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Oakland Public Schools: General Q&A

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OUSD Hills School-Wondering if we will ever belong

Jan 2013

My child started kindergarten this year at a top OUSD hills school that I worked hard to get him into (our neighborhood school is not as stellar, but not awful). Our current school is great in many ways, but nearly 5 months into the year, we haven't found our niche socially even though I've put a lot of positive energy into trying to connect with parents and arrange get-togethers. My child is very sweet and social; I'm social, professional and well-educated. A few parents have expressed fleeting interest in play dates, but there's no follow through. Perhaps people are just busy and we'd come up against the same anywhere? But I'm starting to wonder if we just don't fit in as we don't live in the neighborhood and I'm divorced (I have yet to meet another single parent at our school). This sounds a bit paranoid, but Is there an unspoken bias in hills schools against non-neighborhood kids or single parents? How long should we wait to feel like we belong before looking for a school where we'd be more connected, and is the academic benefit of a top performing school worth it if you feel like you never quite fit in? Wondering...


I'm posting a sympathetic reply here, from another outgoing, professional, well-educated and single parent. You are probably not being 'paranoid' and your sense is correct.

My child attended 'the' top Oakland hills school, we bought a home here and we still live in the district. During 3 years at that school, there were only two single parents of around 45 students at our grade level, otherwise all two-parent familes and no economic diversity whatsoever. It became very clear from repeated remarks and encounters from other parents (esp. moms) that a single parent or even working mom was not their idea of normal.

My child, gregarious and friendly at school, had trouble getting playdates reciprocated and I was sometimes asked the same (puzzled, pitying) questions at our local coffee shop. Young classmates actually said to my child that it was impossible not to have two parents, among other things. When asked to draw the family tree, the assignment assumed two parents, etc., and again my kid was called out by a few young peers -- who had checked with their parents. I finally pulled my child out before it began to have an impact on self-esteem.

We left the school and went to an excellent, diverse private school in Oakland. My kid made friends, was popular and a leader from the week we walked in the door. Ironically, the private school is far more welcoming, diverse in every way, and more of a community than the Hills school ever was for us (even though there is a lot of money and accomplishment at our current school). My kid has a wide variety of friends and never has chosen friends based on looks, size of house or family structure. Looking back, I am so glad I pulled my child out of a school that was full of itself but not full in its heart. Been There


Our son attended a preschool in Montclair and it was a miserable experience for the reasons you describe (we don't live in Montclair). My son had no friends, I had no friends, and I just felt uncomfortable, like I didn't belong. Now my son is in kindergarten at a school in our general neighborhood (although not technically our assigned neighborhood school) and he has completely blossomed. He has a ton of friends and I feel like this is my community. If there is a school in your larger neighborhood that might be a better fit, or someplace like kaiser elementary where so many kids are out of neighborhood. I have found that the schools with more socio-economic diversity are also more inclusive and welcoming. And I would add I am delighted with the academics at my sons school even though it isn't one of the highly sought after hills schools. Anonymous
I suspect you're paranoid, and expecting too much from a pile of very busy parents, probably half of whom have already established friendships at the school from their kindergartner's older sibling(s). If you aren't in the neighborhood, it may be even harder for parents to consider the extra time that it would take to get to your house, and they may not necessarily be interested in hosting other people's kids in their house, especially if they've already got a network of friends (and their kids may already have friends that they've been hanging out with for the last several years.

You'll hear from people who will tell you that people are ''unfriendly'' wherever. My experience is that people are friendly basically everywhere. Nobody cares that you're single; every group of parents has single parents, and it's generally the moms who are getting together anyway. Nobody cares where you live, although convenience plays a factor. People may care if you seem to be critical of them, which is a vibe I'm getting even from your posting.

Our child is in a lovely hills school, and we are not in the district. I initially felt like I was having trouble connecting, and I felt like people looked down on me when I told them we lived out of district. But I think I was paranoid at that time too. What I eventually learned is that nobody really cared where I was from, and I hadn't yet found the group of parents (moms, really) that I connected with. And that group changes a little from year to year, depending on what class you're in.

