OUSD’s black male students: school-by-school data

This morning, Urban Strategies Council released a series of reports about the experience of black boys in the Oakland school district: one on out-of-school suspensions, one on chronic absenteeism, and lastly, an analysis of numerous factors to estimate how many children are on track to graduate high school — beginning in elementary.

There is so much data here that the short story in today’s Tribune (which is long by today’s standards) and blog post can’t do it justice. Each school will receive a data profile to further the district’s African American Male Achievement initiative. These reports were produced in partnership with OUSD as part of the initiative.

Some of the stats that I pulled for the paper on African-American boys in OUSD. The suspension rates are the percentage of individual students that received an out-of-school suspension at least once during a single school year.

  • Twenty percent missed 18 or more days of school in 2010-11, making them chronically absent.
  • Eleven elementary schools gave no out-of-school suspensions to black boys in 2010-11, and 20 schools suspended 3 percent or less; by contrast, some elementary schools suspended 22 to 35 percent of their black male students that year.
  • Middle schools had the highest suspension rates for black boys. Out-of-school suspensions jumped from 12 percent in fifth grade to 31 percent in sixth grade. At West Oakland Middle School, 60 percent of the students received at least one suspension in 2010-11.
  • About 38 percent of the suspensions were for defying authority or causing a disruption; 28 percent were for causing, attempting or threatening injury.

Out-of-school suspensions

Some elementary schools had extremely low suspension rates for black boys — including Lakeview, Santa Fe and Marshall, which are all slated to close in June. So did Sobrante Park Elementary, Franklin Elementary and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy, among others.

There were no middle schools, however, in which fewer than 16 percent of black male students received an out-of-school suspension.

Oakland Tech had the lowest suspension rate for black males of all the high schools — 13 percent — but one of its feeder schools, Claremont Middle, suspended one out of every two of its black boys that year, according to the analysis.


You can find schools with low and high chronic absenteeism rates starting on page 19 of this report. That’s the percentage of students — in this case, black males — who missed 18 days or more of school in 2010-11, excused or unexcused.

Alliance Academy, a middle school on the Elmhurst campus, had one of the highest absenteeism rates (47 percent) and suspension rates (55 percent) of black males in the district. Those two things are related, as I believe being out of school for any reason is included in the absenteeism calculation. That school has undergone major leadership turnover in recent years, which sure can’t help. It’s receiving a federal School Improvement Grant; maybe the influx of resources will turn things around.

No high school had a chronic absenteeism rate of less than 22 percent.

What has your school done to address the issues behind these numbers? What do you think it could do?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Steven Weinberg

    Both the report and Tribune article devote most of the space to the issue of suspensions. The high rate of suspensions for African-American boys can have two possible causes: 1. African-American boys are suspended for actions that other students would not be suspended for, or 2. African-American boys commit offenses punished by suspension more often.
    While I know that there are cases where African-American boys have been subject to unfair discipline, in my experience, those have been rare. By far the largest factors contributing to the high suspension rate are the actions of the students involved.
    So the focus should be, not on merely reducing the suspension rate, but on reducing the actions that lead to those suspensions.
    A good argument can be made that suspending students is an ineffective way of reducing those actions, but the alternatives must be judged, not on how well they reduce the suspension rate, but rather on how well they improve the conduct of the students.

  • Nextset

    Working through the data will take some time.

    Obviously the first thing that should be done is to segregate the feral black boys from the black boys that are performing. This should be done pretty decisively, even if the boys are from the same mother. They must go to different campuses.

    Even if the boys are in the same society they should be made to understand that there are two different paths to walk – and the screw ups do not get to sit with the normal kids.

    And we decide what’s normal.

    Beyond that if some of the bad boys earn their way back into polite society that’s fine. There should be a set criteria for that. The main thing is that we end this notion that all black boys are bad and all of them had better keep it real. This is the reason we have this problem in 2012 and we did NOT have it in 1959. If you defied authority and cut class too much before, you were sent to continuation school where you could not infect better kids.

    We have stopped doing so and ruined a whole race of students in the process. We can fix this.

  • Nextset

    As I read the above the obvious question comes to mind: Why don’t we just fix little Tyrone in place, make him behave, and then keep him in the same classroom and school campus which all the other black boys?

    Answer: Because OUSD is not a Reform School or an Insane Asylum. We can work with a bad boy for a little bit – but at some point when Tyrone gets on your last nerve or is dealing drugs, carrying weapons, or getting too sexual (or just stops coming to class) it’s clear he is not good material for a normal school. Get rid of him.

    And that goes double for Sapphire once she has crossed the last line of toleration. Well before the cops have to be called and blood is being drawn, unsuitable kids should have been removed from a normal school. White schools do so. Why is it the black kids have to sit through madness in their schools because big districts like OUSD think bad behavior is normal for all blacks and everybody (staff included) has to live with it?

    I’m not preaching One strike. I can work with youthful judgment problems and high energy. But when it’s (finally) agreed by admin and staff that you have a bad seed that child needs to go – to the place that such students property are enrolled. Continuation School – aka Ditch Digger U. That’s where the social workers are stationed and where the psych meds can be dispensed. Not in a normal school.

  • Katy Murphy

    That’s a good point, Steven, and one I tried to make in the story.

    The Urban Strategies Council has recommended that the district address the root causes of a student’s conduct that led to the referral, as well as the employees’ responses to the incident. OUSD is taking the school culture-change/student leadership approach at some schools, among other strategies.

