Move from Oakland to Concord for possibly better public schools?

My husband and I currently live in Oakland and have been looking to buy a house. We have a one-year old son and are trying to reconcile our desire to stay in Oakland (we have lived here for years and we love it) with our desire to send our son to good public schools. I am wary of trying to buy in areas of Oakland that we can afford (just barely) because of the "terrible" public schools in those areas. 

So, my questions are...

How are the public schools in Oakland, really? And does the OUSD lottery system work out in favor for many families?

Would it be worth it to move from Oakland (where we love) to Concord just for the public schools?

Parent Replies

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I do not know about Concord schools but as a parent with a now high school student I can give advice about Oakland. I have spent a decade stressing and worrying about my son's education. If you cannot afford to buy in a neighborhood where you like the public school offerings (and do not just assess elementary, high school is closer than you know), and you are not able to buy in a lower priced neighborhood and use the difference on private school tuition, you should not buy in Oakland. Public schools are all underresourced, the neighborhood school assignment process concentrates wealthier and whiter families (along with their considerable financial and other contributions to support their local schools) in a very few schools that you will not be able to access unless you have bought or rented into the school boundary areas. Are there good to great other public schools that aren't in the wealthiest neighborhoods that work for some families? Yes, but they are succeeding in spite of, not because of, the OUSD system and that success is fragile--some of those were slated for closure this year or are at risk of being consolidated. And the district insistence on funding charter schools without holding them accountable will only drain resources more. Maybe the influx of tech folks who can't buy in SF will mean more investment in all of Oakland's schools. I hope that's the outcome. But if you want asking me to buy a house in Oakland based on that hope, I wouldn't.

Here's a plug for staying in Oakland.  Both our kids' elementary and middle schools were places that some neighbors balked at sending their kids, but we dove in and got ultra involved (along with other parents) and those schools are both now oversubscribed, sought-after schools.  If you can find a handful of parents willing to do fundraising and community organizing at your school, you'd be amazed at how much you can improve a school with parental involvement.  Then you get to stay in ultra cool, ethnically and economically diverse Oakland!  Visit Concord A LOT before you decide to move there for schools -- remember, you have to LIVE there too.  It's extremely different than Oakland.  Considering that a lot of your lifelong friends will be parents of your kids' elementary school friends, this is an important decision in a lot of ways.  Finally, despite OUDS's mishaps and the perpetual underfunding of education in CA, I think our kids have gotten an excellent education at Oakland public schools.

Have you done any research beyond Have you spoken with parents of OUSD children or visited any schools? Most Oakland schools are under-funded but they are also full of great,dedicated teachers and terrific students — and moving away/gaming a lottery system to get into a handful of school that already have above-average resources isn't going to make them any better (for all students). I highly recommend re-thinking your assumptions about what makes a school "good" and consider investing in your community (your child will likely benefit from that approach too). I also recommend the work of Nicole Hannah Jones if you haven't encountered it already.

Take care!

My 2 cents: Stay in Oakland. The schools aren’t any better in Concord. A little better in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill but still not great.  I keep hearing about all the fun stuff going on at the schools in Oakland that our kid would have attended.  We lived in Oakland and moved to MDUSD public schools and now our kid is back in private school.  Public schools just don’t work for some kids, regardless of where the school is.

I did that exact move when my daughter was 6 (she just turned 21). We moved for the schools but also because it's 3.5 miles from my husband's job (I work from my home, so I can live anywhere). I have to say I had extreme culture shock that lasted about 2 years, but my husband, also an Oakland native, loved the burbs from the start. In retrospect, I don't think I'd do it again, especially once I discovered that I could've sent my artistic daughter to OSA. I have adjusted now and find going back to Oakland to be overly crowded, but also miss the culture and diversity of Oakland. I really liked Highlands elementary in Concord, but some of the schools out here aren't really that great. I was not terribly impressed with Foothill middle school and I thought Northgate was only good for naturally high achiever types, the rest of the students, they let fall through the cracks. Since I don't know you, I can't tell you what to do, but I can say it's a completely different lifestyle.

Oakland public schools are “bad” largely because parents with means and education don’t send their kids to them. Test scores reflect the socioeconomic background of the families. However, you don’t need to be surrounded by wealthy, white family to get an education. I graduated for Oakland schools and my kids will too. There are plenty of “good” elementary schools, so if rankings are important to you, you will likely manage to get into one of those. Higher grades are tricky because there are fewer options and the stakes are higher, but your kids will be OK at an Oakland public school. They will be able to go to good colleges if they work hard, just like kids in the suburbs. The difference is in Oakland they will grow up around a lot of diversity. If you like Oakland, I don’t see why you shouldn’t consider sending your kids to school with the people who live here.

This piece provides food for thought:

Sequoia Elementary seems like a great school.  Not a high number rating, but parents and teachers who care and a warm welcoming curriculum.  Suggest you visit and see if it is for you.  I especially like that homework is reading from any book of the child's choice.  School has lots of art work and gardens.