Oakland Unified School District

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Oakland Unified School District
Oakland Unified School District.jpg
1025 Second Ave.
Oakland, California 94606-2212
United States
District information
Type public school district
Schools 137
Students and staff
Students 46,377
Teachers 2,096.56
Student-teacher ratio 22.12

Oakland Unified School District is a public education school district that operates about 85 elementary schools (K-5), middle schools (6-8), and high schools (9-12) in Oakland, California.


The Oakland Unified School District was founded in the 19th century as part of the city's birth as a bedroom community for families working in San Francisco. Today the district includes around 85 schools including several dozen sites that have been founded or redesigned as part a nationwide small schools movement.

In 2003, the state Legislature passed an emergency $100 million loan for the insolvent school district leading to state control of the 48,000-student school system. Randolph E. Ward, Ed.D., was appointed in 2003 to serve as state administrator for the school district.[1]

During its early twentieth century history, Oakland was one of the first school districts to use the I.Q. test developed by Stanford Professor Lewis Terman to track its students.[1] Terman believed Northern European whites were smarter than others. He placed his graduate student, Virgil Dickson, as research director of the Oakland schools, and the resulting tracking system placed most African-American and Mexican students in the lowest track classes.[2]

The resulting racial stratification continued through the 1960s until more African American and Latinos were elected to the school board and questioned the tracking process.[3]

The Oakland Unified School District entered into a two phase resolution plan with the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights division on September 27, 2012 to address the problem of African American students being disciplined more frequently and more harshly than white students.[4] This agreement included the implementation of a variety of interventions including Restorative Justice programs, an African American Male Achievement Manhood development program and a programs to address trauma related behavioral issues of African American students.


The district includes 59 elementary schools, 23 middle schools, 19 high schools, with 9 alternative education schools and programs, 4 adult education schools and early childhood education centers at most of the elementary schools.[5] There are 46,000 K-12 students, 32,000 adult students, and more than 6,000 employees.[6]

Notable schools[edit]

Lincoln Elementary School[edit]

Coordinates: 37°48′0.23″N 122°16′1.57″W / 37.8000639°N 122.2671028°W / 37.8000639; -122.2671028 In January 2006, the school received the Distinguished Schools Award for its success in closing the "achievement gap" between rich and poor students. The award is part of the No Child Left Behind Act.[7]

Crocker Highlands Elementary School[edit]

Crocker Highlands Elementary School serves around 365 students from kindergarten through 5th grade. The principal is Jocelyn Kelleher.

As of the 2014-2015 school year, the school had an enrollment of approximately 430 students in 17 general education classrooms. When the school first opened on August 24, 1925, it contained five classrooms. The total enrollment was 407 students and 12 faculty members. The school operated out of eight portable buildings. Then, during 1929, the school was extended with permanent buildings. It consisted of eleven classrooms and an auditorium.[8] Today there are ten classrooms, two special education rooms, a library, a music room, and a computer lab.

From 1999 to 2005, under the administration of Principal Gernert Lorenzen, hundreds of photographs he took were displayed on the school's walls. Academic Performance Index test scores rose from 730 to 869, and the school went from having enrollment so low that teachers may have been reassigned to other locations to becoming so popular that it had to turn away applicants. By 2005 half of the student body was from outside the neighborhood, a situation which helped create a more diverse student body.[9]

A published book Oakland: The City of Dreams, covering Oakland's history, culture and architecture, was researched, written, edited and designed by a class of eight-and nine-year-old students.[10]

Crocker Highlands school was selected by the Oakland Unified School District to trial a new staff selection process. This was used in appointing Chelda Ruff as principal in January 2007.[11]

The school was the center of a parental initiative, in January 2003, to encourage parents to send their children to the local public schools, rather than resorting to private education.[12]

Budget Issues[edit]

