OUSD School Choice & Open Enrollment

Questions & Responses:
Should I be concerned about Peralta over-enrollment?(4 responses)
OUSD waitlist response(3 responses)
Archived Responses: 

Questions about How School Assignment Works

Unhappy with School Assignment

OUSD Options - Requesting a Non-Neighborhood School

Questions about How School Assignment Works


Our zone has 2 different schools, Peralta & Sankofa

May 2014

Hi all: We are trying to figure out what oakland elementary school we are in and I am confused by the boundary map on the OUSD website. http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/HardCopy/esboundaries.pdf

According to this map, we are in the Sankofa/Peralta area. But how do we know if we are in Sankofa or Peralta?? Is it lottery based? I could not find this information on the OUSD website for the life of me. I also tried calling the office, but no one has called me back yet. Can parents in the know please clue us in? -thanks so much! confused

As I understand it, Peralta and Sankofa share a catchment area and so you get to choose between the two schools. Good luck navigating OUSD--there are some truly exceptional schools and several disasters. OUSD mom

I think you'll get other answers, but in case you don't --

Peralta and Sankofa share the same school zone. If you live in the zone, you have missed the original registration period. You need to go down in person to OUSD and say you've moved into the zone (that's what it sounded like from your post) and need to register for Peralta. Peralta is heavily subscribed, but there's a mechanism to deal with kids who move into the zone after registration. I've been told by low-income and minority parents that the district tried to steer them to Sankofa. Go to both schools and check them out.

Have you read the the recent articles around the anniversary of the Brown v Board of Ed decision on the re-segregation of schools? Peralta and Sankofa are the epitome of that. Only 30% (old number) of the Sankofa students are from the zone, but if those students went to Peralta, it would completely change the racial and economic demographics of the school. I'm not bashing Sankofa -- my impression is they're doing a good, but difficult, job. Their students are overwhelmingly free/reduced lunch (they don't even have to do the paperwork, so it's assumed at least 80% but probably more). I do whatever I can to support the school.

Peralta recently lost Title 1 designation, because there are so few low-income kids. Having parents with resources translates into resources for the school, both through fundraising, volunteers, and direct donations. Given the level of funding in CA, that's what it takes to build a very sweet school with extracurriculars, all kinds of support, playground supervision, great aftercare, and an administration that really supports its teachers.

I've had two kids at Peralta and I believe that there is nowhere else we would have had such a good elementary experience. I do, however, find it shocking that these two schools exist in the same zone and the school board and district enabled it. It is the epitome of the segregation of public education in the US. Anne

Just to be very clear, the Sankofa and Peralta zones overlap only for a small area--not for the entire zones. I presume you live in this area, and that's why you're seeing a map for two schools show up when you enter your address into the OUSD School-Finder. This overlap is a legacy of Washington Elementary's closure and subsequent reopening as Sankofa. As one responder said, if you live in this area (a little square between Racine and Dover), you have priority at either school. However, most people are zoned to either Sankofa or to Peralta--not to both. The schools do not have the same zone. (OUSD School-Finder can tell you which school(s) you are zoned to if you enter your address.)


Foster parenting, finding a school mid-year

July 2013


My husband and I are in the foster-adopt process and concerned about how we find a school mid-year if we are fortunate enough to match with a child. Presently, we are limiting our search to children before school age, but we are considering adopting a slightly older child.

Our neighborhood school in Oakland was closed in the last round of school cuts. It was probably not a school we would have chosen for our child. The lottery and choice system has been daunting for people we know with children and for us we add in the factor of not really knowing when we will need to get a child in school. Frankly, we would prefer some schools to others, but are pretty sure we would have real trouble getting into one of them.

We are now considering moving to a school district where the system is a little easier to negotiate and where we feel we would have a better chance at being in a neighborhood school that has what we are looking for (arts engagement, relatively stable teaching force, active parent community, etc.).

I'm wondering if others have faced such a challenge or if anyone has advice based on navigating the various school systems mid year. Hopeful Concerned Dads

Hi There, I'm not a parent who's adopted a child but I'm a parent within OUSD. I'd call the school district's student assignment office & ask where students from your neighborhood are now being funneled since the school there has closed. It may be that a better school is an option from where you are now.

If it doesn't look good, then I strongly recommend that you consider moving to a better neighborhood for your new child's schooling. Our neighborhood school isn't good & we had a hard time getting into a better school. The district is currently trying to improve that process but realistically there are too many students and not enough good schools.

