So many students, so few counselors. But a student proposal doesn’t call for more.

The kids who enter Oakland high schools this fall will need to complete the UC/CSU `a to g’ course requirements to graduate in 2015. A major shift, considering that less than half of the district’s 2009 grads had done so.

But a survey by Californians For Justice found that nearly 1 in 4 of students at Oakland High School didn’t know about those requirements, and that 30 percent had never met one-on-one with a counselor. A counselor quoted in the report, “No Knowledge, No College: Oakland Students Rising to the Challenge,” said there were four counselors for more than 1,800 students.

One section mentions a need for “additional staff support,” especially during high-volume times of the year. But the three student proposals don’t include hiring more counselors, or even preserving the number of counselors currently working in OUSD. Instead, they recommend peer-to-peer counseling, transcript reviews, having counselors give classroom presentations about `a to g,’ adding questions about college and career to the counselors’ appointment request form, launching a Facebook page and poster contest on the subject, and training teachers on the requirements.

Are those kinds of things in place at other high schools in the East Bay? What else is — or should be — happening at high schools to prepare for the new graduation requirements? Do you think OUSD can make the switch smoothly with the number of counselors it has (or less, if the district eliminates up to nine full-time counseling positions)?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Looks like war has been declared on the black students.

    Or is it that OUSD plans to turn diploma mill and water the standards of the solids down so the black students will pass them?

    Either way – it’s pretty clear OUSD has decided the black drop rate isn’t high enough at 50% and should be pushed to 75%. Maybe they will start playing classical music in all the public areas of the high schools as well.

    Turning Public High Schools into College Prep only is the surest way to run off the left of Bell Curve students. There is no way this is an accident or that OUSD Educrats don’t know what they are doing.

    It’s time to defund and close OUSD. This is a betrayal of their constituency. We need a replacement school system to serve the black and brown students of Oakland.

  • zinnia

    The reason that students don’t all get to see a counselor and are not aware of what counselors can provide is because California has the largest counselor/student ratio of all 50 states.

  • Gordon Danning


    I would think you would approve of the changes. Isnt the real “war on black and brown students” the current system, in which so many get meaningless diplomas?

  • TheTruthHurts

    First, let’s be real. Oakland’s problem is dropouts and graduation – not college. Oakland could get much further spending money on getting the students in school and learning what’s necessary to graduate and then focus on track for college.

    By 14, students that care can learn what is necessary if it’s given some importance by parents, teachers, principals and peers. I agree with the students, peer advising is much more powerful and motivating than most counselors (at least from my personal experience with both). Listen to the students. They don’t know everything, but the simplicity of their common sense approach is often most effective. They understand the dynamic of motivation much better than most adults.

  • Nextset

    Gordon Danning: I’d approve of forcing unwilling students of all ethnics into college prep classes if their individual IQ tests came back at a level that gave a reasonable basis for expecting them to complete the class. It’s wrong to deliberately force students into classes they are likely to fail.

    I violently disapprove of forcing any students, black or white with IQs of 90 or less into college prep classes against their will. Such students should be in survey courses and vocational courses and graduated with a high school diploma on completion of that program.

    I have never believed a high school diploma should be conditioned on college prep. No way. To do so means that only a fraction of each ethnic group could reasonable expect to attain a high school diploma – and the black fraction would be the smallest. For what are we placing a High School Diploma so high, and higher than the standards pre-civil rights movement?

    If it means anything to the readership, remember that half of the WHITE students (nationally) will have IQs under 100. Now what level of performance do we want as the cut off for a high school diploma?

    Maybe the problem is that some people insist that by virtue of merely sitting in a classroom at a public school you get smarter. Some people believe teachers grown student’s brains. Like watering a plant. So the PC belief is that the problem with dull people is that they didn’t get enough watering.

