Politics over School Quality in Oakland; The Curious Case of Yu Ming

One of Oakland’s best public schools wants to serve more students and specifically more disadvantaged students.  It is the ONLY Oakland school that won the prestigious National Blue Ribbon.  It was the top academic school in Oakland and Alameda County and in the top .2% of all California schools.  96% of its economically disadvantaged students are reading at or above grade level (the number is 24% in OUSD) and 81% of special needs students are reading as well (8.5% in OUSD).

So why is there opposition to this expansion of quality?

Yu Ming is Oakland’s only public school that teaches Mandarin, using dual immersion, and it gets roughly seven applications for every seat.  It is also in the Flatlands, and is showing success with the range of students in Oakland.  Given these successes and the demand, the school is attempting to expand, adding more students and also increasing the number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, by guaranteeing them spots at the front of the line.

It is a school breaking the achievement gap, living in a district with huge and growing gaps. With its unique program, and high performance and demand, you would think we would want this opportunity for more students. 

So why would anyone be against serving more underserved students in a city that tends to not serve them very well?

Yu Ming is a charter public school….shudder.

Yes, in one of the lowest performing districts in the state, where we consistently struggle to deliver for underserved kids, there are some who will fight tooth and nail to stop this growth in Oakland.  And you have families who will fight tooth and nail for the school, because their children need it.  

The Results Tell the Story

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers.  Yu Ming significantly outperformed the state, county and OUSD.  And look at the numbers particularly for students with special needs—you have 7% proficient in math at OUSD and over 70% at Yu Ming.

2018-19/ subgroup state Alameda OUSD Yu Ming Difference between OUSD and Yu Ming
Overall ELA 50.87% 56.62% 33.3% 93.5% 66.2%
Overall math 39.73% 48.98% 27% 94% 67%
Special needs ELA 16.26% 17.09% 8.54% 81% 72.46%
Special needs math 12.61% 14.47% 7.59% 75% 67.41%
Low income ELA 38.97% 34.6% 23.63% 96% 72.37%
Low income math 27.48% 25.81% 18.1% 84% 65.9%

The numbers don’t say everything but they say a lot.  Almost everyone at the school is proficient in math and ELA, socioeconomically disadvantaged or not, special needs or not.  And please just look again at the subgroup data…Please.  If you had your choice, and needed a good school, for your child.  And look at  the other options in the Flatlands that have space.  For many the choice is clear.

This school is doing great work, and it should serve more students.

So, again, why would someone fight to stop this school from serving more low income Oakland students, particularly those who have been chronically disserved by the system?   What similar quality option will they provide?  Is there another Mandarin immersion program?

You might get a lot of 3 dollar words to explain the opposition-philanthrobillilberalization and billionaire plots.  But no answers.  No programs, no slots at their neighborhood schools in the Hills, and no help for your kids.

Just more of the same.  Where some kids are born to serve and have a one in 5 chance of reading and others will be served, just like they are now.  For a change we need to focus on the needs of the families that the system is supposed to serve rather than focusing on a system that has never served most of us.

What do you think?

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