173

Considering Oakland High

Nia Lozano, a middle school parent, tells us about a new group that’s building support for Oakland High School.

An interesting new group has formed in the Crocker and Glenview neighborhoods of Oakland. It was formed by some parents from Edna Brewer who would like other neighborhood parents to consider Oakland High.

This is truly the first time I have ever heard families musing about Oakland High, even among the die-hard, Edna Brewer, go public, local school advocates. The communities of Crocker and Glenview have been relatively silent about Oakland High, which is interesting given that the last time I checked their scores were only marginally lower than Oakland Tech and Skyline (and may have been better in some areas of math, I can’t recall right now.)

What I gather is that the new principal is well regarded and that may have sparked the interest, besides the fact that if parents could raise the community profile of Edna Brewer, they should be able to do the same with O High.

I am not an organizer of this, but on Tuesday, I went to a house meeting and heard a presentation by the principal and a huge showing of her staff. They all sounded sharp and really seemed to understand their audience (Glenview/Crocker middle to upper middle class families who care about education).

This really felt like an important beginning of something, but I don’t think I’ll be sending my eighth grader there next year. I have a fifth grader at Crocker, however, and would love to see the hills folks trickle down and make this a neighborhood public school, so I’m hoping to stay involved.

It was an amazing feeling to get the email inviting me to the first Consider Oakland High meeting and I thought “Duh, what took us all so long? I’d rather not drive to Tech.” Also, this would be the perfect trifecta for our neighborhoods: Crocker, Brewer, OHigh or Glenview, Brewer, OHigh!

Katy Murphy

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

  • Hot R

    AP exams are $86 apiece, or $5 if subsidized by the State of California for low-income/free/reduced lunch students If OUSD is charging $10 then where does the other $5 go? You can see the whole formula online. Here is part of it…

    COST OF THE AP / IB EXAMS:
    How much does an eligible student pay for each AP exam?
    The CDE application for federal funds to support the AP/IB Test Fee Reimbursement Program states that eligible students will pay $5.00 per AP/IB exam and $5.00 per IB registration fee. Therefore, districts may collect only $5.00 for each AP/IB exam and each IB registration fee per student.

    What is the school’s cost of the AP exam for eligible students? How much do I collect from the student?
    The cost of the AP exam for eligible students is $56. The student pays $5.00; the CDE will reimburse the school $51.00. Please refer to the 2009-10 Fee Distribution Chart.

    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/ps/2009-10apfaqs.asp

    IB start up is WAY more expensive for teacher training and take additional teacher prep that no districts can afford now. Is it better? Reports go in both directions. Advanced Placement classes are the “language” of college admissions and gives lower socio-economic kids a fighting chance at college admissions.

    And please, AP classes are not about “memorizing” information. Without analysis, synthesis and essay writing skills carefully developed by AP teachers the students have no chance of passing the exam.

  • Gordon Danning

    Hot R:

    I’ve been told by our AP coordinator that the state picks up all but $15 of the fee, and the school picks up $10, leaving $5 for the student to pay. Perhaps that is old information, and the state now picks up all but $5. Either way, our low income kids pay $5.

    As for whether AP classes are about memorizing facts, well, I just got back from AP US History training, and all of the exemplars of “9″ essays were very very very heavy on facts, and very light on analysis — shockingly light, in fact. The basically read like regurgitations of the textbook. And 50% of the grade on the history exams (and, I believe, all of the others) is multiple choice, which tend to be very light on analytical questions. And, the formula for determining grades is such that a kid who aces the multiple choice can get a 5 even with mediocre essays — I am looking right now at the essays of a kid who got a 5 on the 2007 AP World exam. One essay is 5 paragraphs, one is 2 paragraphs, and one is 4 paragraphs, and all 3 are substantively only OK (though, to be fair, the questions that year were difficult — the nationwide mean score on one of them was 1.45 out of 9).

    The AP history tests also have a “gotcha” quality to the essays — in AP World, the students must answer all three questions; in AP US, students must answer one, and then 2 of 4 choices. So if they didn’t memorize facts on those specific topics, they are out of luck (unless they can “BS” as well as one of my students in 2009)

    In contrast, the IB history tests have no multiple choice, and give the student a wider range of question choices.

    To be fair, AP is in the process of revamping their history tests to make the multiple choice more analytical, and also to get AP US and AP World history more on the same page, but time will tell how much will change.

    But my main point is not that AP is bad, but that IB is better.

    Also, old AP tests, including examples of good and not so good essays, are available here: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/exam/exam_questions/index.html

  • Ted Allen

    Reply to Donna re: <>

    This post implies that the choral program at Skyline is not taught by a choral specialist, which incorrect. The Skyline choir teacher, Ms. Arretha Cooper, is a talented choral music specialist and pianist who trained at San Jose State under Dr. Charlene Archibeque.

  • Karen Cohn

    FYI-Average years of teaching experience per site, from the 2008-09 Annual School Scorecards:

    15.5 Glenview ES
    16.6 Crocker Highlands ES
    12.4 District-wide ES

    10.2 Roosevelt MS
    4.6 Brewer MS
    7.7 District-wide MS

    13.4 Oakland HS
    16.0 Oakland Tech HS
    13.1 Skyline HS
    10.9 District-wide HS

  • Amy D

    To clarify:
    As the OHS Activities Director, I can attest that Oakland High (nor any other HS, to my knowledge) does not spend any school money on proms or dances. In fact, each class spends four years ferociously fund-raising to gather the funds necessary – which are considerably less each year than the 30k quoted above by one of my colleagues.

  • Glenview Mom

    This NYT article on IB programs catching on in US schools (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/education/03baccalaureate.html?_r=1) indicates that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the preparation of minority and low-income students to participate in IB. Perhaps there’s a way, if funding is available via grants, to fund IB while keeping AP. This would serve both students who learn best with a more memorization-based program and those that learn best with a more hands-on program. (I have two sons who are opposites in this regard.) I think broadening the programs offered to support different student learning styles would be a very positive step in the right direction. Just a thought.

  • Chuck L.

    As a recent graduate of Oakland High (2008) and a current student at CAL, I have to say that this is very good to see such interest in my old high school.

    From my personal experiences, I would say that Oakland High was a decent enough place to learn.

    To preface, I was a pretty average student in terms of grades and did not hold any leadership positions.

    Ok, let me talk about the teachers:

    All the AP class teachers (I believe that the regular and honors class teachers are very much the same)are very supportive in and out of class time. They use to welcome question during class, between classes, and after school. Some teachers even hold additional review classes that(to my knowledge)that they don’t get paid for.

    This list is in no way exclusive nor comprehensive but some of the teachers that were really helpful were:

    Ted Harris and his preparation for the AP lit test study group( I am not sure if that is just a thing he did in 2007 because Oakland High didn’t have an AP English Literature class or if he still does it).

