Academic might in OUSD

Oakland High School's Sea Lion Bowl team. Photo courtesy of Katie Noonan.

As she sent me the news of her students’ success in a day-long ocean science contest, Oakland High School teacher Katie Noonan invoked President Obama, who said in his recent State of the Union address: “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.”

How could I argue with that?

Oakland High’s team won fourth place out of 16 schools last weekend at the regional Sea Lion Bowl held at San Francisco State.

The students on the team are (left to right): Cecilia Quan, Marina Cen, Alan Yee (captain), Maryam Faall, and Kevin Low. All of them are in the school’s Environmental Science Academy. Noonan, the academy’s co-director, and Jim Wallace, the counselor for the academy, coach the team.

Speaking of academic contests: I hear that Glenview Elementary and Joaquin Miller Elementary are each sending a team to the state finals for the Odyssey of the Mind problem-solving competition. The finals are March 26 in Brentwood.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Hills Parent

    Congratulations to the Oakland high schoolers! It does not surprise me that most of them are Asian.

  • Gordon Danning

    Hills Parent:

    Asian, as opposed to what?

  • Hills Parent

    As opposed to non-Asian.

  • Public School Teacher

    Hills Parent-

    Just congratulate the students, their families and their teachers on a job well done. The racial/social commentary is unnecessary and very ugly to be honest.

  • Nextset

    Public School Teacher: No, it’s not “very ugly”. Deal with it.

    Photographs such as these – and other entire newspaper inserts I see every year with (All White/Asian/Jewish) photographs of honor students in the locality – confront the viewers with the Lie the schools tell that all people are created equal. They most certainly are not.

    When people such as you are finally forced to deal with the truth maybe you will do something for the minority kids to avoid their decline in this Brave New World.

    Your (the educrats) incessant mishandling of minority – ie black & brown kids – is the reason why their mortality & viability stats are so much worse now than before 1965 when this nonsense got traction.

    People like me and a legion of others are going to continue to point out the quality of the Emperor’s Clothes no matter how much you whimper about it.

    PS: if you want to see more black faces in pictures such as these you had better use your public schools to identify (that means IQ testing) bright black & brown students and separate them from the herd in the failing black schools & classrooms and bring them up into the ranks of those who are ready willing and able to do lab sciences. This also means you have to operate academic schools apart from the prole schools so that your academic black and brown kids don’t get beat up for acting white (or is it acting Jewish & Asian??). Doing this does create other issues and problems for the brights. So it’s not going to happen without some dedication on their part.

    Which is why it tends to not happen at all in the current progrom.

  • Brewer Science Teacher

    Congratulations to two of my former students, Maryam and Marina, on your continued success in high school science!

  • Debora

    Congratulations to the students for doing what we ask students to do in Oakland – study hard, particularly in math and science. Thank you for representing our school district well. Also, thank you for learning science in an atmosphere where there are not a lot of laboratory equipment.

    I wish the best to each of you!

  • Hills Parent

    To Public School Teacher: if you read the first line of my post, it is a congratulations to the students.

    What you can’t deny is that Asians score higher than whites and whites score higher than blacks, in general, on tests. They tend to be most studious of all the racial groups, which I’d say accounts for the vast majority of their academic talent and elevated test scores. (I’m not Asian.)

    I believe that EVERYONE can do the work and that black people are just as smart as everyone else. But, their families, their community and/or their schools are failing them. Everyone knows that education is generally prioritized in Asian households. Are you familiar with Tiger moms? I’m not saying that’s the right way to parent, but it does produce smart kids!

    Blacks, on the other hand, often don’t have the support at home or in their community to do better in school. Some blacks are criticised by their peers from being too smart. Furthermore, schools aren’t doing them any favors either. The soft bigotry of low expectations comes into play. If no one is pushing them to the top and teachers aren’t demanding high standards from their black students, then these kids are generally not going to live up to their academic potential.

    The bottom line is that it all depends on the value that a student’s family places on education and how hard the student works to learn the material.

  • http://rtc.sfsu.edu/sealionbowl/ Katie Noonan

    I am so proud of these students’ accomplishments. We have been participating in the Sea Lion Bowl for 10 years, and this is our highest honor. If you check out the list of competing schools on the Sea Lion Bowl website, you will see that the competition was tough. Our Oakland High scholars showed courage and brilliance and prevailed over some high SES/API and charter schools.
    Getting ready to compete began in September. These students met and studied after school and on weekends. We have been supported by the Diversity Initiative of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and want to thank the Romberg-Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies at SFSU, Erin Blackwood (RTC Outreach and Sea Lion Bowl Coordinator)and Erica Kress (RTC graduate student and Diversity Initiative Coordinator)for an inspiring program. This year, including our 4th placing team, over 20 students participated in various enrichment activities, including 4 African Americans, 3 Latinos, 1 Filipino and 12 Asian Americans. All Americans. The Captain of our B Team is African American. In our academy, we take seriously the need to include all subgroups of our school in our program. Providing under-represented groups the opportunity to shine though rigorous academic achievement is part of our effort. I would like to add that these students did not receive credits or money for their participation. They did it for the love of science and the desire to excel. I am so proud of them!

