An Oakland mom’s take on the dropout rate and Tech’s Paideia program

Kim Shipp, an OUSD parent, responds to a blog discussion on Oakland’s dropout rate and access to Oakland Tech’s Paideia program.

Paideia classroom at Oakland Tech. Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

In response to Oakland’s dropout rate and the increasing popularity of the Paideia program at Oakland Tech, topics recently posted on this blog, I decided to give my thoughts about both issues from a parent’s perspective. In my fifteen years of experience in Oakland schools with three children, I’ve spent two of those years in a private school setting and two of those years in Paideia with my oldest son.

It is no secret that Oakland has one of the highest dropout rates in California. The constant change of leadership over the past 13 years has had a negative impact on the school system. In Oakland’s case this includes nine leaders in the form of superintendents or state administrators; no organization can sustain itself in meeting its goals without stability in leadership. This permeates down to the school level.

Take Skyline High School for example. The graduating class of 2011 will have experienced a new principal in each of their four years of high school. My son spent his first year of high school at Skyline, the next two years at a private school and is now back at Skyline for his final year. This year, when he returned to Skyline, I immediately noticed some stark differences between private and public schools. In a nutshell, private schools care about what they are doing and public schools appear not to. These differences have little to do with money, but rather willingness on the part of adults and how one entity values education over the other.

For example, at Back to School Night, I questioned some teachers in Advanced Placement classes regarding their pass rates on AP exams. To my amazement, most of the teachers did not seem to care whether students passed or failed these tests. One teacher’s response was, “we have about a twenty-five percent pass rate.” When I asked about preparing the students for the tests, another teacher responded, “ we do not do a lot of preparation because most of the students have other things to do in their lives, like work.”

Private schools pride themselves in their pass rates and there is a lot of preparation that goes on in those private schools. In private school, every effort is made to ensure student success. This is done by providing advisory meetings with students to address their issues, the dean working with the teachers, detailed e-mail progress reports of notification to parents, putting parents on weekly progress notification if necessary and even informing the parent when this is no longer necessary.

In public school, progress checks are left up to the parent. There seems to be no conversation taking place between school leadership and teachers regarding individual student progress. In private school, there is a tremendous focus on building relationships between students and staff on the premise that each student is an individual with individual needs. In public school, it’s based more upon performance and everyone is viewed in the same light. In public school teachers are protected. In private school they are not.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were other types of challenges we faced in private school, and as with anything else, it is not a perfect entity, but at least it knows its purpose. The dropout rate will continue until people regain their sense of purpose, build relationships, and take responsibility for student failure. One has to get to the point to believe if the majority of students are failing under their care, than they are failing students.

Paideia is a humanities program created by a group of teachers at Oakland Technical High School. Much like several other programs and teachers in some schools, these programs are more about the individual teachers and their philosophy than the school itself. These teachers are also the protectors of these programs, and the principal and school district officials can do little to intervene, change, expand or open them up to others. Paideia can be viewed as a “free” private school within a public school.

In 2001, my son was the only African-American senior in the program at the time. It came to my attention that a young African-American girl, whose family attended the same church as me, was denied access to the program even though she had the grades coming out of middle school; she had attended Westlake. Many of her friends who had attended Montera were allowed to enroll in Paideia. We brought this issue before the school board and this resulted in several people, including district staff, the principal at the time, the school board representative, myself and other parents, to get more sessions for Paideia on the master schedule so more students could participate. The other parents were at the table because they were debating private school or Tech. This attempt was not without objection from the original creators of the program. I even had one of the teachers call me at home to express her concerns about making it available to more students. The program was expanded to include a few more sessions, but I am not sure if it has expanded more since then. Over the years, other students of color have attempted participation but there are rigorous requirements of course work and here the advanced placement pass rate is cared about. In fact, one could argue that the program is selective because they want to maintain their successful pass rate, which at the time was about 85 percent.

In terms of some of the equity issues addressed in the blog, my definition of equity is “equity is only afforded to those who demand it and know that they need to.” In other words we live in an unjust, unequal society, and as many of the bloggers suggest, “it is in fact what it is.” As a parent, I cannot wait for a system that probably never will correct itself to provide equal opportunity and access. I have to do the best I can for my family and community with what I know.

Education, employment, opportunities, etc., has always been difficult for most groups to obtain and it remains true today. In fact, people forget that this was the basis on which the country was built, keeping the masses enslaved while allowing only the select few prosper. Remember the old adage, “ a people that forgets its history, is destined to repeat it.” We are almost there.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Ms. Shipp: I’m still digesting your comments and experiences with OUSD. It really helps to have more information posted on parent and students’ experiences at OUSD.

    In general are you satisfied with OUSD? What are the pros and cons with putting the children in school elsewhere? What were the factors that compelled you to select the schools you did? Do you believe black children have special issues in school selection? Do you believe OUSD reasonably served your child’s education needs?

    A comment: I have little concerns about a school being warm/fuzzy “just & equal” because that’s not what a black child is ever going to live with in the higher ed & job markets and they need to learn how to swim while they are young. The important consideration for me is that the place is merely reasonable and preferably a gladiator school in the sense that it will prepare my black child for a rigourous college and professional/technical school. There are other concerns depending on having a black girl or a black boy also.

