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Oakland / Emeryville Schools Are "Dropout Factories" - Tribune and AP

Well, first, I'm happy Skyline High, where I went, is not on this list. Second, my question -- not answered here -- is "why do these schools have that problem?"

Oakland, Emeryville schools make dropout list
Fewer than 60 percent of freshmen make it to senior year

Article Last Updated: 10/31/2007 02:47:25 AM PDT

OAKLAND — Oakland High School and Oakland Technical High School made the Associated Press's recent "dropout factory" list, as did Emery Secondary School in Emeryville.

According to a data analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers for the Associated Press, only about 44 percent of ninth-graders from Oakland Tech, 52 percent from Oakland High and 55 percent from Emery Secondary made it to their senior year.

The high schools were among 1,700 nationwide in which no more than 60 percent of ninth-graders enrolled as seniors three years later.

By looking at the size of a particular grade level over time, the method provides only a rough estimate of the dropout rate. It doesn't measure how many students transferred out of a school and graduated somewhere else, or how many were new arrivals.

Information about individual students is not yet widely available in California and in many other states, which makes it difficult to arrive at a more precise figure.

"There are a lot of assumptions that are being made there, without understanding the intricacies of enrollment and demographic changes," said Sheilagh Andujar, principal of Oakland Tech, who said she took exception to the "dropout factory" label.

Oakland educators might find flaws with a particular method of assessing the dropout crisis, but they don't deny the seriousness of the problem. Other studies, such as the one published in 2005 by Harvard University's Civil Rights

Project, have also called attention to Oakland's dropouts.

"It's something we're definitely working on," Andujar said.

To create a more intimate learning environment for students and teachers, this year Oakland Tech established "small learning communities" for all ninth-graders. Students in each group go through the day with many of the same classmates and teachers.

Andujar said Oakland Tech's upper grades have more students this fall than they did in previous years, which might indicate that more students are staying in school.

The study did show a positive trend for the three Oakland and Emeryville schools. As low as the retention rates were, they improved between 2004 and 2006. Oakland High's retention rate grew by 30 percent during that time; Oakland Tech boosted its retention by 19 percent and Emery Secondary did by 14 percent, according to the study.

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said high schools across the district have taken various steps to address the problem. The district has trained principals in strategies to spot struggling students early on, before they leave the system, he said.

Oakland Tech also hosts a summer school program for students from across the district who failed ninth grade, and a new influx of after-school funding this year has allowed high schools to establish tutoring in the evenings.
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