    Whichever way you look at it — even if 100 percent of the suspensions were by most accounts warranted — to have this many students involved in out-of-school disciplinary actions is arguably a sign that something’s not right.

  • Nextset

    Steven Weinberg: I don’t agree that the role of a public school is to perform behavior modification for psychotic or conduct disordered kids. I would not permit my normal kid to attend such a school and I don’t think public schools are required to live like this just because they are public schools.

    You seem to say the Admin should be judged on how they reform bad boys as opposed to running a functioning school for the rest of the kids. I disagree. Normal schools are NOT reform schools (except libs running black schools I guess). You have to pay staff extra to work at reform schools.

    If you intend to run reform schools as a matter of course, perhaps you could notify all the incoming students and their families so they can make arrangements to go to a normal school. A Charter perhaps. I doubt the OUSD kids were told they are getting so much less than Piedmont or Orinda.

    Real Schools, such as Piedmont and Orinda, will never tolerate defiant, dangerous and never there kids in normal schools. They have Continuation Schools and they use them to contain conduct disordered kids. You should too.

    I must stress that I’m not saying to jettison all the bad black boys en masse although that does have a bit of appeal. I’m saying that when the conduct in toto has reached the level that there is no point in keeping Tyrone enrolled in a normal school, he should be involuntarily transferred to Continuation School. That includes too many Ds and Fs, Too many absences, and too many incidents of chimping out. Not just because he had a bad day or can’t handle one teacher.

    It’s wrong to keep a child enrolled when they obviously can’t function in a normal school. One bad apple does spoil the barrel. We have to give the black kids with potential the chance to make it in the Brave New World. Keeping the good black kids in “reform school” with the future rapists, robbers and serial killers is not providing needed social and economic mobility.

    Like we had in OUSD in the 1960s.

  • Peach

    After reading the reports, I may have a greater understanding of the study’s findings and conclusions regarding the academic progress of African American males. While suspension rates are important, we want students in class so that they are learning. Would it be possible to do a follow up on the academic achievement issue?

    Also, it would be interesting to hear and see the OUSD leadership’s substantive response to these reports. Parents may want to see changes in the district that address the issue of having leadership (REXOs, Exceptional Children, LCI, and principals) that is held accountable for the learning environment on campuses, as that leadership is given the knowledge, resources, and support that is warranted.

    The current climate-characterized by constant churning of schools, school names, school “programs”, principals, teachers and support personnel -contributes to the neglect of student needs with African American males serving as the canaries in the mine.

    And yes, our community and parents have a big responsibility to mold our young people to be responsible learners. However, research in Oakland and other places, document the educational neglect of African American males who have excelled in the primary grades.

    Our middle and high schools systematically withhold quality clases and activities from African American students, especially if they are not from middle class, highly educated parents. (Just because a class is labeled “honors” or “AP” doesn’t guarantee quality.) The middle class African American students receive greater opportunities if their parents are ever vigilant and assertive.

    Still awaiting details of the quality, enhanced academic program, beginning 2012-2013, promised to the McClymonds, Fremont and Castlemont students.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Yes, Katy, you did give a sense in your article that the district was going to look at root causes, and I finished reading the article with some sense of hopefulness, but long experience with Oakland leads me to fear that this will actually only lead to pressure not to suspend.
    Peach makes a good point. Suspensions are only part of the problem. According to this report more than half of the African-American males who have never been suspended are still on the road to not graduating from high school.

  • Peach

    PS Just perused the report, findings. #6 of the 10 recommendations mentions academics. It reads,

    “Ensure that implementation of OUSD’s Strategic Plan results in high-quality, effective instruction for African American boys.”

    Of the seven authors of the report, one is a lawyer who has taught at the university level and the rest have expertise in data analysis, IT, public policy, and journalism. There is no emphasis on academics, perhaps because there are no voices with K-12 education experience.

  • Katy Murphy

    Chronic absenteeism seems to be a major barrier to many students’ academic success. If one of every five kids misses 10 percent or more of the school year — at least 18 days — those children won’t learn very much, even if their school offers the strongest curriculum.

    Would you argue that if OUSD improved its academics, more children (at least at the middle and high school level, when they have more of a choice) would attend school on a regular basis and eventually graduate?

  • Catherine

    I believe that if a parent or guardian is recieving any type of aid for a minor, that minor should have to be in school or the amount of aid is reduced 1/25 for every day the student is not in school. The money the parent receives is for parenting a child. The most basic role of parenting is education. These black boys are not being educated at home on the behavior they need to display in public, in their homes, and in their school.

    We have the computer technology to track students and we have the technology to track the payments. Section 8 should also be conditional on students having a 95% or better attendance rate, random drug testing, no weapons or drugs on the premises. I personnally believe that principals and the classroom teacher of an elementary student should deliver the contract to the home and sign it with the parent or guardian stating that attendance will be taken within 5 minutes of the start time (currently 31 minutes is late).

    In the 60s fewer than one-quarter of black children were born of unwed teen mothers ; it is now nearlyt triple that figure for the first born child of black parents. And it shows in the lack of education and the prison system numbers.

  • Jim Mordecai

    The part of the agreement posted below is an agreement between OUSD and The 100 Black Men Charter School that is on the Oakland School Board agenda for tomorrow night; and the basis for the agreement is evidence that African American boys are not being education in the Oakland Schools. Therefore, the District is supporting a for African American boys only charter school as part of its “Theory of Action”.

