Four Schools Four Miles Apart in Oakland, And the Chasms of Opportunity

Babies born less than a miles apart here have radically different chances.  You can go to public school A in Oakland, which is 90% free and reduced lunch, where not a single child was proficient in Math, and not a single White child attends.  Or, not far down the block, less than a half mile drive, a 3 block walk, there is public school B, that is 12% free and reduced, and 80% of kids can read and 78% are proficient in math.

Join us 10/21 at 4p for “Beyond Nice White Parents” where we will dig in on these issues further.

School A is a short drive from School C but a chasm of opportunity divides them. School C reported having no Black students at all and only 3% free and reduced lunch, further, roughly 9 in 10 students were proficient in both math and ELA.  And if we travel up to the Hills from school A, we can find another elementary that is 9% free and reduced, with 87% of students reading on grade level and 82% at grade level in math.

So, you can attend a school where nobody is on grade level, which means you are not getting grade level work and probably will never be proficient even if you started school ahead.  Where most all of the children are low income and most are Black, or a school where there is not a single Black child and almost no low income students, and everyone reads and is proficient in math.  And we know this matters for children’s futures.

Please show me the equal opportunity?   An accident of birth can determine your chances at life.

SchoolSchool ASchool BSchool C-BeachSchool D
Free/reduced lunch90%12%3%9%
Reading proficiency17%80%88%87%
Math Proficiency0%78%92%82%
Driving Distance form School A in milesN/A.4 miles—3 blocks4.0 miles6.6 miles
% African American72.6%14.4%0% reported8.9%

These are all “public” schools.  The free education that every child is promised, but they are very different schools, with very different opportunities, and very different results.  In some cases the schools are literally within walking distance—3 blocks, but separated by a chasm of opportunity

Schools are where we are supposed to find equal opportunity, and instead we find another sorting system, that magnifies inequality and rations out opportunity to predictable top dogs and underdogs.  With the most privileged dogs eating first, from the top choice cuts, while others get scraps.

These disparities aren’t natural or inevitable, they are the remnants of formal segregation that are perpetuated by current enrollment rules and policies, and we can, and have a duty to change this.

The Geography of Opportunity

Richard Rothstein’s, the Color of Law, details the way that state action, through housing policy, enforcing public and private segregation, redevelopment, and other means, created the segregated, and highly unequal condition we are in.

Privilege, disparate opportunity, and disadvantage will just keep replicating until we interrupt these patterns.  And no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, unless it is in the racist, classist eugenicist camp, you gotta at least admit there is a problem when you look at our 4 public schools and the grave disparities in opportunities they offer.

And we owe it to those children not born lucky enough to attend school B, to at least try to change this rigged system.  I am heartened to see OUSD finally looking at its enrollment system and how it segregates students and inequitably allocates opportunity.

Please join the State of Black Education in Oakland (SoBEO), the Integrated Schools Community, Equity Allies, Education Post and others on 10/20 at 4P for a discussion with Miriam Nunberg from the podcast Nice White Parents as we discuss equity, privilege, and what we can learn from NYC’s desegregation struggles.

What do you think?

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