OUSD Teacher Strike coverage

No, you’re not going to get any from me.

I don’t write about the schools, not because I don’t think they’re important, but because it is a whole other complicated subject and I simply do not have the time to learn enough to do a decent job of it. But the strike is a big deal, and also I noticed that the discussion on the Great Oakland Public Schools guest post has been revived this week, so I figured I should probably at least acknowledge it and post some links for reference.

Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones has a blog up at Oakland Seen inviting community members to picket this morning and come to a rally in front of City Hall from noon to 2 to show support for the teachers. Great Oakland Public Schools posted a very thoughtful statement about the strike and OUSD’s budget situation on their blog. And I think my favorite thing I’ve read about the issue all week is definitely Robert Gammon’s great post on the East Bay Express blog about why he’s sending his child to school during the strike, which I think did a really good job communicating what a horrible thing the OEA is doing to Oakland’s children and families.

Anyway, for reports on this morning’s events (and I assume this afternoon’s rally), check out Oakland Tribune reporter Katy Murphy’s blog, The Education Report, which has from about the picket lines at a bunch of different schools. Also, you can follow Murphy on Twitter.

Oh, and for a blast from the past, check out this blog dto510 wrote four years ago about how damaging a teacher’s strike would be for Oakland’s children and public school system.

Links for further reading

60 thoughts on “OUSD Teacher Strike coverage

  1. David

    The Oakland school district has 1.08 non-teaching employees per FTE teacher.
    The San Leandro school district has 0.72 non-teachers per FTE teacher.

    It would appear that Oakland could fire ~30% of its non-teaching staff with no negative effects (as I think anyone would acknowledge the SL schools are at least equivalent, if not better than the OUSD overall).

  2. livegreen

    I think both sides have very legit concerns, which makes it all that more difficult. David’s suggestion at face value appears to be a good one. The bottom line is with a shrinking student population over the last decade, Oakland is going to have to close schools & save on that overhead and buildings & maintenance. Which won’t be very popular either.

    The question when that happens is, will they move teachers with students to their new schools? Or will they take advantage and reduce teacher #’s thereby increasing the class sizes. (Come to think of it, that might be why the OEA wants school size in the contract).

    The decrease in the # of students and the $85 million that must be cut, pre-ordanes that schools must be shut down. I wonder if this (along with laying off non-teacher personnel) is enough to get a significant amount of savings, without also reducing teachers?

  3. grrljock

    Thanks for linking to the different perspectives of the strike in your write up. We moved to Oakland in 2007, so I just know the bare outlines of the mess that is OUSD. My personal perspective is that in the course of my spouse’s job hunt (she is a Special Ed teacher, a position that’s supposedly in high demand), we discovered that OUSD offers the lowest salary of the 3 offers that she had from 3 different school districts*. That, combined with the Oakland school’s near indifference in offering support for my spouse to go through the CA teacher certification process**, made it a no-brainer for her to not take that position.

    My point is that I have mixed feelings about the teacher strike, as I can understand the perspectives of both teachers and parents. And I’m still undecided who I’m going to blame most for this fiasco (though leaning towards the District…) because I feel that don’t have enough information to do so. I hope for our sakes all the players in this arena can figure out a way to agree and improve the precarious state of Oakland schools. That, and world peace.

    *IIRC,the Oakland salary would be lower than my spouse’s then-current salary from the Houston Independent School District (absolute, not relative)
    **Boy howdy, is this process the mother of all opaque, black box processes. I wonder if real, flesh and blood humans actually work int he CA Commission of Teacher Credentialing in Sacramento

  4. Michael

    You start off by saying
    “I don’t write about the schools, not because I don’t think they’re important, but because it is a whole other complicated subject and I simply do not have the time to learn enough to do a decent job of it.”

    and then go to to with
    “And I think my favorite thing I’ve read about the issue all week is definitely Robert Gammon’s great post on the East Bay Express blog about why he’s sending his child to school during the strike, which I think did a really good job communicating what a horrible thing the OEA is doing to Oakland’s children and families.”

    So if don’t have time to do a decent job of it why the editorializing about the horrible thing the OEA is doing?

  5. Russ

    I agree with Michael.

    Also I think the teacher’s strike is a result of the terrible thing WE as a city (and as a state) are doing to our children and families.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    You guys think that because someone doesn’t have time to research and write thousand-plus word posts detailing OUSD issues and providing links to source documents several times a week, they are therefore not qualified to have an opinion about the strike? That seems kind of nuts to me.