    Jim Mordecai


    THIS AGREEMENT (“Agreement”) is effective on May 23, 2012 and is entered into by and between the Oakland Unified School District, a unified public school district organized and existing under the laws of the State of California (the “District”), THE 100 BLACK MEN OF THE BAY AREA CHARTER SCHOOLS, a California non-profit public benefit corporation which was granted a charter to operate the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School (‘CHARTER SCHOOL”) by the District Board of Education on January 11, 2012. The District and CHARTER SCHOOL are collectively referred to as “the Parties.”

    We are now in the 58th year since the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs the Brown of Education when our nation made the commitment to equal educational opportunities and the dismantling of segregated schools.

    However, educational justice remains one of the most significant civil rights that has eluded many African American students and their families. In
    particular, both nationally and locally, the academic and social outcomes for many African American male students paint an alarming picture of societal failure.

    Despite improvements in some areas in recent years, in Oakland, African American male students have the worst overall outcomes of any demographic group. In Alameda County, African American boys and men have the highest death rates and bear the heaviest burden of chronic diseases among all groups of males. In this District in 2009-10, only 28 percent of African American male students tested proficient or advanced on the English Language Arts CST, compared to 78 percent of White male students (a 50 percent-point gap); and in 2009-10, only 30 percent of African American male students tested proficient or advanced on the Math CST compared to 76 percent of White male students (a 46 percent-point gap).
    It is indisputable that the achievement gap between African American male students and other students limits their life chances, and has long-term implications for the health, economic well-being, and participation of African American men in society. Low levels of academic achievement are linked to lower educational attainment, which in turn are linked to lower
    earnings in adulthood, poor adult health and reduced life expectancy, higher rates ofincarceration, and lower levels of civic engagement. Raising the achievement levels of African American male students has the potential to alter the life course of the next generation of African American children as well, because greater parental education is correlated with better child outcomes. Society as a whole stands to benefit from raising the achievement of African American male students.

    Many excuses are proffered as to why we cannot successfully education African American males – everything including historical racism, poverty, hunger, family structure, and the language spoken. It is clear that progress will require an unequivocal commitment by the entire community.

    In late 2010, this District, with the support of a number of foundation partners, launched a bold new initiative aimed at addressing the disparities in educational and social outcomes for African American male students in Oakland. This six-year initiative established a set of strategies aimed at improving outcomes and eliminating these disparities. The key goals of the
    African American Male Initiative are: 1) increasing graduation rates; 2) increasing attendance rates; 3) increasing literacy rates; 4) decreasing suspension rates; 5) deceasing incarceration rates; and 6) improving academic performance in Middle and High School students.

    In support of this initiative, the Board of Education in January 2012 granted a charter to THE 100 BLACK MEN OF THE BAY AREA CHARTER SCHOOLS, a California non-profit public benefit corporation, to operate the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School [‘CHARTER SCHOOL”).

    The District had hoped that the District, in collaboration and in partnership with its unions, would make the changes and concessions necessary for the CHARTER SCHOOL to be a dependent charter within the OUSD community of schools. That did not happen within a timeframe set by the 100 BLACK MEN OF THE BAY AREA CHARTER SCHOOLS.

    Therefore, the charter petitioners and the District determined that it was in the best interests of the students the CHARTER SCHOOL seeks to serve for the CHARTER SCHOOL to proceed expeditiously with implementation of its commitment to open a school in Oakland in 2012-13 school year.

    This Agreement is the second agreement between the District and a charter school that represents a fundamental change in the way the District and charter schools have operated.

    Ultimately, this Agreement should be seen as another example of the District’s implementation of the Theory of Action adopted by the Board of Education on December 11, 2011, and the District’s commitment to serve the children of Oakland by harnessing all the resources of this
    community and using those resources in the most effective manner possible.

    Under the terms of this Agreement, THE 100 BLACK MEN OF THE BAY AREA CHARTER SCHOOLS, will become a District partner school; will have use of a District school facility that will continue to be maintained by District employed Custodians and the District’s Building and Grounds Department; will share access to data systems, professional development, new teacher support, and testing data; and among other things, will use the District’s special education resources, nutrition services and technology support.

    In addition, the District will provide District employees, both classified and certificated, who seek to work with the CHARTER SCHOOL and who are selected by the CHARTER SCHOOL, a two year leave of absence.

  • Peach

    Absenteeism is a barrier to learning. Yes, I believe that the weak content offered in many elementary schools and most middle and high schools is a far greater barrier to student achievement than disruptive students, absenteeism, bad parenting, poor health/nutrition, and lack of motivation put together.

    All of these barriers can complicate a good educational program. When students show up and behave there should be something of substance in place for them. Unfortunately, too often that is not the case.

    People who abandon OUSD schools do so for two reasons-safety and program. Like most other reports, this new one emphasizes identifying students who are not thriving and giving them an even more watered down curriculum. Call it acceleration, basic skills, intervention, or credit recovery, it adds up to the same thing.

    Highlighting after school programs, health clinics, and interventions places the focus on “fixing” the students and their circumstances rather than on following through on our responsibility to support them in mastering the California content standards. Anything else is inequitable.

    Except for a few students in good programs in our comprehensive high schools, the majority of African American and other students of color are not receiving standards-based state mandated content from experienced teachers. In many cases, the state and OUSD leadership promote the anemic classes in the name of meeting the needs of the students. More recently, teachers are prevented from teaching daily by the constant testing that goes on in classrooms from preK to 12th grade.

