Every year hundreds of mostly Black and Brown students graduate from OUSD, only to learn they can’t even apply to four-year colleges. This is a failure of expectations for these students and failure of the overall system for families, who trusted their child to OUSD, seeing them getting “passing” grades, only to later realize how little worth that diploma actually has.
This is absolutely fixable and, surprisingly, OUSD is actually out front leading on this issue. Even more surprisingly, the board also seems to be unified and supportive. This is meaningful action for children and families, and I am heartened to see some fire from OUSD and the board, where we tend to get a lot of smoke.
The banality of racism, “Know what anti-Blackness looks like”
Our policies, practices and routines contribute to the racist patterns and outcomes for Black children. And we need to examine and uproot the structures that support the system, and rebuild with an eye focused on equity. Case in point, how we grade high schoolers.
OUSD’s Abdul Matin-Qawi unveiled the district’s “drop the D policy” at the last board meeting. You can see it here. (I hope). This would align all OUSD high school graduation requirements to the UC/CSU requirements, assuring that most all graduates were college eligible.
As it stands, you can get a D grade at many OUSD high schools and it is a passing grade, however it is not a passing grade for the UC/CSU system. So you can graduate, but you cant apply to the UC or CSU or many other 4 year colleges. The proposal would update the district’s dinosaur era grading policy aligning it to the UC/CSU requirements.
The Costs of Inaction
I keep hounding on the numbers, because each of these numbers represents a child, a family’s dream, and many of them have a dream deferred or denied.
Four years ago, 683 Black students entered OUSD’s 9th grade, upon graduation, 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. This is the problem we are trying to fix.
We have schools where every Black graduate is eligible for the UC/CSU system and other schools where not a single one is. Further, when you look at a recent study of youth, less than half were even aware of the A-G requirements.
So if we align the graduation requirements with the UC/CSU requirements, we take the guesswork out of it, all graduates (with a few exceptions) would be college eligible.
You can see a sample policy here, from an OUSD school.
And you can see the district’s presentation and how they grounded the change in equity.
So I want to appreciate the superintendent, her staff, and the board members for taking up this very real issue, that we can very much fix, and that desperately matters for families. As a co-founder of the State of Black Education in Oakland, we have been pushing for this change as part of our Dump the D campaign, and we want to thank the hundreds of Families in Action families pushing for this as well as Energy Convertors and their youth. But it is encouraging to see leadership on items that matter rather than the posturing and fireworks that usually dominate. So, thank you, and thousands of families will be thanking you in the future, when they benefit from this change.
P.S. Please don’t F it up