    But maybe I’m just too worried about getting black kids ready for the Brave New World. It’s a constant struggle to make sure the kid doesn’t get too complacent about what they are going to have to overcome – the schools are too likely to tell the kids to relax and don’t worry.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Thank you.

    We will have to see what we choose to do for children who don’t have active parents such as yourself. I hope your children appreciate what you’ve done to create conditions for their success.

  • allRoads

    Anytime “equity” issues and the whole oppression boo hoo hoo is expressed, I always put out there: Why does the same education system work for the immigrant Asian group and not for your group? (And I won’t mention your group since you didn’t mention the asian group in your blog entry)

    We never talk about the elephant in the room. We always talk around it. Let’s just call a spade a spade.

  • Rick


    Mrs. Kim Shipp brings up some excellet points. What is the percentage of hispanic and blacks students passing
    AP English or math exams in OUSD or the charter schools?

    Havr you ever looked into this as a story? We always get information about the low students. What about those taking AP?

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint

    I assume that just about everyone reading this blog is now aware of OUSD’s outrageously high dropout rate. A number of you have asked what we are doing to end the dropout epidemic. Clearly, we have yet to find a comprehensive solution, but we are treating this trend as one of the most pressing – if not the most critical problem – facing the District. Accordingly, we have implemented several programs designed to reduce the dropout rate and we will continue to analyze the issue in search of additional strategies.

    Some, not all, of these strategies will likely evolve from the task force developing recommendations for OUSD’s five-year plan. I won’t go into detail here as you can learn more at http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/taskforces, but the Core Curriculum, Secondary Experience and Achievement Network and Quality Community Schools Development (QCSD) task forces will be addressing this crisis from different angles while sharing the products of their inquiry.

    This work is conducted in the context of advancing the Community Schools, Thriving Students vision and OUSD’s transformation into a full-service community school district.
    In this model, a high-quality education is accompanied by health, physical education, nutrition, medical, dental, recreation, housing, employment, and language acquisition services, with the school acting as the hub of activity and an anchor for the neighborhood.

    Social and human services are not seen as extra or add-ons in these schools. They are a way to create conditions that allow for high-levels of learning and make schools a more central and compelling part of the lives of students and families – thereby reducing the incentive to dropout or pursue other ill-advised life options,

    Within this framework, which will take time to fully develop, we are pursuing various school and classroom-based strategies such as
    • Engaging all students in rigorous academic courses and work based learning and career technical education, we help them view high school as the launch pad to their futures, rather than a destination.

    • Helping students become part of the greater community, and bring the community into the schools through classroom speakers, job shadows and internships.

    • Looking at how to change structures in the high schools to keep students engaged and successful longer–which means more credit recovery and more academic interventions.

    • This year we established labs at Tech, OHS, Skyline, Castlemont, Mac (Mac and Castlemont’s I believe will start second semester), and Fremont where both high school students and adult students can come on campus and make up courses using Odyssey software. There is a late morning, and early afternoon and a late afternoon session.

    • We have increased access for students to CAHSEE Prep through two programs: Revolution Prep (which is an online prep program for students who have not passed CAHSEE) and CAHSEE 380 which is a program for 9th and 10th graders to use as they rev up to take the CAHSEE for the first time.

    • We were one of 14 districts in the country awarded a federal Small Learning Communities grant for our three large high schools in October. That is significant–because it provides us with resources (especially at this difficult budget time) to create more personalized conditions at the 3 big high schools. It is imperative that we do a better job of holding students in school–and the 9th and 10th grade are critical.

    • We are working closely with the office of College and Career Readiness to increase and strengthen our academy programs, which provide students with work based experiences and relevancy in terms of preparing them for the future. Part of the work of our SEAN Task force is to increase those opportunities for more students.

    • Finally, we are also developing meaningful work-based programs at the three continuation schools which will be supported in part by the Irvine grant which is held in the College and Career Office.

    Again, there is much more to be done and we welcome any and all input as we grapple with this problem. If you have suggestions, I highly recommend you attend one of the meetings for the task forces described above or send them to me at troy.flint@ousd.k12.ca.us so I can forward them to the staffers working directly on reducing the dropout rate.

  • http://www.slhs.net/2002106113134873/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=58693 Jerry Heverly

    Mrs. Shipp
    I don’t work for OUSD. I teach in a nearby district. But I wonder if you would find my excuses worth hearing (and I acknowledge some of this is excuses–that I could do more):
    Back to School Night: in private school where you are spending $ you go; in my public school only about 10% of parents show up (and always the ones with A students)
    Parent contact: six times this semester I’ve been asked to stay after school to meet a parent. Five times the parent did not show up, one parent came a half hour late.
    Parent contact2: I’ve offered dozens of times over the past few years–parent, let me come to your home to talk with you about your child’s progress. Not once has anyone said yes.
    Progress reports: I should do more here. It’s easy to sign one and expect the child to deliver it home. But even if I’m more proactive (if I send the report to the parent) how do I get it into their hands. Students routinely intercept mail that I send home even when I disguise the return address.
    Tracking: nothing segregates a school more yet when I speak out against tracking I’m overwhelmed by parent protests. The active parents don’t want their kids mixing with the lower class kids.

  • Katy Murphy

    Rick: I actually have, though it was difficult to get this info broken down by school, race and exam. Thanks for reminding me to get back on it!

