OUSD’s latest dropout estimate is higher than ever

A new state report estimated that 40 percent of Oakland public high school students dropped out, or would drop out, of high school based on data from the 2008-09 school year. (See the 4-year adjusted rate in the second-to-last column. Hint: You might have to scroll to the right.)

Forty percent! And that figure isn’t supposed to include students who enroll in adult school, those who take longer to graduate than four years, or who transfer to other public schools in the state.

The state’s dropout calculation is said to be more accurate than other methods, because each student in California has a unique identification number that (theoretically) follows them wherever they go, as long as they enroll in a public school in the state. But the estimate has fluctuated in OUSD, from 36 percent in 2006-07 to 28 percent in 2007-08 to 40 percent in 2008-09.

A high school’s population doesn’t change all that much from one year to the next, so I wonder how reliable these figures are.¬†They do tell us one thing, though: the dropout rate in Oakland is incredibly high.

My colleague Theresa Harrington listened in on a teleconference with state education department officials; apparently, San Diego and Stockton have also experienced major swings. A department official said this was the first year of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), and that it worked better with some districts’ software systems than others. But statewide, he said, there wasn’t much fluctuation from year to year.

P.S. The CDE used to provide a link at the bottom of each data report that made it easy to upload small, local data files and create Excel spreadsheets (like the one I made last year, comparing the rates for different schools). I’ve requested one, but I’m not holding my breath.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Harris

    I would not hold my breath with this data. The CALPADS system is severley flawed, underfunded, understaffed, and has had so many glitches that the Gov and cabinet threatened to dismantle it.

    Very innaccurate and depends on the work ethic of school and district offices. Oh yeah- Like they enjoy working!

    The state and nation need to be cautious when adopting theis level of data for an assesment tool- it is not accurate!

  • livegreen

    Maybe but keep in mind OUSD loses most middle & higher income students from ever attending High School, so compared to cities that attract and retain students it’s always going to be skewed higher, especially in High School.

    That’s not an excuses for the poor #’s, just that OUSD seems to only care about services to it’s lower income students & families. Instead it should be doing BOTH.

    The point is OUSD’s only PR is to help the poorest performing. It could help itself AND those poorer students if it also tried to retain Proficient & Advanced students (of any background).

  • Hot r

    Well what has been shown by the District’s own internal figures (nonCalPad)? Why is those surprising? doesn’t Castlemont start off with an entering class of 600 and graduate 60? This must really make staffing decisions difficult. The bottom line is that every Oakland High School is a “dropout factory” if these figures are even remotely accurate.

  • Catherine

    This rate does not include the “unofficial dropout” rate that occurs when fifth (yes, 5th), sixth, seventh and early eighth grade students do not complete forms to drop out but simply stop going to school.

    If the total calculation were made, my belief is that it would be close to 50%.

  • harlemmoon

    If these numbers are to be believed, what is the school district’s response?
    Indeed, even at half that estimate – 20 percent – we’re still talking about one great big batch of failure.

    I’d be very interested in hearing precisely how the school district – the administration and the board, really – intend to deal with the massive problem of high school drop-out rates. This issue must be moved to the forefront of public debate and acted on with requisite urgency.

    As we all know, this resultant effects are unemployable youth, higher crime rates and poverty, among other sad endings. None of which can the city of Oakland afford.

  • Nextset

    This kind of thing is why I’m unhappy with OUSD’s pious claims of college prep and AP classes.

    OUSD should have programs in place for low IQ people who are never expected to finish high school. These programs should be open and up front – their own campuses. The sole purpose of Educational Programs for the dull is to see that they have some chance of either supporting themselves or making a living legally, qualifying for military enlistment on some low level or otherwise making themselves useful so that somebody will take care of them.

    The major components would be proficiency in standard spoken english – basic writing and math – deportment and basic criminal/civil law awareness – home economics and human health issues – and basic living and working skills. Other than that, getting into an apprentice program of any kind would be a priority while in school. We are talking Vocational Ed in a big way, people.