    As for the OEA – as far as I’m concerned, when you actively campaign to defeat ballot measures designed to increase your salary, you no longer get to whine about not being paid enough.

  7. Dax

    Russ, What is the “terrible” thing we as a city are doing to our children and families?

    Do you know the Oakland school district’s budget?

    I’m guessing you’re saying we just aren’t giving them enough money?

    IF they aren’t getting enough money then please tell us how much more is needed.

    Right now, the budget is $616,000,000 for a enrollment of about 37,000.

    OK…. what is needed, a billion? More?

    Please supply the figure needed to take away the stigma of us doing a “terrible” thing to our children.

  8. Michael

    My issue is not with you having an opinion about the strike and the teachers. That is fine.

    However, you set out your stall as saying “it is a complicated subject” and “I simply do not have the time to learn enough to do a decent job of it.” If this is the case how should the reader take your negative comments about the teachers union and the strike? With a grain of salt as you have already admitted you don’t have the time to do the research to get to the bottom of a complicated issue.

  9. Livegreen

    Michael, The first time you quoted V accurately in context. The second time you did not. V did not say that about the teachers she said it about OUSD.

    However this is very complicatedand & I appreciate V putting up the links for her readers to follow and come to their own conclusions.

    I myself agree with both sides, and wonder where the money will come from…

  10. Linda

    “And I think my favorite thing I’ve read about the issue all week is definitely Robert Gammon’s great post on the East Bay Express blog about why he’s sending his child to school during the strike, which I think did a really good job communicating what a horrible thing the OEA is doing to Oakland’s children and families.”

    Seriously? I’m doing a horrible thing by picketing in support of maintaining lower class sizes in the schools that need it most? A plan which was supported by the independent factfinder?
    Thankfully, the parents of the children that I bust my butt serving every day didn’t see it that way.

  11. Livegreen

    I agrees with the lower classs sizes. I agree wih higher salaries. Now since most of the money paid for consultants is reportedly going for mandated special ed, please either explain where that’s false (I’m open to that possibility) or where the money comes from?

    I support the teachers in principle and my kid is also at home in support. I just don’t understand where the money is supposed to come from. I continue to read more to try and understand the alternatives. I’ve just not read an explanation answering this question…

  12. Theresa

    I also agree that lower class sizes and higher salaries are necessary. But I don’t understand how a one-day strike achieves those goals, and if there is no way this strike can achieve those goals, it can’t really be considered to be “in support of” those goals. The money isn’t there. I would think it would be more useful to organize all the citizens of Oakland to overturn Prop 13.

  13. Me

    The district imposed a contract, the contract which OEA voted down has a salary reopener next year and the year after. This is the contract the district has imposed. This is from a district that has not given the teachers much at all in years, threatened to cut our pay, is breaking state laws about the percentages given to the classroom vrs administration by giving 10% too much to the administration (fix that and the city would stop having to pay a fine which could give every teacher in Oakland a 1% raise right off). If you worked for them would you trust the district would not come back asking for a pay cut next year and a pay cut the year after? Well, maybe you would but most members of OUSD who have worked there for more than a year or two would not and do not. Even if that is not the case would you, if you have ever dealt with union negotiations, want to deal with them for four years straight? Teaching is often a stressful job, any teacher can tell you that, union negotiations are stressful do you think having teachers even more stressed out raises the quality of a child’s education?

    You think it is better to have high teacher turn over in Oakland rather than give up one day to maybe get a better contract that might hold teachers here longer. You think it is better to have our class sizes go up to say 30 kids in a first grade classroom rather than give up a day in the classrooms so maybe we can keep the class sizes small.

  14. Voice in the Wilderness

    I am told by my teacher husband that in their last contract negotiation, the teachers gave up 3% of their salary in good faith, because of the district’s dire straits. Forgive my memory, but this was about 5 years ago. There was no recession then. No, I am not researching, I am telling you about our life. There have been no COLAs. So, is it right for a 15 year teacher to make 55,000 a year? Imagine that you just got out of school with 40,000 or more in student loans. Getting a credential these days is quite expensive. Where would you want to teach? The state of the public schools in Oakland is deplorable. People teach here out of the goodness of their hearts. There may be lowered attendence in the lower grades, but the high schools are inundated, with the exception of McClymond. I think it is time to look at the practicality of having special education departments in every school. I think our special ed students would be better served in a different way, and our school’s budgets would not be emptied so quickly by spending so much on accomodations. This is my humble opinion, not related to the current strike. The teachers hate the strike, but there comes a time to stand up for fair treatment.