    G. Danning was one teacher that I won’t forget. He was the first AP teacher I had ever had. Before entering his class in my sophomore year I didn’t have much difficulties in other classes. The difficulty level went up quite a bit, I found myself struggling with the schoolwork. Long story short, I ended his class with a C and a 3 but that little taste of what college would be like drove my interest in improving my skills. Despite my lackluster grades, Danning (he probably doesn’t remember this) repeatedly told me that I could do better. At one point, he directly told me that he felt my paper was a horrible effort on my part and he felt that I wrote it in an hour or two.

    That kind of attention to writing style and the explanation of why he graded me this was was a much needed wake up call. He gave me a reason for the grade rather than just a grade to forget about.

    And there are many other wonderful instructors. The teachers really shine the junior and senior year of high school with their support.

    As for clubs and program, Oakland High has the Environmental Science Academy and VAAMP. ESA is for the students that wish to learn more about the environment and recycling. As for VAAMP, it is a program for students that want to learn about the visual arts.

    Anyways, the clubs at the school are, other than the community service ones, fun places to be and learn new things.

    All in all, I liked my experiences in Oakland High. As long as the student is serious about their own studies, getting into college should not be a problem.

  • gordon danning

    Glenview Mom:

    I know that there are many schools that have both AP and IB. However, I don’t think that they serve different groups of students. And I certainly dont think that they serve kids with different learning styles — I dont think IB can be described as particularly “hands on” based, for example. Both are supposed to be more analytical than the norm, but the AP tests, because of the way they are structured, tend to reward memorization of facts more than IB does.

    And, really, the key difference between them is that IB is a unified program (kids can earn an “IB diploma,” they take a “Theory of Knowledge” class, they complete a 4000-word research paper, etc), whereas AP is more of a set of discrete, disconnected courses.

  • gordon danning

    Chuck L:

    I think you are being a bit modest; few “average students” end up at Cal.

    I imagine that your post has been more useful to the parents on here than all the others put together. I wonder whether Nia might want to set up a google docs or Facebook page or some such to allow former students to anonymously post info about their experiences at OHigh — students are the best source of info, after all.

  • O-High Teacher

    I am a colleague of Gordon’s at Oakland High, and it is refreshing to see more parents eager to go beneath the skin of Oakland High and not judge it based on preconceptions. I would love to see continued commitment to what Alicia is trying to do to make our school better—by the administration, staff, and community. I would love to see Oakland High become more ethnically and socio-economically diverse. However, I am a little concerned about Nia’s choice of words in her article. She hopes that that hills folks will “trickle down” to Oakland High and make it a neighborhood school. I could be misreading it, but regardless of her intentions, it gives the impression that hills students and parents are going to bless poor, impoverished Oakland High with their presence in order to help lift it from the ashes.

    Sadly, like many Oakland teachers, I also have to ponder to which Oakland schools I will send my children in the future. I would hope that I will still feel as I do now—that the Oakland public schools (especially O-High) that are good enough for my students are also good enough for my own children. I understand, and will understand even more when I have children, the concerns that Oakland parents have for the educational, social, and emotional well-being of their children. Yet I also know that regardless of which OUSD schools my children attend, they will have the proper academic and emotional support that they need, just as I assume the children whose parents are a part of the “Consider Oakland High” group do. Like many of you, I have the wherewithal and educational background to ensure that my children succeed academically, so that when they come home, mom and dad can help them with math, writing, history, and maybe even science. It is the students that do not have these support systems at home that help make Oakland High special. They’re all working towards a goal—whether it is to be the first in their family to earn a diploma or go to college—and helping them reach that is what makes my job so fulfilling. We may not have the AP pass rates or hallowed reputation in the eyes of community members like some of the other schools, but rest assured that many of my colleagues and I can hold our heads high knowing we’ve committed ourselves to making these youngsters better students and more importantly better people. We will continue to serve those students who didn’t see Oakland High as a place to consider, but rather as a place to go to school. And, with all due respect, we will do that with or without the parents from Crocker and Glenview.

  • Nia

    Chuck;

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Gordon is correct in saying that your voice adds a great deal to this conversation. It is heartening to confirm what many of us public school parents are banking on-that Oakland High (or Skyline or Tech) are “decent enough place[s] to learn.” Congratulations on your success in navigating a large public high school and gaining acceptance to a stellar university!

    As the last person standing without a Facebook account, or the vaguest notion about how to set up an anonymous post, I will have to defer this task to someone else. Good idea, nonetheless.

  • Darwish

    OH THANK GOODNESS that local PARENTS are getting involved!!!!! I do not agree with Sue about a gladiator field (especially since her own child seemed to go to a charter anyway…), but she is simply voicing what many other “Hill folk” parents are thinking which probably has led many students being ripped out of OHS over the years.

    I’ve been teaching French 1-4 at Oakland High for 19 years AND I was a student there graduating in 1981. There are & have always been problems at this and many schools considered inner-city, but the underlying current of citizens of Oakland need to realize that the “Hill folk” vs the “Flatlanders” is detrimental to all students in Oakland.

    I have ALWAYS wanted MORE parent involvement, but I think many parents look at all schools as sort of a day-care to get the kids out of the house. That is a parental viewpoint, not the teachers’ viewpoint. At OHS we do a pretty darn good job instructing students and preparing them for a variety of possible futures. The more integration of a variety of families would probably make us into an excellent school. Pulling your kids out of the local school weakens the school, the community, the city and ultimately the country.

  • Catherine

    Darwish:

    I know that pulling out of Oakland schools is a problem. I understand that we need families to support all students. In my daughter’s public elementary school, we volunteered 40 -60 hours per month depending on the time of year.

    That’s also why we took time to talk to the principals and assistant principals on multiple occasions at the middle schools. Truth told, we used up almost every hour of our vacation time trying to find a way to make it work with Oakland public middle schools.

    All students deserve to be learn to write a five paragraph essay nearly flawlessly by the end of middle school. All students deserve to have the skills to compare and contrast. All students deserve to learn at grade level.

    We spent over $4,000 per year supplementing my daughter’s elementary education in the form of science, math and writing camps to make up for what was not taught. These were not “special enrichment.” Just the information in the text book that the teacher did not know how to teach (solving for X, fractions, decimals, triangles and rectangles and how to calculate the area).

    We donated time and money, took time off work to sit in the halls to help students who had difficulty reading and computing math problems. We bought supplies, tissue, hand sanitizer and zip lock bags. We drove on field trips, made our companies give us the mandatory 8 hours per month off to spend with the school, spent weekends cleaning up the campus only to have the neighbors and students trash it again. We built planters and planted gardens.

    We just wanted our daughter taught the information in her math, reading, social studies and science books. We did not want more test prep. We wanted analysis and writing, thinking and discussion. We just wanted an appropriate grade level education.

