Oakland school wins National Blue Ribbon award


Here’s some more good news: Peralta Elementary School in Rockridge is one of 21 public and private schools in California — and 305 in the United States — to be awarded the 2011 National Blue Ribbon from the United States Department of Education.

The school scored a 937 out of 1,000 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index this year. Its African-American students, who made up about 16 percent of the enrollment in 2010-11 (down from 66 percent percent in 2005-06), had an average API of 857. Latino students, about 12 percent of the students, had an API of 939, higher than the school average.

Peralta is the fourth public school in Oakland (and the second non-charter school) to be honored for academic excellence. Previous winners: Lincoln Elementary in Chinatown (2010), American Indian Public Charter School in the Laurel District (2007), Oakland Charter Academy in Fruitvale (2008).

Other Bay Area schools to earn this distinction in 2011 were James Leitch Elementary School in Fremont; Ulloa Elementary in San Francisco and Ruskin Elementary in San Jose.

You can find a list of winners here.

Katy Murphy

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

  • livegreen

    It just shows students can get an Orinda level Public School education in Oakland. WITH all populations of the City & Country represented, not just leaving them behind by moving or going to private school.

    The key is retaining the middle class and active families, keeping high expectations, and working with all students & families.

  • Oaktown

    So, essentially, gentrification leads to distinguished schools. Is the school actually getting better or is it simply a function of having more white and asian children, fewer black children and more affluent families sending their kids to the school? It is probably a mix of both.

  • Sarah

    I was also a little shocked to see a 50-point decline in African American student enrollment over just 5 years. However, I doubt that the achievement of the blue ribbon award was solely based on shifting demographics, considering that no other hills schools have received the honor. Congratulations, Peralta, on doing great things with your kids!

  • livegreen

    Peralta is NOT located in the hills. It’s located between “Flatlands” & “Hills”. Therefore a Slope or Midlands school.

    This is the result of both changing demographics AND cooperation among a diverse student body to make things better for everyone. Schools with diverse populations can do well if they have the will, the educational activism, and the financial resources that the middle class brings.

    Just like in wealthier Hills schools except with more diversity & inclusion, and the in between financial resource made up with a combination of volunteerism & grants.

  • Nextset

    I have to agree. Demographics is destiny. These so called “award winning” or “improving” schools are nothing more than a result of demographic shifts which occur from time to time, and when cherry picking is going on.

    Differences in teaching, especially at the primary level, are not responsible for the test score changes we see bandied about especially with demands for more pay, incentive pay or pay cuts.

    The test score fluctuations are mainly a result of who was there on test day and how much cheating (or gaming) is going on with the tests. To agree with this you have to avoid the PC notion that we are all created equal cognitively and accept that certain groups do better cognitively (for the umpteenth time, I’m referring to “groups” not individuals).

    The internet is likely becoming a factor in the ability of the rural children to keep pace with the urban kids. All have the same internet in their shirt pockets. So children’s scores are less dependent on the different teachers and more dependent on their own (individual and group) cognitive powers.

    So tying pay to performance is just another way of paying more for teaching white and jewish students and paying less for teaching black and brown students. Kind of like the Medical reimbursement rates that pay a Black Doctor $5 for a penicillin injection in the flats but pay $10 to a White Dr on Pill Hill for the same injection. I had typed that the injections were for the black and white patients, but I changed that because the payments were made regardless of race of the patient. It was just happenstance that the black Drs saw black patients and the pill hill Drs did not in the 60s and 70s. Far be it that the government would set different price schedules for the races. They’d claim the difference reflected the different rents.

    Critics among the black physicians would say payments were (at least used to be) indexed to zip codes & neighborhoods within the city to keep different pay scales for the different races – even in the same city.

    There are those hell bent to do the same thing to education for what seems to me to be the same reasons.