Oakland Unified is one of many school districts in California that is dealing with a large budget crisis. In 2010, OUSD's budget deficit totaled $29 million, despite implementing a 10% budget cut ($70 million) from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010. [2] The district has listed a number of possible actions to mitigate the budget crisis, including "closing schools, increasing class sizes, cutting or reducing services to schools, employee furloughs, pay and/or benefit cuts, teacher and/or staff layoffs, or some combination of the above."[3]

A November 2010 parcel tax was one of the solutions provided to ease OUSD's budget crisis, by providing additional outside revenue for Oakland teachers.[citation needed]

2010 November parcel tax[edit]

The enactment of a parcel tax to increase teacher salaries was an option on the 2010 November ballot that would have taxed Oakland citizens $195 annually for ten years. [4] It would have generated $20m annually and would have been appropriated in the following manner: 80% toward OUSD teacher compensation; 15% toward Oakland Charter teacher compensation; 5% toward professional development for new teachers. [5] A parcel tax would have transferred some of the burden of teacher salaries from the district to the taxpayers, providing a temporary boost in salary to Oakland teachers, who are some of the lowest paid in the county. Ed-data, which collaborates with the CA Department of Education to compile data on California school districts, shows that Oakland teacher average pay of $54,157/year is only 80% of the state average, $66,642. In the cities surrounding Oakland, Piedmont pays an average $71,832, Hayward pays $73,260, San Leandro pays $70,877, and Albany pays $60,116. [6]

In the November ballot, Measure L was defeated, gaining support from only 65.24% of voters. This was short of the 67% margin that was needed for a 2/3 majority. [7]

Ebonics resolution[edit]

In December 1996, the Oakland school board passed a resolution resulting in the Oakland Ebonics controversy. The move was criticized partially on the misconception that schools would be "teaching" "Ebonics" rather than standard English.[citation needed] The board had intended to use a particular set of strategies to bridge students from their home-language to the standardized forms required by school systems. One media consultant, at the time, referred to the press response as a "media race riot."[citation needed] The validity of the school board's position was argued by numerous linguists and educators.[13]

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable Oakland public school graduates include Hollywood actors Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood, and NBA basketball all-stars Gary Payton and Bill Russell. Hanks, having started acting at Skyline High School, thanked his acting teacher Rawley T. Farnsworth in his speech at the Oscars for winning the Best Actor award. Hanks later donated $125,000 to the Skyline performing arts department. US Congressman and Mayor of Oakland, Ronald V. Dellums was a graduate of Oakland Technical High School.


  1. ^ Tyack, D. (1974) The One Best System. Harvard University Press
  2. ^ Terman, L. (1916) The Measurement of Intelligence. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin
  3. ^ Epstein, K.K. (2006) A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race Theory and Unexplored Realities. New York: Peter Lang
  4. ^ "http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/09125001-b.pdf" (PDF). www2.ed.gov. Retrieved 2015-07-12.  External link in |title= (help)
  5. ^ OUSD Schools & Principals 2006-2007. Accessed August 31, 2007.
  6. ^ OUSD Board of Education Overview. Accessed August 31, 2007.
  7. ^ . Katz, Alex (26 Jan 2006). "Chinatown school beating odds". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  8. ^ Oakland Tribune, April 17, 1929
  9. ^ Tran, Quynh, "Popular principal ready to retire" Montclarion of California, May 24, 2005. Retrieved via newsbank.com (subscription required), March 2, 2008
  10. ^ "3rd Graders Publish Text On Community", The Oakland Post, June 18, 1997
  11. ^ " Crocker Highlands gets new principal; Ruff, most recently a vice principal in Woodland, was picked through district's new selection process", Contra Costa Times, 5 January 2007
  12. ^ "PARENTS AIM TO IMPROVE OAKLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS", Matthew Leising, Contra Costa Times, 18 June 2003
  13. ^ Perry, Theresa; Delpit, Lisa D. (1998). The real ebonics debate: power, language, and the education of African-American children. New York: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-3145-3. 

External links[edit]