    I feel horrible, and guilty, and I don’t know how much more we could do or could have done. We talked to teachers, principals, volunteers, resource specialists and PTA volunteers at three Oakland Middle Schools. All professed that it was a good education and pointed to the test scores. Our daughter will “test well” anywhere. She uses her own background knowledge to make educated guesses.

    I think what I really want is for some school personnel to admit that sometimes parents can give, and give and give and the school will just not be able to meet the academic needs of average to just above average students. Because, honestly, I feel like we gave it our very, very best.

  • Karen Cohn

    Catherine, I’ve been very impressed by the efforts you have described in your posts to find public schools that will offer a level of curriculum that can be expected in other school districts. I agree with you that our expectations for appropriate grade level education have often been eroded by the lack of resources present in our schools, and by the emphasis on testing. It’s impressive that you have been able to carefully define what those expectations should be and hold to them. Thank you for adding this reality check to the conversation. You obviously have a great deal of commitment to helping your daughter’s school meet those expectations, to the extent that is possible for a parent to help. I agree that test prep and weeks spent testing have carved away teaching time for more analytical skills, that has hurt all students. There was some research I read about that profiled 20 schools in Chicago, all with 90% of students at poverty, which contrasted their testing scores. The schools that had used higher order questioning in their teaching methods, and less time doing test prep, had much better testing scores, as the students had developed their critical thinking skills and therefore knew how to negotiate the tests. In this process of learning about Oakland High, I have found a great deal of attention from the Principal and the teachers to analytical thinking and grade level expectations similar to those you name. Glad to know you will be checking out the public high schools when your child reaches that stage, and again want to express appreciation for your thorough approach.

  • Hills Parent 13

    Catherine, I just want to add that you were a tremendous asset to your daughter’s elementary school and it’s too bad that you are leaving OUSD, though I certainly understand your decision!

    I have also been a very committed volunteer at my child’s school, with hundreds of volunteer hours annually. On the elementary school level and with strong neighborhood support, it’s made a difference to have a lot of very involved families (although sadly there are still large populations at our school that don’t or can’t give much in the way of time/money). I feel like my efforts will be less noticed on the middle school level though, because the schools are so much bigger, as are the problems.

    I’ve been looking at some other neighboring school districts and have been happy to see that, even with the recession and hard times, there are schools able to offer things that can’t be found at OUSD. It may be with a heavy heart, but one way or another, I imagine that we’ll be following you out of the district come middle school.

  • Abernethy

    I teach math at Oakland High and graduated from Cal with a degree in pure math. Frankly unless you sending your child to Head Royce or another school of that caliber and expense (OR your child was educated in Singapore), Cal freshmen graduating from public schools are usually at a disadvantage.

    I experienced it as a college freshman and I got through it. My boyfriend and cousin experienced it at Yale and got through it. I prepare my students for the reality they will face. Skyline vs Tech vs O High doesn’t make that big of a difference. So parents put in the extra time when they don’t have the extra money.

    I would like to echo the sentiment of the O-High teacher. Any students that enter our classrooms we will welcome with open arms and and serve, but we have 1800 students that we will continue to serve even these kids don’t “trickle down from the hill.”

  • Katy Murphy

    Did you mean to say “Cal freshmen graduating from private schools…”?

  • Darwish

    Well, well…I think at least two of you missed my point completely….

    Of course you did a lot in your schools and it sounds as though Catherine (ironically that’s my name, too!) really did an AMAZING amount of man hours & probably she has a group of parents which is really committed to your school. I and all teachers really appreciate it! I’m sure you worked your rear-ends off!!!

    But I think both Catherine & Hills parent 13 still are missing part of what I was saying:

    “The more integration of a variety of families would probably make us into an excellent school. Pulling your kids out of the local school weakens the school, the community, the city and ultimately the country.”

    I really mean that. My grandparents moved from NY to Oakland and my family has lived in the Bay Area since then. I have worked here long enough to see & notice some trends. One of the consistent trends is the “Hill folk” really feel that a paid for education is a privileged education (like George Bush’s perhaps?!?!?!) & I disagree.

    I went to OHS & I had a decent enough education. Yes, the classes were huge; yes, the teachers sometimes had to do remedial stuff; yeah, sometimes I got picked on because of the color of my skin, hair & eyes….but overall I would NEVER exchange any moment of it. Why? Because the cross of cultures, the way the teachers had to adapt to EVERY situation made me able to think on my feet as well. That was what made me do well in university. That’s a very big part of what made me able to be a good citizen, parent & world citizen.

    So, if you think you can get that kind of education in a “prep” school with a more homogenous population, I wish you luck! I agree with the sentiments of Karen Cohn in her post #117 about the analytical thinking & I think this style of teaching is just partly a result OF OUR STUDENTS, not necessarily from the top down because it’s been going on so that it gets passed down amongst the staff & faculty. A small percent of the art of teaching is an empathetic response to the needs of our students & their parents.

  • Catherine

    You should probably know that our family is from South America and that we are continuing our daughter’s education in a school that has no more than 23% of any race or ethnicity.

    We are not, nor were we willing to be a “hills family” and we did not want to be “in the flats” if it meant that a quarter or more of the day was filling in the knowledge and vocabulary to be able to teach the lesson.

    Students do not need to be perfect and we want to make sure that our daughter is not one of the statistics of Latina girls in Oakland. From what our Oakland pediatrician explained nearly half of Latina girls are pregnant for the first time before age 20. Fewer than 25% of Latina girls who enter four year universities graduate in 6 years. We made a conscious choice to have one child because that is all of the time, effort and money our family could afford.

    Yes, we believe in diversity and we believe in education and we expect to have our daughter graduate a four year university in 11 years. She expects to do so as well. Then she expects to continue on to medical school.

    When we discuss on this blog about a mix of students, we should really discuss a MIX which means no more than 35% – 40% of any one type of student, single parent, immigrant, African-American, Latina/Hispanic, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, mixed race children, poverty, middle class, upper middle class and wealthy, athletes and artists, high academic achievers, medium performing students and underperforming students.

    However, what I hear from Darwish is that we need more middle class white students attending schools that are primarily lower income, minority students. That is not a mix. That is a few in with the masses.

    We need to find a way to teach all of our children in a school. We need to be able to count on family support, at least some support, from all students or more than 70% of them. Rather than a mass of students with little or no support. That is a mix.

    In Oakland we have not found the middle path – there is still tracking in this way. And parents, families and communities who invest in schools cannot be in the minority for the school to succeed. They need to be a significant portion.