  • Hot r

    Just across the bridge from Oakland is a public school district with open enrollment honors and advanced placement classes available to all students and support classes for those who need an extra boost. the pass rates in their AP courses matter to the teachers, and often exceed the national average without closing off the classes. this guarantees nothing except that the students will be challenged whatever their background. in these schools parents do come to Back to School Night, not just to sporting events, and are involved in the life of the school. I am sorry your experience has been so poor, but I assure you it is not the same in other public schools.

  • Nextset

    I don’t think Troy Flint gets it. much of what he speaks of doing will increase the dropout rate, not lower it.

    The drop outs, which here are dominated by the black students, are making rational decisions to leave a school system that is of little or no perceived value to them.

    Any further academic and college prep programs are going to intensify the dropouts, not reduce them. If OUSD really wanted to fight the dropout trends – which I doubt they do – they’d establish “ditch digger U’s” – Continuation schools for underclass youth that actually do have some value to the student and the mess of a family these students come from. And stop mentioning the words “college” to them. The dropouts are generally not on this earth for college. It insults and annoys them when you speak to them of it. They want and they need paths to a better existance with no college – ever.

    We may understand that the Jr Colleges have some of the low cost trade programs that are the highest aspirations of some of this group. We do need to break that to them gently – when they’re ready, maybe when they’re 22.

    Maybe we should start with a day program on how to manage your criminal cases (or welfare claims, birthing and VD, karate class) – something really useful.

    When OUSD starts a program that gives the dropouts something with obvious value – something they can use within days – then you’ll be onto something.

    The underclass never values information for it’s own sake. They only value something they can use at once. (Read Banfield’s “The Unheavenly City” and related scholarly books). Give it to them and they won’t drop out.

    In the meantime, Budget Cuts are coming. Watch what happens to the State Education budget. Enough chasing after the underclass and throwing money at them they want no part of. If the public schools can’t get better utilization than this, they need to have school closures and termination of mandatory education by 9th grade. See if those days aren’t coming.

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

    #6 Jerry – my experiences in OUSD exactly. I don’t want to just blame the parents but I’d also like to not be blamed entirely when kids are failing – when they haven’t eaten, don’t own a book, don’t have a stable home, and are afraid because their dad is beating up their mom.

    Or, as some of my colleagues in more affluent areas have told me – when the nanny is the only contact with the family and the parents answer every issue with “My child wouldn’t do that.”

    Yes, teachers need to be responsible, but parents need to take some responsibility for the children they brought into this world.

    I am not a parent but I tell all my friends who are parents to tell the teachers what they expect. Teachers want help and feedback but we can’t do it all alone – especially those of us who have 150 students.

  • Gordon Danning

    Ms. Shipp: I teach an AP class, and I don’t care about whether kids pass the test, because my job is not to get them to pass the test, but instead is to impart the skills set forth in the California Social Science standards. Similarly, I teach seniors, but I don’t care whether kids graduate, because getting them to graduate is NOT my job; rather, it is THEIR job. My job is, again, to teach what is in the State standards (or, as much as is practicable).

    What parents SHOULD be concerned with, re: AP and otherwise, is whether the curriculum being taught is sufficiently rigorous. In my experience, that is a MAJOR problem in Oakland, and is itself a form of inequity.

    PS to Rick: The number of African American and Latino students who pass AP tests in the District (other than Latinos who take AP Spanish) is very low.

    PPS: Finally, as a World History teacher, I can’t led slide the claim that “this was the basis on which the country was built, keeping the masses enslaved while allowing only the select few prosper.” That is just silly.

  • harlemmoon

    If it wasn’t so sad, I’d say this represents the loudest case for laughter yet: An OUSD Task Force charged with investigating its spectacular failure in executing its very own education mission.

    Even funnier: The “hub” approach is hardly new or innovative. Indeed, the vaunted Task Force need only peer across the bridge to SFUSD, where such a model was tested nearly seven years ago. Sheesh.

    Oh, and Madame Shipp, did you not at one time have a contract with the very district you now appear to slam? Oh, for shame.

  • Rick

    Katy and Gordon,

    Thanks! What about this for a start. HOw many of our black male or females student’s passed the AP cal exam at Skyline or Oakland Tech?

  • seenitbefore

    How about a big old dose of common sense????

    Why do Oakland kids drop out and not see the value of getting an education?

    Well…. for 9 years (grade K-8) Oakland students are pushed along to the next grade via “social promotion” whether they master the material or do nothing at all in class. For example…. just like last year and the year before, there are 8th graders at my school today who have a 0.00 grade point average. Last year, they were threatened that they wouldn’t walk the stage, but they all did…. and not one student was retained. They ALL went on to high school. The straight A students and the straight F students alike.

    They also played on the basketball and football teams, they went on field trips, they got awards in front of the entire school if they showed even the slightest hint of positive behavior. While the high performing kids and their parents are ignored and even RESENTED by the administration (I know of a straight A student who was given an F because the kid he was assigned to tutor in math did no work and made no progress), the low performing “at-risk” students are catered to and cajoled by the administration as their teachers are VILIFIED for not doing enough to reach them. They walk the stage at the end of their 8th grade year thumbing their noses at teachers who had no ability to hold them accountable for learning or behaving over those 9 years.

