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Some of Oakland’s Most Diverse Schools Also Show Large Equity Gaps

When I read the book by Oakland parent Courtney Martin, Learning in Public, I felt uncomfortable. I couldn’t actually finish it. The story is a chronicle of a white, middle-class parent choosing to send her daughter to her “underserved” neighborhood elementary school. The thesis is basically that White parents should get over themselves and take their children to the school down the street in the “hood” and much good will come of their benevolent presence.

It made me wonder, does merely having White parents choose a public school make it better? Do White parents feel better attending a school that is racially integrated on the surface? Does this integration benefit Black and Brown students? Or is it performative racial equity?

As a parent and educator of color, I want education for real. I want schools where every Black and Brown child is treated as intelligent, where they are met with high expectations every day and are relentlessly supported to thrive. Is high quality more present in racially integrated schools? Does the presence of Whites in predominantly Black and Brown schools have some positive residual effect on Black and Brown students? Perhaps, but the academic impact at many racially integrated schools has yet to be felt in Oakland.

The 2023 SBAC results for Oakland reveal a shocking truth about the racial disparities within schools.

Across Oakland public schools, 40 of 108 schools have gaps between their highest and lowest subgroup of 30-80% in ELA proficiency. For example:

  • At Chabot there is a 53% gap between black students (29%) and white students (81%) in reading proficiency
  • At EBIA, 26% of black students meet grade level in ELA while 82% of white students
  • At Cleveland Elementary, 23% of black students meet graded level in ELA while 89% of white students do.
Across Oakland public schools, 36 of 108 schools have gaps between their highest and lowest subgroup of 30-80% in Math. For example:

  • At Oakland Tech, 1% of black students are at grade level in Math while 60% of Asian students are.
  • At Sankofa, 7% of black students do math at grade level while 83% of white students do
  • At Hillcrest, 22% of black students do math at grade level while 89% of asian students do
The only way to begin to solve this is to shine the light of transparency. This data shows that the solution is more complex than school integration and begs us to better understand how we can increase academic performance as well as student diversity. We must study the issue and intervene in a way in which our community can participate. Let’s move toward this disturbing data, not away from it.
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