    I do not want my daughter to head off to U.C. Davis, LA or Berkeley and have to make up for what she could have learned in high school – not because she wasn’t willing to learn or able to learn, but because the level of classes she needed to be academically prepared for that type of rigor was not present in the vast majority of the classes she took each of her four years of high school. This is what I will look at with Oakland Tech as well – not a wasted freshman year review what was learned in middle school, but four full years of academic rigor, in classes with a wide variety of students who want to be there and who are willing to study, work hard, be respectful of themselves and others and who have drive. We both want our daughter to be with students who model the behavior we expect of her.

    We have set up a set of rules about how people should drive, that you pay the price of the items you want to buy and not put them in your pocket, you come into a classroom with your cell phone off and your iPod earbuds out of your ears, and your homework done. These are rules that are reasonable in expectation. I do not want valuable class time spent managing electronics and missing homework. I want valuable class time to be spent on teaching and learning.

  • Darwish

    Uhm….Catherine, I think you incorrectly read something into my last post.

    NOWHERE did I state that I feel AT ALL that middle class white families or their students should be coming to our or any school. I actually was implying quite the opposite. I’m glad you & your family have such high expectations for your daughter & for her school. I am unclear why you feel I am attacking you on any level. I am not & I profoundly apologize if you feel that way, but please do not twist my words.

    I agree with you on most of what you have said & am glad you made the choices you have. You are an asset to Oakland & a great role model.

    Please reread my last post & try to take it in the spirit in which it was given. I really do love Oakland & Oakland High. I stay there because I like being there not because I have to. I like teaching & I like our diversity. Anything else you take form my posts is really unintended.

  • Abernethy

    Hi Katy,

    No I did mean to say that Cal and Ivy League Freshmen graduating from public schools are at a disadvantage compared to those whose parents payed LOTS of money for small class sizes (10-15 students) and individualized instruction. I taught at a private school. Very different.

    A lot of parents commenting on here seem to think they can get the same thing for free. Not true in my experience.

    I was a UGTA for the Calculus 1A and 1B sections for two years at Cal and trust me, I noticed the difference between Skyline/Tech/O High and Head Royce/Bentley/Singapore freshmen. Same experience at the Ivy’s. I (Cal), my boyfriend (Yale), my cousin (Yale) went schools very similar to O High in Sacramento. And we all had great experiences in college. We did have to work harder in the beginning, but everything turned out fine. Looking back, I would not trade my public school experience for anything!

  • Abernethy

    P.S. I should mention that my cousin and I are African- American and my boyfriend is Mexican just for context. Many of the kids at our high schools were on free lunch just like at O High.

  • livegreen

    I didn’t realize anybody here was advocating valuable class time should be spent managing electronics and missing classroom homework. & I think everyone who has participated in or read a large portion of these comments (or cares about their kids) expects valuable class time be spent on teaching and learning.

    I think that no matter what road one chooses for oneself and ones children there are many different roads to success. There is no absolute right or wrong answer.

    I appreciate Catherine’s concerns about Edna Brewer, and am learning a lot from her rigorous evaluation of what she needs from her prospective middle school. This is something I will use in the future (we are some years off). At the same time it is hard for me to evaluate whether some parts of her child’s experience were incidental or representative of the school. It could be either, and there’s a big difference between the two. I do not say this to discount that experience but as an example of both the variables & why we must all make personal decisions.

    Likewise I think Terri, Karen, Mia and others have pointed to the fact that there ARE other options (than private school or going out of district), and there are ways to find success at Edna Brewer. This is from parents who apparently also have high expectations of their children and of the school, and are actually there.

    I must say that it is comforting knowing Edna Brewer (EB) has made so much progress over the years that we even have it as a viable Middle School option. Indeed the improvements of the feeder schools for EB point to a continuation of that trend: Glenview, Crocker Highland, Lincoln, Cleveland and Bella Vista. I also understand many families from out of Edna’s feeder network are going there, for example Peralta and Kaiser.

    So several things are adding to each other for a school like Edna Brewer to “cycle up”: improved administration and teaching, improved education in elementary schools, improved education of those elementary students upon entry into MS, retaining & attracting more of those students, their families adding more demand for even higher achievement (like Catherine’s), etc.

    This is what has also carried over from Edna Brewer and other Middle Schools to O-Tech, as many students have gone there instead. Given what O-High teachers are already accomplishing (based on the discussion here), given the success that some students are experiencing (based on the discussion here, + the scores being comparable to O-Tech, + many students from feeder schools already go there, even if they’re not white and upper middle class), the Vice Principal of Edna Brewer becoming Principal of Roosevelt (which also feeds inti O-High), I would say that O-High is ripe for both contined improvements and the efforts of Consider Oakland High.

    Finally, I would like to end my comments by saying that I hope there is a way that Oakland Schools and parents can find ways to communicate with parents like Catherine who don’t chose OUSD, and other successful schools and school districts with similar sociology-economic diversity. In this way we can find out what other schools are doing and integrate some of their best practices. This will benefit us all, students, parents and residents alike.

  • Hills Parent 13

    Re: O High, on some levels it isn’t diverse at all. I believe that less than 1% of students are Caucasian. I don’t know what percentage are middle class or upper middle class, but I imagine it’s a small number.

    So, I can already tell that my child would not have peers at that school in the same racial and socio-economic grouping. I value diversity and our elementary school is very diverse, but I would never send my child to a school where they would feel alienated and different from just about everyone else who attended. If the school really was more mixed, than that would be a more welcoming environment.

    In terms of academics and expectations, I agree with Catherine and am very concerned about the time spent in class dealing managing students, tamping down distractions etc. I too want a student body that is ready to work and values learning. I want to be part of a school where most families give in one way or another – be it of their time or money. I want my child to be surrounded by students with focus, discipline and character. I just don’t know if I can find this in abundance at a large Oakland middle or high school.

    I wish that Oakland had a magnet middle and/or high school that could attract talented kids from all over the district. This would combine true diversity and academic rigor and would help stem the losses to private schools and/or better public school districts after elementary school.

  • livegreen

    Hills Parent 13, I don’t know why you think parents of different racial or socio-economic backgrounds don’t want a student body that is ready to work or values learning. I think their are many such families at Edna Brewer among the African American, Asian and Latino students. Caucasian isn’t the only form of diversity. Guess where many of those other diverse successful kids are going? O-High.

    Concerning the Middle Class, there are many many members of the Middle Class who are not Caucasian. I have to look up what the current rates are in Oakland but I would venture that a healthy percentage of two income families in Oakland of any background, even if their individual incomes are working class or poor, combined fit into the Middle Class. Remember that the upper limits of a family income with one child to qualify for Free & Reduced lunch is $35,000. And for a single income family $35,000 might not be great, it might be lower Middle Class, but it is a good, solid job & income. My point is there are probably a lot more Middle Class families both in Oakland and at O-High than you think.

