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Graduation Rate of Students in OUSD High Schools Improves

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Graduation cap and diploma

The graduation rate at Oakland Unified School District high schools rose 2 percent to 62.6 percent last June from a year earlier, Superintendent Tony Smith reported Wednesday night.

Giving a sort of report card on a metric the district has been trying to improve, Smith also said the district's drop out rate fell to 24.7 percent last June, a two percentage point improvement in a year.  

The district saw its biggest jump in the percentage of African-American boys graduating - up four percent to 50.6 percent. While that still means only half of these boys graduated, the gain suggest the district's investment in African-American male achievement programs may be paying off. 

"I want to highlight the extraordinary amount of good work in our high schools in particularly in our high school graduation rates, now at 62.6 percent," Smith told the board of education at its weekly evening meeting. 

Still, by comparison, statewide 78.5 percent of high school students graduated in 2012 after four years of secondary school, and the drop out rate was 13.2 percent, according to state statistics. Statewide, 65.7 percent of African American students (not just boys) graduated.

The graduation and dropout rates Smith cited are also state figures but for just the schools operated by OUSD. Earlier this week, the state Department of Education released graduation rate data for all public high schools in Oakland which was lower, at 58.9 percent, and included charter schools, independent study programs and continuation schools operated by community colleges in addition to OUSD. Drop-out rates also were higher when all schools were considered - at 25.5 percent.

The figures, with a school by school breakdown, can be found here.

While Smith applauded big gains at Coliseum College Preparatory Academy, Oakland Technical High School and MetWest High School in graduating its students, there were other high schools with alarmingly low graduation rates in June, according to the state data. Half the students at Far West High School, who started in 2008, dropped out as did nearly half at Leadership Prep, one of the former small high school academies on the Fremont High School campus.  

More than a third of students at eight other district high schools dropped out before four years were up. The state lists 25 high schools in Oakland including independent study and continuation schools.

In between the 62.6 percent who graduated and the 24.7 percent who dropped out are kids who are repeating years in high school.

"We are holding onto 273 kids" Smith noted.

There are currently 273 kids continuing high school beyond four years or as Smith said, "we are still working with" as they continue high school.  

"There was a practice here that once kids turned 8, we said we're done with you. But we changed that and now we say our commitment is to you if you want to continue," he said. "We are holding on to kids" so they can complete their high school studies.

At the first board meeting since Smith announced his plan to resign at the end of the school year, four of the seven directors heaped praise on the superintendent. But some members of the public harshly criticized Smith for inequities in the schools, such as allowing some schools to have many more Advanced Placement courses than others and more resources overall. Other people criticized Smith's administration for closing four elementary schools last year.

"I'm here tonight to send a farewell message to Dr. Smith. I hope for the best for your family, but I want to say you will be remembered - remembered as the one who oversaw the massive closure of Oakland schools and the murder of Raheim Brown," said a man named Jeremy, referring to the shooting death of a young man by an off-duty Oakland Schools' police officer two years ago.

Others decried the loss of elementary schools in what they said were brown and black neighborhoods. OUSD, under Smith, shuttered four elementary schools in spring of 2012 citing falling enrollment and funding shortages.

However, board members only offered praise.

Director Jody London who represents North Oakland schools said, "I just want to reiterate my personal support of the direction this district has been taken and my commitment to continue it."

"I am truly appreciative of your work over the last few years of putting a direction before us, for your forward thinking and your boldness and your courage to call and name things," Jumoke Hinton Hodge, the board of directors member from West Oakland, said. It is difficult, she said, "to shift things, to change a culture."


Source: Oakland Local []

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