    This perseveration on suspension and attendance (all of this data is publicly known and discussed ad nauseum at school sites) is harnessed in the service of distracting us from holding the OUSD Board and leadership accountable for providing an equitable educational program to African American male students and all of our children.

  • Katy Murphy

    Peach: Thanks for your thoughtful response to these reports, and to the broader issues they raise (or don’t raise).

    I’d be curious to hear more about the “anemic classes” you describe, and the kinds of content and teaching you envision. Where do you see strong content being offered now, and what’s preventing it from being the norm? Which courses are being promoted by OUSD leaders that you don’t feel rise to that standard?

  • Patricia Jensen

    On Katy’s #9 comment about chronic absenteeism: A friend and I were talking about absenteeism yesterday. We wondered how many students are absent because parents keep kids home for reasons that don’t include dissatisfaction with academic programs. We think this happens a lot more than people know, but I haven’t seen data about it.

  • Catherine

    Patricia and Peach: I have been in classrooms with “anemic” programs. I put the phrase in quotes because it was a kind way of saying that there is virtually no social studies and no science taught in many schools in Oakland.

    I don’t believe the parents who keep their kids home as chronic absenteeism are doing so because of the curriculum, however. The vast majority are doing so because they are unwilling to enforce rules. Then their children become too big and out of control. My own brother had a problem with high school attendance. That year my mother used her vacation time from work to sit in each and every high school class with my brother to insure he attended. I don’t know of many parents who would do so today. Parents who keep their children home – at least those students I tutor in flat lands schools – do not teach their children when they have them home. Those children are watching TV and playing video games or hanging on the street.

    Parents in Oakland could have their child attend another school that does offer a more robust curriculum by sitting in the classroom and documenting what is not being taught and taking the documentation to the district and requesting a transfer where the state standards are being taught. This would mean a lot of work and a lot of observation.

    In the end many parents who would do the type of work offered above choose charter schools. They do so because there are mandatory meetings in which the curriculum is discussed with parents. The parents are also required to get their children to school on time.

  • Teacher

    Chronic absenteeism IS my first period high school freshman class. The MEDIAN number of absences for just this semester is 24. The range is 0 (African American male) to 50 (Latino male I think is working full-time to support his family), and only six of the 18 students have had fewer than 10 absences in the semester. Six are getting a C or higher. Guess which six?

  • Nextset

    As we bemoan black absenteeism remember that half the black students have an IQ below the median for their group. We know very well what that IQ is – the number has been charted for nearly 100 years.

    Now look at the program the state and OUSD is offering the black students. What IQ do you imagine is needed to complete that program and graduate?

    So as the black cohorts age – absenteeism is a coping mechanism.

    Continuation Schools are designed for a lot of things including for students of lesser intelligence. It provides social services, vocational training and supervison & programs more suitable for the dulls. By eliminating Continuation Schools and using the “normal” schools as Continuations Schools you wreck the educational experience for the brighter students and turn high school into a joke. Is this what OUSD is doing to the blacks?

    You cannot blame the blacks students for voting with their feet to leave a program which is designed to frustrate them. Now imagine the reaction of the brighter students who are trapped in black schools with all this madness going on around them.

    But it’s OK as long as it’s PC.

    Brave New World.

  • Peach

    Teacher – Sounds right to me. What is the institutional response to change the situation for the better?

    Katy – Robust classrooms are found at every school in Oakland. As a rule, robust programs in secondary schools can be identified by the large numbers of middle class Caucasian and Asian American students in attendance.This is true throughout the US.Also, the older academies like Performing Arts at Skyline and those at Oakland Tech have produced stellar scholars, of all ethnicities and economic situations, that are doing positive things in the world.

    Jim- Although I find charters problematic, I wish the 100 Black Men’s new charter all the best. The organization’s record with charters is spotty, and I hope that ours is based on the successful ones.

  • Jerry Heverly

    Steve: You say we should ‘reduce the actions that lead to suspensions”. How? At my school we try, I swear.
    Nextset: In our district we don’t put the worst kids in the Continuation school because, of course, they’d do the same thing to that school as they do in my classroom–ruin things for the kids who want to succeed. Wouldn’t such Continuation schools become schools for criminality just as our prisons are schools for felons?
    Katy: if suspensions are warranted isn’t that a sign that something is right? If we are suspending kids for racist reasons then we should be stopped from doing so, but if we’re suspending kids to protect the kids who follow the rules isn’t that a good thing?
    Katy: do you really think that improving academics would keep habitual truants in school? The kids who cut my classes do so for the freedom. They don’t want to come to school and be subjected to a lot of annoying rules (don’t chew gum; don’t call the kid next to you a faggot; don’t smoke dope). School is for romance, to meet friends, to play sports–not for academics. I try everything i know to find something that will interest my most disaffected kids but I generally fail (not always, just mostly).
    Peach: I really think you are wrong to say that schools withhold activities from African-American kids. I haven’t been in every school in the East Bay but the ones I have been in try the best to find activities for any kid who will abide by minimal rules of decorum. To say that these stats reflect a racist society and a racist school system is hard to believe based on the teachers and administrators I know.