    Then… we send those unprepared students off to high school….. where ALL of the rules for school have now been changed. If they don’t master the coursework with at least a passing grade, they receive no credit and must repeat that course before moving on. What a concept!!!! So…. after a few months or maybe a whole year, when that same student who once walked the stage triumphantly at 5th and 8th grade “Promotion” ceremonies (even though they didn’t have the grades to deserve it)…..realizes what it would actually take for them to pass to the next grade or graduate from high school… they just give up and drop out.

    Well….. DUH!!!!

    “Social promotion” is a grave injustice and extremely patronizing to our kids. We should love and respect them enough to be honest with them and to hold each student accountable for their own efforts and progress. We also need to be willing and prepared to meet them where they are educationally and to challenge them to take responsibility for themselves. And we need to do it SOONER rather than LATER.

    It ain’t rocket science.

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

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Kim.

    How do you think class size load fits into all of this? How many student contacts do the private school teachers have per day vs those working in the public schools? To me that might be the most obvious functional difference that would contribute to (or interfere with) teachers making deeper one-on-one connections.

    And as far as the history of this country goes, I ditto what you say. I also want to recommend a wonderful new book to everyone here about the Great Migration: “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Pulitzer Prize-winning Isabel Wilkerson. This is such an important era to understand, but hasn’t been much studied.

    Wilkerson’s in-depth piece of journalism reads like a good novel. Also, she connected with a lot of people in Oakland while doing her research. She’ll be speaking in SF on March 9, 2011.


  • Gordon Danning


    Why just Skyline and Tech?

    Also, a more interesting study would be this: What percentage of African American students who enroll in an AP class end up dropping it? Unfortunately, in my experience, the percentage is very high, especially for males (but then, males of all races are underrepresented in most AP classes, with the possible exception of math and physics. I’m not sure about Chem and Biology.)

  • teacher.

    I DO care whether my kids pass AP/CST/CAHSEE/graduate. Why? Because it is MY JOB to make sure my students leave me with the knowledge and skills outlined by the California State Standards. And if I teach a rigorous course, they will.

    Look, I didn’t have to twist words!

  • Nextset

    Seenitbefore’s post is a great example of OUSD “schools” in full pacification mode.

    People, these are not schools. We pretend to teach and the bad students pretend to learn. Then we send them off to high school to wreck those “schools”.

    Remember, the differences are most pronounced sfter puberty. You are not going to have a school where you have mixed bad students and good students.

    Until we screen out bad students in the public high schools we really aren’t educating.

  • Katy Murphy

    I asked the district this fall how many black students in OUSD passed AP Calculus, and was told it didn’t have that information, which surprised me. I brought that up in my interview with Chris Chatmon, director of African American male achievement. I believe he has requested it.

    Here’s a breakdown of total AP scores, by school (but not by race or subject), in OUSD: http://bit.ly/f9Lg4G

  • Chris Vernon

    Paideia has expanded over the past several years. My mixed race (AA/White) son went through the AP track of Paideia and the Engineering Academy, graduating in 2007 having passed all seven of the AP courses he took at Tech.

    In contrast, my daughter up until this year has not been as diligent in her studies, and as a result is instead taking the Honors track of Paideia and her first AP course (Statistics) as an 11th grader. There are upwards of 300 kids currently taking part in Paideia in grades 10-12.

    As noted in the prior article about the program, one of the barriers to expansion is finding qualified teachers who have both the history and english credential, are willing to commit to all the hard work required, and are willing to work starting at $42,000/year. One of the most talented young Paideia teachers left before last year after about 5 years at Tech. He got married and moved back to the midwest where he could afford to live on a teacher’s salary.

  • Rick


    Good question. Katy said it was difficult to get the AP data from ousd that is broken down by percentages for different ethnic groups.

    Therefore, If she focused on one race, one school(such as skyline or tech) and one subject it would be simpler for her to get the information. Any OUSD high school would be fine with me. I have been told by an AP teacher that they are not aware of one black student in Oakland who has passed AP cal in 2010. I find this hard to believe!

    Mrs. Alice Spearman,

    You comments have been very stright forward on this blog. Can you help Katy get this information?

  • Gordon Danning

    I’m sure that the College Board issues a report to the district that breaks this down. It should be easy to get; I found it (or, a report that I assume has that info) online but it asks for an access code.

    In fact, the district got a grant from the College Board a few years ago to improve African-American performance on AP tests. I assume there is data.

    Nancy Midlin is the district AP coordinator – she should be able to get the reports

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Gordon. As I mentioned before, I need to follow up on my initial, unsuccessful attempt to get this data. I’m sure it’s out there — and if it’s not, that’s a story too.

  • Harold

    Does anyone else find this racial data as useless as i do? This is a waste of time.

    “the district got a grant from the College Board a few years ago to improve African-American performance on AP tests.”

    You can’t teach to a race. You just teach.

    I would love it if everyone who wants to continue to collect data, divided by race, – to please explain what you want if for … and if you teach in Oakland, and want the data, what are you going to do with the data to teach more effectively?

  • Nextset

    Rick: Why would you find it hard to believe there is apparently not one male black student passing AP Calc? (as opposed to Asian and Jewish candidates)

    More interesting, is when you do find “Black” males passing AP Calc – what is the actual ethnicity of such males?

