Shifting demographics and a shrinking school-age population

photo by Laura A. Oda/staff photographer

We ran a story Sunday about shifting demographics in inner-city neighborhoods such as West Oakland — changes which have resulted in fewer school-age children in the area and declining public school enrollment.

Oakland, as a whole, lost 20 percent of its 5- to 17-year-olds between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. census; in West Oakland, it was 31 percent. (You can find a spreadsheet of West Oakland school enrollment trends here.)

I spent months looking for explanations and stories behind the census data, and we plan to continue following some of those threads in future pieces. One issue I want to explore, for example, is the school district’s school choice policy, put in place in 2005, which allows families to enroll their kids at schools with available space outside their local attendance boundaries.

What do you see happening in the area 10 years from now?

A CALL FOR INTERVIEWS: I’d love to talk to West Oakland residents with children 17 and younger about the educational options in their neighborhood and beyond. I’d also like to hear from African Americans who left West Oakland about why they left and what their lives are like now, wherever they are.

You can reach me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.


OUSD’s rosy enrollment projections

The Oakland school district is closing five elementary schools next year. Two of its other schools might be converted into independently run charters, taking 800 children with them. And at least one — quite possibly, two — brand new charter schools open next fall, with plans to admit more than 600 students, combined.

But OUSD’s leaders aren’t bracing for a big enrollment drop. They predict the school system’s enrollment will hold firm in September — and even grow slightly (by 125 students, to 38,166).

Will the numbers bear out? They didn’t this fall. Enrollment in the city’s district-run schools, though flat, came in 300 students shy of projections, creating a $1.6 million budget gap that needed to be closed immediately.

2012 projections, explained: Continue Reading


Drawing new attendance boundaries

This afternoon, the Oakland school district posted maps showing how it might redraw its boundaries for 2012-13, after five elementary schools close.

OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint is double-checking on this, but it appears that the remaining schools’ boundaries would only expand — not shift — under this plan. In other words, that the only residents who’d be redistricted would be those who live in the attendance areas of Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. I think. If it appears otherwise to you, let us know!

Lakeview and Lazear each have two scenarios for consideration. Marshall and Maxwell Park have three (including one for Maxwell Park that splits the current zone into seven pieces). Santa Fe has just one three. You’ll find more detail below.

WHAT’S NEXT: The district is holding five community meetings, beginning Nov. 29, in each of the areas (see above link for dates and locations). It holds a public hearing Dec. 14, and is scheduled to make a decision on Jan. 11.

Here are the scenarios, with a list of all of the schools that would incorporate part of each existing attendance area: Continue Reading


Oakland’s 2010-11 enrollment breakdown

The California Department of Education recently posted 2010-11 enrollment data. At least one of you has asked how many schools have fewer than 200 children, so I put together a spreadsheet with the latest numbers for Oakland.

Tab 1 is sorted by total enrollment, with charter schools highlighted in blue. Tab 2 is sorted by school. You’ll see that of the 31 public schools or programs in Oakland with enrollments below 200, all but six or seven are alternative schools or charters, and one of those (Youth Empowerment School) is already slated to close.

Want to go straight to the source? Here is the link to the page from where I downloaded the data.

Oakland school enrollment 2010-11


A big box store at Lazear?

3245396820_ecde5a5748_mThis spring, I wrote about the changes at Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School under its new principal, Kareem Weaver.

Lest the year end without controversy, rumors have been circulating that the school (see below map) could be closed down to make way for a big box store.

More than 100 people came to a recent meeting at Lazear with Oakland school board member Noel Gallo. Gallo said he called the meeting to quell rumors of an imminent closure and to assure parents that a deal wasn’t going to be cut behind the closed doors of the mayor’s office or the superintendent’s office.

But the rumors aren’t entirely off-base. Gallo said he had “an informal meeting” with the owner of the adjacent shopping center, Fruitvale Station, about the possibility of leasing the land on which Lazear sits. (He said he was first approached about this two years ago, and that it’s been “an ongoing conversation.”)

Continue Reading


Chronic absenteeism in Oakland schools

Last school year, 14.3 percent of Oakland’s public schoolchildren were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 18 days of school — excused or unexcused. As you can see from this map, created by (and posted with the permission of) the Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council, the most serious attendance problems are concentrated in West Oakland.

The Oakland school district recently began collecting data of all of its students who were absent — not just those with unexcused absences. Now, principals regularly get lists of those students (those who have missed 10 percent of the school year) in an effort to get to the root causes of their absence and curb the problem.

Superintendent Tony Smith is scheduled to speak in Sacramento tomorrow at a forum on the subject hosted by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. So is Hedy Chang, of Attendance Works, who did the attendance analysis for the Oakland school district with technical support from Urban Strategies Council.

As we discussed last summer on this blog, the problem of chronic absenteeism is not just prevalent in high schools, but in elementary schools as well. Continue Reading


The Kindergarten Question

I don’t know how I missed this, but in case you did, too: Annelisa Hedgecock wrote this Op-Ed piece in Oakland North a couple of weeks ago about her family’s school search — and the reactions she gets from other parents when the name of her kid’s Oakland public elementary school comes up.

Here’s how it starts:

As sure as it’s the New Year, it’s also school selection season in Oakland. Obsessing about kindergarten is one of those things almost every middle-class parent here does, as normal as buying a family membership at the zoo. So, parents are touring private school after private school.

Continue Reading


Oakland’s School Options deadline is here

Today’s PSA: If you’ve been shopping for public elementary, middle and/or high schools in Oakland and want to take part in the first round of school placements, your deadline is 3 p.m. Friday.

You must apply in person at the Family & Community Office, 2111 International Boulevard OR at any OUSD school. (I initially neglected to mention the latter option.)

For more details and contact information, visit OUSD’s enrollment page here. You can find the forms here.


This week in OUSD: school budgeting, use-of-force policy and enrollment

The Oakland school board’s committees are discussing some important things this week. I figured some of you might want to weigh in on these items before they come before the full board. You can find a list of upcoming meetings and download the agendas here.

Regional bus tourTONIGHT: At 5 p.m., the Teaching and Learning Committee goes over a revised work plan for realizing the superintendent’s vision for the school district. They’ll talk about task forces, regional leadership teams (NEXOs are out; REXOs are in), and other elements of the strategic plan. The committee will also do a more detailed test score analysis with the district’s new data toy, visualization motion charts.

At 6:30 p.m., the Finance and Human Resources Committee is reviewing Results-Based Budgeting, a system that 1) specifies how funds are to be allocated to schools (currently, by each school’s average student attendance), and 2) allows principals and (in theory) school councils to decide how to spend those funds.

Continue Reading


Should CA keep 4-year-olds out of kindergarten?

Kindergarten. Image from woodleywonderworks' photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

Senate Bill 1381 would phase in a Sept. 1 birthday cutoff date for kindergarteners, making sure the students are 5 when they start school. (The cutoff would be Nov. 1 in 2012; Oct. 1 in 2013; and Sept. 1 in 2014.)

Proponents say many 4-year-olds can’t compete with children who are up to a year older, and that they have a hard time keeping up with the new rigors of kindergarten, reports Jill Tucker of the Chronicle, who visited Oakland’s Thornhill Elementary School for the story.

The other advantage for the state is the estimated annual savings — about $700 million a year until the first group graduates from high school, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Half of the savings would be redirected to the state’s preschool program (though this might refer to the 3-hour preschool, rather than the full-day program that’s under threat).

What do you think?