  • Katy Murphy

    Hi Jerry — My point was simply that even if a school’s many suspensions are warranted, a high rate doesn’t seem to suggest a safe and orderly environment. If you add up all of the fights, threats and classroom disruptions that might have led to that high, but warranted, suspension rate, it doesn’t paint a very healthy picture. Of course, that doesn’t mean a school that reports a lower suspension rate is safer or more orderly.

    In answer to your second question — “do you really think that improving academics would keep habitual truants in school?” — nope, I don’t really have an opinion. I was merely posing that question to another blog commenter who had raised the subject of “anemic classes.” I was in moderator mode.

  • J.R.

    It is good to hear someone finally chime in and give examples of how and why people are disrupting their own educations, and and ultimately their own lives(all this blather about being kept down is just a convenient excuse). Most people are too intellectually lazy to admit that the cause for individual success or failure is largely self-imposed. I feel badly that you try so hard to instill responsibility and work ethic in kids and yet these kids would rather take the path of least resistance. Just be aware that these bad traits that they possess were ingrained in them by the individuals that bred them. 99 times out of 100 the apple will not fall far from the tree.

  • Nextset

    Jerry Heverly:

    I was a sub once in a Continuation School – that was part of rotation throughout the school district I worked at for a semester. This was several decades ago. The DDU (Ditch Digger U) was run similarly to something you might have seen in Berkeley in the 1960s. The students had staggered hours so all of them were not there at the same time. Frankly they seemed to have irregular hours. They were doing assignments out of workbooks and were not handled in formal structured classrooms as in a normal school. You had different grade levels in the same “classroom” complete with beanbag chairs and small classes. There were social workers around to meet with their kids – or to catch up with them. The staff of the school were more in tune to whatever drama was going on with each kid – their appointments, their medicines, their families or whatever. There were lists of short term goals for each kid, checklists to attend too. The tension levels were nonexistant. The kids seemed very comfortable, there was no competition and for the most part they were doing their individual checklist of assignments and projects and working relatively little with each other. there was no competition. The number of hours in a classroom was minimal.

    The students were pacified, but staff was available to work them through whatever goals they had agreed to at the start of the term.

    These kids did not/could not perform in a real school. For the most part they could read and write, though (they weren’t retarded – some were alert and quick, some were dull) Basic literacy was a priority then life skills. There was talk of voc training – which they seemed to look forward to. Some of their checklist chores were to get ready or to move on to that. I seem to remember they had sex lives and those sex lives were a big priority for them. They seemed to be treated more as adults than in a normal school. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly how I mean that. Staff and students seemd to have a higher expectancy that if the student was going to have breakfast or a place to sleep that week they had to make the arrangements. It seemed that they grew up faster than normal kids. These are dim memories. There was no vandalism, defiance or stress in that school. In hindsight that seems funny. In the regular schools there was more strife. In the “alternative” school we all felt like social workers with a broad portfolio. Staff was there to get the best result out of each kid, for when he/she turned 18 and were out on their own without our program. They all had expiration dates.

    Continuation School is not unpleasant or some kind of boot camp. The students can take a class simultaneously elsewhere to try small doses of mainstream. Jr College was discussed (especially the vocational aspect of Jr College).

    The students liked coming in to the school. We did not share a campus with normal students. We were home away from home.

    This is what should be happening with the non-functioning OUSD students. They should not be in a normal campus. It hurts them and it hurts the other kids.

  • Nextset

    Another memory – there were few black kids in this continuation school. Most of the kids I remember working with were white and hispanic, some mixed. I’m supposing the racial mix had something to do with who wanted in. We did nothing to compel attendance. The students in this program were there because they liked being there, thought they were accomplishing something, and could get a diploma. They had been 86’ed from the other schools for the most part, mostly for bad attendance but sometimes for too many Fs.

    I don’t know where the blacks were. In jail, it seemed. Or some other school. If a student didn’t get with the program in our school they would be un-enrolled and sent somewhere worse I suppose. I never saw anyone in danger of dropping out. For the most part the students there were pretty happy to be enrolled. We’d work around their schedule so they could sleep late if they liked – or take care of the babies.

  • Jerry Heverly

    I subbed a continuation school a few times and I’d say my experience was similar to yours. But there was one important caveat: attendance at our school was very low, about 20% for core classes and no more than 40% for the really charismatic teachers. The really bad kids voted with their feet and stayed home. The ones I saw were decent kids who had issues that a normal school couldn’t accommodate. I remember one kid in particular who spent his time in English class reading Kafka. The kids who disrupt my classroom every day wouldn’t be the ones who would show up at a continuation school. I haven’t worked in the continuation school in my district but my impression is that they try to restrict it to salvageable kids and the scuttlebutt is that they do a pretty good job of it. Increasing the percentage of thugs and gangbangers might sink the whole ship.

  • Observer

    The Continuations schools described above are not that at all: you just described Alternative School. In my day, a few large high schools had them within their walls and they were called “Alta”. Piedmont has one called Millennium. That’s where you go if you don’t do well on the standardized tests (well that’s one reason you’d get sent there). Thats one way successful, wealthy school districts keep their scores up: they can afford programs like that. I’m surpassed next set would champion such a program for ” parasites” as they are easily twice the cost of a regular school. They do work though. Millennium kids may not test that well, but they go in life (of course it helps if your parents are millionaires).

    Continuation school is where you go when you’re not only unable to handle regular school, you are also a juvenile delinquent. I don’t know if they still have them actually. They did I. The 80s and they were run more like military school. It was continuation school or juvenile hall. Screw up there, you went to jail. Also, expensive, but I believe the one in LA I remember was run In part by the criminal justice system and the theory was it was cheaper to lock them in school during the day than in jail day and night.

