Education in Oakland

Shock & Awe in OUSD

Posted by novometro on March 20, 2007

A column in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle opens with precisely the wrong metaphor for the Oakland Unified School District. In a piece that goes on to describe parental frustration with the “de-facto lottery” system used to assign students to popular schools, the column compares OUSD to a vending machine on the fritz. OUSD is anything but coin-operated – malfunctioning or otherwise. No one puts money into the system expecting anything in return. What’s missing in the metaphor is also what’s missing in the column: Why is one school so much more desirable than another?

The column highlights the outrage of a couple who recently learned that their kid was one of 15 neighborhood children assigned to a nearby, mediocre elementary school, rather than the really good school right across the street. Redwood Heights is a better school than Carl Munck because for at least two decades, parents and guardians have not been treating their local school like a vending machine: Put in your money, take your education, and leave.

The active parents at Redwood Heights would be better compared to Oakland’s dogged, hard-working, creative, and often highly annoying creek people. During the course of a school year, Redwood Heights benefits from donated muscle and brain power that equals many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Build that sweat equity up over several years and you have a school where 81 percent of students score at the proficient or advanced level on standardized reading and writing tests. In OUSD overall, 28 percent of elementary school students meet that mark. At Carl Munck, the figure is 40 percent. It should be noted that Carl Munck students do very well in math, with 58 percent scoring at the proficient or advanced levels.

Still, Parents would rather have their kids go to portable classrooms on the Redwood Heights campus than send them in as the shock troops of change at Carl Munck. You can’t blame them.


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