  15. Ralph

    Frankly, I have no idea what this strike was intended to accomplish. Everyone knows that teachers should be paid more. Everyone knows that classrooms should be smaller. It was pointless and teachers should never be asking students to stay home in support and parents should not be keeping children home as a show of support. Children have one job and that is to get an education. But FTLOG, teachers please tell me where is the money.

  16. Mary Hollis


    Everyone loves smaller class sizes. Everyone loves better schools. Everyone loves higher salaries. Everyone loves apple pie.

    But sadly that is all irrelevant. The only factor here is that the money isn’t there to fund what you seek.

    Until you can explain where that money comes from, you can strike all you want. But you can’t get blood out of a stone. 55K isn’t a bad salary. Most in the private sector have had pay cuts, have less job security and have much worse benefits.

    So strike all you want but don’t expect anyone to care.

  17. len raphael

    Ralph, if ousd closes half the schools, lays off 1/2 of the support staff, lays off half the HQ staff, reduce money spent on education advisors and ngo’s, then ousd surely can afford to raise teacher salaries, maybe substantially if they lay off 2/3 of the support and HQ staff.

    eventually sell the schools and use proceeds to pay down state debt. yes, i would hate to see this last chance for public open space evaporate at the same time as the holy grail search for vibrant high density steams ahead ….

    Can the teachers publicly demand that? absolutely not.

    Can the board do that without getting out there and sweeping the floors themselves and getting scary threats?

    Can we the residents demand that? We can try but it would make us look racist, anti working class. Then many Hills and upper middle parents would pull their kids out if they’re kids got bussed to east and west o. But thinking that that those hills and upper middle schools are already maxed out (except for Clairmont?), maybe not a threat to the hills/upper middle parents.

    -len raphael

  18. len raphael

    in all the money and class size talk, did the ousd make any demands re creating a reasonable process for firing low performing teachers? i would add low performing admins to that, but supposedly they are performance based paid/fired now.

    coming up with a good way to reward good teachers, bring up marginal ones, and dump bad ones, without veering into the whole favoritism, cronyism, racism that i’m absolutely sure would result if you busted the OEA, is much harder than fixing the fiscal problems.

  19. Ralph

    Len, riddle me this, where are these Hill and upper middle class parents going to send their children? And why do people say Hill and upper middle class parents? Isn’t just as likely that average joe parents pull their kid from public school? Again, though, I ask, where is the child going to go?

  20. Russ

    It is pretty simple, the schools can’t support discipline programs (After school detention, summer school, etc..) due to lack of faculty I think just allowing them enough money to fill those roles would do wonders for Oakland schools. Currently there is just very little that can be done with trouble-making students due to state law and lack of school funding. The exact figures for how much this would cost could be determined by the schools if we actually wanted to do something to help schools in Oakland. Also providing enough staff so that we didn’t have to endorse Social Promotion and end up with students graduating without necessary skills. I think these are pretty terrible things for us to do to these kids.

    Well I happen to think that forming a strong opinion on a complex issue is a bit nuts if you claim to “simply do not have the time to learn enough to do a decent job of it.” I’m just agreeing with you! You aren’t doing a decent job of making up your mind on an issue if you have failed to learn about it.

    And in general, why is it that with teachers we demand the teachers find a way to be payed. I thought they already had a job and that it is our job as citizens, to find out how to pay them for doing that job.

  21. David

    Ok. I’ll go on record. I don’t like lower class sizes. They have nothing to do with better outcomes. There has not been a single, controlled study that has shown smaller class sizes equate to better outcomes. Period. All the smaller class size argument is for is for the teachers’ union to get more members (and it has the secondary effect of lowering salaries, as now there are more teachers). But while we’re on salaries, again, $55K is not out of line with a private sector worker who actually works full-time, 250 days/year. This private sector worker is also subject to layoffs, no tenure, has no pension and no retiree health care benefits.

    As pointed out above, $600M for even 40,000 students is ridiculous. That’s $15,000 per student. Let’s close down the public schools and give every kid a $15K voucher to go to whatever school the parent(s) choose. I guarantee you that 1) a bunch of current (but not all, only the better ones) teachers would get hired by massively expanding private schools and 2) at higher pay and 3) the kids would get a better education.

  22. Livegreen

    David, What that’s not taking into account is School Districts have a legal obligation to give the best possible education to kids with disabilities. OUSD’s answer to OEA about the Consulting Fees was most of that was legally bound for this purpose (it doesn’t mean those are the only costs). (Note: I’m just reporting what I’ve read).