    As such the diversity alone should not be your only baromiter. Edna Brewer also started off with a lower recent caucasian population, and because of the success of the rest of the diverse student body it attracted more attention from middle class families of all backgrounds, including caucasian. The last time I checked Edna Brewer was 70th percentile among Middle Schools and 90th percentile among Middle Schools with similar diversity and socio-economics. Decent enough, room for improvement, and a LOT better than it was a few years ago.

    I appreciate your concerns as a parent who will probably be going out of district come Middle School. But I would like to find out more from the parents & teachers who ARE in district in Middle and High School about their experiences and avenues of continued improvement. After all the title of this post is “Consider Oakland High”. Not “Don’t Consider Oakland High”.

  • harold

    There are choices for Oakland Parents and Students:

    You can participate and make your neighborhood school “better”.

    You can try to transfer to an out-of-district school (probably not Alameda schools) but many of them have similar, or worse budget woes than Oakland.

    You can try one of Oakland’s charter schools.

    Private school (if you have an extra 40-60 thousand bucks lying around).

    Or you can quit your job and home school.

  • livegreen

    It would be nice to here more about the Science Program & Lab facilities at O-High from some teachers, students & parents at O-High. I see that Glenview Mom mentioned this earlier, & then there were some helpful comments about Math, Language & very detailed info about AP History from Gordon.

    But could we get some more detail on the Science Programs, and plans/goals for these at O-High? Thank you.

  • Karen Cohn

    I am glad to hear from several other OHS teachers. Gordon Danning has given us much valuable info but parents of course want to know the sentiments of a variety of folks their students will learn from. I know of high schools who poll their college bound alum one year later to get feedback on their preparation. That might be a project that parents could take on in support of the school. I would like to make some space in this discussion for teachers to state their concerns about having new families come to OHS without it being accusatory toward those families. I do not think the school is broken in any way and I have not met any families who think they are on a rescue mission. We all, teachers and parents, know the challenges faced by an urban school district and we all care about all students succeeding. We are particularly aware of our own student and want to do what is best for them. If teachers resent having a new demographic at the school however it is defined then that will affect our student. So I do ask teachers to offer some consideration to how they will respond to a change. Adults model acceptance for students as well as vice.versa. Lastly I viewed Ms. Abernathy’s algebra class and it was 100% on task with particpation from all types of students. This was true for every class we visited that day.

  • Glenview Resident

    After seeing the article in today’s Tribune, I felt I wanted to contribute to the conversation about Oakland High.
    My son transferred as a junior from a private school to Oakland High because he wanted to play football. We were told by an educational consultant to consider Oakland High over other Oakland High Schools because she felt it was a safer environment.
    We are white middle class residents of Glenview. My husband and I used to laugh when the teachers didn’t even need to ask who we were. The teachers would say you must be “blah-blah”‘s parents. That said, we felt that the academics were very good and our son was treated very well by the students of all different ethnicities.
    Our son had AP classes in English, Calculus among other classes. He was accepted at UCSC, Long Beach and Cal Poly SLO. Much to our chagrin, he decided to attend DVC where his friends were going. He was accepted into the highly regarded business school at Cal Poly but it was too far out of the urban environment for his taste.
    All in all, he seemed to be happy there and still has friends from O-High. In order to be truthful, I have to say that we decided for my daughter to go to a smaller private school. It’s not perfect either but you have to decide what is best for your child.

  • Hills Parent 13

    To Livegreen, I didn’t mean in any way to suggest that there aren’t families of color who are serious about education or to suggest that only wealthier kids are academically-focused. What I am saying is that I don’t feel comfortable sending my child to a school where they are likely to be among the few children in their racial or socio-economic niche. This is based on both my own experiences and observations as well as things I have heard from other people who have attended OUSD middle and high schools. It is my belief that while a diverse group of peers in important, a group of “similar” peers is necessary.

    Schools that have strong parental support and/or are in wealthier communities have students who, on average, will perform at a higher academic level. The reality is that this often equates to schools with a larger white population.

    I will concede that this thread is “Consider O High” not reasons why not to attend, but it’s important to understand why people are driven to make other choices too. If there is a way that OUSD can meet the needs – both academic and social – of the fleeing segment of the population, then maybe they should think outside the box to retain families who would otherwise be incline to leave OUSD after fifth grade.

    Finally, I would like to add that I’m sure that there are some excellent teachers at middle and high schools in our district and that I believe in public education in general. We are a family that could send our child to a private school, even at the elementary level, but we’ve opted to support our local public school. We give a lot of time and thousands of dollars annually to help our school. I just don’t know if there are enough families and donations to fill in the gaps that will present themselves at middle and high school.

  • Abernethy

    I think there is a bigger issue here that hasn’t really been addressed. OUSD received a grant from the College Board a few years ago to support high performing students. I’ve not seen a huge impact and I suspect some of the money was redirected. Also the State of CA sends money every year for GATE students. Often this money is incorrectly redirected towards Special Ed as both of these groups fall under the category of “special populations”.

    OUSD as a district tends to focus most of it’s resources on remediation and the higher performing students are a second priority. SO the “hills” parents aren’t imagining it. Just follow the money. Also take a look at the School Site Plan for each high school to see what the schools priorities are. This is public information.

    I have a colleague in Marin County where they formed a group of parents to address some of these same problems. This has been a civil rights issue in Oakland in the past, (I believe there was a case at Skyline concerning AP classes several years ago) because all children deserve equal access no matter where they go to school.

    I will be reviving the GATE committee at Oakland High next year. Darwish and Danning will also be on this committee as we are always advocating for more resources for our higher performing students. But I would I would love to do something similar to what was done in Marin on a district wide level here in Oakland. If any parents on here are interested (you all seem like the perfect recruits!), email me at roriemail@gmail.com.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    Hills Parent 13–I agree with you, more diversity is always a good thing. A number of years ago, when my older son was a kindergartner at Glenview in a kindergarten class where he was the only white child, a parent I only barely knew and who rejected Glenview Elem. because her family was white and middle class asked me how it was for my son to be a minority in his classroom. I asked her which minority–for not only was he the only white child in his class, he was also the only Jewish kid and the only kid with two lesbian moms and a gay dad. I realize elementary school is different from middle and high school and his awareness of his differences is greater now than back then. But he has always attended schools where white kids are a very small minority. Having said that, I don’t want him to be the only white kid in his freshman class, nor does he want that. But until parents change their own paradigm (what Karen referred to in a much earlier choice–we don’t go there because we don’t go there), the paradigm will never change. Oakland High has the potential to be a far more diverse school if more middle class families choose to go there and if more white families choose to go there.

  • livegreen

    HP-13, I understand your concerns & Catherine’s, and I appreciate some of the detail you both have given about reasons for your concerns (I agree with some of them, I agree in part with some of your diversity concerns, but I disagree in part for the reasons I’ve mentioned).

    The details you & Catherine give support to OUSD HS negatives. But I also want to learn more about the school itself from the teachers, students & parents. It’s time to hear about some of the positives so those of us who are at least considering will have more information, that we need.

