November 15, 2012
By Nausheen Husain
School board members found out Wednesday that Oakland district school enrollment is almost 1,000 students fewer than school officials estimated last year, and that achievement data remains below state levels in several key subjects.
At their evening school board meeting, board members looked at academic and enrollment data that showed both gains in enrollment for Oakland charter schools and losses for district schools. The district is also still below state levels for English, mathematics and science proficiency. While OUSD students have hit the 45% proficient or advanced mark for English and mathematics, the California average is 60%.
District 5 school board member Noel Gallo said he was worried about the quality of learning at the schools in his district. “My schools aren’t proficient, and they’re definitely not advanced,” Gallo said. “Our kids need to be able to compete.”
These issues are also deeply connected to OUSD’s 2013-14 budget priorities. The board has goals of reducing OUSD’s structural deficit and increasing employee pay by 2013. But that will be harder to manage if more resources are needed to improve school curricula so as to attract more students. “We need a way to discuss charter schools, school conversions, school closures and contractors together, because all of this stuff is related,” said District 4 board member Gary Yee.
The board discussed the issues briefly during the meeting, but members said they intend to discuss the data in detail at the next school board meeting Dec. 12.
Maria Santos, deputy superintendent of instruction, leadership and equity-in-action for OUSD, said the district has in fact seen certain improvements in both attendance and student retention. She cited data showing that in 2007, the district lost 700 students after ninth grade; in 2010, the district lost only 50. Santos said OUSD has registered fewer absences this year, too.
“We’ve reduced chronic absence from one chronically absent student out of every nine students, to one chronically absent student out of every 10 students,” Santos said. “That is huge for our district.”