One district, different worlds

Oakland Technical High School. Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News GroupThe timing was pure coincidence: a story about the popularity of Oakland Technical High School and its humanities program and a report that 40 percent of Oakland’s public high school students drop out. The juxtaposition illustrates the wide range of experiences and opportunities in the city’s public schools.

At Tech, for instance, the estimated dropout rate (based on 2008-09 data) is 28 percent. That’s about the same percentage of 10th- through 12th-graders who are enrolled in Paideia, the school’s rigorous, college prep humanities program.

Here’s a video I took during a visit to the program this fall:

Oh, and if you’re looking for a copy of the print version, you might want to wait. There was a production error; we’ll be running the story again, in its entirety, tomorrow.


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. Continue Reading


Thoughts on mentoring — and being mentored

Carmen and Cynthia. Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley's Sage Mentoring Program

Cynthia Clark met Carmen Avila-Hernandez, a fifth-grader at Sankofa Academy in North Oakland, last fall through a mentoring program at UC Berkeley. Cynthia writes about her experience — and then asks Carmen what it’s been like for her.

The Sage Mentorship Project has been a life-changing experience that has given me the opportunity to have a positive impact on a child’s life, both academically and socially. Carmen and I have established a unique relationship — one where she knows that I am there as a mentor to support and assist her in reaching her goals, but at the same time we have found a friendship where we are able to learn from each other.

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The Big Freeze in Oakland schools

portable heater. Image from comedy_nose on flickr.com/creativecommonsThe news report this morning was about shivering students at Frick Middle School.

But the Oakland school district’s temperature problems are much broader and more chronic. About 65 OUSD schools and offices reported heat outages this week, after returning from Thanksgiving break on Monday. More than half of the problems had yet to be fully resolved as of this afternoon, according to this district log.

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The Oakland police chief’s middle school strategy

Chief Batts. Tribune photo by D. Ross CameronOakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is in Washington, D.C. right now, lobbying the federal powers that be to give him $6 million for a pilot community policing program at four Oakland middle schools.

Batts’ plan is to hire 24 police officers and to assign them to four Oakland middle schools: Frick, Madison, Roosevelt and Westlake.

Officer Jeff Thomason, a public information officer for the police department, said four of the six officers at each school would provide security, and that two would serve as mentors and run the O.K. Program for gang and violence prevention.

“Basically, we want to start our community policing model at those schools,” Thomason said.

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