Two Numbers that Explain Why Oakland’s Black families Aren’t Caught up in the Public School Wars

Fifteen percent and fourteen percent.  If you wonder why you largely don’t see Black parents engaged in the vitriolic debate over charters in Oakland—those numbers are the answer.

15% of Black elementary schoolers at charters schools can read at grade level.

14% of Black elementary school students at OUSD district schools can read at grade level.

Nobody is consistently serving Black children in Oakland.  And let’s be clear if you can’t read, you are headed to a difficult life, and roughly 1 in 7 Black children is on a trajectory to success in Oakland—don’t matter, charter or district.

Parents have a Practical Narrative not a Professional One

That is what I hear from parents, in the thousands of families who read my posts about schools showing progress, nobody ever mentioned “privatization” or “neo liberalism.”  I did get scores of families asking me about specific schools, or which school might be best for their child, or how they should balance multiple offers from the charter sector or district.  I was also asked about home schooling and private schools.

Black folks are trying to just play their cards the best they can in a rigged game.  By and large we have been historically excluded from the “best” neighborhoods by laws and banks, and now by accumulated privilege and disadvantage.  So we juggle between charters, the district, and private schools if we can figure that out.

And no sector promises us anything.

When you look at the geographic maps of high performing schools, they tend to be in the wealthiest neighborhoods and I would bet with the lowest percentage of Black families.  These schools always have more applications than spots, so once neighborhood and sibling preferences run, there are no spots left for us.

Sometimes we aren’t welcome even when the rules say we should be.  I heard that from some parents around bilingual programs this year, and I experienced that at one of my own charter schools.   And sometimes even when you make it to the “good schools” you find your child is a second class citizens there, with lower expectations, checking their identity at the door or facing constant struggle against the tide to maintain it inside.

These are our choices.

15% and 14%, those are the only numbers you need to hear to understand the hustle.

What do you think?

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