There’s a new app about Oakland public schools that might help parents figure out which schools are strong and where their kids might be well served.
Usable on a desktop or mobile device, it’s free at http://bit.ly/OaklandScoreMap, and it’s a heck of a lot easier than calling up data from state or district databases.
It was unveiled Tuesday by Urban Strategies Council and Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center to help district policymakers and nonprofits see how students are performing on the Academic Performance Index (state test scores known as the API) at each Oakland school, breaking out details for each ethnic group, English learners and others.
But my parental eye saw the app as a great tool for parents. What can you learn? Well, although an API score is only one measure–and a fairly rigid and limited measure–of how well a school does at teaching kids, at least it’s one indicator a parent can look at. You’d also want to know how nurturing and encouraging a school is, what its teachers are like and what extracurricular activities and opportunities for art and music a school offers.
Using the app, you could find out how kids who are similar to your child do on the API at a school, and thus get a glimpse of how encouraged and challenged those kids are at the school.
Based on its data, if your children are African-American, you might want to look at Think College Now, Piedmont Avenue Elementary, Manzanita SEED Elementary, Parker Elementary or Markham Elementary, because at these schools, African-American students do as well on state tests–better than the school average. For middle school, you might want to think of KIPP Bridge Charter in West Oakland, where African-American students score an API of 899.
If your children are Latino or Latina, you might want to consider Kaiser Elementary, where Latinos score an impressive 852 API, which is higher than the school average, or Howard, Burckhalter, Greenleaf, or ACORN Woodland elementary schools, where Latino kids score above the school average. For middle school you might want to consider Claremont Middle, or Hoover Middle where Latinos stand out in achievement.
If your kids are English language learners, the app will tell you that ELL kids seem to do well on state tests at Cleveland Elementary, Bella Vista Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Chabot Elementary, Laurel Elementary and Howard Elementary. For middle school students, Sankofa Academy does a great job with English Learners and they score well above the school average. You’d want to think twice before sending them to Montera Middle School, however, where English learners do far worse than other students at the school.
You might also see that at Crocker Highlands, Parker or Chabot elementary schools, everyone scores well and there’s little achievement disparity by ethnicity.
At the high school level, all students seem to score high on the API at Oakland Charter High School and at American Indian Public Charter School regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status. Latino and African-American students seem to hold their own at Oakland Unity High School and East Oakland Leadership Academy. However, there is a lot more, of course, that goes into a good high school than high test scores, so you’d want to check out the schools and ask lots of questions.
Why are some schools showing better results with Latino or African-American students or English language learners than other schools? Well, the data app doesn’t show that, and the question of how to close racial achievement gaps is very much one that Oakland Unified School District is grappling with and trying hard to figure out.
It could be any number of things from encouragement and attention from teachers to encouragement from family members. It could be particularly gifted ELL teachers, or a culturally nurturing environment. But in trying to decide the confusing question of where to send their children to school, parents might consult this app as one dataset–albeit only one of many that should be considered. Just don’t forget to consider other things.