This week, we’ve been busy setting up 1:1’s and research meetings along with the East Bay Asian Youth Center and other partners to take on the task of transforming Oakland Unified School District high schools, just like we did years ago with the small schools movement. This is one of the most important steps in our work, and it’s how we start building power.

The work that we’re starting to do is critical because the graduation rates for OUSD are way too low, particularly for African-American and Latino students. We’re finding out more that students who do graduate from high school aren’t prepared for college, career and community life.

We had a research meeting yesterday with the principal of Oakland High School. According to organizers Emma Paulino and Katy Nuñez-Adler, the meeting was very informative and it gave us a real sense of what the school is dealing with. Here are some key take-aways from the meeting:

  • The school principal said that the numbers for O High’s graduation rate are “disturbing and unacceptable,” especially for African-American and Latino students.
  • One of the major problems at the school is suspensions. The principal said he has changed the school policy to make suspensions in-house so the students can continue to learn inside the school while he or she is on suspension. The students participate in Saturday school, and they are required to go to anger management and communications programs and comply with a contract.
  • One of the school’s focus is safety. Last year, the principal started with five SSO’s. In working with OUSD High School Network Director Kevin Taylor and others in the school district, the school now has nine SSO’s. The school still struggles with violence, though.
  • The principal is on board with Linked Learning, but implementing the strategy is still in limbo because not all of the pieces are in place yet and not all the staff are on board yet. The good news is that the school has three academies: Environment, Visual Arts, Media and Public Health. There is also another program for college prep and a ninth grade “house.” Overall, about 40% of the students at the school participate in one of the academies.

Keep following our progress with this work. We’ll keep sharing our learning along the way, and we’d like the community’s feedback as well.