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Oakland Technical High School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Oakland Public Schools > Oakland Technical High School (Oakland, CA)



Oakland Tech vs. Bishop O'Dowd

May 2014

Greetings community. I have a very bright rising 9th grader moving to Oakland with strong academic skills and desire to learn (math and science in particular, but not to exclusion) and we are trying to decide between Oakland Tech and Bishop O'Dowd. We are not looking for advice based on abstract support for public schools (or not) but, rather, on the academic and social experiences at each school. I feel confident that if my child is able to access the best Tech has to offer, he would thrive. What I don't know is how easy it is to access that ''best.'' Do some kids fall through the cracks and end up in the wrong ''level'' classes and/or is there too much competition for the ''good classes''? If you have made this decision and/or can share information about your child's academic and social experience at either school (pros and cons) that would be super! Weighing High School Choices


Hi- I will be in your shoes next year. My thought as the mom of a seventh grader is to try Tech if the programs are the best fit, and if your child does not get in to the desired program you can always switch later. And remember, kids can fall through the cracks at any school, not just publics. -Good luck

Oakland Tech immigrant student -advice for summer enrichment?

Jan 2014

A lovely 9th grader spends each summer helping in her family business. They're willing to let her go to a summer enrichment program and I told them I'd research some options. My kids are younger (although one day they'll go to Tech), so I don't know much. She's doing very well in 9th grade, except for Biology where a bunch of kids are stalling out. So, I'd love to find something to give her a better biology experience. Any specific recommendations for a fabulous biology summer option? Any insights into what is going on with 9th grade biology at Tech?

I haven't been paying attention, but I think I've heard that the academies -- Paideia and Engineering are good, but the Health Care one is less good. Since she's interested in the medical field (as much as a 9th grader knows what they want to do), is my vague information correct? It also seems the computer science one is similarly not as academically challenging as P & E. Thanks so much for any insight! I really want to steer her towards something enriching, but I feel like I don't really understand enough to do a good job. it takes a village...


Sounds like you may not have a student at Oakland Tech -- there is a HUGE amount of information available on the various Academies and Programs (Paideia is a PROGRAM, a method of learning, *not* an Academy).

There is an Enviromental Sciences trip to Costa Rica this summer; you/she can check in with Ms. Heyman on the details, tho I do not know if there are scholarships, there are certainly fundraising opportunities.

You might want to join the OTPTSA yahoo group, to have a forum for specific Tech questions.

There are many, many great opportunities at Tech! Tech Mom


I have a 9th grader at Tech and he is having a very good experience in biology, so I don't think that your friend's negative experience should be put on all of 9th grade biology at Tech. While I don't know about the requirements for AP placement, if a student is strong, the teacher should be able to see that and make the necessary recommendation. anon

Oakland Tech for ADHD kid?

Dec 2012

My son wants to go to Oakland Tech. He is good in math and science, but not the greatest studier and just at grade level in language arts. I don't see him as being a great self advocate, and he would do best in a smaller school I don't see him in the Padiea program, or getting into the Engineering Academy. He is not that competitive. So how do students fare academically who are not in one of the smaller school ? How do students without an IEP, with a 504 plan due to ADHD fare? . Is the computer academy academic? It didn't seem like it when visiting. What about the Health Academy? He like the biotech academy but that is 11th grade and only takes 25 students. If you have experience and can answer any of these questions, I'd love a response. Thanks, 8th graders mom


My son, a senior at Tech, doesn't have ADHD but he is not very academically motivated, although he is bright, so perhaps our experience will be helpful. I would say that Tech has been ok but not great. I think for an ADHD kid it could be really easy to fall through the cracks. My sense of Tech is that a great education is available for those who are very motivated to go after it, but for those who are not, no one is going to make sure they become motivated. Also many of the honors and AP classes are over enrolled so students who are on the bubble get bumped down to easier classes. Many of those classes don't demand much of the students and a bright student can get a B doing almost no work. The teachers work incredibly hard, for the most part, but with the class sizes as large as the sometimes are (over 35) the teachers just don't have the time to think about how to reach every student. My son didn't do Paideia or engineering and I think he got an adequate education and had a few great, some truly awful, and a bunch of fairly mediocre, teachers.He was in Health academy but that only seemed to be in sophomore year. He liked physiology class and I'm not sure why there wasn't more offered in the following years. If I had it to do over I might have sent him to O'Dowd where I think he may have been pushed more to achieve and also had a variety of other classes to take. Good luck with your decision. Tech mom
March 2013

Re: High School for mild Asperger kid
Don't freak out. You say your son is going to Tech in the fall-will he be in the ASIP program there? If not, please make sure you do all the paper work so that he is, you can't ask for him to be in the program if you haven't done the paper work. The ASIP (Asperger's Inclusion Program) at Tech is really supportive. Any kid who needs it has an aid accompany him/her to class and there is a lot of support. I work in the program by the way.

Maybe his teachers were afraid it would be too big and scary but it really isn't. Starting in 10th grade he can be in one of the academies which is an amazing opportunity to get a headstart on a career in either Biotech, Health, Engineering, Fashion Design, and Computers. It is a great opportunity that the Charter schools don't offer.


