OUSD’s Dirty Little Secret on High School Graduation Rates, and How We Fix it

We have heard a lot about OUSD increasing graduation rates over the last several years, particularly for Black and Brown students.  But when you look harder at the numbers, the shine quickly comes off.  4 years ago, 683 Black students entered OUSD’s 9th grade, 4 years later only 206 of those students met the UC/CSU requirements.  So less than a third of entering students were even eligible to apply to 4-year colleges.  Meanwhile you may hear folks boasting of a 73% graduation rate.

For Latinx students 1,301 entered 9th grade, 465 graduates with the A-G requirements, 461 students did not graduate at all.  For White students, 85.9% graduated and 76% were college eligible.  Worse of all, many of our young people, less than half in a recent survey, and their families don’t even know about the college eligibility requirements or whether they were on track. 

This is not a matter of the ability or potential of our students but the expectations the system has for them, and a grading trap that snares many of the unknowing.   We have public schools where every Black or Brown Graduate is college eligible, and schools where not a single one is.  And some of Oakland’s marquee schools are actually the ones with the highest disparities.

We can fix this, and guarantee that every student in Oakland is college eligible, or at the least that we nearly eliminate these offensive inequities.  Please keep reading and sign our petition.

You can see the numbers below, and again, the A-G% you see here is only that from graduates, it is not looking at the number of incoming 9th graders.

Dump the D-A simple fix with some not quite as simple conditions

You might wonder how a student can graduate and not be college eligible, or even know.  And you also might wonder how some schools can show such great success, while others don’t.  Weirdly a lot of it comes down to grading policies.

In some but not every high school, a D is a passing grade.  Thing is, the University of California and CSU consider it failing, in terms of the required courses to apply, the so-called A-G requirements.   So, you can pass your high school class, but it won’t count for college.  Even worse, because you “passed” the class, the school doesn’t have to give you a chance to retake it or earn the A-G credits.  This leaves hundreds of students each year high and dry, with a diploma that is not worth nearly what it could be.  And sadly it is really often just a matter of a few assignments, just a little more push and students would  be A-G eligible.

In others schools a D is failing.  So basically, if you graduate from the school, you are college eligible.  This upping of standards is not magical and immediate, it requires planning, possible schedule changes, and support for staff and students, such that they can make it over the higher bar.  But we see time and time again, when we raise the bar and adjust and raise our supports, that our students are fully capable of making it and will often work twice as hard to do so.

Getting to Equitable College Access- 3 promises from schools

The State of Black Education in Oakland alongside, Families in Action, and Energy Convertors, are seeking to change these policies and give every Oakland student a fair shot at college.  We need all OUSD and charter schools to make three commitments to families

  1. Dump the D- as a default a D should be a failing grade, with some deliberate exceptions
  2. A right to know- A recent survey found that less than half of Oakland high school students were even aware of the A-G requirements.  We need to assure that every youth and family is aware of the requirements and that they get real time and transparent updates about whether students are on track, in report cards, progress reports, and otherwise.
  3. A right to remediate- this is tied to the right to know.  Once a student is in danger of not being college eligible, they have to be given opportunities to make up work or classes and earn their eligibility.  It is essential that this happens at the earliest possible stage in the process and students and families aren’t surprised by outcomes when it too late to fix them.

We are petitioning the OUSD board and charters to adopt these policies.  We hope you will join us and sign the petition.

This is entirely doable, and we have already seen schools make this change and see the results.  No family should be surprised that their child can’t even apply to the UC or CSU system, and we should never accept a system where we have such immense disparities.  We can do this and we owe it to our babies to make the college mirage a reality.

Please join us.

What do you think?

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