Advice to OUSD: Don’t sweat your reputation

From a marketing perspective, the Oakland school district should worry less about its overall reputation and more about how the community perceives its individual schools, MBA students from UC Berkeley concluded after reviewing the results of an online survey I posted on the blog in April.

About 300 people completed the survey, many of them with zip codes in the hills; the report’s authors acknowledged that the respondents weren’t representative of the city’s population.

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Market research on how Oakland families pick schools

A group of students from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business want to know why some families chose an OUSD education for their children (and exactly how they arrived at that conclusion) and why others opted for charter, parochial or independent schools.

Their online survey is open until midnight Sunday for all Oakland residents with children who are 22 or younger. You can take it in English or Spanish.

The survey asks questions about perceptions of safety, cleanliness, enrichment programs and school demographics at each of the schools the family considered. It will be interesting to see those findings, as well as the resulting recommendations to the Oakland school district about its “messaging” strategy and public image.

Michelle Florendo, one of the student-researchers, pointed out a consequence of school choice that we’ve discussed on this blog before: “A lot of public school principals are finding themselves in a position where they need to market their schools.”

This leads me to two sets of questions: Continue Reading


A blurry attendance boundary

I always assumed attendance boundaries around neighborhood schools were black and white. Not without controversy (heck no!), not permanent, but pretty straightforward: You live at this address, so this is your `home school.’

That’s why I was surprised to get an e-mail from Alexis Lezin, an Oakland mom who lives in North Oakland and has tried, unsuccessfully, to enroll her future kindergartner at Chabot Elementary School in Rockridge through the Options process.

Lezin’s family lives inside the Emerson Elementary School boundaries, and her child would be the first to attend Chabot, so the district’s Options policy doesn’t guarantee her child a spot at the Rockridge school. Still, she said she was floored to learn that three of the children admitted to Chabot were Berkeley residents. She wrote this in a letter to Mike Bonino, a district staffer who manages the Options process:

I am stunned to realize that Berkeley residents, who do not pay Oakland city taxes, who have access to a number of high performing schools in their own city, were offered the space(s) that could have gone to my son and other children of Oakland residents who deserve a safe place in which to learn *in their own district.*

It wasn’t an oversight or a computer glitch. Troy Flint, the district’s spokesman, said although the families in question are Berkeley residents, they live on the Oakland boundary, on a horseshoe-shaped street “a stone’s throw” from Chabot: Continue Reading


Will Oakland lose another Catholic school?

St. Bernard School
file photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune

Imagine being called to a parent meeting days before winter break and hearing that your child’s elementary school is running a $38,000-per-month deficit and will be closed for the spring semester. That, with a successful, parent-energized enrollment drive, it will re-open in the fall  — but no guarantees.

This is what’s happening at St. Bernard’s, a K-8 Catholic school on 62nd Avenue near International Boulevard whose enrollment has dropped to a mere 75 students (an average of about 8 students per grade). Continue Reading


A class for Oakland families: School Options 101

classroomThree years ago, when I started reporting on Oakland’s School Options process and the confusion families experienced when trying to get their kids into certain schools, I quickly realized the task required a far greater degree of expertise than I possessed. If only there had been a class…

But, wait! Now, there is!

This year, the school district scrapped its annual Options Fair, which principals disliked and the administration found to create an overly competitive environment, pitting one school against another, Spokesman Troy Flint explained. (But isn’t what the Options process — for better or for worse — does anyway, by letting families “vote with their feet”?) Continue Reading


More of OUSD’s small schools might close in 2010

District staff are recommending that Explore Middle School, a small school that opened in East Oakland in 2004, close at the end of the year.

Also on the 2010 closure list are two schools that were scheduled to close a year or two down the road, following a lengthy phase out: BEST High School (McClymonds campus in West Oakland) and Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts (Fremont campus in East Oakland).

Staff didn’t come out with a definitive recommendation for Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafayette elementary schools in West Oakland Continue Reading


A sped up phase-out at McClymonds

mcclymondsSoon, the McClymonds high school campus will have just one small high school, instead of two.

District staff is recommending that BEST High School close in June — a year earlier than planned, Chief Academic Officer Brad Stam told a crowd gathered at the McClymonds cafeteria tonight.

Stam said it would be unfair to BEST students and too costly for the school district to keep it open next year with just a few dozen students, and that this year’s juniors (the youngest class at BEST) will likely attend EXCEL, the other high school, next fall. This year, the school district is providing a subsidy of about $330,000, Stam said.

EXCEL’s enrollment has dwindled to less than 250, and just 65 juniors and seniors attend BEST, according to a recent districtwide data report. In 2004-05, the year before McClymonds split into two schools as part of the Gates-funded small schools reform, 761 kids went to the West Oakland high school, according to data from the California Department of Education. 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.)


Board meets tonight to discuss budget cuts

Even if you can’t make it to the 6 p.m. special meeting tonight at the Oakland school district office (1025 Second Ave.), you might want to take a look at the presentation district staff have prepared, which will likely be the basis for the board’s discussion.

Much of the information has already been out there; I believe this is an opportunity for board members to weigh in on budget cuts for next year.

In the appendix, you’ll find the average class sizes and total number of teachers at individual schools — as well as the money that each school might gain or lose if the district decided to tie the school funding formula to certain class sizes.

This is all leading up to two big meetings: Continue Reading


A commercial for Oakland’s public schools

The Oakland school district is exceptionally diverse, its state test scores are rising and it is preparing more and more of its students for college, is the gist of a new video for prospective families, “Take Another Look at OUSD.”

“If you look and you’re open, you can see a lot of wonderful things that happen here,” goes one woman’s testimonial.


Do you know many people applying to both private and public schools for next year? Think this commercial might sway them?

You can find a school tour and open house schedule for Oakland’s public schools here.