Top students fleeing Oakland public schools
- View SourceThe chronicle carried a story about flight from Oakland's middle schools. It's certainly a similar picture in WCCUSD, with the irony that many of our kids are now fleeing to Oakland.
If this district wants a competitive edge, we need to innovate the middle school experience. Our kids enter middle school still seeking adult attention and approval, and are therefore reachable. If we focus on developing healthy, well-rounded kids who feel that the community supports and cares about them, we will have a unique middle school environment.
Our first strategy should be filling our middle schools with an air of compassion. Middle school turns inadvertently into power struggles between adults and students. We must strive to outsmart the 12 year-old brain, and not get locked into these games. A kid standing defiant amongst peers in the classroom melts into tears when outside earshot of other kids, "please don't call my mom...."
The second step should be to expose kids to a vast array of interesting positive opportunities. We are now getting 50 kids giving up lunch period to do recreational math at Portola. Imagine what could be done with something more interesting. The middle schooler is deciding whether to be a gangster or an engineer, and decisions made here often stick. Citizen Schools http://www.citizenschools.org has an interesting model. The focus on core academics doesn't work for many students.
Finally, we need to reach parents more effectively. In our middle schools, the home-school communication breaks down more thoroughly than anywhere else in the system. Middle schools historically discouraged parent involvement, believing it disruptive. We should be doing workshops to align parent toward college and career, providing them the necessary guidance to support student from grade 7-12. Private middle schools thrive on extensive parent support. We can and should cultivate it in the district.
We need to bridge the quality gap between private and public middle schools. The difference is staggering. I fault no one for wanting to avoid public middle school, but ask your find ways to support it even if you don't send your kids there. It's in our collective interest to see better middle school outcomes for all.