Switching to Oakland Tech

July 2012

Hi BPNers,
I'm posting this on behalf of my daughter, who will be starting 9th grade this fall and is considering an 11th-hour switch from her public charter school to Oakland Tech. Because she had been pretty set on staying on at her charter for high school and only changed her mind after the school year ended, we didn't have a chance to visit Tech while classes were in session (though we did tour the school with our older child several years ago before deciding that it wasn't a good fit for him).

A little about her: She's a very motivated, engaged student who's always gotten straight As (though I don't think that was too difficult at her charter school). She's good at math and science, but much more passionate about English and history, so she's not interested in the Engineering Academy at Tech. She's also pretty reserved and slow to warm socially. She knows a few kids who are going to Tech, but isn't terribly close to any of them.

OK, here are her questions (and BTW, we both read the previous discussions about Tech that are archived on the BPN website):
* Do you have to be skilled/experienced to play on the girls' tennis and softball teams at Tech, or can anyone who wants to join?
* Is the drama program there open to anyone who's interested in getting involved?
* Does policing less motivated students prevent teachers from effectively teaching the kids who really want to learn?
* Are there a lot of exclusionary social cliques?
* Does your child feel safe at Tech?

And one from me: Is it too late to register at Tech for the fall? I don't want to give up our spot at her charter school if the freshman class at Tech is already full.

Thanks so much for your insights! Potential Tech Parent


It sounds like your daughter would fit in the Paedia program at Oakland Tech. I've heard many great things about this program, including rigorous courses, academic support and classrooms with motivated students. I would definitely enroll her in this program and monitor her journey through high school. Make sure she fulfills her A-G requirements, and most importantly pay attention to her English and Math classes. In her English class, will they read novels and write essays or will they get an abridged reader and focus entirely on test taking strategies? If her intent is to attend a UC, she must take math up through pre-calculus and definitely take at least three years of language. Most kids who are UC bound take more than the required A-G courses and all available AP or IB classes in order to remain competitive and prepared for university coursework. If you feel that certain classes are not offered, allow your daughter to take classes at one of the community colleges during the year or over the summer. Keep her on the advanced track, either through Paedia or an Avid program and she should be fine. public school teacher
I thought that one needs to apply thru the district and fill out forms to apply to the public schools. I would go to the ousd website and look at their requirements and the procedures. I had to complete some forms at the OUSD and bring copies of utilities bills to prove that I was a resident. once the district approves it, you register at the school. you need to have a registration form at the school before you can come to registration. oakland tech parent
The 9th grade California Studies program leads into the Paidea program, and sounds like a perfect fit for her. There are several other academies, honors classes and AP classes. So far, only my son has gone there, and his connections have largely stemmed from playing football, so I don't have firsthand info on the social scene for girls there. One does not have to be experienced to play on the tennis or softball teams. I believe that is also true for the drama program. I am not aware of anyone not feeling safe at Tech.

Now the less good news: Far more students were accepted for the freshman class this year than there are spaces. As a result, they had a mandatory preregistration back in June in an effort to weed out those who were not truly committed to attending Tech. I believe they also had a waiting list. So, I don't know where things stand at the moment, but it may be difficult to get her in this year, but you have nothing to lose by trying. Let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes, Jerry


Drama classes are open to anyone who is interested, although advanced drama classes might not be open to a ninth grader. I don't know whether performance drama will also be offered this coming year - this has been an after-school class, open to anyone. Anyone can also audition for the drama productions, including students not in any drama class, although I believe that audition priority goes to those enrolled in a drama class.

Ah, the safety question yet again. Let's just say that we wouldn't send our kids there if we didn't think they were safe. My daughters always felt completely safe. If they had to stay at school late (rehearsal, sports, etc.) there was never a problem. And there was usually a big guy friend to walk them home or wait with them until they got picked up. Tech is that kind of place.

My daughters always felt that Tech was not a place with exclusionary cliques - and they had been on the receiving end of exclusionary cliques before, so they would know. Tech kids have numerous social circles - sports, clubs, classes, after-school activities, arts, kids they knew from their previous schools, friends of friends - and the circles meld, or overlap, or kids just hang out with whoever. There are no hierarchies. You can be a jock AND a top engineering student AND a musician, or you can be into computers AND a dancer, and either way you can have friends who do all kinds of different things. There is no ''popular'' clique. Hope this helps. Ann


Oct 2010

We're looking seriously at Oakland Tech for high school next year and have a few questions. I wanted to get a read on the intensity level of the the Engineering Academy. I know how revered and successful the academy is! At an open house presentation, I was struck with how dedicated and inspired the teacher was, but also left there with a nagging concern that the program might be too intense or high pressured for my kid. What experience has your child had in that academy? I also wondered about the social and academic experience for kids who didn't choose to join an academy at Oakland Tech?


I have a daughter that graduated Tech in 2008 and another that will graduate in 2012. Both went through Engineering and Paideia. You caught something at the open house that's really important, and that is that the Engineering Academy IS Mr. Parker Merrill. Children in Engineering will mostly likely take one sophomore class with Mr. Merrill, two junior, and probably one, but some take two in senior year. They will be taking something like 20-23 other classes at Oakland Tech. I caution you to not choose Tech for a single teacher. He could retire. It's a public school and things will change. I'm not saying I know there is going to be change at Engineering. I'm just saying there is much more to Tech then those four courses. Not all kids love Mr. Merrill, especially after the first Physics test in junior year. But 90% do. And three quarters think he's great.