    If private schools are obliged to pay for those and other costs it is not going to add up to the same $15,000 for non-disability students. Note that Public Schools have no such practical obligation to educate non-disability students. & nobody is legally trying to hold the school districts accountable for educating this vast majority of students.

    As with other special interests, the minority is protected (as they should b) but the majority is not.

  23. len raphael

    Ralph, my “impression” is that west oakland has the highest number of underutilized schools, then lower north oakland, then parts of east oakland. That the high scoring hill, middle hill, and chinatown (btw, wasn’t there a writeup about a high scoring public elementary school in East O the other week?) are maxed out, using portables etc. My other big assumption is that a substantial portion of the kids maxing out the high performing schools must be out of district because there haven’t been an schools shutdown up there and most of the kids live in the flats.

    So unless you want to go the berkeley route and bus kids who live in the hills, lower hills down to the flats, parents inthe hills/lower hills aren’t gonna go crazy and move to the burbs or private schools. its the kids in the flats who will be forced to bus out of their neighborhoods to consolidated sites. no more of this small school stuff either. for young kids the savings will get diluted by having to hire buses because not safe to put them on ACT by themselves. the poorer parents have no choice unless they get into a good charter school or move to Gunpoint.

    David, asked my relative (the one who trains teachers in nyc but has no stake in current system) about the small class size lack of correlation with results. response was that for average quality teachers, in an urban situation with a high percentage of kids who don’t speak standard English, and a higher percentage of kids who are just disruptive, smaller class size makes it much more likely to teach the non disruptive kids something.


  24. MarleenLee

    Len: the rules regarding termination of bad teachers are outlined in the Education Code. Individual school districts really can’t do much to make it easier to fire bad teachers. There is currently a proposal in the Legislature to change the statutory scheme to make it easier, but rest assured, the unions will fight it tooth and nail. Livegreen- the standards for special ed are “free, appropriate pubic education.” There is nothing in the law regarding “best possible.” David, as for lower class sizes and quality of instruction, that’s just common sense. Of course smaller class sizes mean that teachers can spend more time with individual students. Duh. My husband is a teacher and his current middle school class size max is 37. That’s absurd! Can you imagine how much more work it is to keep track of 37 kids, as opposed to 30? Grade all their homework? Talk to all their parents? Remember all their names? He’d have way more time to deal with issues if his class sizes were more reasonable.

  25. Livegreen

    I know a teacher at a private school and asked him what the single biggest difference was between public and private here in Oakland (he grew up in Oakland and knows many PubS teachers & principals). His answer was the class size.

    Recollection is that Head Royce and St. Paul’s have about 22- 25 kids per class for kinders & 1st grade (don’t know about other grades). That’s about the same as our PubS K. The big difference is the PrS also has full-time TA’s. We have shared TA’s, and many schools have none.

    The oherwise big difference is Fundraising. The PrS’s have full-time fundraisers to go to both big donors and foundations, and to fill out all the different grant writing documents. This results in money for academic facilities like computers and science labs that kids get exposed to at an earlier age.

    Finally, PrS’s do more than teach to the test. They do more well rounded teaching at an earlier age, such as geography and language arts. PubS’s do some of this, only much later or (for schools that have PTA’s to raise the money) as after school classes.

    One of the reasons PubS’s teach to the test is (besides having the tests) they have a much bigger variety of student achievement and parent support. Throw that variety into PrS’s, along with the disabled kids, and you’re going to get the same challenges.

    Even if they’re partially compensated by the smaller class sizes, more well rounded teaching, and better facilities that are all enabled by higher tuitions and full-time fundraising.

  26. len raphael

    David, i’ve heard of some of the studies that fail to show a correlation between class size and student improvement. it does fly in the face of the experience of good teachers. leading to one possible explanation that when districts dump a bunch of money into quickly hiring more teachers to lower class sizes, they hire a bunch of green and not so good teachers.

  27. Ralph

    Len, I thought you were talking about Hill, etc parents pulling children out of public schools…

  28. Dax

    Will Oakland become yet another example of an incremental approach to the

    “Every child left behind” outcome?

    As I said earlier, Google ( “Kansas City” schools bankruptcy enrollment )
    Hundreds of articles. A case study in how money, money, and more money will not buy you a good educational system.

    Kansas city spent more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

    The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish.

    And Kansas City spent BILLIONS back in the 80′s when BILLIONS was really lots of money.

    Now they are shutting down half the schools..

    Is Oakland on the same path? Why not, if they don’t figure out something really creative to avoid the same fate.

