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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
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
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
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?
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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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 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
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
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 CruzAnd another 100 to state schools. -Barbra
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
Editor: Envision Academy was also recommended.
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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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