It's nice that you thought Parker was inspiring. I'm not sure I always catch that. But the kids do. There's also some build up and some kids have older siblings and have been waiting four years to get Mr. Merrill. Mr. Merrill happens to be the best shop teacher in the country. Oh yes, I did say shop, because it's really a drafting course. They have the option to use computers (CAD) and he's got great software and hardware, but it's still what had been called drafting for the last 100 years. However, it's the best drafting course in the country, taught by the best teacher that can teach it. I'm smiling. But He has been sending kids out of his Engineering Academy for about 20 years to MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and so on with this desire to learn science. Often the kids interpret that initially to be engineering. It's a starting point for college. Mr. Merrill won 3 years in a row teacher of the year at the California state fair. So if you're going to put up another great teacher, they best be able to compare to that.

The kids are mostly inspired by the course, not stressed out. He teaches it in a way that there is lots of collaboration. He has to, as he takes about 40 kids, and they will have way too many questions for any ten teachers combined to answer. The kids learn to teach each other. At the end of the year when the student's projects are due for competition, the students that finish early keep showing up early morning and staying late to help the students that are behind (usually their first good lesson on not waiting until too late). But yes, one in ten do fall out. Usually this is not when they are drawing in sophomore year, but when in junior year he teachers them Honors Physics and he demands (first test a lot of them fail) they actually study. Way too many talented High School kids get away with doing ten minutes of home work and getting A's. This is not an AP class, but he demands that type of attention. Not all kids are interested in that. Sometimes it's surprising who drops. Mostly not.

If your child has gotten staight A's in math, then they will probably be challenged by a course that requires more then ten minutes to get an A. If your child gets C's in math, it wouldn't be my suggestion to go into engineering and Mr. Merrill does push that envelope. Competitive drafting requires a tremendous amount of geometry and algebra.

As far as not choosing Engineering and going to tech, all is well. As I mentioned the Academy is only a small portion of the courses at Tech. They have some great teachers. To me the strength for the advanced learners at the school is the Paideia program. It's a combined history/English two hour class. It's not strong in a single teacher. It has about six teachers that are very good. And Ms. Wolfe may be the best History and US government teacher in the country (smile). Year after year she has gotten 90% of her AP students to pass. It's even more impressive as many of the advanced kids are immigrant's kids.

But even outside of Paideia and Engineering there are plenty of good options and teachers for both strong learners, and the average kids too. For the drama kids, Ms. J is wonderful. They won an award to perform in Scotland and fundraised about $100k to get there.

The social experience has changed over the past five years, but not enough to say that it's similar to berkeley, O'Dowd, Piedmont, or Head Royce. Each school has it's own personality. There are plenty of opportunities to be social. However, there's no dances or any of those wonderful experiences I hear parents both look for in their child's high school, but complain to no end about their own miserable teenage years. A more typical social is a birthday party. Or like this past Sunday there were a dozen girls at my house studying (really) for their first AP History test. Studying hardly sounds social, but put a dozen 16 year olds together pushing each other and it absolutely DOESN'T look like a harvard study group (paper chase). They are supporting each other, having fun, and wanting all to succeed.

There's also plenty of sports. My daughter who never played volleyball, joined the team freshman year. Last year she picked up the high jump, long jump and some relay races on the track team. They didn't have any girls doing those sports, so the coach recruited some girls and taught them. Really nice guy, Mr. Brooks. Other then basketball, most of the sports are open to average to good players, or ones that are just interested. Maybe not all as starters, but on the team. Good Luck


Jan 2010

My son is in 8th grade at a public Middle School. He pulls off decent grades but his performance is uneven. He often has to be reminded to get on task and is not super self-motivated to get his work done well and doesn't read for pleasure. That said he participates in class and is intelligent and doesn't have any learning or attention issues and in advanced math. He's basically a good kid, social and athletic. I'm sure he would do fine at a ''normal'' high school. That said the only schools that seem to cater to this kind of kid are the Catholic high schools. I'd like to send him to Tech but have gotten the sense that the regular English and History classes are not very good and that the Padeia program is the place to be, but I worry that my son won't be able to keep up with the work. Does anyone know any ''regular'' bright kids who made it through that program? Any other advice about high school? want a good education for my regular kid


The Padeia program is an excellent humanities program worth considering for any student. But it is your son who will be there every day. He can visit a class and see what he thinks. Does he think he can keep up the work? Are his friends planning on attending Tech? Peer influence is a big one as far keeping up academically. The Padeia program does foster a cooperative learning environment as opposed to a competitive one. Having two very different kids go through the Padeia program, I think it attracts a broad range of student learners. Also, your son has a choice of AP or Honors courses within Padeia. Oakland Tech offers a great well-rounded high school experience for many kids. Whether it's the right fit for your child, he'll know. Tech parent
If you chose to send your kid to Tech, your son would do fine in whatever English/History class he enrolled. Take California History the first year and if he pulls a 'B' or better, then he'll be recommended for Paideia (and do fine). If he doesn't, then he will be in another fine class, academically grouped, with another fine teacher.