  29. David

    See above guys–money & smaller classes don’t amount to better outcomes.

    37 kids? big deal. when my parents were in school, it was 50 kids. when i was in school, it was 32-35 kids, depending on the grade I was in during elementary schools.

    you might think it’s common sense that smaller class sizes are better, but it’s not evident that is correct. it used to be common sense that the earth is flat etc.

  30. Dax

    Oh smaller class sizes are actually better in some limited studies.
    And it matches the “common sense” so it sells very well to the public.
    Of course it makes even more sense to the teacher’s union.

    The problem with smaller class size is that it just isn’t a effective use of dollars.
    The very small improvements produced via smaller class size are very expensive.
    Very expensive on one side, and very tiny improvement on the other side.

    NO reasonable person would choose to spend so much money on something that produced so little in terms of educational improvement.

    But the OEA and the CTA spend millions pounding “smaller class size” into the public’s mind.
    Kind of like the vitamin industry foisting unproven claims about vitamins helping our health…

    But look… More and more studies show vitamin supplements to be worthless while more and more Americans take more and more vitamins.
    They buy vitamins in cereals, Total, and most others. They buy Vitamins in their water “Vitamin Water” “Smart Water” and on and on.

    So smaller class size is sold like vitamins.. Makes common sense to the public and is promoted and pushed by those who gain from smaller class size.

    Don’t expect this “smaller class size” theme to go away any time soon.
    After all, it makes too much sense. Don’t bother the public with what the studies show.

    Perhaps we could give the kids vitamins to improve test scores.

  31. livegreen

    So what are the reasons then? Again, I was told by a PriS teacher it is the reason, along with the other things I’ve mentioned.

    These & a more homogeneous student population than the wider variety in OUSD + kids who come from poorer families with less importance attached to education, broken homes, less discipline, more social stresses, & more negative peer pressure (all of which decreases interest in school & class, increases class disruption, and increases the likely-hood of teaching to the test).

    Keep in mind that Head Royce charges $25K per student, which IS $10K more than the $15K/OUSD student mentioned. So on the face of it, their Teacher +T/A & higher cost/student ration + fundraising DOES make a difference.

    Now if you’re saying what doesn’t make a difference, then please enlighten as to what does make a difference?

    Typical of our society to say nothing works but not share what does. I thought it was mostly liberals that do this but here I’m hearing center/right do the same.
    Based on vitamin sales no less…

  32. Ralph

    Dax is spot on re smaller classes. The primary benefit is to keep similiarly able students together. Further, you are able to segregate bad actors from students who really want to learn. So yes, you will probably see some improvement in test scores but as noted above not much.

    If teachers and parents really want smaller classes, then they must accept that a) pay will be smaller and b) the least able students may end up with the least able teachers.

    The one thing that has proven to make a difference in outcomes is parental involvement and emphasis/value of education. The great liberal solution to throw more money at the problem is not going to work. (That is not to say that I do not think teachers should be paid more. I do but that does not mean it will improve outcomes.)

    Frankly, I think test scores would improve if more students had better dental care.

    Teaching to the test…when I started school, no one taught to the test. I think public schools would be better off if they just taught like private schools. But in order to get money, the students need to do well on certain test. For whatever reason conventional teaching does not result in good test scores, so you teach to the test instead of addressing the root cause. Since private schools never have to fight for state and federal dollars, they can actual just teach.

  33. Dax

    Well given that you are not going to get $20,000 to $29,000 per year like Head Royce, then perhaps we’re just going to have to let the district continue to lose enrollment to charter schools as well as private schools.

    Why didn’t you choose the American Indian Charter school as a Oakland example?

    Their budget and their result. What are they doing?

    Look at the OUSD budget


    Pay attention to the “General Fund” of 428 million.

    Look at the Unrestricted versus the Restricted portions. 41% restricted apart from all those Unrestricted boxes you see listed.

    184 million going to school sites while 176 million is going to Restricted.

    While the Restricted box is not spelled out, I’m guessing that lots of what is in there is not being spent in most charter and private schools.
    It may be that the OUSD model is just one that won’t work. Perhaps it is not designed to work with the customers it serves. Adding more money is unlikely to make a substantial difference in the outcome.
    You have to be open to the possibility that they just offer a product that can’t do the job even if you give them 10% or 20% or 50% more money.

    Did you go look at the Kansas City example? They now have only 22% of their original enrollment. They are 50% lower than they were just 10 years ago.
    Back in the 80′s they brought in a “big thinker” from Richmond California to perfect the system. Billions of dollars later they are closing half their schools.