    It would be more reasonable for OUSD to largely pull itself out of the college prep business and to start taking care of the population of the district which is heavy on the left side of the bell curve. The relatively few college track kids can be handled with their own competitive camput, maybe Oakland Tech or Skyline alone, admission by application and testing, seats limited. Actually, all the college prep can be better handled by other schools. OUSD should be Voc Ed and related work only.

    OUSD is getting away with far too much money to tolerate this performance any longer. If OUSD can’t do better than this it should be closed completely in favor of Charters and it’s properties leased out to the various Charter schools.

  • Hot r

    I think I actually agree with Nextset! Why dedicate all the high schools to college prep when there are only enough students at that level to fill one?

    I understand the response will be steeped in historical patterns of race discrimination which viewed all but the “talented tenth” of African Americans as ready only for trade school or relegated to special education classes, but a district in crisis like OUSD must be efficient. I want students to rise beyond their circumstances but reading levels are the real key to advancement. If OUSD had a policy to refuse to allow dropouts who read at a certain level then it would start to save those who can at least swim.

  • Alice Spearman

    I am so ashamed of these numbers. It does not take a lot of common sense to see all the intellectual reforms put in place are failing our population of students served is not working. To continue on the same path tells me that the people who can effect change are not willing to change their practices from “theory” to tested methods, and that all children will go to college. That does not mean that the students should not be college ready, the skills needed to be successful in any field these days require a full rounded education.
    Again, I am getting a little tired of reading all this posturing in print. If as you write Nextset, Harlemmoon, come out of your comfort zone, away from the keypads and join me at board meeting next Wednesday at 5:30PM, state your views in public, in person. Talking loud and saying nothing, it’s all the same, just plain talk, talk, talk…….nothing accomplished, no child saved.
    The invitation is always open, Join me.

  • JR

    Alice S.
    Whether we talk in public, or we don’t(I have)the policy makers do what they will(the tax money keeps rolling in, and no child is saved, but jobs for adults are sure taken care of). Stating your views in public is just the same old song and dance(fake democracy)I would much rather work hard to see the entire system torn down and re-made(which is what I do now). Those who profit from the system the way it is do not want real change(it’s all politics). we have a motivated huge grassroots movement that will change this system, with you or without you and it wont be long in coming.

  • harlemmoon

    Hi Alice –

    Ideally, you and the esteemed panel at the Board of Education are elected to serve the people, to preside over the educational environment of our most precious resources – our children.

    In truth, however, the debacle that is OUSD continues to churn out wholly unprepared students – and that’s just the ones who actually make it to graduation. While it would be easy to point fingers and blame you and the board, the cold reality is that the failure is shared – by you, me and the entire community.

    Year after year, we read dismal data about the attendance, performance and test scores of OUSD students. And our response is nearly always to stomp our feet and demand that heads roll. In short order, a blue-ribbon panel is seated to study the issues, a bank of pricey consultants are hired to execute the panel’s findings and, perhaps most sinister of all, the progress report – filled with convoluted formulas and pedantic proposals – is quietly filed away in a long-abandoned building and forgotten. And another graduating class of barely literate, hardly well-rounded, naive students is loosened on the world.

    When I elected representatives to the board, I did so with the full expectation that they would move honestly and swiftly to enact much-needed change to the shameful school system. While I did not expect miracles, I did hope for a modicum of movement, progress that would send a strong signal that this year would be different. This year, we’d resolve that education is a priority. And that everything we did would reflect that sentiment.

    Clearly, that is not to be. Next week, when you and your colleagues are seated, an agenda will dictate the flow of the meeting. There will be time allotted for speakers. And, perhaps, the board may be so inclined to respond. Or, as in most cases, to proceed as if no one had uttered a word.

    We need YOU, ALICE, and YOUR FELLOW BOARD MEMBERS to add this issue to the agenda, demand a response and action plan from the school administration, and (this is key) assess the progress of the plan at each and every board meeting. That would be a grand start at accountability – a critical part of the job that has been missing from OUSD for decades.