    Our son has had positive experiences at OUSD Elementary, we’re aware of the negatives and want to continue the hard work in improving it that our predecessors have done. We’re seeing the same thing in Middle School & there’s no reason that trend won’t happen at O-High. We will go into this realistically and evaluate all sides be for we make our decision.

    I look forward to more comments from O-High teachers, especially about the new Labs & Science programs…

  • Donna

    Hills Parent 13: I was typically the only Person of Color in all my classes from K-12. Cracks me up a bit to see the angst of those w/o color when put in the same (minority)situation, even though who and what you are is supported by the society as a whole. But seriously, does your child have as many issues with this as you? Just because a person does not share the same color as you or eat the same food does not mean that he or she does not share the same educational and other values. Your child will find them.

    If your child is bound for one of the U.C., O-High would get him/her used to classes with a high proportion of Chinese and Vietnamese! The school also has numbers of kids whose families speak Khmer, Arabic, Mien, and Lao. I don’t know what countries the Spanish speakers are from, but I have no doubt that it is more than Mexico. What a richness of perspective and experiences you will never find at a private school.

    And you can tell your kid the same thing that my mother would tell me more times than I want to remember: You better behave and not act out because you cannot blend into the crowd like the rest of the kids. (Shout out to Glenview Resident’s son!) Everyone will remember. And it is not just you; you are representing your family, your ethnicity, and your race. Okay, maybe that last sentence doesn’t apply if you’re white, but I was told that all the time!

    BUT if your kid doesn’t pick up on social cues and has low Social/Emotional Quotient and thus has few friends and tends to get picked on, maybe the complex environment of an urban public school would be too much of a challenge. My daughter, whose EQ/SQ is off the charts, loves the challenge.

  • Nia

    I’m not sure if this is needed, but I’m happy to clarify my use of the words “trickle down.” It really was not intended to upset or alienate anyone. It was not an allusion to Reaganomics. Neither was it an allusion to holy water used to bless anyone. In fact, the intention of my email was to express my excitement about the possibility of neighborhood children attending their closest public high school. The use of the word “trickle” was to acknowledge that this would likely be a very small stream of children and families who would join the ranks of OHigh from these neighborhoods, at least initially. I’m sorry if this caused confusion and distress to anyone.

    Discussions about schools seem to bring up very strong sentiments as we grapple with issues of race/ethnicity, class, diversity, parenting, teaching, cognitive abilities, public needs, greater good and our own children’s futures. With this in mind, I really hope we can continue to dialog in a way that encourages an open exchange of thoughts and ideas. I’m so appreciative of the sharing and introspection that has taken place on this subject and look forward to learning more.

  • Hills Parent 13

    Donna, I understand that others have been in the position of being a “minority” or even the sole person of a particular race in their whole school. This is just not something that I seek for my child. I know that my child – most any child for that matter – would be more comfortable in an environment that also includes peers/friends of his or her racial and/or socio-economic niche. Just as diversity is important, I strongly feel that it also just as healthy to have friendships among people who are similar to oneself.

    My brother’s best friend growing up was of a different race. The kids were best friends in elementary school. Cracks started in middle school and by seventh or eighth grade both kids formed a circle of friends comprised of kids from the same race as themselves. I think a lot of it was a comfort and/or identity thing at that age. I looked around the school and found that what happened with my brother and his friend wasn’t unusual. It certainly was not that uncommon a generation ago.

    Perhaps things have changed, but in my child’s class today I still see that the Asian kids often hang out together, the African American kids seek each other out, the white kids play together more often than not. This is not exclusively of course, but I think that it is natural that much of the time, we seek out those that are “like us”.

    Middle school and high schools can be difficult times for a lot of reasons – puberty, growing up, finding yourself, learning, planning for your future, social dramas and traumas, relationships etc. I’m not sure want to add more challenges on top of it by taking a chance on a large, urban school when we can make other choices. We’ll see.

    Thanks for the engaging discussion, everyone!

  • Sue

    I can see parents wanting to protect their children from excessive stresses, but I don’t see being in the minority as excessive. For most of my life, I’ve been the first, or the only female in many, many situations. Whether it was being the only 7th grader and the only girl to make it to the semi-finals in my elementary school’s chess tournament, or the first enlisted female programmer in the 1500 Computer Services Squadron during my Air Force enlistment, or the only woman in several offices where I’ve worked since, being different and one-of-a-kind has been an advantage. Yes, I got noticed and I stood out from the crowd, and though the notice started because of my gender, it was to my advantage because it was quickly discovered that I was really good at what I was doing.

    My older son just graduated from Skyline. We’ve never paid any attention to percentages of various ethnic groups in any of his OUSD schools, but I’m pretty sure that he and his younger brother are both minority-white-kids in every school they’ve attended.

    It wasn’t important to us. Older son’s autism was much more significant in making him “different”. But again, being different has been to his advantage – how many autistics do you think will be going to CSUEB as Theater majors next month? I’m pretty sure the answer is: one. He’s got amazing memorization skills, and a voice, whether speaking his lines (perfect enunciation) or singing, that can project to the back of a theater without amplification, and has brought him standing ovations when he’s performed on Skyline’s stage.

    Don’t be afraid of being unique – everyone else is, too. When it’s obvious because one *looks* different (or more specifically, behaves and speaks differently, as my older son does due to his autism) the extra notice and attention can be very helpful in finding success.

  • Nextset

    Sue: Playing Devil’s Advocate, I say that some people have very strong and reasonable feelings about who they will permit their minor children to associate with, be exposed to, go to school with.

    For many good reasons, some of which are cultural and some of which involve specific family history, a family might choose to avoid a certain school with a certain population in order to block or delay exposure of their kid to a particular demographic.

    And good for them. Families do have choices.

    Some black families do not want certain kids exposed to certain things at certain times. They feel that their kids are more vulnerable and they have plans for them that don’t include underclass “friends”.

    I have noticed this with Indian families. Gender may be an issue, alcoholism/drug traits could be an issue (I know families with morbid alcoholism in their line who will delay their kids exposure to alcohol, etc).

    It’s not just whites. Most of the white families I see believe their kids can dance with the devil and they’ll turn out OK. We know better. Maybe Black families don’t feel as “safe” as you do. Because we have seen the results of “hands off” over the last 60 years – and it doesn’t end well.

    So we’d just as soon go to Piedmont schools.

  • Sue

    Okay, if I’ve followed the rest of the various discussions, the black kids going to Piedmont schools are very much in the minority there, right? Possibly even unique in that school system. So a black family that makes that choice is simply doing what I suggested above – not staying with everyone just like them out of fear of being different from the herd. And good for them.

  • Jenna

    I hesitated to jump into the conversation because my sons’ abilities in math and science have been documented on the blog many times.