    This may seem off thread but every time I see “blue ribbon school” stories I believe the elephant in the room is the strong belief of some in education that teacher pay must be tied to student performance. As if the teacher controls the cognitive ability of her students.

    So to the story that Peralta is doing so well I have to say, “Of Course they are, So What?”

    Question, does Piedmont Unified pay their teachers as much or more than Oakland Unified?

  • Sue

    So the Blue Ribbon Award winners have been schools ith predominantly white and/or Asian backgrounds or a mix thereof.

    Can I dare say it? Whats so big about that Oakland? I mean this is representative of the Achievement Gap phenomenon right? AIPCS (Asian), Lincoln (Asian)and Peralta (White and Asian).

    When schools with other demographics ie Latino, and African American win this award- I will belive it is a dramatice improvement in the city.

  • Katy Murphy

    Oakland Charter Academy in Fruitvale is at least 90% Latino, I believe, and it won the blue ribbon in 2008.

  • AH

    Sue, FYI, Asian-Americans make up only 3% of the Peralta student population. It’s now a mostly white school, but African-Americans make up the second largest group.

  • Sue

    Thats right! I forgot about the Oakland Charter school. Thanks Katy.

  • livegreen

    Re. Sue’s comment #6 as applied to Peralta: isn’t it nice when people make claims and assumptions that are factually wrong? You really should look at the details & facts before coming to a conclusion. Instead of doing the opposite.

  • Lecia Love

    This award granted in honor of our Great American Achievement Gap. The citizens of Oakland should thank our district for this fine example of Segregation at its finest. I work really hard supporting the Berkeley School district (as a parent of a Berkeley Elementary & Middle School Student) because my child (a member of a low income family) actually has a fair chance at success and equality. There is no segregation and every parent (from my experience) is treated equally in Berkeley.
    Oakland, when are you going to get a clue and use Berkeley as a Model district? The decline in enrollment of African American students and almost nonexistence of Latino students at Peralta is a clue that segregation is prevalent. Also, we don’t have equal opportunity. Visit Peralta School, and then visit any Oakland Public school in East Oakland. Different resources, less lighting, the list goes on!!!!!!!!!

  • lisa Capuano Oler

    Touche’ Lecia Love!
    This is truly strange.
    Phase 2 by OUSD: the closure of high performing African American schools. Good-bye Kaiser, Burckhalter,

  • http://www.ba-tti.org Bob Houghteling

    Some of the comments here miss the point. Or they make points that don’t have much to do with why Peralta received this award. Yes, our city is segregated, but I would guess that Peralta is one of the more mixed schools in the district.

    I am sad that African-American families are leaving our city and going out to the suburbs. But is it bad that a group of neighborhood, primarily Caucasian middle class parents made a pact many years back to avoid the private school route, and instead send their children to the local school?

    Peralta’s success, which I have seen firsthand as a tutor there for the last four years, comes from the concerted effort of many parties. A strong faculty with a good mix of long-timers and relative newcomers works long hours and provides lots of structure. A smart use of special resources means that children who need extra attention get it–the test scores for all groups reflect the attention the staff gives. The hard-working principal uses her discretionary funds wisely and gives the school a “we can do it” attitude. And yes, the school is lucky to have loads of parent volunteers who have turned asphalt into gardens, portable walls into cool murals. I am proud of their accomplishments and happy that a district school received national recognition.

  • AH

    Yes, why all the Peralta bashing here? Just five years ago Peralta was honored as one of EIGHT schools in the ENTIRE state of California whose African-American students achieved an API of over 800. African-American students are getting a good education at Peralta. Fewer now than in years past, yes (I was shocked by the decline in number of AA students too). But more than 25% of the student body is of mixed race or “declines to state,” so it’s very likely that the AA number is higher than 16%.

    Lecia, I agree that BUSD is doing good things in terms of non-segregation, but how much easier is that to accomplish with 12-13 elementary schools and just 3 middle schools? Oakland is HUGE by comparison–much harder to duplicate that success.

