KQED holds town hall in Oakland Tuesday about the dropout crisis

UPDATE: Watch it live here from 5:40 – 8 p.m.

More than one in every three Oakland teenagers drop out of high school — a rate twice the state average, according to the most recent data from the California Department of Education from the class of 2009-10.

What’s more, Oakland’s black and Latino students quit school at significantly higher rates than the state average for students of their same racial backgrounds. Forty percent of Oakland’s Latino teenagers drop out, compared to 22 percent of Latinos statewide. And nearly half of the city’s English learners quit school, compared to roughly 30 percent statewide. (Click the previous link for Oakland data, which is also available by school and program, such as special education and language, on the drop-down menu. If you live in another California district, you can find the statistics here.)

As part of a national Corporation for Public Broadcasting campaign to find solutions to this crisis, KQED is holding a town hall for teachers. It starts at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) evening in the Laney College Theater, and hosted by Glynn Washington of NPR’s Snap Judgment.

You can find more details about the event here. Below is a description: Continue Reading


New dropout formula, same problem

California’s new dropout and graduate estimates are out for the Class of 2010. They are supposed to be more accurate than ever before, as this is the fourth year the state education department has used unique student IDs to track students’ progress through the system.

With four years of data, it didn’t have to make all kinds of crazy projections and extrapolations to guess how many kids were quitting school. It’s basic division — a calculation simple enough for a fifth-grader (or a journalist with a firm grasp on order of operations) to understand!

Oakland’s graduation and dropout rates were among the lowest in the state. There might well be districts out there with worse rates, but I didn’t come across any. Based on these estimates, Latino students in Oakland fare worse than their peers elsewhere in the state, with a four-year graduation rate of 47 percent, compared to 68 percent statewide.

How confident are you that OUSD’s strategic plan will turn this around?


An Oakland mom’s take on the dropout rate and Tech’s Paideia program

Kim Shipp, an OUSD parent, responds to a blog discussion on Oakland’s dropout rate and access to Oakland Tech’s Paideia program.

Paideia classroom at Oakland Tech. Photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

In response to Oakland’s dropout rate and the increasing popularity of the Paideia program at Oakland Tech, topics recently posted on this blog, I decided to give my thoughts about both issues from a parent’s perspective. In my fifteen years of experience in Oakland schools with three children, I’ve spent two of those years in a private school setting and two of those years in Paideia with my oldest son.

It is no secret that Oakland has one of the highest dropout rates in California. The constant change of leadership over the past 13 years has had a negative impact on the school system. In Oakland’s case this includes nine leaders in the form of superintendents or state administrators; no organization can sustain itself in meeting its goals without stability in leadership. This permeates down to the school level.

Take Skyline High School for example. The graduating class of 2011 will have experienced a new principal in each of their four years of high school. My son spent his first year of high school at Skyline, the next two years at a private school and is now back at Skyline for his final year. This year, when he returned to Skyline, I immediately noticed some stark differences between private and public schools. In a nutshell, private schools care about what they are doing and public schools appear not to. These differences have little to do with money, but rather willingness on the part of adults and how one entity values education over the other.

Continue Reading


One district, different worlds

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

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

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

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


OUSD’s latest dropout estimate is higher than ever

A new state report estimated that 40 percent of Oakland public high school students dropped out, or would drop out, of high school based on data from the 2008-09 school year. (See the 4-year adjusted rate in the second-to-last column. Hint: You might have to scroll to the right.)

Forty percent! And that figure isn’t supposed to include students who enroll in adult school, those who take longer to graduate than four years, or who transfer to other public schools in the state.

The state’s dropout calculation is said to be more accurate than other methods, because each student in California has a unique identification number that (theoretically) follows them wherever they go, as long as they enroll in a public school in the state. But the estimate has fluctuated in OUSD, from 36 percent in 2006-07 to 28 percent in 2007-08 to 40 percent in 2008-09.

A high school’s population doesn’t change all that much from one year to the next, so I wonder how reliable these figures are. They do tell us one thing, though: the dropout rate in Oakland is incredibly high. Continue Reading


Oprah, Aspire and Waiting for Superman

At 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) today, James Willcox, CEO of the Oakland-based Aspire Public Schools, appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show along with Bill Gates and Director Davis Guggenheim to promote the much-hyped “Waiting for Superman” documentary by Guggenheim, who directed “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Oprah is giving $1 million awards to six organizations, including Aspire, which operates about 30 publicly funded, privately run charter schools in California, including seven in Oakland and Berkeley. Kids and teachers at Lionel Wilson College Prep, a middle and high school in East Oakland run by the charter management organization (API 797), are watching the pre-taped show at the school this afternoon. Here’s a quote from an Aspire news release:

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Oprah’s Angel Network as part of her call to the country to make sure every student has a chance to attend a high-quality public school,” said Aspire Public Schools CEO James Willcox. “The upcoming movie “Waiting for ‘Superman’” will challenge our country to do just that. Our success with the nearly 10,000 students Aspire serves across California is a tribute to our teachers and our team—and a reason to be incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve in every public school across the state and across the country.”

“Waiting for Superman” is about the failures of America’s public education system and why it should matter to the average American. Guggenheim makes the argument that those failures perpetuate societal ills, from national security and crime to poverty, and that it’s essential to “change the odds” for families who can’t afford a private education. He said the idea for the film stemmed from the guilt he felt while driving by his neighborhood school in Los Angeles while dropping his kids off to private schools.

It comes out on Friday.

From the clips I saw at the Education Writers Association conference in May, it promises to be compelling, provocative and heart-wrenching, if a bit simplistic. Continue Reading


Reducing the dropout rate: the economic argument

The D.C.-based advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education has come out with a new report that estimates the San Francisco-Oakland metro area would gain $8 million in tax revenues and generate 350 jobs by cutting its high school dropout rate in half.

You can read the Bay Area report, which estimates additional earnings (and spending on houses and vehicles) for African American, Latino, Native American and Asian graduates, here.

The methodology assumes everyone with a high school diploma will pursue a college degree and/or work from age 18 to 70, which is not a given in this economy. But for what it’s worth, the authors say the estimated benefits are “conservative.”


New graduation rates, huge disparities

Pittsburg High School graduation, 2009. Bay Area News Group file photo by DAN ROSENSTRAUCH

About 71 percent of California’s high school students graduated “on time” in 2008, after four years — 3.7 percentage points below the national average, according to a set of sobering numbers brought to you by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. (Page 5)

If you break the California numbers down by ethnicity, the disparities leap off the page: 57 percent of black students in the Class of 2008 graduated on time, compared to 61 percent of Latino students, 91 percent of Asian students and 80 percent of white students. (Page 7)

The state’s black students left school early at the highest rate: 9 percent dropped out in 2007-08, compared to 6 percent of Latino students, 2 percent of Asian students, and 3 percent of white students that year. (Page 15)

Five-year trends: Continue Reading


Edu-wonk alert! New Web site on high school graduation and higher education in California

high school graduation
photo by Anda Chu/Staff

A new Web site that went live today has no shortage of stats and pretty charts about California youth and higher education: high school graduation trends, completion of a-g requirements in high school, by gender; college enrollment trends; community college completion rates for degree-seekers, etc.

Measuring Success, Making Progress — as the site is called — is funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

What do you make of the information? Does any of it surprise you?

I was struck by the dropoff in the 12th grade between the number of kids who enrolled as seniors and those who received a diploma. ( This was among group of kids whose enrollment was tracked since they were seventh-graders in 2002.)