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Are Oakland students making progress meeting state standards?

CRUNCHED!      December, 2018     

The budget is on everyone’s mind. So are the teacher contract negotiations. (Or maybe just winter break…) At times lost in the mix of all these serious issues is a central question for all Oakland public schools: Are our students making progress meeting state standards in math and language, the building blocks of learning? Well, here’s a table showing Oakland’s progress on the recently released state SBAC tests from earlier this year on math and ELA (English Language Arts):

Chart comparing Oakland proficiency rates on SBAC ELA and Math compared to statewide proficiency rates.

The answer: Technically, yes. Nevertheless, we’re nowhere we want to be – and we know we can do even better.

Oakland citywide on average is keeping pace with the state’s level of improvement in both ELA and Math. At this rate, however, it’ll take until 2040 for over 75% of students to be proficient in math and ELA.


The Painful Distribution of Proficiency

The slow progress is just an average across the whole city. Average schoolwide proficiency has a painful geographic distribution as well.

Last week, I attended an OUSD school board meeting where parents from The Oakland REACH turned out in full force to demand an “Opportunity Ticket” to get better access to quality schools. I can see where they’re coming from. I plotted schools’ SBAC proficiency on a map. And where I lived in Oakland when I was a kid, it’s surrounded by red dots – public schools where fewer than 35% of students are proficient.

SBAC proficiency rates of schools mapped across Oakland. Color corresponds from dark red to dark green, reflecting range from 0-100% proficiency rate on SBAC math or ELA test, respectively. Click on the photo to view the dashboard.


I’m glad that our city is improving on the whole (slow progress, but nevertheless upward progress. Wooooo!), and I also worry the most about the students in the city who need support and resources most urgently. Oakland Achieves recently conducted an analysis of African American students in 3rd–8th grade and how they did in on the CA School Dashboard (figures below). It’s truly shocking how few African American students are in schools in which students are performing above standard and/or improving. Particularly striking is how African American students are over-represented in the category “Schools to Review,” which are schools that are scoring low on the SBAC tests and not closing the proficiency gap from year to year (aka falling more behind).

Screenshots from Oakland Achieves report on CA School Dashboard. Comparison of distribution of all students in Oakland vs. focus group on African American students.

What’s next:

So, I wrote this whole post on SBAC results…and SBAC proficiency is only ONE indicator of a school and student’s progress (albeit a very ­­important indicator). Our schools and students are so much more than just a score on a test (though positive progress is always a good sign and performance gaps amongst historically underserved subgroups are never a good sign). We and the state recognize this, hence the multimeasure approach of the CA School Dashboard, which combines a couple of key academic and culture/climate indicator. Good news: CA Dashboard data is out! And the Alameda County Office of Education, which is playing an ever more important role in Oakland public education, has a page dedicated to it with good resources, along with some additional dashboards from OUSD.

Keep an eye out for a post in 2019 as we dig into the results.

Happy end of 2018 everyone! I’m excited to dig into the data with y’all in the year ahead!


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