    Anyway, my writings are just commentary – nothing I say or the rest of us write here is going to change the course of California public education. We will see how bad bad can get I suppose. OUSD’s stats are bad compared to 1965. Imagine what things will look like by 2020 at the rate we are going (black performance & grad rates, mortality and economic viability rates, etc).

  • Sue

    Last Thursday, Skyline had a welcome/introduction for parents of next fall’s incoming freshmen. We heard all about A-G requirements for graduation, with handouts, as well as many other interesting topics. We were told that registration packages would be distributed to our children at their current middle schools, and parents who were coming in from other districts or currently home schooling, were given a sign-up for their child’s registration package.

    Yesterday, my 8th grader brought home the promised registration package, and it also includes the information about A-G requirements. Tonight we’ll be going back to Skyline for *manditory* registration (they have over 100 more students wanting to attend Skyline than they have room for), and our 8th grader will be picking his preferred classes / electives.

    Yes, I think Skyline has just as bad a student-to-counselor ratio as the other high schools. One counselor for the entire incoming freshman class – that’s just not enough. But I do think they are making a good attempt to get the graduation requirements out to the students and the families.

    I’m not concerned that my child will have problems with graduation requirements, he’s GATE. And I’m not too concerned about his access to a counselor – but that’s because of his parents – we’re active and involved, and we were pretty seriously *activist* when our older, autistic kid was in OUSD. We know how to take care of our own.

    I wish it were possible for us to take on more. There are so many students who don’t have effective support and advocacy. We have an autistic student in college now, and he still needs us to be his support and advocacy team. Unfortunately, between the two children we just don’t have the time and energy to give to other students.

  • CR

    We don’t have money for anything other than teachers, a clerk and a principal. I wish we did have a HS counselor. Teachers and the principal are carrying the load. If you want school counselors, tax payers/voters/leaders need to find the money.

  • Sue

    We certainly got a surprise at last night’s Skyline registration. A counselor was outside the gym handing out packets for the last counselor left at the school, who is being RIF’ed at the end of this school year.

    Inside, my husband found Mr. Johnston, the principal, and asked him how student counseling would be provided with *NO* counselors. He has a plan, assistant principals will be responsible for student counseling. Where can we see this plan? It’s not available, yet. It will be on the Skyline high school’s website, soon.

    Not very good answers… Assistant principals already have full-time jobs and responsibilities. So do counselors. But somehow, in the future both sets of duties and responsibilities will be performed by half the number of people who were doing these jobs currently.

    I don’t think this is going to work out well for the staff or the students, but I can’t really blame the principal too much – he has to make cuts, and there aren’t any good places to make them.

    We’ll be checking the Skyline website regularly for the promised plan.

    (It was really great to see some of our favorite teachers from our college-kid’s four years at Skyline. Big hugs to Mama Cooper and Ms. Hunter!)

  • Steven Weinberg

    Is it possible that the consultants who helped the students draw up these plans will be seeking a contract to help them carry it out by, for example, training the peer counselors?

  • skyline mom

    Katy, is it legal under the ed code or union rules to have no counselors at a public high school? This seems very unfair to the students.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Skyline Mom:

    There may be no counseling services provided at a school but attempts to provide in its place peer counseling may be a violation of the Ed Code.

    The key word in the education code is “may”.
    Ed Code: 49600. (a) The governing board of any school district may provide a comprehensive educational counseling program for all pupils enrolled in the schools of the district.
    For purposes of this section, “educational counseling” means specialized services provided by a school counselor possessing a valid credential with a specialization in pupil personnel services who is assigned specific times to directly counsel pupils.
    (b) Educational counseling shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
    (1) Academic counseling, in which pupils receive counseling in the following areas:
    (A) Establishment and implementation with parental involvement of the pupil’s immediate and long-range educational plans.
    (B) Optimizing progress towards achievement of proficiency standards.
    (C) Completion of the required curriculum in accordance with the pupil’s needs, abilities, interests, and aptitudes.
    (D) Academic planning for access and success in higher education programs including advisement on courses needed for admission to public colleges and universities, standardized admissions tests, and financial aid.
    (2) Career and vocational counseling, in which pupils are assisted in doing all of the following:
    (A) Planning for the future.
    (B) Becoming aware of their career potential.
    (C) Developing realistic perceptions of work.
    (D) Relating to the work world.
    (3) Personal and social counseling, in which pupils receive counseling pertaining to interpersonal relationships for the purpose of promoting the development of their academic abilities, careers and vocations, personalities, and social skills.
    (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting persons participating in an organized advisory program approved by the governing board of a school district, and supervised by a school district counselor, from advising pupils pursuant to the organized advisory program.

