Friday, May 23, 2008

Oakland Schools Busy Committing Suicide

Oakland's school board and state administrator must not be reading East Bay Conservative, because statistics show the district continues to hemorrhage students at a rapid pace. The district has lost 27 percent of its students in the past 8 years.

Rather than trying to figure out what has precipitated the decline, our school district has spent its time trying to deduce how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, among other critical issues. Here's an example:
[Staff] did make a distinction between small and "tiny." Staff defined a "tiny" school as one with less than 300 student....

Well good. Now that we've got that squared away, we can move on to other pressing issues like pandering to the teachers' union and how to keep failing schools "diverse."

Let me be very blunt here:

OUSD, it is time to get your heads out of your asses. The problem with our schools is that the focus is exclusively on warehousing poor-performing students rather than excellence for high achievers.

Like it or not, OUSD has performed so terribly that it is in a race for its life with expensive private alternatives. Parents are pulling their kids out and paying top dollar because there is no opportunity at OUSD schools. The students who remain are the underachievers, causing even more parents to withdraw their kids or move to other school districts.

OUSD must actually begin to compete with private schools. Here's the first step:

  1. Open one or more magnet schools at each level (elementary, middle, high).

  2. Make entrance requirements for the magnet 100% examination-based.

  3. Commit to keep the magnet schools open for a period of no less than 10 years.

  4. Commit not to dilute entrance requirements for the magnet schools at any point.

  5. Set aside a separate pool of money for the magnet schools. Commit to fully fund that amount each year.

  6. Select teachers for the magnet schools based upon merit.

  7. Initiate a public-relations campaign to encourage parents to test their kids into the magnet schools.

My plan will draw students back into OUSD schools. It will create a virtuous circle, permitting the district to create different levels and types of schools which will draw high- and middle-performing students back from private schools.

Edit: Just wanted to note that East Bay Express also had a brief article about this problem.Let's hope this is the start of trend.


  1. 1) OUSD, like many other government run school systems, is rewarded for failure. Less responsibility with not much less money. 2) The deck furniture on the Titanic does not need to be rearranged any more. Vouchers will allow nature to take its course. 3) The student body of Bishop O'Dowd High School is about 1/3 Jewish (hence the nickname "Rabbi O'Dowd"). Why? It's an unsolicited testimonial for the OUSD.

  2. I agree, but vouchers will require state and/or federal action. I wanted to put up an idea that OUSD could do with zero outside involvement. Incidentally, I've been told before that magnet schools are "illegal" in California. This is a lie. Los Angeles Unified runs several very successful magnet schools.