    We did look at Oakland High, however briefly. The level of math courses available on campus were not four years of advanced math. He will be in Oakland Tech this year and will wait to find out whether he will be in the Engineering academy.

    Like many of the parents on this blog we were concerned about safety. Twice, the girls in our neighborhood were robbed of electronics while waiting for the AC Transit bus on MacArthur Blvd. We feel that Oakland Tech has a good policy on “dangerous situations.” For example, last year when students were robbed on the school grounds, the principal put notifications out on the Oakland Tech thread.

    This is not the case with middle school issues and not on the Skyline thread.

    It is much less threatening if the “danger” or “perception of danger” is known. I love my sons, but they are not big guys, they are rather small and tend to use words rather than physical behavior to resolve conflict. They have also been taught to hand over “things” when confronted as things can be replaced.

    I would really like to see Oakland High be forthcoming in posting all issues on their own thread if there is one. I would like to see that they are bumping up math-science-technology courses and show student work when we come for school tours. I would love to see a shadow program similar to Oakland Tech. For example we were able to specify that we wanted my son to shadow a boy in the engineering program who took at least one Paideia class and who was interested in tennis or swimming. Got one! Ethnicity did not matter. The fact that my son could have like minded fellow students mattered.

    My sons did attend OUSD middle school and I also volunteered at school. I will say that while some classes and teachers were excellent, very few classes required anything close to academic rigor that is discussed here.

    I am also afraid that when my sons get into college they will not be as prepared and well rounded as they should be. There are very few opportunities of liberal arts (music, drama, painting, sculpture, dance and poetry) even in the Oakland elementary schools as the state of California says students should be exposed to. If you look at the U.C. graduation requirements, my sons will have to learn these subjects literally from the ground up as college students.

    It makes me kind of sad that even if my sons are willing to be at school, that the subjects are just not available. I agree with what Catherine says. I agree with Nia that schools cannot educate everyone, especially if they have advanced educational needs.

    It makes students want to try to be average rather than exceptional. In our house my sons often tease each other and say “looks like you’re aiming for average again” as sort of a put down.

  • Just My Thoughts

    The conversation is very interesting and revealing about the status of race relations in the Bay Area. It confirmed to me that diversity is valued here for restaurants and festivals only. When it comes to educating your kids or living in a particular neighborhood, the demarcation lines appear. One thing that really irks me is that most middle class and “Hills” parents think they represent the best and the brightest in schools. Have you ever sat in class with children of African immigrants? Good luck.

  • Oakland Teacher

    (Unfortunately) Posting 141 sums up the entire chain of responses. I do want to applaud the people who have the courage to do the right thing when it comes to school choice, as well as people like “Consider Oakland High”. It is easier to come up with reasons/excuses why you didn’t/”couldn’t” do something than to step up and be an instrument of change. “We don’t do it because we don’t do it” has been said far too many times in our history.

    I would recommend that all people who are interested in this topic read the book “Shades of White” written by Pamela Gray. She did a longitudinal study of how white kids views on race, racism, and the world were affected by whether they attended a school where they were a majority (actually an unnamed school through the tunnel) and an urban school where they were a minority (our very own unnamed SHS). The results were most interesting. Much of the information is applicable to socioeconomic status as well as race.

    Below is some information about the book (Duke University Press) along with some reviews:

    Shades of White: White Kids and Racial Identities in High School

    Author(s): Pamela Perry
    Published: 2002
    Pages: 280

    Description

    What does it mean to be young, American, and white at the dawn of the twenty-first century? By exploring this question and revealing the everyday social processes by which high schoolers define white identities, Pamela Perry offers much-needed insights into the social construction of race and whiteness among youth.
    Through ethnographic research and in-depth interviews of students in two demographically distinct U.S. high schools—one suburban and predominantly white; the other urban, multiracial, and minority white—Perry shares students’ candor about race and self-identification. By examining the meanings students attached (or didn’t attach) to their social lives and everyday cultural practices, including their taste in music and clothes, she shows that the ways white students defined white identity were not only markedly different between the two schools but were considerably diverse and ambiguous within them as well. Challenging reductionist notions of whiteness and white racism, this study suggests how we might go “beyond whiteness” to new directions in antiracist activism and school reform.
    Shades of White is emblematic of an emerging second wave of whiteness studies that focuses on the racial identity of whites. It will appeal to scholars and students of anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, as well as to those involved with high school education and antiracist activities.
    About The Author(s)
    Pamela Perry is Assistant Professor of Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
    – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
    “[A] truly outstanding contribution to the existing race and ethnic relations literature. . . . I strongly recommend this very well written, accessible, and forward-thinking book for courses in race relations, multicultural and ethnic studies, and education. Perry’s Shades of White makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the relational and situational nature of racial identity construction and the various social forces that continue to reshape the meaning we attach to race.”—Charles A. Gallagher, Social Forces

    “This ethnographic portrait of students enrolled in two very different northern California schools provides us with some insight into how they identify racially and establish cultural boundaries among themselves and across racial groups. . . . This comparative research design allowed Perry not only to observe how context influences racial identity, but also how white students from similar backgrounds maintained substantively different racial identities depending on whether they were a part of either the school’s majority or minority. . . . I enjoyed reading Shades of White, and certainly, I cannot quibble with Perry’s conclusions.” —Prudence L. Carter, Contemporary Sociology

    “In presenting findings based on participant observation in the schools and in-depth interviews with 60 students, Perry paints a portrait of racial identity formation among whites that varies dramatically by proximity to students of color. She asserts that merely interacting with students of different races and ethnic backgrounds in a multicultural school is not enough to counter the forces of racism that persist in American society.”—UC Santa Cruz Review

    “In Shades of White, author Pamela Perry interviews white students at two high schools—one in an urban, multiethnic community and the other in a suburban and predominantly white setting. Her goal is to figure out what it means to be young, white and American. Her conclusions—as can be expected—are not simple. Racial identity is considerably diverse and ambiguous. But Perry concludes her study on a less hazy note. She speaks strongly ‘ on behalf of reversing the current trend towards resegregated schools and revitalizing efforts to integrate and reform our public schools.’”—Jill Wolfson, San Jose Mercury News

    “In an overwhelmingly white country being white used to be seen as just being part of the majority, just a normal American. But how will our children think about it in schools where they will increasingly confront more and more students of other racial and ethnic identities? This book offers a sensitive and fascinating exploration of that question from the state at the cusp of that demographic revolution, California. Perry frames vital issues of integration and equity that demand leadership from the nation’s educators not just for the sake of minority students, but to prepare whites to become a successful minority in a workable multiracial society.”—Gary Orfield, Harvard University

  • harold

    @Oakland Teacher – i will definitely check out this title.

    … can we pass around the plate and purchase Nextset a copy of this interesting book?