What I did, and what I'd recommend for you, is to go to all (or as many as possible) of the school's activities: auction, walkathon, carnival, rummage sale, PTA mtgs, etc. Volunteer in your child's class & go on field trips. Volunteer in the library, computer lab, playground, whatever is available. Volunteer to help w/ everything the PTA does. Come to the school. If you pick up after school, come early. Smile. Get to know the kids. Find out who your kid's friends are and offer to take them to or meet them at the zoo, Fairyland, or a playground. Don't focus on a perceived lack of friends; focus on what you can do to help. Friends will emerge in your shared activities. If you can't or don't want to do any of these things, that might be why you aren't meeting anybody: you don't have the time and/or interest. If that turns out to be true, or you don't really like the parents, and you feel more comfortable in your own neighborhood & they feel like your own ''tribe,'' then transfer back to your neighborhood school. In elementary school, the individual teachers, and your comfort and your child's comfort is what counts more than a school's test scores. You could also find your tribe in soccer or another sport. But in any case, friends don't just magically appear for anybody. They come out of mutual interests and activities. It takes a little outward friendliness, effort, participation, and time. You'd be silly or paranoid to blame it on geography.


Hi, I just wanted to chime in on your concerns. I am a divorced, single mom, who lives in the hills and sends her son to a private school in Berkeley. My experience is that most people are either too busy or shy, which may be the reason for the lax attitude towards play dates. I would not worry about your ''status'' as you describe. Keep making requests and as your child settles in with a group of kids he/she likes, the play dates will follow. If you feel that some people are definitely ''snobbish'', ignore them and find the cool folks at the school...they exist and they are looking for you, too. Good luck. anon
If you are an educated professional, I really don't think there is a pronounced academic benefit to hills schools over slope schools. I'm not sure about the flatlands schools because I don't have any direct experience with those. But I've been a teacher for a long time and I know that kids with educated parents tend to do well in school. And it's really, really nice to attend a neighborhood school--at least at ours, the community can't be beat. So what exactly is ''stellar'' about your current school? The scores? Scores don't tell the whole story. The fundraising? Extra money is nice but it's not everything. Both of my kids attend a non-hills school in Oakland. We fit in and so do they. My older child's scores are very high on the STAR test (the younger one has not yet begun testing) despite the fact that many peers' scores are not. Our families work hard to raise money and we do a lot with what we have (a small fraction of the hills' schools efforts). I don't think my kids are being hurt by being in a non-hills school. In fact, I think they are getting a better and more comprehensive education where they are than they would at other more highly regarded public schools in Oakland. The teachers are creative and dedicated, in part because they are used to meeting the needs of a very wide range of learners and languages. That has not been my experience at homogeneous schools, where it is expected that all kids will come to school ready to do well. And since you asked, honestly, I do think there can be a bias against non-neighborhood kids at hills schools, at least at the one I used to teach in. I found that among the staff, the parents, and the students, and I didn't like it. I also had a parent (actually, the PTA president) at another hills school tell me, ''It's good to hear that your school is okay. Now when your neighbors come up the hill and try to get into ______ we can send them back to you.'' Seriously. Wouldn't Trade for the Hills
I don't think it's a neighborhood kids vs. not, or two parent vs. single parent thing. My son started K this fall and we haven't made many new parent friends but that is mostly because both of us work full time and we have limited time at drop off or pickup to socialize. Our son goes to our neighborhood school and both neighborhood and non-neighborhood kids' parents have made passing comments about play dates but have not actually invited our son and I am getting the feeling they are waiting for an invite from me, but frankly we are so busy generally that unless my kids really bug me about setting up a play date with a friend I just don't get around to it. I should also add that I moved schools really frequently as a kid, and my family and I found that it really takes a good year, maybe a year and a half, before we felt truly a part of the new community. Our family mantra was to get involved in our new location - my mom volunteered at school and she encouraged us to join after school activities. I think it will work out fine for you and your child in the end, but it may take more time. Poor Play date Planner