  34. len raphael

    Dax, did look at some of the KC articles. first impression isn’t that it proves that more money wouldn’t help ousd results, but that more money doesn’t guarantee efficient results. the kc experience of shutting down half their schools is very useful for our near future. will look into KC more.

    what LG pointed out re. the CPS, ST P’s, and HR’s spend hecka more than ousd per student even after adjusting for whether buildings are paid off or rented. I’m not saying that proves that spending more = better results, but it doesn’t disprove it either.

    The only conclusion that everyone agrees on is that certain extrodinary principals, when given power that other managers could easily abuse, can achieve extrodinary outcomes very efficiently in certain geographical areas.

    Those administrators often say their results can easily be cloned, but if that were the case there would be a lot more success stories.

  35. livegreen

    I don’t think you guys have made your point well at all. Of course it’s not ONLY class size. It’s also all the other factors I’ve mentioned. & you’ve addressed none of them, much less that Head Royce charges $10,000 more per student, without ANY of the higher costs (disabled students & a large # of unsupervised children from broken homes, living in at-risk neighborhoods with negative peer pressures).

    So Head Royce disagrees with you, is throwing lots of money at their students, and is turning out successful students. Along with all the other factors I’ve mentioned.

    Now I think the comparison with some Catholic Schools might support your argument, in that their tuitions are only $7000-$10,000. However that still doesn’t answer the other part of the equation: All the other costs & factors I’ve mentioned.

    Also the Catholic Schools are arguably NO better than the Hill or Slope OUSD schools. So while Small Classes might not show benefits or differences by itself, it certainly might when evaluated in combination with other factors.

    Part of the reason Vitamins supplements don’t work is their inability to be properly digested or enter cells by themselves. Their chemistry is different in natural form (whether in plants, meat or enzymes). The same with class-size: it might make a difference depending on the organism & environment it is introduced in or combined with.

    & that is a lot more complicated to study than “it just isn’t a effective use of dollars” or it is. Talk about an oversimplification…

  36. Dax

    Look, if you were a parent in the Oakland district and you had a typical low performing school, if given the option, would you choose the Catholic school or the OUSD option?

    I’d say that choice would be easy.

    That is why the CTA is against charter schools and also “God forbid”, vouchers.

    Experiments are going on all over the country trying to find the answer.
    Washington DC is a good example where the story is still unfolding.
    They have a huge amount of money to spend per pupil.
    Far more than Oakland will ever hope to have. They claim to have about $17,000 per student while other organizations put the true figure closer to $28,000.
    Either way, if they can’t produce significant results, then something other than money is needed.
    PBS News Hour has had a continuing series of reports on that district and their new superintendent.
    A real tussle is going on with the established powers, including the teachers union.

  37. livegreen

    Yeah I’ve heard the News Hour reports, I’m glad they’re following those. In the meantime I’m curious why Edna Brewer Middle has improved so much with 65% FDL, but Claremont & Bret Harte haven’t. & why Belle Vista Elementary with a high FDL has, but many others haven’t…

  38. len raphael

    With Claremont, well informed heresay points to the principal. Words like chaotic come up. Considering how small a school it is now cf to the way it was even 15 years ago…

    btw, are we all automatically journalists and all public school administrators public figures?

  39. Dax

    Uh, there is something that goes on here. I know I have not been coming here as long as many of you.

    It is the use of acronyms or abbreviations.

    This time it is “FDL”

    “flourishing daily learners” ?

    “free daily lunch” ?

    “federal ____ ___” ?

    Anyway, good to hear about Edna Brewer. At first I couldn’t place he name but looking on the map, I am very familiar with that campus.
    Scores of 820 range indicate students can go there and do well. Not everyone, but education is certainly possible for most.
    As you indicated not all campuses are similar.

    I agree, it would be interesting to understand the reasons why.
    I wonder how many children “choose” that school when they would otherwise normally go elsewhere?

    Is there significant self selection that leads to better students and interested parents?

  40. Livegreen

    FDL= Free & Reduced Lunch. Meaning it’s tied for best Middle School in Oakland with Montera but with many more FDL kids. Yes, kids from both the neighborhood and it’s district are going there, but many out-od-district of all stripes are too.

    It has high API scoresbut is also in the 90th percentile for similar schools, which in it’s case is inner city…

  41. Ralph

    Hey, could you guys start spelling out words and defining terms before going to abbreviations?


  42. Dax

    You know, this FDL, Free lunch stuff should be taken with some questioning as to it being a way to rate true poverty or low income in a school.

