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CRUNCHED: Diversity in Oakland Schools

CRUNCHED!, OUSD      December, 2019     

At the November 20 OUSD Board of Education meeting, I was heartened to hear our board members discussing and asking about data. One data point that they asked about was whether students in the charter schools up for renewal reflected the diversity of the students in Oakland. For this blog post, I’ll be looking at diversity in all public schools in Oakland. How reflective is any one Oakland public school of the overall public school student population in our city? Student body diversity is an important topic to keep in mind since it makes up the very fabric of our community. (Back when I attended school in OUSD, I was delighted by the diversity in Oakland’s schools and in my classroom.) As district and county board members make decisions about charter renewals (and beyond, as OUSD considers Blueprint Cohort 3), I believe it’s important they have good data. With that, let’s crunch some! (Another) simplified thought exercise: What if all Oakland public schools were one school community? Similar to the hypothetical scenario I did for charter renewals in the last Crunched! post, I’m going to take a look at schools in Oakland that mirror the citywide student population based on 2018-19 enrollment data. If the citywide public-school population were all in one “school”, how many Oakland public schools would have similar student populations? To start, here’s what Oakland students look like in 2018-19 by race and the common subgroup demographics used in education:

Figure 1. Distribution of students citywide by racial group, based on 2018-19 enrollment data.

Figure 2. Distribution of students citywide by subgroups, based on 2018-19 enrollment data. 


Assuming that it would be difficult to have a school population with exactly the same demographic distribution as the citywide distribution, I’ve decided to expand the search criteria to ±5% of the citywide percentages for the major subgroups, which will get us close to the citywide diversity spread without loosening the margin too much.

Figure 3. Table with citywide student percentages of major demographic groups in Oakland. Target range will be ±5% of citywide %s for demographic groups.


What the Data Says:

So, how many schools come within plus or minus 5% of all of the diversity characteristics of the overall Oakland public school student population? Drumroll please…. None. (Yes, this is correct! I’m surprised, too.) There isn’t a single school in Oakland whose student population matches the citywide student diversity of Oakland, even with the expanded ranges! (I couldn’t believe it myself and had to double check to make sure I wasn’t doing this wrong…) Here are the schools that come closest to meeting the racial distribution (meeting 3 out of the 4 racial target ranges) are: And those that met the subgroup distribution (meeting 3 out of the 3 subgroup target ranges): Combined across the 7 criteria, here are the schools that are closest in hitting the major demographic target ranges: For my fellow data nerds who would like to dig deeper into how specific schools in Oakland compare to the citywide averages, here is the data I used for this exercise. Happy geeking!


Closing Thoughts:

With no schools that match exactly the diversity of our city’s citywide student body, and only a small handful that even come close, I’m hoping that these numbers will inform conversations on what it means to serve a diverse population. To do that, we need to have an honest and informed discussion of how diversity is showing up across every single one of our public schools, thinking about neighborhoods and feeder patterns. It’s a messy topic, and in the meanwhile, I’m hoping this data comes in handy as the OUSD Board makes decisions on pending charter renewals and upcoming Blueprint proposals.  


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