    These days though jail is not an unfamiliar idea. Most if these boys grow up with prison as a very real, probable way of life. Most of these boys have fathers that are either in prison, on parole or dead and their uncles, cousins etc—-same thing. It is accepted and expected to do time. And the prison system—with it’s prison guard union that has surpassed the teachers union in mepolitic a, power and l influence— has a stake in keeping the conveyor belt of thugs from the ghetto coming. You think the teens in Piedmont aren’t smoking pot in their cars? They don’t get records for it: black boys do, period. And their life hence forward will revolve around going to court, going to prison, getting paroled, violating parole, doing more time, never qualifying for gainful employment because of it. They know this from the time they can walk, so tell me why they should care about how they behave in school again?

    But anyway, what a surprise to not go to jail but to have to go to school and learn a trade instead!

  • oaktownandrew

    Keep in mind that the suspension rate is not only ridiculously high, it only documents the boys who are actually caught and then suspended. Imagine all the bullying, fighting, drug use, cheating, etc that is rampant at Oakland Unified.

  • Nextset

    Observer: I agree with you on the black boys (bad ones) lives revolving around court and institutionalization. You have to understand that that is a function of low (group) IQ. They are really, really, dull.

    Your comment about the Piedmont screw-ups not getting a criminal rap misses the fact that the Piedmont screw-ups as a group have far higher IQ than the black screw-ups. The greater intelligence has a lot to do with managing their misbehavior so as to not get shot at or booked in the jail. To casual observers it seems as a “white privilege” thing. It’s really an intelligence thing. That and hormones.

    If you have a group with low IQ their very survival depends on training as well as installing fears or mores to keep them within safer bounds. That’s something else we used to do in the public schools. Without such training, starting at early age – they don’t live well or long.

    Fear and respect for authority for example.

  • Gordon Danning

    Two quick points:

    1. Yes, high absenteeism leads to poor academic performance, but it is probably initially the case that poor academic performance leads to high absenteeism (ie, cutting class) — very few students who are doing well in school choose to cut. And, by the way, at the secondary level, many of the absentees are on campus, but not going to class.

    2. Re; being on track to graduate: we already make it ludicrously easy to graduate; in most classes, it is tough to fail if you show up and, more importantly, do the work. I am considered a “hard” teacher, yet I have never failed a student who turned in all of his or her work.

  • Observer


    No, it is not a function of low IQ. I will not argue with you about whether or not black males inherently have lower IQs. I will argue that that is not the reason why Piedmont boys who get pulled over and are found with open containers, weapons, marijuana are never or very, very rarely charged. The reason has nothing to do with black boys; it has to do with expediency. The Piedmont boy will show up with a private attorney. No prosecutor in Alameda (or any Californian county) is going to waste their time or funds trying to convict a juvenile on a petty crime. I imagine they are very much encouraged by the courts not to bother.

    You call them Piedmont (or Orinda, Marin, Woodside, etc.) “screw ups”. Why, I’m not sure? Ever been to the bars down in Cow Hollow on a Saturday night? Full of post college, frat boys blatantly showing disregard for society by pissing and puking on sidewalks, showing complete and entitled disrespect for law enforcement committing general mayhem, etc. Then off to the job their frat or paternal contacts got them on Mon. morning maybe. Or off to Starbucks with the Ipad, wifi and mochas. And no one calls them “screw ups” much less “parasites”.

    You are right about training at an early age. Well, duh. Their parents truly do not provide this and we do not encourage birth control to teens.

  • Danny Cardoza

    I wish someone would do a story about what has happened this year at a middle school in Oakland called United for Success. I was recently at a conference where participants from Oakland were talking about how that school has cut the suspension of African American males by 50% this year. I think the principal was on Forum with Michael Krasny too. It sounds like they have instituted some impressive practices. Perhaps you could take a look and share with us. I’d like to hear about any outlier successes and what they’ve done.

  • Nextset

    Observer: We disagree on the IQ thing. It’s my point that that is the heart of the racial gap in mortality rates (and function rates) at the moment. And worse, the mortality rates are not at all fixed. They are about to get much worse.

    Remember, law and order is collapsing swiftly in CA. When that happens, black casualties (including serious incarceration) will greatly outpace white, jewish & asian casualties. Also public services are being curtailed. The government is trying to hide it as much as possible, but it’s true. Exactly who’s mortality is going to be affected most by cutbacks in, say communicable disease control (or anything else)? Otis and Latifah… because Otis and Latifah are never going to be taught to protect themselves compared to Ken and Barbie – or Esther and Hymie.

    What was that old line about when Whites get a cold blacks get pnuemonia? There is a huge epidemic of flying lead coming. And it won’t be the white liberals pulling the triggers. Their diminishing numbers will be in gated communities. The Hispanic, immigrant and poor white/hispanic mix who live more in proximity to the ghettos of LA and the like are both arming and target shooting in remarkable numbers. Once it’s clear there is no justice at the courthouse the county coroners will become very busy. And you will see the establishment turn a blind eye to the shootings. We see this now with the “unsolved” LA Homicides. Low status decedents will have no work at all done on their cases – because frankly their deaths are not problems, and resources are in triage.