    It is my understanding that about 50% of all California students qualify for the “free lunch” program.
    Something has gotten out of hand.

    My sister used to teach in the a fairly wealthy city of San Marino in the South Pasadena District.
    She use to tell of families dropping the students off in Mercedes and then the kids going to the cafeteria for their free breakfast and later in the day lunch.

    As with so many programs, they often have, very loose criteria and little inspection.

    I just don’t think half the children in California need free lunches.

  43. Vivek B

    I mean this question with the utmost sincerity and am really not trying to stoke anything here, hopefully I don’t stoke any flames.

    I take quite the ribbing from a variety of folks for not sending my 2 kids to public school. We’re FAR from wealthy, indeed the wife has to work fulltime and nearly every penny she makes is required to pay for the tuition. (for 2 years she was part-time and we were running a monthly deficit on credit cards to pay for the school).

    The comments here have been very polite, certainly much more so than sfgate or the other various articles written on the subject. There has been a LOT of interesting facts that have come to light as a result of the strike. (on both sides of the strike) When I read those comments/articles/etc, all I can think of is “Man, what a mess. Avoiding this whole situation is worth the financial tension and the wife working fulltime without us seeing a monetary benefit.”

    So, my question: Given what’s coming to light as a result of this strike, if you were in my shoes (2 kids, able to barely afford private school if you had 2 fulltime workers in the house), would you be willing to send your kids to OUSD? And why (why not)?

  44. Ralph

    Vivek, No. Strike or no strike, I would not send my children to an OUSD school unless I knew that they were going to be in the best school and even that is debatable. As a parent one of my primary responsibilities is to provide my child with the best education I can. If it means I have to forego a new car, keep my shoes together with duct tape, eat a wish sandwich so my child could have dinner, then so be it. I am not going to sacrifice my child’s education and neither should you. You will not get any ribbing from me regarding your decision.

  45. Livegreen

    Vivek, –The elementary schools in your area are the best in Oakland, better than Albany, and almost as good as Castro Valley; –Save money u can either pocket or you or your wife can stay home to b with the kids; –If your kids do well your school’s scores will improve even more; –Property value in your neighborhood will increase; –OUSD will receive more money from the Feds; –More middle class families will move to Oakland further increasing your property values and helping the City in general.

  46. Ralph

    Hey, can someone please explain how OUSD assigns students to schools? Do all students attend a neighborhood school, is it just elementary students, are students bussed to non-neighborhood schools. How does OUSD disperse students to the schools?


    LG: It is not more middle class families moving to Oakland that is the issue. Everyday I see this. What you really want is to keep middle class families with school age kids.

  47. livegreen

    1. Either go to the OUSD website at http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/ousd/site/default.asp
    & click under Enroll (first icon in the green horizontal tab) & then Options Process (on the left). Or go directly to


    2. To learn about individual schools & their ratings, the geographic areas they serve, etc. go to the OUSD website listed above & click on “Schools” in the green horizontal tab.

    3. Re. your last comment, agreed…

  48. David

    Again, the comparison isn’t $15K or $25K so that every kid can go to Head-Royce. As pointed out above, $15K is more than a typical Catholic school tuition, even with the Diocesan support (slush fund equalizer in the diocese, aka where the bishop sits, for you non-Catholics). We’ve had this debate before on other threads.

    As to what a parent would do, give me a break. Crap public school or decent Catholic school or tony private school? Easy. No, yes, and yes (if you can afford it). No brainer, kids are going to Catholic school. Again, instead of paying an additional $2000-$3000/month in incremental mortgage payments+prop taxes, I’ll spend an incremental ~$900/month on tuition. Easy math. As an added bonus, by deliberately buying into a ‘hood with lower prop values, I’m depriving Oakland of more of my property taxes to get funneled into crappy schools.

  49. livegreen

    David, The best public schools in Oakland are better than the average Catholic schools. The Catholic schools are only better than the crappier public schools.

    We have several students of ex-Catholic schools that were not happy with them & came to our public school. We do have some that have done the opposite too.

  50. Brad

    LG, the problem is that all the best, or even decent, public schools in Oakland are full. Cleveland Elementary accepts only 56% of applications, Chabot 59%, Crocker Highlands 59%, Glenview 61%, Hillcrest 23%, Jaoquin Miller 55%, Kaiser 53%, Lincoln 51%, Montclair 61%, Peralta 46%, Redwood Heights 43%, Think College Now 49%, Thornhill 58%.