  • http://ousdhs.ousd.k12.ca.us/oaklandhigh/site/default.asp Katie Noonan

    Sea Lion Bowl website is:

  • Public School Teacher

    Hills Parent,

    I see your point, but you make too many generalizations which sound like stereotypes. Every black person I know went to college and lead very successful and prosperous careers. Their children are doing well in school and will most likely follow in their parent’s footsteps. I’m sorry that the few you witness in OUSD tend to cloud your image of everyone.


    Relax. I am not an Educrat, just a happy teacher who wishes nothing but the best for all of her students. Sorry to toot my own horn, but many of these “prol” students you talk about have attended and successfully graduated from a college or university because teachers like myself and my colleagues believe in them.

    Please, go ahead and continue to insult me and my idealistic vision…I will continue to do the best for my students…rather than dismiss them on blogs like this one.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Congratulations to ESA team at Oakland High! And many thanks, Ms. Noonan. You’re amazing.

  • Nextset

    Publis School Teacher:

    I’m not sure what point you are trying to make in your post #11. “…many of these “prol(e)” students you talk about…”. If you are suggesting that I’m saying blacks never appear in advanced studies and advanced degrees – your’re imagining that. They do. My grandfather held a PhD in Chemistry from a Midwest State University in the first half of the 20th century at a time when black PhD’s in lab sciences could be counted on your hands. Because of his career we bumped into other blacks with advanced degrees – they tended to teach and tended to flock together socially. In WWII people of all races were collected to work on government research projects. I was born on a military base. The military was a good place to start looking for them. Schools at military base area were a great place to find minority students scoring off the statistical charts academically. The US Military screens for IQ, blocks low scorers, and matched assignments to aptitude scores. Like the NFL.

    Too bad the public schools no longer so the same.

    OUSD on the other hand… Is a black dominated district that explores the lower boundries of failure in education for it’s students.

    If you think I’m insulting you, you are wrong. This isn’t insulting, it’s discussion. Enjoy the difference.

    Your “idealistic vision” – I was about to say something about that but perhaps I don’t understand what it is you are saying so I should ask for clarification. This thread started in response to your objection to Hills Parent’s comment on the Asian dominance in the advanced students. You believe that observation is “…unnecessary and very ugly to be honest.” I took exception. Hills Parent’s observation was fair comment and you were being unreasonably insulting.

    Finally, and I’ve made this point previously over time. OUSD cannot take much credit when high IQ students do well. They would have done just as well being home schooled. I would have respect for OUSD if they produced literate & employable black and brown students in a number exceeding the stats statewide or nationally. I have no doubt far better results could be obtained if the public schools stopped pretending to teach black and brown kids and actually ran a real school. I know it would shock, it would be unpleasant for the kids, but we did it in the 1950s and early 1960s.

    I repeat, the measure of how good a job OUSD is doing is seen in the fate of black 18 year olds who leave OUSD’s campuses – with or without graduating. The high functioning Asians and others will ALWAYS be just fine.

    It’s on this basis I complain about OUSD. And why I react the way I do when I see smiling Asian faces getting awards, as the schools expresses self congratulations.

    Tell me what OUSD has done lately for the Negroes.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Don’t feed the trolls, people.

  • J.R.

    Ah yes, head in the sand….that’s much better!

    Problem is, you can’t tell when you are getting buried, and we have been slowly for decades now.

  • http://www.rtc.sfsu.edu Erin Blackwood

    I too am very proud of Oakland High. Their success at the Sea Lion Bowl is exactly why I find the competition so rewarding. Thanks for “showing up” and being role models for other students and teachers, Environmental Science Academy! Stay positive!

  • gordon danning


    I am not a huge fan of OUSD’s educational program, but in fairness, it does deserve SOME credit for the success of students who come from homes where no one speaks English, and who go on to attend Cal, UCLA, Davis, etc. (EG: All the kids in the photo above). Those kids are not going to do “just as well” being homeschooled. Nor would any motivated student who is the first generation to attend college.

    Now, does OUSD do a better job with those kids than it should? Nope. But no one ever talks about that.

  • livegreen

    Yes, Congrats to ESA. Also Congrats to O-High for keeping their API’s close to Tech and Skyline, with none of the hype those other schools get. I have a feeling that’s starting to change.

    Of course the kids aren’t doing it for the scores or the benefit of others. They’re working hard for themselves and their own future. But the programs and scores are a reflection of their success. Keep up the great work, students AND teachers AND OUSD.

    (Yes, OUSD, please take note. We DO appreciate when you’re doing something positive :)

  • Nextset

    Gordon Danning:

    Yes, they’d do just as well being homeschooled.

    Homeschooled means they are taught on one of the online high schools, not taught by a ESL or illiterate parent.

    My point is that their academic prowess is more from their own innate intelligence and socialization to work and work hard which does not come from OUSD. OUSD in the case of these kids is merely betting on winning horses.

    These kids would have been winners at Piedmont Schools, Berkeley, Hayward or anywhere else.

    It’s nice for OUSD to have winners. Really, it is.

    But did OUSD make these kids do a better job that they should have? Did OUSD take them beyond all expectations? Did OUSD discover an occupation or talent that had never been realized in these students or others of their type, and reveal that potential – train the students in a way no one else would have thought of and taken them to occupations and income streams beyond anyone’s guesses.

    That’s what I’d consider a fantastic showing.

    Now I give you – the black students. Do something with these kids so that they can earn a middle class living and be the first in 3 generations to do so.