    Remember my earlier statements about the way the Oakland Tech/UC Berkeley High School summer school was run (If anything goes wrong with you it’s your fault not ours and your problem. Three strikes and you’re out.)? That’s how you teach students to survive life. Compare that to the atmosphere at any black school in OUSD. (and some students were just there at Tech for a typing class)

    This thread is on black male preformance in OUSD. Whatever is happening there is a direct reflection of what OUSD required from these students. No demands, no performances. OUSD is not a normal school in the sense of what I grew up with. It is ultimately a failure factory that is strictly in business to pacify the black students (fool them into thinking they’re educated) and keep their families from complaining. OUSD thinks little of them (black students) and is not going to do anything to impose white standards of behavior & training (or even white lowerclass standards). Insult to injury, OUSD is not even teaching black boys to be decent criminals. Catholics did a better job of it. Black, White, Hispanic, boy or girl, we weren’t going to ever admit a thing.

    For the record I’d use transfers to appropriate alternate schools and programs rather than the suspensions. I’d not send the bad acting kiddies home, I’d sent them to internment or it’s equivalent, including psych referrals. Maybe that would fix the “suspension” problem. It wouldn’t fix the attendance problem as the kids would vote with their feet.

    But we’d have a lot fewer suspensions.

    There, we’ve solved the problem of suspending black boys. Don’t suspend them, put them in on-campus (or in-district) internment rooms. Have them read aloud from Men’s magazines (it worked! They enjoyed reading!). Remember that scene from the Movie “Halls of Anger”?

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the suggestion, Danny. Chris Chatmon mentioned United for Success to me this week, and I’d like to learn more about what they’re doing.

  • Derek Mitchell

    As demoralizing the USC reports and the summary of them in the article was for someone like me who worked pretty hard with a cross-fucntional team of leaders in the city 10 years ago to address the ‘defiance of authority’ issue once an for all, reading through many of the comments left by readers of this blog made me feel even worse. “Feral black boys” IQ test comparisons with behavior” “Internment rooms” “people not falling far from the tree” “bad kids infecting others.”

    I can only hope that many of these respondents are just being dramatic and that these comments are not representative of their true feelings or of those of the larger community of my neighbors here in Oakland who MUST come together to solve what is essentially a decades-old problem of racialized oppression.

    And Katy, the USC did do a report on the state of academic achievement of Black Boys in Oakland too. A great follow-up might be a story about that and the new Voluntary School Study Teams being led by Mr. Chapmon.

  • Gordon Danning

    One more issue/question/whatever:

    The report defines “chronic absenteeism” as 18 or more absences in a school year. That is only once every two weeks, on average. That level of absenteeism, while of course not ideal, hardly presents an insurmountable barrier to learning. I have had many students over the year who ATTENDED class once every two weeks. I am pretty sure they didn’t learn much. There might be schools out there who have had success in reducing those “super chronic” absentees, and have turned them into merely ‘chronic” absentees. If so, those schools might be worthy of emulation.

    So, Katy, is there a further breakdown in the report (or elsewhere) re: truly chronic absentees?

  • Reader

    I appreciate all of the comments that have been thoughtfully made. Most of all, thank you to all who have ignored the ignorance from Nextset. One of the problems in finding the solutions to these issues is that the people that weigh in are usually NOT Black parents themselves. It is difficult to be on the outside looking in when it comes to such issues that have many layers of complexity. Schools are dealing with the symptoms of students who have no direction from home in most cases. And not all of those parents are bad, some just don’t know what it takes to get a quality education.

  • still hopeful

    There’s a bigger story here. You really need to get out and talk to some of the teachers at these schools. OEA might be able to help you find some who can share what is going on.

    I am connected to teachers at one of the schools listed in the report as having a high suspension rate. This year has been abysmal for teachers and kids.

    There was a push to reduce suspension rates. The focus was on prevention, conflict mediation, and counseling rather than discipline. The school administration is very permissive and is reluctant to give consequences. There is not consistent follow through. Under this approach behavior has spiraled out of control. Teachers begged for more support and/or to seriously revamp the discipline plan and philosophy. This did not happen. The teachers are appalled by the high suspension rate. They feel that clear limits and consequences for inappropriate behavior early on would have helped create a more positive climate and would have reduced suspensions.

    I have serious concerns about the steps many schools and OUSD leadership are taking in an attempt to curb suspension rates. Under OUSD leadership, the plan to improve this school’s discipline next year calls for more of the same faulty practices.

    Nothing is fixed by creating chaotic schools in which violence, drug use, sexual activity and hateful/foul language are allowed to occur without consequences. Students then engage in increasingly negative behaviors which lead to more suspensions.

    There are thoughtful ways to help reduce suspension rates for African American males in Oakland. Instead, the push is to artificially reduce these rates by failing to appropriately set limits. The result of this will be more schools that are completely out of control.

  • Gordon Danning

    Still Hopeful:

    You make a good point. I have long been of the opinion that, if a school issued a LOT of suspensions in the first two weeks, then it would end up issuing many, many fewer over the rest of the school year. Unfortunately, I have also long been of the opinion (well, more than an opinion, since it is based on lots of evidence) that any principal who tried that would very quickly have the iron boot of higher-ups come down on her neck (very possibly in the person of the superintendent himself).

  • still hopeful

    I would never state a goal of issuing a lot of suspensions during any period of time, but I do think that most successful teachers know that the first few weeks are critical for setting the tone and expectation levels throughout the year.