Hi There, If you have doubts about things turning around--come visit our school-Kaiser Elementary! I guarantee you fill fit in. We are a small, welcoming, inclusive community--also in the hills--but less well known. I have a Kindergartener and a 5th grader there. Our families come from all over Oakland and the community reflects the diversity of our city in a well-rounded way. We have spots for first graders next year due to an enrollment glitch this year resulting in a smaller K class. Kaiser is an arts magnet school and a CA Distinguished school--and our first grade teachers are seriously the best in OUSD! Annie
Hello, we are new parents at Thornhill School this year. While I can't say that we've found a ''home'' here, people are friendly and welcoming enough. I can say for myself that I am a busy parent, and that we have preexisting relationships (preschool, friends who have kids of a similar age) so we're not in the mode of trying to make new friends. We too have had offers of playdates that have never really materialized but I've also not followed up as much as I could have. I've never questioned whether that was because we don't ''belong'' in some way -- maybe I should! Although we do live in the neighborhood, I bought my extremely tiny house in 1993, and could not afford to move here now, so I suppose I'm less well off than others. But I think if you peer into all of the various families circumstances, we're probably not all super educated, super wealthy, just regular people who want a nice enough life for their kids. If you are a parents at Thornhill and looking to connect with another family, please contact the moderator for a playdate! A kindergarten mom
After 6 years in OUSD, here's what I have learned. It took me about 3 years before I felt like I ''belonged.'' At that point I had two kids at the school and I had spent hours and hours on the playground after school. It just takes awhile to click with people, I think. Our school is a mix of neighborhood kids and non-neighborhoood kids (almost 50/50, I think) and I have heard that the non-neighborhood families sometimes feel a little excluded. As a neighborhood parent who has the luxury of walking to school, I can see why they may feel that way. When my kids are clamoring for playdates after school, it's a lot more convenient to have them with other neighborhood kids who can either walk home or be home in a 2-minute car ride. So all of their spur-of-the-moment playdates are with other neighborhood kids. Every once in ahwile they will play with out-of-neighborhood kids, but this takes planning in advance. So there is a natural bias there; no one is purposefully excluding anyone else, but some things come down to convenience, especially for busy parents. There is another natural bias, and that is against parents who work fulltime, who don't have the opportunity to hang out and chat after school. Not sure if you're in this category or not...My advice is to stick it out, don't take anything personally, and start volunteering at school (or for school events). This is a great way to get to know other families. Also, if your kid is sports-inclined, sign him or her up with schoolmates. We've gotten to know several families this way, including those not in our grade. Good luck! OUSD mom
Are they not interested in playdates because you're divorced? Doubtful. Is it because they are busy? Very likely. Is it because you don't live in the neighborhood? Quite possibly. I know several families in our hills school who cheated (used a friend's address) to get their kids into the school. When people found out about this, there was some bitterness. When the topic comes up, explain that you got into the school through OUSD permission, not through cheating. That might help. But aside from these questions, keep on being sociable and friendly. Sometimes it just takes time for people to warm up. Hills Mama
I read the responses. The main thing I wanted to say, is don't take the social scene too seriously! We've been several years at a ''crown jewel'' of OUSD. We still do not ''belong''. We don't care--we love the teachers! Donating ostentatiously helps, volunteering at the auction etc. Also go to nollsoll.com and join a t-ball team for your school. At my school there are many people who take themselves very seriously, and are not pleasant people--just blow them off! I do not know if you would be happier at your neighborhood school, which you ask. I'm sure there are trade-offs. My global advice is don't have the school social scene be your whole social world--do other things with groups. anon

How can I get more info about my neighborhood school?

April 2012

Hi There, I see very little reviews on Bella Vista. I've looked on greatschools.org, but there's such limited information. How do you go about finding out if your neighborhood school might be a good fit for your child even if it's not one of the schools people are trying to get into? I've heard of tours...how do you set that up? Do they occur regularly? Would a less popular school do tours? What else can you do? How early should you start...my daughter is only two, but we rent, so we could move, etc. if we decided BV wasn't right for us. Also, I've heard of all the school closures happening in OSD. Do you think that means all the schools will be completely different by the time my daughter is going to school? Thanks for any tips!
curious parent in bella vista district


Go to the school and ask for a tour, or contact the principal and talk to him/her. Ask if there is a parent group or a PTA and talk to those representatives. Ask to talk to potential teachers.

How do I find which school for which neighborhood?

