consequences of these other things. Our problems were not caused by the schools; and the schools will never be able to fix them.