    Do this, Alice, and I will support you not only in word, but in deed.

  • livegreen

    These students are in Oakland, they’re just not in OUSD. They left with 52% of the other Proficient & Advanced students at the end of 5th Grade. (Somebody correct me, if I’m wrong, with the latest stats).

    Might it ever become a goal of OUSD to retain these students? Or to concentrate ONLY on sending the failing ones to College?

  • Nextset

    Alice S.: Believe me I have plenty experience telling Negroes what they don’t want to hear and watching them ignore warnings and persist on a catastrophic path. Sometimes it’s medical issues, sometimes it’s civil, sometimes it’s criminal. You cannot chase other people around and make them be something they are not. You have to do what you are there for, or what you are willing and able to do, and let the chips fall where they may.

    If the school board wants to start running “real” schools they can. That means setting standards and flunking out anyone who doesn’t meet them. Simply put it means that you are no longer running the North Pole. The process would start by setting up the college prep school as a separate campus and discouraging anyone not competitive from attending or remaining. Understand you would have relatively few black students (mainly ie the Nigerians, “the Eqyptions”, etc)and there would be the usual complaints demanding AA and relaxed standards for them. Secondarily you’d need to designate a Technical or Vocational school and go through the same process. Flunk and expel anyone who won’t perform – understanding the blacks will largely be on the receiving end of that also until and unless they change.

    I think there would be some change. People take lessons when it’s sink or swim time.

    But am I going to attend your board meeting and tell the board what to do? Absolutely not. It’s your schools to run into the ground if you want. You are a reflection of the electorate in Oakland and I can see this is what they want for their children. Pacification. If you don’t believe the OUSD schools were deliberately made this way and Piedmont the way they want – I do. People are presumed to intend the logical results of their actions.

    Piedmont doesn’t have as many of the left side of the Bell Curve, by ratio or percentage. They are not a black school district. But those left siders that present themselves are seen for what they are and dealt with accordingly. Since I haven’t read about any complaints or lawsuits I presume the dulls at Piedmont are well cared for in their very own Continuation School.

    There is a difference between blogging rhetorically and actually appearing and advocating the elected board change their entire course. When I blog I am addressing that question “Why is this happening”. I believe much of why these changes in education since 1960 have occurred is that the dulls – liberals (who are not all there) came to power and played with reality until we have screwed over the black students beyond anything previously seen in US History. All in the name of equality. When the US collapses ala the USSR – or when there is a right wing takeover of the US Congress and the welfare narcotic is finally cut off, the mortality rate for Negroes is going to get far worse. Too bad, so sad.

    Decent public education is the difference between survival or not in this state and this nation. And it’s not just reading skills that are not taught but deportment and how to “be”. It used to be taught in the schools. We cannot leave that up to the underclass families – it must be taught in the schools. Teaching that lesson requires physically separating those that are going to learn their lessons from those that don’t.

  • On the Fence

    Livegreen posits that this dropout rate may include the many, many families that leave OUSD and enroll in private schools. I’m assuming that these students would then be relatively untrackable under their unique California identification number, as this id. only tracks children in CA public schools. Please let us know definitively if this dropout rate includes any/all of the children who leave for private schools.

  • Katy Murphy

    If a child leaves a public high school for a private high school (remember: this rate only includes students who’ve enrolled in a public high school) and her family doesn’t notify the public school about the transfer — and if the private school doesn’t contact the public school for the student’s records — then yes, that student could be counted as a dropout.

  • On the Fence

    OK. Thanks Katy, that helps. Just to clarify, do the many students who intially apply and get accepted to, say, Tech High, but never actually show up on the first day of school as they decide to go private, get counted as enrolled or is enrollment counted after school actually begins?

  • Katy Murphy

    I believe the official enrollment count — the number reported to the state — is taken several weeks into the school year.