    The number of counselors is negotiated with the union. But, if I read the Ed Code correctly attempts to set up peer counseling must be authorize4d by action of the School Board and supervised by a credentialed counselor. The Administration may be ignoring that part of the Ed Code.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    I printed out the Californians for Justice hand-out and enjoyed reading it. It’s flawed assumption is that College is for all. They seem to feel that if the school would just “water” the students more they will magically grow into college material.

    College is only suitable for those who have the brain function to handle it. As the students get older – sure enough – “The desire to attend a four-year college or university decreases…” as CFJ puts it. What’s actually going on is that reality is setting in. Hardly a crisis.

    OUSD would do better by the students to offer testing and career-matching services – which is usually done in the context of counseling offices – to match the various students to potential academic/vocational careers.

    Actually this kind of testing and matching should be done to place students in the appropriate high school so dull kids won’t be in college prep, and college prep students will be fully informed what they are getting into – and what they may be giving up to do so.

    Some of what’s going on here is saddling students who have little to no prospect of finishing college with huge, non-dischargable student loans for a college program they are doomed to fail. Remember, colleges will deliberately enroll students they know are likely to fail. College is not for everyone. And students who opt for another route that makes better sense for them should be supported.

    There are articles coming out describing college as the “next bubble”.


    Education that matches the needs of the student is good. Education that is reasonable is great. Cruel mismatching of the student and the proposed educational program does more harm than good.

    Having the students take a Wonderlic test is one way to get the ball rolling about exactly what is it they are doing with this “pursuing the dream” business. Do what you want, have a good time – but try to do what makes some sense.

    If OUSD was more reasonable in managing these students we would not have the black dropout rates we do. It’s great that some kids go to college. Most OUSD students (I include all the drop outs) will NEVER graduate college, even a 2 year degree. What is OUSD doing for them?

    As far as what it will take to “increase Oakland High’s capacity to prepare students for college” (As CFJ puts it)- I’d suggest restricting Oakland High enrollment to those who are college material. I’d also propose flunking out any who do enroll at Oakland High and fail to meet standards. The way that works is that students who’s GPA falls below 2.0 for more than one semester consecutively gets transferred out. You’d find that the remaining student body would be more of the desired type for college admission.

    Oakland High seems to want to be college prep. Fine. So be it. Now what do we do for the rest of the OUSD who are not college material?

    OUSD needs more Voc ed and alternative schools. That’s where the bulk of the students are going to be saved from poverty.

    Brave New World.

  • Mom

    I fear for kids dependent on peer counselors or inexperienced VPs for advice on a-g requirements, given that my kid was given inaccurate advice by an experienced guidance counselor. OK, so you may say that it couldn’t be worse than what she has now.

    Example: She changed her schedule at the semester in order to get a better math teacher. This meant that she had to drop her performing arts class for a visual arts class because that particular performing art was not offered at another time. Question: Would this still qualify as fulfilling the visual/performing arts requirement, and/or could she just take an additional semester of one of them next year?

    She was told the change was fine and that the requirement was fulfilled, or that she could take her second semester of the visual art in the first semester next year. Both answers are wrong. It takes some digging on the UC and CSU web sites, but both address the issue. Had I not done the digging myself, she would have found herself inadvertently ineligible for either system. Subtleties like this require a determined parent or a competent professional. JMHO.