    Back to my main point: Peralta is a remarkable school DESPITE being in OUSD. Let’s celebrate public school accomplishments wherever we can find them.

  • Nextset

    AH: Is it “accomplishment” you are celebrating or is it “demographics”?

    While I admit there is such a thing as a good teacher and a bad teacher – when you are dealing with large numbers of people and resulting group scores you need to think and decide if you are arguing the scores are a result of “teaching” or are they largely a result of the demographics themselves.

    Refusal to do so is the problem with this line of argument.

    Look at your first paragraph and it’s mention of shrinking AA population and the increasing presence of the mixed and “decline to state” race. Do you see what’s happening demographically?

    And there is not a thing we as individuals can do about the demographics. Thanks to the dis-eugenic welfare policy of the government you are going to have an ever-increasing percentage of single mother blacks which does not correlate to intelligence (or interest in college prep) to put it mildly. As far as the mixed race kids – gee do you think there might be a correlation to higher performance there?? These racial/demographic/performance issues have been made worse by generations of government welfare policy.

    You do not give credit to the quality of teaching when your scoring is moving because of the shifting demographics. You can try, there’s a sucker born every minute. Smart money is not fooled especially large numbers of smart money. See the foot prints through the tunnel?

    It is not “bashing” Peralta to discuss these issues. I’m sure they are doing well enough teaching their students. But they are what they are and that’s not darkest Oakland. Glad they won a ribbon. Good for them. Does that mean I’d vote the staff a bonus? NO. I expect them to turn in these results. I do not reward people for what is expected.

    Should OUSD establish and maintain de-facto segregated schools to keep the professional class involved in OUSD? Why not?? If the schools are open to all who can cut the mustard in that school’s program, let’s have “good schools” in OUSD. Let’s not have our higher class families have to go to Orinda. And let’s have a set of high functioning schools district wide that high functioning & scoring black students can enroll in – even if their families are slum families.

    OUSD needs a Lowell High and it needs a set of feeder primary schools free of the dysfunctional students. To get that you need the designated schools to repel dumb students and attract smart students. That is a very easy thing to do once you dispense with the PC coddling of the non-performers.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    A picture(above) is worth 1000 words.
    55% to 16% is HUGE.
    And. tragic.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Congratulations to Peralta for a job well done. However, I am getting tired of reading the same comments on most threads on this blog, where the implied statement is that white kids bring up test scores and define a school as “good”, while black kids represent the achievement gap, low test scores, and poor school performance. Oh, and then the other statement I love implies that mixed race kids score high due to their white parent. Ugh. Folks, here is a wake up call. Many black kids are successful…ever been to the east coast, say Maryland, New York, Boston, where many black kids are very successful. I am so tired of the Oakland stereotype and perceptions, whether real or imagined that have been cast upon black children. Enough. It’s great that Peralta earned this honor and should be celebrated. Period.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    Actually this speaks to which schools are even looked at.
    Children do not “represent the achievement gap”.
    The demographics of a school changing from 55% African American to 16% only represents segregation at work, however that happened. In a city as diverse as Oakland, that is disturbing to see. Go celebrate it.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Congratulations to Peralta for a job well done, no question.

    As to some of the other concerns, it seems that the black and Latino students are doing quite well there.

    All that said, I used to live in that neighborhood, and I’d be surprised if the 16% demographic is fully representative of the surrounding neighborhood, gentrification notwithstanding. So where are all the other black kids who live there attending elementary school? That’s not meant as any kind of a judgment call; I’m just curious.

  • David Y

    Can we just simply congratulate for their achievement, without try to analyze all those details, and making non-sense comments?
    Congratulations Peralta!!!

  • AH

    Ms. McLaughlin,

    I believe that Sankofa has the same catchment area as Peralta, so perhaps many of the neighborhood’s black children attend there.

    But also, about half of Peralta’s population comes from outside the neighborhood.