  • livegreen

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant that the dropout rates are higher in Oakland because Proficient and Advanced students leave the district before they even get to High School-HS. So if the schools were just able to retain Proficient and Advanced students, then dropout rates/% would automatically decline.

    Now I realize that doesn’t actually help the students who are dropping out. But it still impacts the reputation, funding & attitude of remaining students. + OUSD already seems to be concentrating on the worst students and what progress do the recent #’s show that’s getting us?

    OUSD needs to work on both sides of the coin. Not only helping the lowest at risk students but ALSO retaining and helping the Proficient & Advanced students. It seems if you’re a parent of the latter, it’s pretty much up to you to support your kids. (If this isn’t true, then the District & schools need to actually SHOW what they’re doing. Otherwise how do we know?).

    So Proficient and Advanced students & families can have an impact in their Neighborhood Elementary & now even (more & more) Middle Schools. But even at that level it’s on their own initiative, without the support or attention of OUSD. By the time you get to High School there’s no more “neighborhood” there to impact, or families are too exhausted from the work it already took in K-8, and daunted by the massiveness of the High School (HS) size and challenges.

    At that point it’s up to the District and, again, the District isn’t working to assist, retain or get those Proficient & Advanced students into the HS’s. Outside of some of the Academies (the one meaningful, positive area) it just isn’t showing that it cares.

    If the District did this (& actually did outreach to show it), coupled with the existing support for at-risk and poorer performing students, we might be able to actually make some progress…

  • livegreen

    BTW, further to my comments above, has anybody looked at the Strategic Plan’s Regional Zone Map? The lines between Regions (especially Regions 1 & 2) cuts right through not just neighborhoods, but also K-8 neighborhood school boundaries:




    So how can the Strategic Plan emphasize “neighborhood schools” when the lines are cutting up neighborhoods and going right through neighborhood school boundaries?

  • Hills Parent

    My children attend one of the hills elementary schools. Every year families move to private school or relocate to a better school district. These are generally families who have been very involved at the school and whose children are high performing. In other words, the families that leave were assets to the school community.

    Often times the open spots are filled with kids from the flat lands. Usually they are low performing children, often with discipline problems. So as the years go by, the quality of the class falls. It’s sometimes close to a tipping point and the school could fall into decline if too many of the strong families leave. I’m already hearing many, even most, of my friends talk about alternatives. It seems like no one wants to stay beyond elementary and some head out even before the end of 5th grade.

    From the outside, the answer seems obvious – a competitive, academic, magnet, tracked middle school to retain this population of kids. Also, beyond this, academies that start in 9th grade instead of 10th to be an attractive alternative to all the parents considering moving their children. I can’t believe Oakland is content to let many of their best and brightest students flee the district when there are obviously solutions?!

    There is zero chance that my children will be part of OUSD by middle school.

  • Yastrzemski

    To Hills Parent:
    The same thing happens at our “hill school”, however many of our involved and engaged parents choose a charter, which enables the younger siblings to stay in the district. They are an option that gets blasted regularly in the blog, but until OUSD gets their act together, they are a viable and wise choice.
    I’m speaking of the successful ones, I know that many are quite bad and should be closed.

  • Ramona

    i agree with Nexset. OUSD does not have a clue. The superintendent and his staff have the linguistic skills to sell to the soft, union loving, and leftist crowd in the city; who for the most part drive the city to the ditch. In the meantime; words are words, actions are needed.

    Not the same diversity and equity rant but tough stances for parents and students who do not care about education and solely blame others for their misfortune. Oakland will contiue to loose them all, becuase they are not geared to think differently.

    Board members will not create a new initiatives, and I am sure as hell that this OUSD cabinet of theorist, marxist leaning intellectual class do not know how to think out of their “stop racism” rants.

    Over and over I have been hearing from neighbors, and n this blog, that middle school is when the charcter mis-education starts. OUSD preparing students for the ” vida loca”- nice.