    This is pretty much every elementary school with an API of over 800 (meaning, a basic satisfactory school). And notice how the schools with the lowest acceptance rate are often those in or accessible from the flats — Peralta in North Oakland, TCN in Fruitvale, Redwood Heights, a straight drive up 35th from Fruitvale.

    My guess is that pressure from parents in the flats with crappy neighborhood schools — like Allendale and Urban Promise — are pushing the acceptance rates at those schools down even lower than at other well performing hills schools that are less accessible.

    And then add into the mix the toxic corruption endemic to Oakland — you don’t seriously believe that all options applications are given a fair shake, do you? That’s laughable. So with too few slots at even decent schools to begin with, and a rigged system, the real choice for many people is between a crappy public school and an “affordable” – eh, hem — Catholic school.

  51. Livegreen

    Brad, I said the Catholic schools are arguable no better than the hills and slope schools. I didn’t say they’re not better than the crappy schools. And as mentioned we have some families that WERE going to Catholic School and now go Public. That’s a sign that OUSD is doing better.

    Our school is one of those you mentioned and we have plenty of out of district families. That not all out of area families can get in is only natural, and will continue as more local families continue to join. Then surrounding schools will follow and also improve, as motivated parents stay or go there. That’s what’s already happening, & that’s a good thing.

  52. Livegreen

    Brad, Where did u get the school acceptance %’s? I couldn’t find those on the school Accountability Report Cards (SARCs).

  53. David

    Livegreen, I don’t have the capital to buy into the best public schools for Oakland. I don’t live in Redwood Heights or Upper Rockridge or Montclair etc etc. I don’t have the money to rent in those ‘hoods. I do have the money to buy in the ‘hood I currently live in (obviously) and the local public schools is crap.

  54. livegreen

    David, I know not all of them are good. Never said they are. There IS room, however, to transfer out of district. You don’t have to live in those areas. Kaiser, Glenview & Sequoia have room and are doing well. & Some white middle class don’t like Carl Munck or Bella Vista because of their ethnic make-up but they’re both diverse, up-and-coming & about to crack 800 on the API’s.

  55. Brad

    LG, Kaiser, Glenview, and Sequoia may be doing well, but they do NOT have room. Last year, Kaiser rejected 47% of options applicants, Glenview rejected 39% of options applicants, and Sequoia rejected 30% of options applicants. This information is from OUSD’s own brochure that I linked to above. Carl Munk and Bella Vista do have room, but they are doing less well than the other schools. Yes, both schools are about to crack an 800 API, but an 800 API is a basic satisfactory school. Only in Oakland does an 800 represent par excellence.

  56. David

    Ditto what Brad says, LG. Additionally, the local Catholic school is a lot closer, proximity matters to me for grade school at least.

    But, yes, I understand not all OUSD schools are terrible, etc etc. Improvements would continue in the public schools with an expanded charter and voucher system in my opinion, as they did in Milwaukee, a town with not too different demographics (except Milwaukee has a higher white/Asian ratio, but the ratio of white+Asian: black: hispanic is about the same, with significant poverty issues etc).

  57. Livegreen

    I understand what you’re saying Dave. Brad, conversely Kaiser accepted 53% of options applicants, Glenview 61%, & Sequoia 70%. I’d say that’s pretty high, though it will probably continue to diminish I admit as more neighborhood kids continue to join.

    I’m surprised to hear so many locals go to Kaiser as I was always told most are from other areas. Of course the % of Options students accepted or rejected is not just a reflection of area kids vs. out of area kids: it’s also how many Options (out of area kids) are trying to get in. Not the % of Options kids actually at the school.

    Re. the API scores (aside from the value of the scoring itself), 800 isn’t bad at all as it reflects averages. It seems to me there are two ways these scores reflect on the school: look at the highest API averages to see what the maximum potential is, and look at the overall average to see what the average is for the greater body of students. (Again, aside from the value of Api’s in general).

    BTW, Ive heard private & Catholic schools dont have a scoring mehod to go by. If that’s true how do u tell the good Catholic schools from the mediocre ones? For example I’ve heard Corpus Christi is pretty mediocre & the only reason some white families go there is they’re still scared off by the generalities of OUSD schools (even though the schools in many of their areas are good) and don’t want their kids to b a “social experiment” ie. liberal code word for being afraid to put their kids in a school with minorities.

  58. David

    I tell the good Catholic schools by the work product of the students, the curriculum, and where the graduates go. Additionally, some schools (including the local one) do indeed test; they use national standards testing, and that is another useful tool.

    PS. CC is not a “local” catholic school to me.