    Look at the IQ stats for USA blacks (they’ve been charted now for nearly 100 years). Now what scores are typically required for AP Math and Lab Sciences. Now how many such individuals age 18 per year would you expect to find in the US? It’s a Bell Curve thing.

    We go through the same math every year with the CA & NY Bar Exams, the National Medical Boards and every other thing that is IQ dependent. In some cases the candidates from particular ethnic groups are rare – there are numerically not many people in the country each year scoring in the band required for these things. And it’s not going to change, it’s going to get worse thanks to government run dis-eugenics.

    It does no good to lie about what is happening or piously claim we don’t know what is happening. We know EXACTLY what is happening.

    On the other hand, do I bemoan the fact that is disliked calculus intensely (statistics was fun, though) and found other things to do with my academic career? No. I like myself and my interests. Most everyone does. Maybe that’s a survival instinct.

    Blacks are typically not good at calculus and no amount of teaching calculus is going to change that. The issue is genetic. There are individual variances and anomalies. Meaning you might be able to find an exceptional black candidate. So what. You sure don’t need Calculus for citizenship. And you have no excuse for humiliating students by telling them they are supposed to be able to do Calculus and are stupid if they don’t.

    People are different and have different abilities and talents. Some have better hand-eye co-ordination, some don’t. Some are adept at calculus, some are not. Embrace it. Work the differences. Stop trying to force people to be what they are not. Schools are supposed to be fairly assessing their students and making the most of what the students has to work with. Not trying to force them into a hopeless program.

  • Kim Shipp

    Thanks for all of your insightful post. I’ll try to respond to some who have asked for additional information.

    #1 Nextset, in general I can say that I am satisfied in that I was able to understand and used the avaiable resources that OUSD provided for my children. AP classes, music programs, etc.

    In terms of the choices I made for them regarding which schools, that also came down to opportunities. I found these opportunities and had my children to partcipate, inside the district as well as outside.

    As far as the private school being warm and fuzzy, definitely not the case, just more relational.

    #3 On the issue of equity, I’ll let my daughter (aged 20) respond to you.

    The issue of equity differs by race. A lot of what I have observed is that Asian immigrant parents usually (not always) demand more from their students and impart the value of education to their students. Generataions of African Americans have not been actively involved in and have not imparted the value of education in their children because they have not been taught to. It is a vicious cycle. I can only thank my mother and others in my family for instilling in me the value of education and how hard my ancestors had to fight for my right to be educated.

    #6 Back to school night in their present form are outdated and needs to be changed. You did not say what grade level you are teaching at, but Parent Contracts usually do not work at the middle and high school levels. At this point it is too late, you have to have a contract with parents early in a child’s education and the contract should be between the school and parent and a be positive one.

    #10 Most of the issues you described are a results of a lack of education from generation to generation. No it is not all of the teacher’s fault and I’m the first to say that parents bare the responsibility. But the focus was not on parents right now but addressing specific issues. Besides, If you are a good teacher you should not take issue with my comments, no more than I would if someone writes about parents not being involved in their children’s education.

    #12 Don’t quite understand you last comment. I’m not bashing OUSD, I’m expressing my opinion and where and who I work for have nothing to do with it.

  • Nextset

    Harold: Interesting line there,

    “You can’t teach to a race. You just teach.”

    No, you don’t just “teach”. You learn enough about your students to put them into programs that they have a reasonable expectation of succeeding in.

    To do otherwise with at risk or vulnerable student populations inflicts harm. Yes, you can make matters worse by taking a group of students into a forced-failure program. It’s called miss-matching. As in using AA to put students who would have graduated (met requirements) at a lesser program into a far more competitive educational program where they are statistically certain to fail. And maybe load them up with $200k in Student Loans at the same time just for fun.

    You can destroy people with a miss-matched educational program. But you know that, don’t you?

    Brave New World.

  • livegreen

    OUSD needs an effective way to teach and support their schools and teachers by teaching to:

    a) Large class sizes; Partial Solution: Get T/A’s in ALL classes;
    b) A big variety of students; Partial Solution: School or Program interventions that either concentrate on disruptive children outside class time, or, if necessary, take the disruptive child out for intervention;
    c) REALLY boost lower ranking student academics as early as K-8; Partial Solution: Supplemental programs like Sylvan or other (funded by OFCY or Strategic Plan funders like Kaiser);
    d) Bring parents of problem children in to schools to work on their children’s issues. Partial Solution: Family Outreach specialists;
    e) Retain Proficient and Advanced students and keep them engaged; Partial Solutions: GATE, other supplemental programs, magnet schools and tracking;

    f) Retain 9-12 graders who are dropping out or not college bound. Partial Solution: Bring back Technical education because they keep relevance, hands-on learning, and train for good paying blue collar jobs, and even some college bound (engineering, etc.).

    To Troy Flint’s point above, it sounds like OUSD has some ideas about technical education.

    OUSD’s Strategic Plan goals for Neighborhood & Community Schools should not devolve into just addressing social problems that occur outside the schools, or for only the poorest citizens. It must also address academics and community in Middle Class schools and neighborhoods, which don’t have the resources of EITHER the public spending in the Flats, or from the private wealth in the Hills. There should be in-between levels of funding and not ALL OR NOTHING.