  • AC Mom

    Sue and Just My Thoughts:

    Thank you for posts #139 and #141. I had quite a strong reaction to Hills Parent 13 post #136 and I found it difficult to respond in an appropriate manner. Both of you, albeit in different ways, “hit the nail on the head”.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I don’t think this book would change Nexset’s viwpoint; most of what he rambles on about are students of color and low achieving students. He actually pays little attention to the middle class families who (while wringing their hands) choose private or non-neighborhood schools.

    I want to add that on many levels this book addresses the BENEFITS of white students attending schools where they are not a majority. Research shows that when there is a large enough (20% in some estimates) percent of white students, they become the dominant culture, thus eliminating the true multi-cultural aspect of the school. Everyone else becomes marginalized or assimilates (sorry Nextset, but I disagree that this is necessarily a good thing).

    Most people agree that it was not beneficial to have segregated schools, and many studies were done to show the benefits to students of color who attended integrated schools. Pamela Gray’s book looks in the other direction: what are the effects on white students? She came back 10 years later and met with the same students, and the results were pretty consistent. When looking at the characteristics, life choices, and world view of the (now) adults, I would have no problem choosing between a school that may help grow my childrens’(and my) comfort zones & that could help my child grow into someone with a broader view and a school where my child blends right in.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    This book sounds like a must-read for teachers as well as white parents.

    I think “Just My Thoughts” in post #141 was right in his/her observation of most middle class and Hills parents. The middle school where I teach has a very high rate of kids on free and reduced lunch and is very racially, ethnically, and lingustically diverse. And I’ve had many amazing thinkers in my classes. I am often blown away by their observations and their thoughts even if their reading and writing skills are not proficient. The biggest difference between my students and my own kids is that my kids come from an educated family and have had many more opportunities than my students, the vast majority of whom have never been to the theater or a museum (unless there was a field trip), don’t go to the public library regularly (although we do go to the school library regularly during the school year), don’t go camping or spend much time in nature, don’t take vacations to places other than Las Vegas, or where their families live or are from.

    Every year I do a reading survey, and one of the questions I ask is for them to approximate how many books they have in their homes. Some only have the Bible. A couple of times students have asked me if the phone book counts. Like my own two sons, most of my students are involved in some kind of sport, play a lot of electronics, watch a lot of tv, and go to a lot of movies. But my kids are given opportunities and experiences that most of my students don’t get to have. It does have an impact on their lives, on their approach to school (my kids have a lot more academic prior knowledge to build on which is crucial in grasping new content), and on their thoughts about their future. But so many of my students are just as capable if not more capable than my own children. They might not be able to express themselves as well as my own children when it comes to discussing something academic, but they have the ability to get there. A classroom that is not only ethnically and racially diverse, but socioeconomically diverse offers many challenges to a teacher, but it also offers many rewards as well to the teacher and all the students.

  • Jenna

    I think some of the comments listed here are fair and some are very unfair. My husband and I are not college educated and we were willing to look at all high schools we thought were appropriate.

    I was one of the parents who advocated in 2001 (before we tested all students for GATE in Oakland – when only the hills kids were tested routinely) for GATE testing for all students in all schools. We have sons who caught us off guard by being extra ordinary learners.

    We do not seem to care about our high end students at all. I know this because when my son had a problem with is eyes, we had district specialists all over our family giving services. When the problem was solved with glasses that corrected the problem all services disappeared.

    Asking the district to educate a special needs child with Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, vision problems or even unspecified learning disorders is fair – to everyone I talk to in the district. Asking for an education for a student who has achieved beyond what the average classroom teacher has made plans for and is willing to teach is now considered disrespectful, racist, classist, snobbish or worse. And name-calling or insinuations that parents of students with needs that are not being met are these things is not fair. Would you say that a parent of a child with Down Syndrome who worried about how the child would be treated at Oakland High would be elitist, classist or racist? Or were they just trying to find the most appropriate education for their child?

    We are a family who cannot afford private school, even with a 90% scholarship and still be able to pay the mortgage, repair our 13 year old car, etc. We want an appropriate education for our sons. You don’t know our race, you don’t know what class our families are from and you don’t know how to meet the needs of our sons because you and people in the district have not asked how you can help them (except with the eye problem). We have to navigate the entire system ourselves.

    My husband and I thought the counselors would help. The teachers would tell us where we could find free or reduced price math classes and computer classes. But it did not happen. When we try to find them ourselves, we are told that we think we are too good for the brown kids. It is not true. We just want our sons to learn something in the classes they are in. That’s all we just work and pay taxes and live in our house in Oakland and want them to learn some in all of their classes. Is that so bad?

  • Gordon danning

    Jenns:

    can you clarify what you mean when you say that Oakland High does not offer 4 yrs of advanced math? We offer AP Calculus BC and AP Statistics — is there more advanced math than that offered at a high school somewhere?? That would be a very unique school

  • Jenna

    If a student takes Algebra in 6th grade or 7th grade and takes Geometry in 7th grade or 8th grade by high school the student should take Calculus AB and Calculus BC, Trigonometry, Statistics, and Mathematical Analysis. Yes, these subjects are offered in public high schools, yes, some middle school students begin taking the classes at the high school if they have finished geometry in 7th grade.

    When I look at the classes offered at Oakland High School I see three years of Mathematics, Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Statistics. Perhaps I am missing something significant, but what I see is three years of math.

    I will mention the public schools that offer these selections at the risk of being called racist, classist and elitist: Campolindo High School and Piedmont High School offer these classes, Alameda High offers even more and all of these schools allow students to tap into classes WHILE ON CAMPUS AT HIGH SCHOOL to online classes through U.C. Berkeley and Stanford.

    All of these schools seek out and promote mathematical advancement. I think that is what I am seeking for my sons, a culture that seeks out talent for development. Friends who have sons at Alameda High School have said that there are high level math clubs which have mentors from universities as well as they have high school teachers who appropriately mentor. Students work on real world problems in which they use their mathematics to solve them. Geeky kids are a sub culture that is welcome and given classrooms to meet in before and after school and at lunch.

    As I said before, I did not find that there are four years of math AFTER geometry. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • Recent Grad

    Regarding the math at O-High, you can’t really take either Calculus classes until you complete Algebra 2 AND Math Analysis (Pre-Calc). AP Statistics and regular Statistics just require Algebra 2.

    This would be the typical math courses a student would take at O-High (from what I have witnessed as a student):
    Geometry (9th grade), Algebra 2 (10th grade), Math Analysis (11th grade), Calculus AB or BC (12th grade, based on teacher recommendation).

    However, some students might choose to take both Math Analysis AND AP/Regular Stats during the 11th grade to challenge themselves, or to just get 4 years of math done so they won’t have math their senior year. Also, some students have taken Math Analysis or Calculus at a JC during the summer so they can get ahead the following year.