Jan 2012

We're starting to look at buying a house, which means we need to think about schools. Our son is only 10 months old, so he won't be going to school for a while, but I know we need to think ahead on this one. However, when I went to the OUSD website, I couldn't find anything that helped me match a neighborhood with a school. How do we figure that out? Confused


There are school boundary maps here: http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/welcome.htm Also, there is an Options pamphlet you should be able to pick up at any Oakland elementary school. It has write ups of every school and it also has a boundary map I believe. liz
Check out OUSD School Finder at http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/ -- it's a little cumbersome to use but once you enter an address and get to the map PDFs, you can print off the ones in the neighborhoods you're interested in and just take them along while you're house hunting. (Note that the school boundaries near the five closing elementary schools--Lakeview, Lazear, Santa Fe, Maxwell Park, and Marshall--are changing, so you may need to wait for new maps if you're looking in those neighborhoods. They just approved the new boundaries last week.) Another Oaklander

Are more Oakland schools closing next year?

Jan 2012

I'm in the midst of the Oakland Options Process frenzy and have been madly touring schools. On top of the five schools closing this year, I've heard rumors that another crop will be announced for closure next year. Does anyone have any information on what schools might be on the chopping block? I would hate to jump through hoops to get into a school only to find out it's closing next year. Thanks! Thinking Ahead


It's very possible that there may be more school closures in Oakland--the district has far too many seats for the number of students it serves--but school closure is a months-long process, so the earliest that the next round will close would be Fall 2013 (and I actually suspect they'll wait a year or two). You can check out the current criteria and this year's short list at http://www.thrivingstudents.org/restructuring to get a sense of which schools could be next, though. In general, they've been looking at smaller schools with few neighborhood families attending. Equity and performance are also criteria. Another Oakland parent

Resources for Navigating Oakland Public Schools?

Oct 2011

Does anyone have any advice/experience/resources regarding navigating the Oakland Public School System? i.e. What are your options? How do the charter schools work? How likely is it that you get into your top public school choices? What happens if you don't? thanks, ...thinking of buying in oakland...


I recommend starting with the OUSD website. It's terribly designed and hard to find things, but there is a lot of stuff there if you poke around enough.

Start with the options brochure: http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/19941081118174370/lib/19941081118174370/ousd11-12_options_ELEM_FINAL.pdf. It describes the schools and tells you, among other things, what percent of kids who listed the school as their first choice got into the school. It also provides survey results on parental satisfaction.

The website explains Oakland's options process. Basically, Oakland works on a neighborhood school model but you can ''opt out'' by submitting a form ranking your school preferences in Dec-early Jan. You hear back what school your child was assigned in March. There is then a window of time in which to appeal the assignment. I think this is supposed to be sorted out by May. My daughter got the school we wanted, eventually, but we didn't get the good news until the end of June. And I have heard, that if you are willing to wait until after school has started (missing the first couple weeks of school), you can usually get the school you want because every school will have some no-shows at the start of the school year. I've heard.

Sorry, I don't know much about the Charter school system; only that assignments aren't made through the Options process. I think you have to apply to each school individually.

BPN is a good resource for school reviews; there is also GreatSchools.net. Carrie


You're asking an important question at a really good time: it's still early in this school year, but many sites are looking ahead to next year already and some (including the school where I teach) have begun offering tours.

One website resource I'd recommend is actually a blog by an educational consultant who helps local families navigate the wide range of options in the Bay Area--public, private, charter, etc.: http://beyondqualityconsultants.blogspot.com/

She maps out a timeline for a school search process, and also discusses a lot of different factors that folks don't always consider right away. A lot of good food for thought in all of the posts about this really complicated, really important process, and how to really find a good ''fit'' for your child.

I know Theresa professionally, and know that she's very linked into the Oakland public school system (probably knows a lot about many ''hidden gem'' schools and classrooms that are flying under the radar and thus may be safer bets for the Options process): she also knows a lot about other districts and private schools as well. Her business site is: http://www.theresalozach.com/

The Oakland Unified School District is a large and sometimes puzzling entity (hopefully others will weigh in on Options specifics--I haven't experienced the process on the parent side myself), but there really are some good things going on here. Good luck in your search! --Sonia (an Oakland teacher)


Oakland School Closures -- New Districts

Sept 2011

Hi Parents,

I just heard about the proposed school closures in Oakland and wondered if anyone knows more about them, specifically:

1. Does anyone have information on the rezoning proposals? We live in the district of a school slated for closure and are curious what our new district would be. Our oldest child is in pre-school, so we're starting to think about kindgergarten. We were planning to move before kindergarten due to the poor school in our area, but if it's closing, maybe we'll be zoned for a better one (fingers crossed). I assume this information isn't available yet but maybe someone has the inside scoop? We're currently zoned for Lakeview and I'm hoping this would mean we'd be rezoned to Crocker.

2. How on earth is this supposed to work, since most of the good schools are oversubscribed already? I don't see how there will be room for all these new students. Will we see higher teacher-student ratios? More trailer classrooms parked in the playground?

Thanks so much! Thinking Ahead


Another Lakeview family here, and I've been watching the school closure process carefully though we have a few more years before school starts. My understanding is that if they do decide to close the school, most Lakeview families will be rezoned to Piedmont Avenue Elementary, and that it is extremely unlikely that many families will be rezoned to Crocker because the school is already at capacity. (If you live right along the edge of the Crocker boundary where you're in walking distance, you might be able to advocate for it, but I wouldn't count on it.) I would also imagine that Cleveland might be a receiving school for Lakeview families in that neighborhood, though it hasn't been mentioned yet. (They haven't announced any formal rezoning plans yet, though--this is just based on OUSD responses to questions from parents at the meetings.)

As to how it will work, who knows...but I don't think the assumption is that all of the students at the closed schools will transfer to the strongest schools (which are already full, for the most part)---just that the schools they wind up with will be higher performing than the schools that are closing. There are a lot of empty classrooms across the district right now (one reason they're closing schools) so I suspect a lot of this will be about moving students and teachers around so that the open schools are using all of their classrooms to minimize administration costs. Curious to see, though! Another Lakeview parent


If you were to be rezoned to Cleveland, on the other side of Lake Merritt, you should be very happy. It's a wonderful school. I know this because I volunteer there. Cleveland booster

Should we be concerned about Oakland's Schools?

March 2010

We currently rent a house in Berekley and are starting to think about buying. We are going to have our first child soon, so we are also thinking about schools in the sreas we are looking to buy. Are we crazy to buy in Oakland? We have only heard pretty terrible things about the Oakland Public Schools, so now we're thinking about staying in Berekley. Are there affordable private school options in Oakland? Thanks, Heather


If you have the money for private school for all your children, then you don't need to be concerned about Oakland public schools. Otherwise, you do need to be. Our public elementary school that we go to (one of the ''better'' testing ones) is fine. Not excellent but fine. We are concerned about our middle school options. anon
The first and most important thing to say is that, no, you're not crazy at all! We live in Oakland and I love it. There are lots of good options for public elementary schools, middle schools, and even high school. I can think of many, many public elementary schools I'd be delighted to send my kids to.

17 (seventeen!) of them occur to me with very little reflection: Sequoia, Hillcrest, Montclair, Chabot, Glenview, Thornhill, Joaquin Miller, Redwood Heights, Cleveland, Crocker Highlands, Piedmont Avenue, Kaiser, Lincoln, Peralta, Carl Munck, Think College Now, and I'd give Emerson a try, too. Some of these schools you can get into only if you live in the neighborhood, and some of them are ''up and coming'' and are still open to transfers.

Don't believe what ''everyone'' (or your neighbors in Berkeley) says about Oakland schools. Ask them whether they sent a child to an Oakland school; if they say no, ask them what they're basing their opinion on. In my opinion, if there's no first-hand experience, then I wouldn't value that person's vision of Oakland schools. But then I've grown kind of tired of 2nd- and 3rd-hand opinions of Oakland!

Anyway, you're not crazy. If you have other questions, send me an e-mail. Loving Oakland


Looking for feedback on Oakland public schools

July 2008

I wanted to get some updated feedbacks on Oakland public elementary schools. Our son is turning 4 and we are starting look into possibly moving to an area with a school that's a right match for our son. We are especially interested in diversity both socio-economic as well as ethnic, and teachers who are energetic and dedicated. It seems info on BPN regarding Oakland schools are pretty dated and I was wondering if there are some new info. caroline


I have two children in the OUSD: my daughter just graduated from Chabot elementary and will attend Montera Middle in the fall and my son is at our neighborhood school Montclair. We have been very pleased overall with the quality of the education they have received both academically and in the interactions they have with a diverse group of students and families. We have had some phenomenal teachers and we have had some ordinary teachers but they have learned and grown every year, they have a great group of friends and the energy level of the parents at the schools is fantastic: people are engaged, involved and having a great time.

You really need to get into the school before you can get a good sense of what is happening and what the community is like. The fact is that it is difficult for the public schools to compete in a ''beauty contest'' because they just don't have the resources for promoting themselves superficially. I encourage you to talk to the parents at the school you are looking at because they will give the best sense of what is really happening. Maggie


BUSD vs. OUSD

June 2008

We are interested in moving to Oakland or Berkeley and want to know which school district is better overall. From what I understand, OUSD has good elementary schools if you can afford to live in one of the more affluent neighborhoods, but then the middle schools and especially high schools are pretty challenging. From what I have heard about BUSD, the elementary schools vary widely and the kids from the neighborhood don't all go to the same school because of the different zones (how does that translate as far as neighborhood cohesiveness, kids playing together, etc.?). I have heard the middle schools are okay depending on where you go and Berkeley High is good if you are the right kind of student. So, the question is, as a parent, is it better to move to Oakland or Berkeley for the best education for my kids? what to do?


As an Oakland parent, I'd have to say BUSD is preferable hands down. Yes, there are some ''good'' (it's all relative) schools in Oakland, but those schools are more and more crowded and now many of them cannot accommodate all their neighborhood children, who are then redirected to other schools. But, the main issue as far as I can see is that OUSD's curricular choices are much more uninspiring than BUSD's. In Oakland, you have a lot of No Child Left Behind pressures behind the curriculum choices. This has led to pushing reading instruction down into kindergarten where 2/3 of children are not developmentally ready to read. As a result, the teachers spend an INORDINATE amount of time on scripted phonics lessons, drills, and totally boring, uninspired tasks. There are great teachers in both systems, but I believe the Oakland schools' teachers' hands are more tied by the curriculum than in Berkeley. Then, the middle school and high school choices in Oakland seem more limited and iffy than the Berkeley choices. If you have the money to choose where to live, you might consider Piedmont (where they have retained developmental kindergartens) or possibly Lamorinda. Just my two cents . . .
''Better'' is totally subjective, and depends on a lot of factors. For a slightly objective criteria, you could consider that Berkeley has a substantial parcel tax that it dedicates to its schools, allowing for a lot of ''extras'' that don't have to be fund-raised year after year. Oakland doesn't. I can tell you what we did. We lived in one of the best areas of Oakland for elementary, but chose to send our child to a charter school in Oakland, whcih drew kids from all over. A very tight community, probably tighter than ''neighborhood'' schools. When our child was in 5th grade we moved to Berkeley for the middle and high school and are now considering whether to stick with the charter school for our youngest or send her to a Berkeley elementary. anon
We have 3 kids in OUSD elementary school and if we had it to do over again, we'd probably buy in Berkeley instead. What you've heard about the 2 districts is essentially correct. OUSD has about 4 good elementary schools and about 3 more that are ''getting better'' due to heavy parental involvement and fundraising. I don't know much about the middle schools but what I've been told is that there is 1 good one, and 3 or so that are ''getting better''. If you have a budding engineer then Oakland Tech's tracked engineering program will send your kid off to the top ivys, but otherwise ''challenging'' is a kind way of describing the general HS options in Oaklan. Another thing to keep in mind about OUSD elementary schools is that the after school care is pretty weak and doesn't even come close to meeting demand (if you don't get your application in the 1st day then you're on the waiting list forever). It's also very expensive for what you get (monitored playground time).

A close friend of mine with kids the same age has her daughter in Emerson in Berkeley and they do a MUCH better job of tailoring the work to more advanced students. At OUSD they do little to no tracking of kids - everyone gets the same work and the same assignments regardless of their level. It's been extremely frustrating for one of my 1st graders who is bored stiff and we have taken to ignoring the homework that is sent home and are giving her more advanced work to do.

I'll let the BUSD parents talk about their district but I will say that I'd beg, borrow and steal to get my kids into Berkeley High (tracked program or IB program) before I'd ever put them into an Oakland high school the way things stand today. Depressed OUSD mom


Oakland Elementary Schools - Three Questions

September 2006

My daughter is in her pre-K year and we are getting ready to send her to our local elementary school in 07/08. We are in one of the better school districts in Oakland. I have three questions:
1. I heard through another mom, whose child will attend another good elem. school in Oakland, that her school meets with incoming kindergarteners to assess their skills and place them in an appropriate classroom with the idea being that the students were were performing ahead of their peers would be in one class, those who were average in another and those who needed extra help would be in a third class. Is this how it works at other elementary schools in Oakland?
2. With students are varying levels of preparedness for kindergarten, is teaching done to the ''lowest common demoninator''? What happens to those kids who are ahead? Is extra or advance work given to them?
3. Are there any language immersion classes available in Oakland? Thank you
Getting Prepared


Answers to your questions:
1. Never heard of grouping Kindergarten kids by ''learning'' level. Does not make sense anyway. What criterias would they use? How would it be explained to parents of the ''lower'' group? How about how the teachers would feel about that? It is definitely not done in any Oakland public schools I know of.
2. No, in my kids' school they don't. Teachers provide appropriate work and goals to kids. It is not part of the teacher's program anyway to teach to ''the lower denominator''. Visit your school and ask questions to teachers.
3. I don't know but look in the Oakland School District webpage. There might be information about it.
m

Oakland School rankings?

Oct 1999

Is there a web site that lists the ranking of Oakland Public schools, particularly elementary? I went to the Oakland Unified site and couldn't find anything there.


The October 26 advice given column had a message stating that Montclair, Hillcrest, Chabot, Thornhill, Juaquin and Miller schools were the highest ranked of the 90 Oakland public schools. I would like to see more information on how they determine these rankings, by test scores, or grades, or what. Not surprisingly, there is no link to such information on the Oakland Unified School district website that you listed: http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/
Is there another website where one can look, or is this information available through other sources, such as the local news agencies?

The following site does not strictly rank schools, but has a lot of information on individual Bay Area public schools. By just plugging in a school name, district or your zip code, you can find out a particular school's test scores, number and experience of teachers, ethnicity of students and faculty, number of computers in the school, etc. Also, what's nice about the site is that it has information and advice about *not* judging a school strictly by test scores or other "objective" criteria. www.greatschools.net
OUSD has recently redesigned it's web site so the "school finder" which had a statistical snapshot of the school is no longer there. There is a state web site: http://star.cde.ca.gov/star99/AC97star.html which requires you to download a file in various database formats. In addition, last week, there was a supplement to the Oakland Trib which had all of the schools test scores. However, as a Redwood Heights parent (and someone who pays attention to these things) I can tell you Redwood Heights is in the second tier of Oakland Public Schools, It's test scores show that 77% of the children perform above the "proficiency level" in reading at both the 2nd and 5th grades and slightly less than that in Math. Best test scores are (I believe in order, but I might have it slighltly skewed)
Hillcrest
Joaquin Miller
Thornhill/Montclair (virtually identical)
Chabot
Redwood Heights/Glenview/Crocker Highlands

Test scores, of course are never the whole story, especially since Socio-Economic factors play into the scores in a big way, so one should note that the wealthiest school has the best test score (Hillcrest). This is not to say that Hillcrest isn't an excellent school... It is, actually an extraordinary school. Redwood Heights, I think is a good school too, with a very diverse population. Glenview was the real surprise to me here. Looking at the SES stats, more than 50% of the children receive free lunches, and yet it has done something really right. Yeah Glenview! I'd be happy to discuss this with any parents who are interested in Redwood Heights. Myriam


To the person who inquired of additional comparative data for Oakland Public Schools, there are a couple of web sites that might be useful. Neither of these is dedicated to Oakland Public Schools, but both provide comparative data including test scores, demographic data and some performance data.

Ed-Data Partnership--http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us Managed by the Alamaeda County Office of Education, the California Dept. of Education, EdSource and the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, this website tries to provide easy access to consistent data about public schools in California.

School-Wise Press--http://www.schoolwisepress.com This is a commercial site that provides comparative data on all public California schools. There are detailed profiles for $6/profile, as well as free data on test scores and other objective data, school by school.

In addition, Neighborhood Moms is planning a Parents Roundtable event for Oakland Public Elementary schools sometime after the first of the year. When that event is actually scheduled, you'll see an announcement for it. These events are free and open to all. They typically provide a panel of parents whose kids go to the schools being discussed, with plenty of time for QA and one-one-one discussion. Parents seem to find them helpful.


Jan 1999

I've done a LOT of research on Oakland schools, and I'd like to offer a few of my impressions. Please understand that these are the impressions of a dad who's sons are not quite school-age yet. (4 and 2)

There is a school district report card that's a big newsprint publication, and the publications office will mail you a copy if you call 879-8582. This publication is full of great info. They have been very helpful to me. Open enrollment is from Feb-9 thru early March (March 3?sorry I can't recall the exact date) for next year--applications can be picked up in Portable #15 at 1025 2nd. Avenue.

Hillcrest Elementary in Rockridge seems to me head-and-shoulders above the other schools in terms of test scores anr activities available. They have language, art, and music classes available as well as a sports program that competes in a private schools league, as most other public schools in Oakland don't offer sports. It's a K-8 school, too.

I have a 16 year old sister who's now an honor student at Bishop O'Dowd HS who attendent Hillcrest and loved it. Good preparation for private HS honors classes.

One drawback--it draws almost exclusively from Rockridge, so most of the kids come from quite affluent families, and there is some social pressure to have $$$. It is also very difficult to get in-district transfers into Hillcrest.

Thornhill and Montclair schools in Montclair are also quite good, but they are K-5, I believe. Kaiser Elementarty is a magnet school that has great test scores and goes up to eighth grade.

Grass Valley has solid test scores, and a LOT of parent participation as well as a dynamic and energetic prinicpal.

District maps are readily available from the district, as is test score information and school profiles. Interestingly, if you look at the test scores in conjuction with the map, it appears that there are three seperate districts. One small district has about six elementary schools, very high test scores, and is located above Hwy. 13. The second is a bit larger, and consists of schools with good-to-middling scores between 13(or south of 13) and above 580. The largest has a number of schools with fair to poor scores below 580. This is a generalization, of course.

There ARE exceptions to these rules of course, and in talking to a number of people in elementary ed, one thing keeps coming up: aggregate test scores are not as important as YOUR comfort level. If you are a parent who is involved in the life of the school, and you like the teachers and principal, that's what really matters. A school with excellent scores may not be the right environment for your child, and no school is perfect for every kid.

Good luck! Eric


Uniform Requirement

Oakland Unified School District has a mandatory uniform policy. However, you may choose to exempt your child from it by exercising the District's Exemption Process which amounts to completing an exemption form at the school's office.

I believe every school decides what their actual uniform code is, but most schools look as though they have the same guidelines to me. At Joaquin Miller it is solid, plain white or dark navy blue tops and solid, plain dark navy blue bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts, jumpers, or skorts). Any appropriate shoes and outerwear are acceptable. Optionally, kids can wear any JM walkathon or other fundraiser T-shirt or scout uniforms. The uniform is optional at JM for Kindergartners. There is also a weekly free dress day on Wednesdays. Cathy (Aug 2000)


These vary from school to school both in the form of what is considered the uniform and what is customary. Although uniforms are theoretically required in all Oakland public schools, in actuality many of the schools don't require them at all. There's a form which you are supposed to fill out if your child isn't going to wear the uniform but we haven't filled it out for the past two years at Redwood Heights without problem.

Some of the schools are more likely to be strict, but they can't actually require you to wear the uniform. The school is the best resource for what the uniform is (and their web site, perhaps). Mostly it's a combination of blue slacks/skirt/short/jumper and red/white collared shirt. All of these items are available at Target, K-Mart, and more expensively at McCaulous. Myriam


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