Advice from a millionaire rapper, convicted felon

Grammy-winning rapper T.I. visited West Oakland’s Cole Middle School today to speak about the importance of education and smart choices (and to perform some of his 1,500 court-ordered hours of community service following a plea agreement in a federal weapons case).

image of T.I. at Cole Middle School by D. Ross Cameron/Tribune staff

T.I.’s advice included catchy one-liners like “School is an investment that will get you paid later on,” “Trust me, there’s nothing sexy about being 32 years old and staying with your mama,” “You can be smart and still be cool,” “Being stupid don’t make you a gangster,” and “Not thinking, being stupid, can kill you.”

For the most part, the kids seemed to be soaking up every word. Some looked positively transfixed by the star power in their midst. Maybe they came away inspired by T.I.’s message of hard work and staying out of trouble.

I wonder, though, how the impact of the rapper’s words stacks up against his life story, in the kids’ minds. They are well aware of the fact that T.I. is rich and famous — even though he dropped out of school in ninth grade, and even though his rap sheet includes 32 arrests, by his count. Continue Reading


New dropout rates are more accurate, but not pretty

You’ve heard me gripe about all of the dropout rate calculations and projections for Oakland’s public schools. Well, the state department of education has finally broken out its newfangled student tracking system and released some (supposedly) accurate, estimate-free dropout data for the 2006-07 school year!

Two years ago, California assigned every public school student a unique state ID number in order to track their progress, regardless of where in the state they moved. If a student vanishes from Oakland High School, for example, and turns up in Los Angeles Unified a month later, that student will no longer be counted as a dropout.

While admittedly exciting on a wonky, statistical level — oh, the information! — the state’s preliminary data present a very sobering picture. If it’s as accurate as they say, it means that nearly 11 percent of Oakland’s high school kids quit school during the 2006-07 year alone. Continue Reading