    OUSD, OFCY & the Strategic Plan must work to represent a variety of communities, schools, families and children. Not just one.

  • Gordon Danning


    It is true that you cannot teach to a race. But it is also true that, if 90% of the students in an AP class are Asian-American (as in my classes), a marginal Asian American student might have more peer support than a marginal African American student. Indeed, many of my Asian-American students are in my AP class for one reason: their friends are taking the class. So, even if they struggle, at least they stick with the class and, hopefully, build the skills needed to succeed in AP classes in the future. In contrast, the marginal African American student is less likely to have friends in the class and hence is more likely to drop it when the going gets rough.

    Surely, it is possible for schools to address that problem.

  • livegreen

    Edna Brewer has a great program called Brothers on the Rise that builds positive peer pressure, both with young african american males but also across barriers, since they also have white, asian and latino boys in the program.

    Ironically when Gordon correctly mentions “surely, it is possible for schools to address that problem.” indeed some schools already have successful programs, or at least partially successful that could be more so with more resources.

    So why isn’t OUSD investing in programs that already work?

    Part of the challenge is that even with proven programs Principals nix them because they either don’t want a program from another school, or look for possible reasons the program won’t work at their school. So even with successful programs, broadening their scope either doesn’t happen or takes fighting tooth-and-nail.

    One subject we’ve addressed in comments but not as a stand-along-subject: OUSD is very bureaucratic and VERY political.

  • Donna

    Kim Shipp pointed out a disturbing occurrence that I have also observed in Paideia and similar programs: Even with similar grades and performance, white and Asian kids are PRESUMED to qualify (*halo* effect)and African American and Latino kids are not. Perhaps I am naive in thinking that this racism is inadvertent, but I am just as certain that it is real. Moreover, the white kids on the borderline will get in because their middle class parents know how to and will advocate for them until they get their way. Other kids may not have the Kim Shipps of the world to do so for them.

    And no, I am not advocating a lowering of standards, just an awareness of subconscious biases when making sorting decisions.

    I agree with Nextset that not all kids, including OUSD kids are college material, and that it folly to foist that myth on everyone. However, that does not mean that they must be destined for minimum wage jobs. Many jobs with living wages exist in the allied health fields such as x-ray technologists, certified nursing assistants, dental hygienists, etc. And of course, there are the traditional trade jobs such as plumbers, electricians, and mechanics. However, I suspect that kids need to be shown a clear academic road map to understand why they need a certain level of math or science to obtain training in those occupations.

  • On the Fence

    I had a real visceral reaction when I read the post by Troy Flint. Ugh! Maybe this ‘we’ll take over your life; feed, dress, house, teach you’ mode of providing education will work for some, but I highly doubt it. I don’t think that providing a social service Mecca will make the failing students flourish. I also think it oversteps what public education should entail. If that’s what the plans are, however, I wish the students luck.

    What I do know is it further alienates me, as an upper middle class parent. I send my children to public schools and I want the schools to provide an opportunity to learn, period. I am not interested in a facility where the family gets immunized, cavities filled, new coats, and housing. I understand that there are social issues that are different for some families, but if you want me to buy into public education it must fit my values and needs, too. If you make a public school model that looks like it fits the needs of only the most disenfranchised, then we’ll have to join the rest of the crowd who has already turned to private education. All we want is the opportunity for our children to get a solid public education. Rigorous teaching, safety, discipline – that’s all you need to attract and retain a whole lot of families.

  • livegreen

    Additional questions:
    “Additional Sessions” means more classes?

    Is this 1 example proof of racism? I ask because:

    -It is 1 example and as such anecdotal, not statistical or broad;
    -The other example is Kim’s son who apparently did not have the same negative experience (or presumably it would be included in the article);
    -Are there other potential explanations, such as feeder school, out of region or network, etc.?
    -I know white students who have had trouble getting into the school or program of their choice. They’ve also had to fight tooth and nail to get into programs they were originally rejected for. How is this different?

    I’m not saying racism wasn’t a factor here, I’m only saying it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that there is, and there should be some iota of proof if and when the claim is made.

    Kim, Did you ever get what you felt was a logical, honest explanation of why the young girl was not originally accepted? Or was it hard to tell through bureaucratic obfuscation and side stepping?

  • Harold

    i’m still waiting for someone to tell me and the community, how this racial data (which much resources are used in gathering …) is relevant, to the task (effective Teaching) in the classroom?

    The program at Brewer i am sure is fine … but i read thread after thread on this blog, where racial data is thrown around and requested. “We” didn’t used to track everything based on race. We don’t hand out race-based diplomas …

    The problem has been mentioned on this blog. Its discipline. These task forces are useless, worthless, drains on (precious resources) unless the adults are allowed to teach.

    Stop enabling disruptive behavior and our schools will flourish!

  • Catherine

    Mr. Flint:

    Please define rigorous as it looks in the elementary classroom, middle school classroom and high school classroom.

    There are very, very few classrooms in Oakland, three of my five included, several years of my sons elementary school and with the exception of a very small number of high school classes I have not seen what I define as rigorous in high school either.

    How is your and the district’s vision of rigor compared to the minimum state standards that I post on my classroom walls.

    Please define rigorous.