The non Paideia classes are not what you are being told (by anyone that has visited one of the classes) and some really good. Try Mr. Nicholas. If you're in an Oakland public school it sounds like Monterra. Tech has received 50 kids from Monterra the last 2 years in a row and unless Skyline manages to hold onto a principal for more then six months this will probably continue. These 50, along with 70 from Edner Brewer, 30 from Bret Harte, and 30 from the private schools like St Pauls and Julia Morgan has created an environment that Hills families seem to crave: plenty of kids who look just like theirs. So if he's not ready for UC he will have lots of company. There are so many kids coming to tech from the Hills, AC transit runs a school bus not only down from Broadway terrace, but extended to Montclair, and this year out to Joaquin Miller.

Wow, normal high school. Well, Tech is not THAT kind of normal High School. So if that's your hang up, don't bother. Normal would be the nine out of ten white parents in Oakland that send their kid to private school. Tech is less than 10% white and over 50% socially disadvantaged (the ladder includes the chinatown Asia kids that wind up at Ivy leagues and Berkeley).

Good luck. Your son will do fine wherever you send him, Mary


Jan 2010

Help! I am getting mixed messages from the teachers, the principal and district officials and as this is such a significant decision want to make sure I have the REAL information. My husband and I both attended the info night this fall at Tech and both clearly heard the teachers presenting say that there was an advanced english/history offering for 9th grade students and an advanced 9th grade bio class. Long story short what I am hearing from both the principal and district officials is that there is NO advanced offering for 9th grade students in english/history or science (all kids get bio or a more remedial science and you pick your english class based on concentration). I want to know what the real story at the school is and if there are true advanced level classes - please help! Thank you - confused


Dear Confused,

Although Tech doesn't have specific "advanced" Bio or English/History classes, I think you will find what you are looking for if you sign your child up for Bio 9 (must be in minimum of geometry to be in this class; algebra students on the other hand will be enrolled in a physical science class). The teacher(s) are fantastic and the curriculum rigorous. The class will prepare students who are interested to take AP Bio in 10th grade (a difficult, but extraordinary class).

Regarding the English/History classes, my recommendation to you would be to sign your child up for the California Studies curriculum. California Studies prepares students for the advanced Paideia classes that begin in 10th grade. If you student does well in California Studies, they will be able to move on to Paideia 10. This class is a 2 hour block of combined English and History. For kids who do not want to go into Paideia, or are just not interested in the California Studies curriculum, there are stand alone English/History classes as well.

I hope this helps. Based on your posting, I think the fit you are looking for will be found by taking Bio 9 (lab science) and California Studies should you decide to come to Tech. OT Parent


October 2009

Re: Oakland Public High Schools - for a regular student?
I thought much the same thing about Skyline and Tech, that they were only for the students headed for honors classes, but then my daughter joined the Health Academy at Oakland Tech and my thinking has changed. The Health Academy is not as rigorous and challenging as the Engineering Academy but it offers average students a chance to move through Tech from 10-12th grade as part of a cohort who take science classes together (and there are also English classes for the kids in the Health Academy so they are together for that class too) and therefore create a learning community who not only study together, but do community service work too. This weekend they are participating in the Lung Association Health Air Walk, which will help them fulfill the 50 hours of community service they need to graduate.

The curriculum includes lots of career oriented experiences, including shadowing someone who works in health care and doing an internship as a senior with someone in health care. They learn first aid and CPR in 10th grade as well.

The teacher of the 10th grade biology and bio-lab class has been there a long time, and she told me that they keep an eye on the kids in Health Academy and if their GPA slips below 2.0, they meet with the student and strategize how to improve their grades.

You might want to check into this. There are academies at Skyline that I am sure work in similar ways. They don't seem to be as well known as Engineering or Performing arts, but I think they sound like a great way for average students to get some personal attention and possibly develop some clear goals for their future education and career.

Good luck. mom of an regular hs student


Sept 2009

BPN archives on Skyline H.S. are several years old, and that can make a huge difference in the climate of a school. I'd like to hear from parents who currently have students at Skyline or whose children graduated in 2008 and 2009. My daughter is not a disciplined or motivated student, and I fear that she will be able to hide herself in a huge high school like Oakland Tech, and/or align herself with similarly unmotivated kids. She's been in an independent middle school which has been great, because it's small, the teachers know her and most of her classmates come from families that care about education. But the private school route will end for us after 8th grade. It would be great if you were open to talking to me on the phone, in addition to responding to this query. lora


The issues you mention about Skyline and Tech and your daughter not being motivated and hiding herself are interesting. Skyline looks bucolic, Tech does not, but those are surface differences. First of all Skyline is the larger school! Furthermore, I think it is way harder to get "lost" at Tech if you are in the right classes for the following reason: the very first 9th grade classes California Studies is the pre-Paideia "track." So your child will already be in a motivated group. I have seen it carry some naturally unmotivated kids in the current. Further the dominate culture in the Paideia and the Engineering programs are kind of geeky and wonky, but don't tell your kid that! If you take the kids in honors classes in both schools, there are way, way more party types and parties at Skyline. (This is more anecdotal, but it is my experience.) In addition at Skyline the 9th graders classes tend to be more mixed together. So you have some real slackers in the first year classes.

