Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Can't Oakland Compete With San Francisco's Lowell High?

Back from my long absence, I'm still thinking about schools in Oakland.

Some months ago, I wrote a post about magnet schools in Oakland. For the most part I was ignored, save for one person who took the time to inform me that such programs are illegal in California.

I didn't do too much research after receiving this comment. Then, I ran across the following links:

So, San Francisco has a fantastic, high-performing magnet high school that requires students meet certain academic requirements.

Why can't Oakland do the same thing? For starters, this seems like something the teacher union would like. This school would not be a charter school, so its teachers would be in the union.

And, such a project would pull dollars back into the Oakland school district as parents shifted back to public school from private school. It's common knowledge that parents with high-achieving kids in Oakland send them to private school if they can afford it.

I'm sure many parents would breathe a sigh of relief to have such an option available in this economy.

And, Oakland clearly has the facilities to spare to implement such a project. My understanding is that flight from the Oakland schools to charters and private schools has left many schools half-full.

I recently read on Katy Murphy's blog about how  the union is planning a strike over wages. Maybe they could add a unionized magnet middle and high school to their list of demands.

I also saw a video where the superintendent of schools, Tony Smith, indicated that he wants to look for ways to fix the schools budget crisis. Maybe attracting back students with a magnet school could be part of the solution?

What's the rationale for the city to have no magnet school anyway? It can't be just liberalism -- since San Francisco is plenty liberal and has Lowell. What's going on here?

Oh and one other thing. If Oakland had better options for high-performing middle and high school students, that would increase property values (just look at the values in Piedmont). That would improve the city's tax base, which would help schools as well.

Isn't this a win-win?


  1. I think a lot of people over on Katy's blog are of the opinion that OUSD and/or the union are against a magnet school because a) it goes against a perceived belief that all students are equally able and therefore should receive an equal education, and b) there is a perceived worry that a magnet school would be predominated by certain racial and/or class groups. When I say "perceived" I mean that the posters on Katy's blog perceive that OUSD and/or the union have that belief and worry. They don't actually know if it's true. But they do regularly skewer OUSD's "one size fits all" education. And they also pillory the perceived beliefs as being based on ideology rather than fact.

    Whatever the case may be, and despite what the cheerleaders over at OUSD might try to convince the public of, the only thing I can actually make heads or tails of is the fact that OUSD has terrible schools. High performing, low performing, rich or poor, Oakland parents try to claw their way out of OUSD with interdistrict transfers, charter schools, Catholic schools, or private schools.

  2. a selective Lowell/Stuyvesant type high school would cost way more in the short and mid run, and maybe long term, than it would add to overall city revenue. Labs, math and science teachers, history/language teachers with advanced degrees are big bucks. The state per capita reimbursement rate to ousd wouldn't cover it.

    Perceptions of parents who have used private schools for pre high school years, are not good guide for high school performance for top performing students. Tech and Skyline and possibly OH, actually take very good care of their top students. They don't do well for the many students below that narrow top tier. If those programs for top tier students are cut, yes, you would see a white, asian, indian, ethiopian fire drill to the doors of the ousd high schools, and that many more more families moving out of oakland.

    Would expect that if OUSD schools at the bottom and the top were raised to just state average, residential property tax revenues would increase. could take years for that effect. How much so, without dramatic sustained drop in crime also is hard to say.

    -len raphael