  • harlemmoon

    Quite right, Ramona.
    In the finer academic halls of middle schools around the Bay Area – indeed, the country – the young minds are prepared for rigor and well-rounded learning.
    But in Oakland, they’re all excited about the possibility of bringing armed police officers to the middle schools. And darn near everyone is pleased as punch!
    If that doesn’t represent this city’s twisted thinking and bizarre reasoning, I don’t know what does.

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

    The problems with the dropout data are described here: “New dropout rate in question” @ http://toped.svefoundation.org/2010/12/09/accuracy-of-new-dropout-rate-in-question/

  • Works at Oakland School

    Can you imagine if we had a competitive, tracked middle school and the same for a high school? A large portion of the kids I know at Bishop O’Dowd would be there. There parents can’t really afford O’Dowd but there is really no other option. If there were a high school that was like the Paiedia program but for 9-12 that would be so fabulous! But I don’t think the idea will ever be put into practice. There is too much kowtowing to the people whose kids wouldn’t be there. If the school board or enough people in Oakland really wanted to see this happen, what would they have to do to make it actually come to fruition? Does any one know? I am afraid it will just be talk because it will never happen.

  • jessejames

    In my class of 23 first graders, I have 3 African American boys who have an absence rate of 15-40% with excessive tardies. These are the only students with dismal rates in my class. There are phone calls home every time they are absent and that is the only repercussion. The easy out is to say that the child is sick and it’s an excused absence. But if a kid is sick 15 out of 60 days, perhaps he should be in the hospital.

    Our school doesn’t hold attendance (SART) meetings, so I do it myself. I complete district attendance contracts with families. The message to these 5 and 6 year olds and their families is, I believe, that school isn’t all that important and that the school doesn’t really care whether they are there or not. As we, the families and I, meet to talk about the child’s record, work and the message being sent, I hope to send a different message.

    If no one cares about the kindergartner or first grader who misses school, who cares about the high schooler?

  • livegreen

    Jesse, How do district attendance contracts work?

  • jessejames

    The contract has three parts: what the family will do, student will do and what the school will do. It is signed by the parent, student, administrator and SART representative (me). A review date is set to check on the attendance rate. If the contract is broken, the SARB and district attorney is informed.

    I am not certain if the district SARB holds a meeting with the family and/or the case is referred to the district attorney for legal action. I don’t know if the contract is an empty threat.

  • Maria Ku

    Wait a second, didn’t the newest report just told us we’ve been experiencing a HUGE outflow of population out of California in the past few years. Those kids leaving California schools did get automatically counted as “dropouts”, right? Because they did not continue in a California school?

  • livegreen

    Jessie, So the contracts have not made a dent in the absantees of the 3 boys u mention?

    Does every school have a SART official, or r they supposed to?

    R there other students & families u have seen this make a difference for?

    Sounds like it would make a bigger difference if there were consequences for the families or more resources for schools to do more follow-up.

  • jessejames

    As I understand it, every school should hold SART meetings. I don’t think anyone downtown oversees the process to make it mandatory. Contracts have made a difference for other families I’ve worked with. There hasn’t been enough time to see if it’s worked with these 3 families.

  • livegreen

    Jessie, Thanks. I’m also curious whether there’s a similar contract or manner schools can help teachers make sure kids are doing their reading & homework (for younger kids this means a lot of parent involvement). If kids are not, what (if anything) does OUSD do about it?

    Of course there’s a lot of instability in some kids lives, but giving the parents a free pass (especially when kids are younger) does nobody any good. I would hope there’s a similar system for parental support to the contracts you mention for attendance.

    Is there?

  • jessejames

    There is an area on the report card about returning homework. Teachers can always make contracts for their students, call families, create incentives and have family conferences. This is left to the discretion of teachers. Contractually every month there are 5 hours that go beyond the teachers duty day. 3 of these are for family/parent contacts. The hours don’t have to be documented. So, there are ways to have a system but there’s not any official one.