The classic difference between the schools is in the drama department. Skyline has a great program; they do a big musical production. Last year they did West Side Story. It was a very high quality, high school production. (West Side Story is a very hard production at any level and the kids did great job.) On the other hand last year, Tech did a student originated drama. The students in the Advanced Drama Class interviewed all sorts of people from pillars of the community to people on margins of society. Out of that work, they wrote their own play. And were invited to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland as a result. Both programs at Skyline and Oakland Tech are good; they are just different. Although, your child can get a good education at either school, the problem is at both schools if your child does not get into the honors program, then neither school is a good bet. I can state that unequivocally.

And you know, most kids will come out okay no matter what we do. anon b


We too came out of a small independent middle school (after public elem.) and opted for Oakland Tech (Skyline is our designated h.s.) because among other things there seems to be a much more active and organized administration at Tech. I'd pretty much agree w/the previous poster, adding that we went to both schools' information nights, parent AND shadow tours, talked with other parents w/students at both schools and ultimately decided to do an Options transfer to Tech. So far so good! Don't hesitate to bring up your concerns when you visit the school/s. Anon.
Editor note: an additional review was received for Skyline
Jan 2009

We have heard wonderful things about Oakland Tech. The engineering and Padeia (sp?) programs look superb and I think they sent three girls to MIT last year. I would appreciate any feedback. NR


Hello,

I have 2 children at Oakland Tech. We are very happy there and my children (who came from small elementary and middle schools) are thriving. They have made a lot good friends and have had great experiences in many classes. Their teachers have been fabulous and we feel as if we are in a small community rather than a large urban high school. In addition to the well known Paidea, Engineering and Health programs, Tech has a great ice skating PE class, skiing field trips, wonderful drama programs and a whole array of sports.

Tech is not necessarily for everyone and struggles with big, public school issues. However we feel that our kids have benefited from the life lessons that a Oakland public high school can teach you. That being said, safety has not been an issue for us and our kids do not feel uncomfortable or unsafe at Tech.

If you are interested in Tech, please visit the website (www.oaklandtech.com) and sign up for a school tour (usually offered in the fall). Your child can also visit the school on a ''shadow day'' where they spend the day with a host student to get a feel for the school and to see if it will be a ''fit'' for them. I highly encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities, attend a PTA meeting and talk to parents about their experiences at the school. All these data points will help you to make your decision. Good luck! Satisfied Tech Parent


My son is a freshman at Tech, was previously in an independent middle school and a scrawny little guy. He has faired well at Tech enjoys it, and even though he was given the option to go to Bishop O'Dowd, prefers to stay at Tech. He understands the social dynamics, enjoys all of his teachers, has made many friends, including girls (11 of them are from Julia Morgan), and is very active in the school. His teacher has organized a mock trial group to compete against other Bay Area schools, The teachers are devoted and dedicated, the school is implementing new programs and tools to help teachers, students and parents. Many students watched the Inauguration on TV at school, which demonstrates the political involvement and awareness in the community. Check out the art and dance performance this weekend!! techmom
Three to MIT was two years back already. Last year they sent three to Harvard. And if you're measuring a school by where the grads go, here's last year's, which is not too different from the past ten years:
1    Bard College
1    Brown University
3    Harvard University
1    Harvey Mudd College
3    McGill University
1    Northwestern University
1    Oberlin College
1    University of Pennsylvania
1    Wellesley
18    UC Berkeley
20    UC Davis
1    UC Irvine
2    UC Los Angeles
1    UC Merced
1    UC Riverside
5    UC San Diego
10    UC Santa Cruz
And another 100 to state schools. -Barbra
Nov 2008

My son will be entering 9th grade next fall. He attended a public elementary and is now at a small private MS where he's thriving. (Paying private HS tuition is not an option for us.)

Although we're touring other high schools, we're looking most seriously at Oakland Tech, and so far have been very impressed. It's apparent that smart, motivated kids can get an excellent education there. Still, we have lingering concerns -- mostly based on our son's shy and rather passive temperament -- and would love to hear from other families.

Would a child who's smart and hardworking, but also easily intimidated, has a tendency to fade into the woodwork, and isn't very adept at speaking up for himself get the attention he needs at Tech? I'm worried that while self-assured, ''best and brightest'' types do just fine, a quieter, less-confident sort might founder there. How are the academics for kids who are bright but not brilliant? If you don't get into (or stay in) Paideia and/or one of the Academies, are the classes still interesting and challenging? There's a lot of talk about AP/Honors classes, Tech grads at Ivy League schools, etc. -- but we're also wary of a ''pressure- cooker'' environment for a kid who's easily stressed. Are any accomodations made for different learning styles? Not learning disabilities -- just different ways of processing info, e.g. rounding out lessons with visuals, hand-on activities, etc.

Finally, the $64,000 question: How do you feel about the overall environment and safety at Tech? We've been reassured by what we've heard from current Tech students and parents during ''official'' visits, but then we'll hear more disturbing things elsewhere. What about cliques, bullying, etc.? Is the Tech admin proactive on those issues, or does it throw its hands up? Even if actual fights aren't a common occurence, our kid tends to be unsettled by a threatening environment, and has very thin skin (although he's generally well-liked).

Thanks so much for your honest feedback. As I said, we've been very impressed by what we've seen at Tech so far, but we're wondering if we're getting the whole picture and if it's the right school for our child, given his particular set of issues. An Oakland Parent


My middle son went to Oakland Tech for a brief time, but I took him out because he was attacked and beaten up pretty badly, in fact he was repeatedly kicked in the head and it was a miracle that he wasn't badly injured. He was a tough kid who had been kicked out of berkeley high and could certainly take care of himself but he still got victimized at that school. I would never send a kid there, especially a shy or sensitive person. I should mention that this happend in the late 90's, so maybe things have gotten better there by some miracle. Oh, and another issue was that they were so over enrolled we couldnt get a math class for him that was appropriate, and the physical plant itself was very beat up and in need of repair. hindsight is 20 20
My daughter is a junior at Oakland Tech and we are happy with the education/socialization/athletics she is getting. She is a tad shy and would never stand out in a crowd. But she likes to socialize, and now has many nice and mature friends. She is in the Paideia program (not an academy) and also in the health academy. Some of her friends are not in an academy, and take the classes they want to take (mostly quite good teachers). We have not had any safety issues; the school enforces this strongly, and there is an active conflict mediation center as well. anon
I live near Oakland Tech, and have two friends with very bright and accomplished high school students (girls) at Oakland Tech and they love it. Based on what I hear from them it seems that getting into the specialized programs within the school provides an excellent education, and provides a much smaller and more supportive community. It's also possible that things have changed a lot in 10-plus years (vis a vis the post about a child's very bad experience in the 1990s). BTW, I am hoping in a few years that it will be a real option for my own children who are not yet of high school age. Lisa

Editor: Envision Academy was also recommended.


October 2007

I am currently looking at high schools for next year. My child is currently at Edna Brewer Middle School, an Oakland public school. He is very strong in math and science. Would someone let me know their experience choosing between Oakland Tech and a private high school such as Bishop O'Dowd. I know that Oakland Tech has a strong pre-engineering department starting in 10th grade. I am wondering how it compares with the private schools. For the parents of kids at Oakland Tech how was their 9th grade experience? Thanks Renee


Quality of education aside (it was great for my now cal student). Tech offers a social side that just isn't at BOD or other private schools. Entitlement, drugs, alcohol, parties and homogeneity ..........too common at bod. Yes, there are great kids there and at tech. It's too easy for teens to forget that other people/lifestyles(in Oakland)exist. I didn't want my son/s to swim around in a sea of sameness and my oldest has thanked me for forcing him to go to tech rather that BOD-where all his friends went. jodi
My son graduated from Oakland Tech last year, as a member of the Engineering Academy. The school has strong leadership, good parent involvement, and many small academies within the school to provide close-knit learning environments. I sat in several classes of the Paideia program, an integrated English/History program, that had much lively student involvement and discussion. The students of the Engineering Academy submit their end of year projects in engineering/architecture/graphic design, to the Ca State Fair, and there many First Place ribbons festooned around the classroom. My son said his best day in high school was when the black kids invited him (a white kid) to join their basketball team. He now attends UC Berkeley, Engineering. My younger son attends another local high school that is strong in music, but the leadership and academic program is a mess. Oakland Tech was a great experience for my son. Nancy
March 2007

I am loooking for a an Oakland Tech student who will do a shadow visit with my son who wants to visit the school. natalie


Hi. If your child in interested in going on a shadow day at Oakland Tech, please send an email to oaklandtechinfo[at]yahoo.com and your child will be matched up with someone to shadow. In your email please note your chid's interests and they will do their best to sign your son up w/ someone who may be similar. You will have to sign a permission form and that will be sent to you after your email is received. Best of luck, I hope your son enjoys his day! OT Parent
Shadow days are available most days as long as the day works for both the guest and host. You will need to fill out the permission form, including an agreed upon date, and then get that to the host. The host will need to get it approved by each of her/is teachers and the Assistant VP, Ms. Page or Principal. After that, the kids can agree on meeting place/time and the shadow day can commence.

Do you have a child your daughter/son would like to shadow? If not, we can arrange one. To better match the children, please let us know their interests regarding sports, Academies ( Health and Bioscience, computers, education, engineering), AP Classes, Honors Classes, Resource Classes, General Classes, or whatever else. What school is your child currently attending and what grade are they in?

A major event for the Engineering Academy at Oakland Tech is the Bridge contest. The students spend their spring break building bridges. The contest tests their strength by being crushed with weights. It will be held April 18th 2-5PM in Room S4 (back of school, across from bleachers). You could observe the students interacting after school in a positive learning experience. It would also be an opportunity to meet Tech parents.

In addition, Ms. Wolfe, the head of the History Department, and Paideia Program will be available 2-4 for meetings in Room 103.

You can learn more about the school by attending a PTSA meeting. The next one is April 23rd at 7PM. Our calendar of events is at http://calendar.yahoo.com/oaklandtechinfo

Parents are a good source of information about the school and they attend sports events listed on the calendar. And not least of all the parents are having an auction on April 27th at 6PM. You could mingle with involved parents and contribute to a good cause.

If you want to hear the inner workings of Oakland Tech from the parents and not leave home, subscribe to the parents' yahoo group at: OaklandTechPTSA.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask a parent volunteer at 914-0270 or email oaklandtechinfo[at]yahoo.com http://www.oaklandtech.com Barbra


November 2006

Our son is in 8th grade now and has been at a private school since kindergarten. We are considering high school options. I recently heard that the principal at Skyline was leaving or has already to take a job at Lick-Wilmerding. Does anyone have thoughts about how the last few years have been at Skyline (trending up or down?) and whether the change in principal is a concern? Also, there is also a choice system for enrollment I think. Could anyone help describe the differences between Tech and Skyline?


I do not know that much about Skyline, but I do know a lot about Oakland Tech. Our daughter is a senior there and is getting a superior education. In fact, in the AP US History class my daughter was in last year(which had about 40 kids in it)all but a handful of kids (about 3) passed the AP test - the vast majority got 4's on the test (the highest score is a 5)and several got 5's. Most schools, including the UC's, accept 3 as a passing grade on that test. Academically speaking, the educational statistics are very much in Tech's favor. 80% of Tech grads go on to college, but only 50% of Skyline grads. 20% of Tech grads got into a UC, but only 3% of Skyline grads. You can see these statistics at: http://ousd.k12.ca.us/news/OUSD2006grads_FINAL_medres.pdf and http://webportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/sarc04-05/html/Oakland%20Tech%20Sarc.htm. The Oakland school district has charts on the passing rates on AP tests and Oakland Tech always comes out way ahead.

My daughter feels very safe at Tech and I feel more comfortable with her not being at a huge sprawling campus like Skyline. My daughter has a great group of friends at Tech who are very supportive. She studies in study groups for tests. This is encouraged at Tech. There is not an atmosphere there of cut throat competition like there can be at some private schools. In fact, cooperation and group study is actively encouraged by all of the teachers she has had.

My daughter has been on Tech's soccer team every year and ran cross country for a few years. She has not experienced any discrimination or exclusion (she is Caucasian) and has benefited greatly from going to school with kids of various nationalities and races and many of whom come from very different economic circumstances. You should look at Tech - it's been a great school for our daughter and for her many female and male friends.
anon


You have a happy choice between two good schools. There is no such thing as a high school that's perfect for everyone, but these two schools are both good for a great many kids, and they both embody what is good about the large comprehensive high school as a life-preparation experience. Some schools have ''souls'' -- I don't mean it in a religious sense, but in a way it IS spiritual. Some schools are places that seem to have a spirit and resilience built in, and both Skyline and Tech are that way. This fall, I had the pleasure of volunteering at both schools within a few days period, and the kids (from the outside) were indistinguishable from each other. Both schools were upbeat and anticipatory about the year ahead, and the kids in both schools seemed pleased with where they were and looking forward to their classes.

The key to flourishing in any large comprehensive school is figuring out ''who you are'' -- where you go when you have a break, who you are getting together with for extracurricular activity. Each school has its own particularly strong programs, so your choice may depend on your student's strongest interests. Skyline has a very strong, mature, and well known performing arts program. But Tech is in the middle of a very exciting rebirth of its performing arts programs with very strong parent support, so if you're interested in music (for example) you might want to go talk to both music teachers. Similarly, both schools have strong athletic programs, but if you're interested in a particular sport, you might talk to both coaches. Same with a Harvard bound kid (both AP government and AP English teachers) or a budding journalist (newspaper advisors) etc. etc. etc. There are obvious differences in the environment -- would your student prefer a wooded hilltop campus or easier access to public transportation, for example.

My boys graduated from Skyline. I am now in a position that lets me ''see inside'' Tech a little, and I'm impressed by the similarities between the two schools. Both will prepare your student to be a good citizen of the 21st century. But if you have a choice, I strongly urge you to visit both schools and try to make an appointment to see teachers in your special interest areas. Also go see performances, games, events, and see where you feel most at home.

And wherever you end up, I really urge you to get involved in parent groups and help support the school with any volunteer time and contributions you can spare. It will make the school better, and your own personal rewards will be great Kathy


October 2006

Re: looking at high schools for my 8th grader
I can sympathize with your challenge of finding the right high school for your daughter. I am responding to your comment about Oakland Tech. You pose questions about all the other schools but preface your question about Tech with a second-hand comment about violence (high-level no less), which is an unfair and incorrect description. You could have just as easily asked, ''What has been your child's experience been at Oakland Tech?'' Too often negative comments are thrown out without substantiation and then we have to spend lots of time countering the falsehoods.

For those parents and students, who are part of the Oakland Tech community, such unsupported negative statements do a disservice to everyone. My daughter is in her third year at Tech. I am pleased and impressed with the education that she is receiving and the students she's meeting, and so is she. She is in some honor's classes--not all--so I can't address your request directly. The teachers are great, and I have no worries about her being at Tech. By the way, I shared your comment with my daughter. I'll spare you the exact words since she was bothered and defensive, but the sentiment was that that person obviously hadn't visited the school.

For families looking for a high school in Oakland, I encourage you to visit Oakland Tech and see for yourself. There will be an open house on November 14. For more information, go to www.oaklandtech.com


October 2006

Re: looking at high schools for my 8th grader
I read your post about the dilemma of where to send your daughter to high school. Personally, I don't think you often get what you pay for in private school. Two of our children attended for a time a very well known, well respected private school in Oakland. One went to the middle school and the other to the high school. Our younger daughter has been at Tech for high school for four years and it has been a great experience for her. She has a great group of friends, a great education and has not experienced any violence ever at Tech. In fact, although there may be an occasional fight, I believe that happens at practically any school. There were some scary violent things even at the private school. Our daugher has gotten an outstanding education at Tech. Better in many respects than what was given to our other child at the private high school. If your daughter is willing to do the work, she will find that she will learn and do things that she might otherwise never have dreamed she could and she will have a peer group that will encourage her to do the same. There are kids in the Paideia program at Tech who have two moms and their families are active and involved parents whose kids have great friends and are doing fine. My older child found the level of cut throat competition and the airs that everyone was putting on at her private high school much scarier than anything my younger daughter has ever experienced at Tech. You should come to the upcoming Tech open house and give it a look for yourself. That's what my family did. We are very very happy that we investigated the school ourselves and that we sent our daughter to Tech Anon


March 2006

hi, i would like feedback from parents who have children in the Engineering Academy at Oakland Tech High School. i am interested in your experiences academically, socially, sports- wise and in terms of safety at the school. i am also interested in hearing feedback from those parents who have children in the Paedea program, but not in any of the academies in terms of your experiences at the High School. we are thinking of sending our child there in fall of '06 and would appreciate any input. thank you.


I am a parent of a 9th grader who is will be in Paedea and has just taken the test for the Engineering Academy. She is an A , student, taking Algebra II/Trig in 9th grade and Bio 9 and California Studies, which is the Pre Paedea program for 9th graders. She has had no problem adjusting to Tech and the work has been challenging, plenty of homework. Her teachers seem very competent.

The Engineering Test has become more competitive as more students want to be in the program. But even if you're not in an academy, you still take the same course, etc.. I think Tech is a hidden gem in Oakland. I encourage you to go to the Tech Web site, and join the Tech Yahoo site. Hope to see you at Tech next year. Doris


January 2003

Hi! Could anyone give a perspective on Skyline and Oakland Tech highschools: every day courses and special programs, teachers, any advanced programs for gifted students, students social behavior, what does the district have in mind for the future... Thank you! Wondering about Oakland Highschools


My son, who is a special education full inclusion student, is in the Oakland Public Schools. He attended both Chabot Elementary and Kaiser Elementary/Middle School. Currently he is a ninth grader at Oakland Technical High School. All three schools encourage parents to participate in their children's programs. He has had some teachers who were very disorganized and didn't meet his needs but several who were outstanding.

Each time when there were issues I worked with the site principals and with the special education program supervisor. Everything didn't always get resolved as quickly as I would like but efforts were made. I believe that Chabot and Kaiser are magnet schools (Note: Kaiser is dropping the middle school aspect and only going K-5.). Most elementary children in my neighborhood attend Chabot.

His teachers at Tech are wonderful. I met them at Back to School Night. His English/history teacher calls. She was calling not because there was a problem but just to share information about him. No high school is perfect. There are problems that I hear from my son and from neighbors about fights, etc.). The principal and staff are working with parents and the community to improve the school.

I would visit with your child. My son and I did. It took a few tries because the elevator was out and we couldn't see beyond the ground floor classes. Good luck. Doreen


My son went to Oakland Tech and it was a mistake. I am glad he survived it, but there were times when it seemed like he wouldn't. He had some great teachers and great friends, but it was still awful. Just know what you're getting into if you go. anon
January 2002

Are there parents on this list whose children go to Oakland Tech High school? I'd like to know both what to watch out for and what to look into, for a kid who is bright and imaginative but has no learning motivation and some learning difficulties. Thanks, Suzanne


I conduct educational research in the Bay Area and am very familiar with Oakland Tech and many of it's programs. It is nationally reknowned for it's Health Academy program--I believe it starts in 9th grade now--used to begin in 10th grade. It's a wonderful program that includes instruction in core classes integrated with health career themes, wonderful science classes, paid internships, shadowing opportunities, small school within a school. It also has an engineering/architecture academy which is excellent--offering the same things. Both programs have state funding which results in continuity in teaching and program development (i.e, better teaching/learning for students). There are several other academies there, also, but I don't know if they have the state funding which makes a big difference in teacher continuity and program development.

There are also some great classes/programs for students who aren't interested in any of the academy programs but who want to be challenged academically. One is the Pideah (sp? sorry, senior moment) program or academy which I've heard a lot about from educational evaluators. They also who have a wonderful new principal who seems like he's going to be around for awhile. I have had a lot of experience with principals and I know a good one when I see one.

Parents who are interested should contact Carmelita Mills at Oakland Tech who is the liaison for the academies. Or, better yet, visit the school, meet the principal, check out the academies, inquire about the programs, and talk to academy directors (find out when their conference periods are or plan to meet with them around 3:30, after school is over. I would do it NOW because the various programs I mentioned are beginning their recruitment for next year. Anon.


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