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.
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.
“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.”