I would also consider that your new child may need services if he/she has been in foster care...totally not knowing this process so I can only guess that there may be emotional / behavioral needs and if that be the case then that should factor into your choice. Does the potential new neighborhood's school have services at the site? (They're all supposed to by law but many do not.) Or will the school accommodate such needs even if they don't have special programs there? Again, each student is supposed to have his/her needs met at their own neighborhood school, but it's not always the case w/ Oakland. I've never heard of a child not being able to enroll in a school mid-year, but I would verify that w/ the student assignment office as well as any potential new schools.

School sites are open in the summer for administrative purposes & usually there is at least a couple of staff members there to answer the phone or the door, in the morning hours. Group tours usually happen in the fall/winter for elementary schools. anon

I adopted my two boys (6 and 10) through the Alameda fost/adopt program. Since both of my sons were placed with me prior to elementary school, I didn't have your problem (but finding child care was difficult not knowing the age prior to placement). However, I used the OUSD lottery and appeal process to get the public school I wanted. It is tricky and a bit unnerving, but I encourage you to ask for the school you want and keep appealing. Every year at our school there are kids who transfer in mid-year. It is possible. I will make an assumption based on your signature ''Hopeful Concerned Dads'' that you are a two dad family. Our school, Kaiser Elementary, is a very welcoming school across all levels of diversity and inclusion; one parent, two same-sex parents, adoptive families, mixed race families, grandparents raising kids, family income levels, etc. Families come to Kaiser from all across Oakland. We are a small community minded school with great parent involvement. I encourage you to tour the school and speak to the principal, who is great! If you want, you can contact me off line to discuss more. Valerie

Really, you're going to have to play it by ear a little bit. The specifics of the situation will end up determining things -- for example, maybe they're already in a local school and if there's no security issue (eg. parents deported as happens way too often these days), you may want to keep them in their existing school, at least for the remainder of the school year.

If they're pre-school age, you can see about getting them in at Headstart -- you may have to check around (I don't have the impression that there's a lot of coordination between programs) to see about vacancies or waiting lists (foster kids are usually at the head of the line, due to a points system that they score well on). Assuming the federal sequestration isn't still decimating them when you need them.

If they're school age and you have to move them, you're likely to have to engage with OUSD. I have found that working the system (telling them a compelling story and additional facts like that you're going to move to this neighborhood, meeting the principal, talking to multiple people on different days, etc) can help. Here's the thing -- in the middle of the school year, you may find an unexpected opening at a school you like. There are some good schools out there, or in neighborhoods that you're thinking of moving to.

I never got much help from our social workers, so keep looking for resources on your own. Good luck!!


Odds in the Oakland Options Process

Jan 2013

Does anyone have any success stories about the Oakland Options process? All I hear are stressful doomsday ''good luck getting in THERE'' when I tell people our top school is Crocker Highlands. We do live in a Program Improvement neighborhood, but I know it's a long shot. Any thoughts or advice in the process? I know the basics....appeal and be persistent. But I'm looking for some real life stories. Thank you! Stressed about Kindergarten Process

Yes your odds are good! I know lots of people who are in program improvementschool zones and opted into better school. I even know people from non-PI zones who got their top choice. (Someone in thornhill zone who got into Montclair!). The key I hear is to go thru the first round and then if you don't get your choice do an appeal. Write a persuasive letter to placement office that explains why your choice school would be better for your child. And if you are willing to wait often spots open up the first week of school. be persistent. . Good luck! Anon

Yes and no. Yes, we absolutely know people who've gotten into high-performing OUSD schools, even from non-PI neighborhoods--but most of them got in either during the appeals process or late in the summer. Most of those schools are at or over capacity, so neighborhood kids and siblings are on the list before you are, even with PI status. However, I know several people (PI and non-PI) who've optioned into the schools just below the radar through the standard options process--so I would certainly consider those, too. The issue with Crocker specifically is that it is currently very oversubscribed as a result of a boundary change last year. They are in the process of correcting this, but the new boundaries aren't approved yet. Even with the new boundaries, the catchment area is growing over the pre-2011 area, so there won't be much room this year or in the coming years for non-neighborhood, non-sibling students. When you visit schools, you can ask for information about how many K students in this year's class are neighborhood or sibling; that can help you figure out which schools you are most likely to get into through options or appeals. If you're willing to wait through the summer (or even into the first weeks of the school year) you can sometimes get a spot if there are no-shows, too. Good luck! Another Oakland mama

Are we guaranteed one of our 6 choices?

Sept 2012

Our son will be entering Kindergarten Fall of 2013. I've read through the information on the OUSD website and have one remaining question. We are supposed to choose six schools. Are we guaranteed placement in one of those six schools? If not, then what happens? I welcome any insight into the Options process, even that not addressing my specific question. