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Oakland Public Schools: General Q&A
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...
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
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.
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
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
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
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...
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)
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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