  • Gordon Danning


    My experience at Oakland High has been the opposite: we are so desperate for Latino and African American AP students — especially African American males — that we push marginal students into AP classes even if they are not particularly interested. Marginal Asian-American students are generally not pushed (though they are more likely to come by 1 week into school and ask to come into the class, possibly to be with friends, but sometimes also to escape classes that they deem too easy or too chaotic).

  • Catherine

    Gordon: I think we push these students into AP because many of us discovered (I did while getting my Master’s in Urban Education) that the districts has ZERO African American and Latino/Latina students in many AP strands across the district. Zero – for years and years.

    When you request the information from the district, you have to sign that you will not publicize the information without the district approval. So I will not specify what strands – perhaps Katy can get the information without these requirements under the Freedom of Information act. The district can’t fire her.

  • teacher

    #37 mentions Brothers on the Rise.

    Is it true that the Edna Brewer principal has cut that wonderful program from his budget next year? Again, can’t OUSD support this program if it has just received $7.5 million for wellness programs from Kaiser and the program would cost a tiny fraction of that amount?

  • http://None Kathi Booth

    Please excuse this if it is a repeat of what I posted,but I am not sure that the original went through.

    After reading this blog, which by the way I find very informative, I am sad to say that there is probably no real difference between your school district and mine.

    We fail to prepare, or for that matter to expect, a good majority of students for AP classes. In my city, not only does this apply to Latino and African American students, but also to a large number of non-minority students.

    I belive that the bottom line is districts make money when they have students that score basic or far below basic. It appears that there is no lack in grant money to “improve test scores and academic performance”. Textbook vendors and consultant firms, who exist solely to teach teachers how to teach, would be out of business. What would be the incentive for districts to really improve the lot of their students if they then lost funding sources; ways to continue to pay excessively high salaries for administrative postitions?

    I truly do believe it’s the money, not the students.

  • teacher

    Sorry. I meant #30 mentions Brothers on the Rise

  • Alice Spearman

    Again you have hit the nail on the head. Many Black Parents of financial Means have done the same as Ms. Shipp as far as the education of their children. I know many families who have sent their children through private schools and now are at schools such as Bishop O’Dowd for their high school experience. Now many of these students who did have a public school experience hounded their parents to allow them to finish their last year at a public high school to experience the “social” aspects, ( sports activities, senior balls, etc.), most of the private schools do not have these activities.
    And yes you are right, we find so much fault in our public school system but it is a nice place to recieve a check, as so many of our “professional” people are doing. Again, I think you will begin to see a different way of doing business here in Oakland. It will take time to correct the wrongs, but correction is happening.
    I am not one to preach, I just do, and it does not have to have a financial gain attached to it.
    Remeber education in OUSD is personal in my house. I know that atleast a few students are recieveing the best education possible, they are in the classes with my grandchildren on the Castlemont Campus. I do not feel that I have sacrificed these two teenagers to poor education, rather seeing true life situations that will help mold their personalities in turn making them a well rounded human being.
    Again, this is jut my opinion.
    P.S. I am still waiting for you to come to board meeting.

  • livegreen

    Well, if something is successful, why continue it? This is OUSD after all. 1 step forwards, 2 steps back. Better to try something we’re uncertain about…

  • Alice Spearman

    I have requested the information, it does exist. Someone may be too embarressed to let the public see it, but the administration is too aware of the numbers. That is the impetus for re arrainging the configurations of a couple of high schools.
    Let’s see how long it will take them to deliver it. Stay tuned.

  • Rick

    Mrs. Spearman,

    I love people who take the bull by the horns. We need more school board members with your ability to say it like it is.

    Thanks for your help and keep it up! Now, I know why so many people in our community support you for this job.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Ms Shipp,

    Can you share why your son left his private school (I remember you blog when you moved him to private), and why he has returned to Skyline (of which your description was not flattering). Why move your child back to a school you feel is so lacking?

    I am pleased to have (what I assume) is a fine young man back in OUSD and at Skyline, but curious as to why you switched back and why to Skyline?

  • Susan

    I think it is equally an indictiment for schools that say they offer all honors and AP courses to their students. That is unrealistic in the “real world” .

    What is AP anyway? Many schools ,outside of Oakland, do not offer AP courses yet kids go on to college. But what is the worth of college anyway? I have friends who attended Ivy leagues or expensive liberal arts colleges only to work as an underpaid, over worked low paid jobs.

    No…AP is also a farce for bragging rights that will begin to be attacked in this era of cuts.

  • Kim Shipp

    #44 I reluctantly let my son return to Skyline for his senior year because frankly he was really depressed at the private school. Although he did relatively well, he endured a lot which I chalked up to be a good experience for him even though he may not realize it now but I feel he will later. He was there on full scholarship and they wanted him to return, so money was not the issue. The early mornings and long evenings at school, the fifteen miles each way commute, his feeling isolated really took its toll. He never felt part of the school community. I can’t blame it all on the school because there were people there who I feel really tried to make him feel like he was part of the school, even though as I said before there were definitely some issues there. He attended Bret Harte and maintained his middle school friends throughout high school and he wanted to spend his last year of high school with them. I feel for the most part he benefited from the private school experience in a lot of ways, but in the end I had to make the decision of what was more important, one more year in private school or a son with a broken spirit? As parents we sometimes have to make tough decisions for the benefit of our children. Even though I’m a little worried about senioritis and the heavy load he decided to take (4 AP courses), he’ll be O.K. I think he’ll be able to take both experiences with him to college. As for moving back to a school that’s lacking, I never thought with Skyline and a few other schools that its always a lack of resources, but again a lack of willingness on the part of some. I think for me as a parent, it has been a tale of two cities so to speak. I also feel that I’ve benefited from both experiences.