    I know that one of the most successful schools in Oakland openly embraces the motto, “Sweat the small stuff and the big stuff won’t happen.” Clear limits, consistent consequences, and a nurturing/supportive environment are all necessary for success. I see OUSD leadership embracing only the nurturing and supportive environment to the detriment of our schools and students.

  • Nextset

    Derek Mitchell:

    I get the impression you think that bad black boy nehavior is due to “racialized oppression”.

    Please explain that to us. Why in 2012 do we have the problems we do with black boys in OUSD largely black schools, as opposed to the OUSD largely black schools of 1950, 1960 & 1970?

    Are we to believe “racialized oppression” is worse now than then?

    Are you sure the real reason for the behavior isn’t something as simple as “license”?

    And I take it you don’t like the word “feral”. Have you not had the experience of sitting down and talking to feral children and adults? There are plenty enough of them. Looks like there will be more not less. Check out web pages such as Thugreport. Look at the photos then the newspaper articles of what the Thugs have been caught doing lately. Now imagine being a school teacher with no control of who/what you are expected to teach, and no standards for what is allowed to walk into a classroom.

    I’m not PC. If the word fits, I use it.

    Save us from white liberals.

  • Teaches at Oakland School

    I think Peach might be referring to the fact that although there are standards, I know that my 3 children never had to prove they knew the standards. If you look at the History standards for 8th grade, they state such standards as
    Identify the reasons for the development of federal Indian policy and the wars with American Indians and their relationship to agricultural development and industrialization.
    Explain how states and the federal government encouraged business expansion through tariffs, banking, land grants, and subsidies.”

    If the schools were really adhering to the standards, their assessments would ask the student to do just what the standards say to do, idendify… and explain…. I have never, ever seen a classroom where a teacher actually expects the students he/she has taught to be able to show mastery. Instead, there are multiple choice and try/false questions. Kids come out of 8th grade knowing virtually nothing about their history.

    Many teachers tell the kids that their homework is to read the chapter and answer the questions at the end of the chapter-I know from tutoring middle school kids that there is a minute proportion of kids who actually read the material,most just flip through for the answers and then they get an A for having any answer at all. How many teachers make them outline the chapter or take notes on it? Maybe there is one out there but I doubt it. If they were really tested on the material and had to use their brains, some would flunk but others would get on the ball and learn something. It is as if the teachers are afraid that asking the kids to do what they should do, is too hard so they dumb down their classes so everyone can get a good grade.

  • J.R.

    Teacher at Oakland,
    You hit the bullseye, good teachers cover the material and assess the children on their understanding of the material. Poor teachers just hand out work, and grades. We had a science(specialist) teacher at one elementary school, that gave 97% of kids an A( those kids had no real understanding of the material at all, on any level. Mercifully she is no longer teaching science, and our kids now have an opportunity to actually learn to think. We have good standards, but there is no way we can be assured that all teachers are implementing them in the correct way.

  • CLM

    I remember when I was young over a half a century ago when suspension was a punishment. Most parents don’t have a handle on the discipline where suspension is not desireable. There needs to be a structure where suspension is 1) A learning experience, and 2) Not desireable. I would think it would be housed downtown and behavior-therapy would be the emphasis. If a student is disruptive and wild, they need to learn the appropriate behavior. Sending them home to play video games and be bored for the days is not going to change the behavior. A clinical setting and relavant information will send them back to their regular school classes ready to learn.

  • J.R.

    Excellent ideas there, and will therefore be summarily dismissed by many if not most of the hug a thug, economic and restorative justice type crowd.

  • livegreen

    Good point. Esp if it’s difficult for parents to get to it will hold them accountable. But then it becomes more difficult for lower socio economic families to get to, so it won’t be implemented. How do we find the balance between discipline & fairness? Because of economic & socio economic history, how will teachers be able to discipline without being called racist?

    Not addressing the problem is not a solution. Understaffing & underfunding the problem is not a solution. Over funding the problem is also not a solution (as money alone doesn’t bring solutions unless implementation is done correctly).

    What’s the solution? OUSD can’t do this alone.

  • http://www.schoolsmovingup.net/cs/smu/view/e/5212 Concerned Educator

    Archived Webinar – 5/7/2012: Discipline that Does No Harm: Improving Academic Outcomes for African-American Male Students

    Click here for archived webinar: http://www.schoolsmovingup.net/cs/smu/view/e/5212

    The prevalence of disciplinary practices that negatively impact African-American male students was reported in March 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This report found that African-American male students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their White peers. According to the OCR report, African-American male students made up only 18% of the students in the data sample, but represent 35% of the students suspended once, 46% of those suspended more than once, and 39% of students expelled.

    This webinar series is especially designed for county office of education staff, district administrators, school counselors, principals, and teacher leaders. This event features Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Executive Director of the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco, CA, and will address:

    How to eliminate negative outcomes for African-American male students
    How districts and school administrators can ensure that disciplinary policies are equitable and effectively implemented
    Research-based strategies to promote positive youth development

    This webinar will be hosted by Dr. Rose Owens-West, Center Director, and Dr. Christopher Harrison, Research Associate, with the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd.

    Discipline that Does No Harm is the first of three webinars in the series, Improving Academic Outcomes for African-American Males that will address equity concerns for African-American males in K-12 public education settings. The series will also include two subsequent webinars, which will address topics related to high quality instruction, rigorous learning opportunities, and supportive learning environments that improve achievement outcomes for African-American male students in K-12 settings.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for posting this!