There is a set of folks who view every failure of OUSD as a result of charters. To them, charters drain money from the district and drain kids. The argument seems to go that things were great in Oakland before charters. Kids we thriving, the district was financially stable and families of all stripes were thrilled. Make Oakland Schools Great Again. Thing is, they were never great, and charters are a consequence of historic failures not the cause.
Just like the Cheeto in Chief’s nostalgia for a place that never existed, the Make Oakland Schools Great Again crew’s vision is a fairy tale. Except if you are Black or Brown, this one has a really unhappy ending.
In the graduating cohort of 2003 only 1.7% of Black males a total of 29, completed the A-G requirements and .5% of Latino males did a total of 8…8. The district was also broke and broken, just like today. So, before we start whistling Dixie and reflecting on a better simpler time, let’s talk some facts.
Charters are the Result of the District’s Failure not the Cause
OUSD has never served Black and Brown families. In the 90’s when I moved here, the district was under court supervision for failing to serve English Language Learners AND Black kids—the two largest student groups and the vast majority of the students. My first case as an intern was a complaint by Spanish speaking parents, where OUSD did everything it could to avoid serving these families. Not coincidentally the first charter school in Oakland was built around serving those same Latinx families in Jingletown, Oakland Charter Academy.
All of the early charters were communities organizing for theirs because the system was not delivering. East Bay Conservation Corps was an alternative school, while American Indian Charter was by and for that community and West Oakland Community School was an Afrocentric model catering to Black children.
These schools were a reaction to failure, with community mobilizing to avoid sacrificing their children on the altar of “public education.” And I use the term education loosely. When you got a 1 in 200 chance of even being eligible to apply to colleges, that is not much of an education.
They system is rigged and families know that.
The Golden Age of OUSD- a 25% Cohort Graduation Rate… and Worse
Here is what the Oakland Tribune had to say in 2003 around the performance of students in OUSD, during the early charter years, compared to the most recent data found in the current OUSD LCAP.
Thousands of Oakland high school students and parents celebrated graduation this month. But 75 percent of the ninth-graders on the books in 1998 had nothing to celebrate on graduation day four years later, according to new school district records released to The Oakland Tribune…
The district’s new records show Oakland almost totally failed to graduate students with the credits they need to get into state universities or University of California schools. Only 7 percent of the freshmen who started school in 1998 graduated four years later with the classes they need on their transcripts to get into state or UC schools. For African-American students, that percentage shrinks to less than 3 percent… That means fewer than three out of every 100 black freshmen graduated on time from city schools with enough credits to get into college. The numbers are even lower for black male students.
The Good Old Days-1.7% UC/CSU eligibility for Black males, .5% eligibility for Latino males, a 1% reclassification rate
And data from report, Failing Grade: Crisis and Reform in the Oakland unified School District
More than one-third of OUSD students are designated as limited-English-proficient, yet only one percent of those students are reclassified English proficient.
African-American students accounted for 745 out of 1,618 graduates from Oakland high schools, or 46 percent.1 However, only 29 male African-American students, or 1.7 percent of total graduates, met the coursework eligibility requirements for entrance into a CSU or UC school.2 The figures are even worse for Latino males. Of the 258 Latino graduates, only 8 male Latino students were eligible for CSU or UC, or .5 percent of total graduates.
So, save that privatization ish, unless you got some answers besides a big bag of BS that proves empty outside of hot air and stale stink.
The Latest Numbers
The latest A-G numbers are below. We can argue about whether they are the same kids, or dig into the practices that are leading to these widely varying outcomes. But as a father with a (now grown) adult son, if I had to look at my neighborhood district high school, where Black kids have an 11% of taking the A-G or a charter where it’s 94%. Yeah…So please look at these numbers and let’s have an honest conversation about the wide variation in school performance (charter and district) the sometimes large differences in who is being served (charter and district) or how to increase A-G completion for all kids.
I am down. But if you are on some Make Oakland Schools Great Again Ish, just save your breath and my and everyone else’s time.
Here are the A-G rates for Oakland public high schools.
You can see the wide variation schools here in graph form.
Top Schools for Latinx Students
Again you can see the variation between schools here in graph form.
Nothing is going to be “great” for Black and Brown families by rolling back the clock. And mind you, not all charters are cutting it, and some district schools are doing great work. But the last thing we need is to Make Oakland Schools Great Again, and anyone with a sense of history or care for equity should get that.