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint


    It’s true that OUSD has historically failed to define and to encourage a systematic understanding of rigor. As a result, many of our classrooms are lacking in this regard. We recognize this situation as a serious shortcoming that inhibits our ability to provide consistent high-quality education and we are taking measures to rectify it.

    Specifically, we are working to develop a common understanding of rigor across the District that involves:

    • Promoting deep disciplinary knowledge
    o Developing central ideas in the discipline first while postponing interesting but secondary details
    o Establishing interconnections among central ideas of the discipline
    o Deepening understanding of themes over time

    • Engaging students in generative disciplinary concepts and skills
    o Having students anchor new knowledge to central concepts to build understanding
    o Having students apply familiar, central ideas or strategies to their emerging understanding of new concepts
    o Inviting students to build increasingly complex explanations of disciplinary concepts and processes

    • Engaging students in generative cognitive skills (higher-order thinking)
    o Having students combine facts and ideas to synthesize, evaluate, and generalize
    o Having students build arguments, solve problems, and construct new meanings and understandings

    One step in this direction occurred last week during the first installment of a five-day professional development (PD) program on academic language and literacy where principals study seven principles (academic rigor, high expectations, cultural relevance, meta processes, quality interactions, language focus, quality) that can contribute to excellent teaching.

    Principals are reading and learning about rigor. They are also watching and analyzing video of instruction to see if it meets the standard. This training will be supplemented by five days of paid professional development in June and August where teachers learn instructional strategies in their content area that are aligned to the seven principles.

    There’s a lot of work to do in this area and this is just the surface, but I hope this provides an idea of where the District is headed in defining and ensuring rigor.

  • OTBulldogs

    I am both excited and depressed about what I am reading here. As a member of the Oakland Tech community I am very proud of what the Paideia program has accomplished with its students. However, right about now is the time of year that African-American males are shuffled out of the program and into the “lower level” classes; classes which often have better teachers with more engaging lessons and spend hours upon hours after their contracted hours to work with students that need extra help. Please walk into any of these teacher’s classroom and look them in the eye and tell them that they aren’t doing their very best.

    It is true that the school is tracked starting from registration. Walk into the pre-paideia and bio-9 classes and you are hard pressed to find a statistically relevant representation of african-american and latino students. Walk into the Physical Science, Algebra 1, or Freshman English courses and you will not see an even representation of asian or white students. It is a terrifying reality.

    Please do not forget that there are excellent teachers in our community that have the most challenging demographics to work with. It is very easy to sit back and write in a blog about how all of these teachers “don’t care” but have many of you tried to teach a classroom full of (at the start of this school year) 60 students that don’t have chairs to sit in? Have any of you tried to teach a classroom of high school students that are reading at a 4th grade level? These are the realities that high school teachers are facing. Our students do not get breakfast (hot chips and soda do NOT count) and oftentimes dinner. They are dealing with the senseless deaths of friends and family. They are dealing with things that so many of us can not even begin to imagine…and they are not even into adulthood yet.

    And yes, OUSD’s “task-forces” are a waste of time and money. Why does the district insist on paying somebody to tell us what we already know. We already know we are failing our african-american boys. The question is what are we going to do about it. But few people downtown seem to be asking that question. I have seen little to no action from said “task forces” in accomplishing anything. Oh sure, they send us a list of at risk students (which is based on low test scores) but the last time I checked good teachers know the test scores of the students coming in. Thanks for all the help, task force.

    And let’s not forget something folks. Parents that send their children to private schools are more engaged in the education process than public schools. They invest a lot of time and money to get the student to the school…the student had BETTER do well! What are the public school teachers to do when they call home to discuss grades and behavior and the response is “well I know s/he acts like that, I don’t know what you want me to do.” You would be hard pressed to find a parent that sent their student to a private school and had that response. Let’s give the teachers some support and stop bashing them for everything they are NOT doing. Why don’t we take a second to think about what the teachers ARE doing. Teachers often feel isolated and unappreciated for what they do. After all, how would you feel if somebody came to your desk/office/courtroom/operating room/whatever and told you that you suck at your job? Let’s recognize the strengths and support the teachers. Let’s stop shoving our “ideas” down their throats and support them with their own ideas. We have amazing teachers in the district that burn out or leave because of the lack of support and appreciation. Let’s do something that keeps them around and allows them to continue the amazing work that they do.

  • shawn

    What Mr. Flint is describing is welfare really and says nothing of academics and the real problem- dicipline.

    I agree with Nextset when he says that OUSD should only be ready to seve the thugs.

    Its funny- not sad- but of course that is when you do not have kids in the district. When will city leaders step in to save their housing efforts- oh yeah- they are just the same . First Dellums and his model city speech not jean Quan- who by the way served on the OUSD board that sent this district to the bailout!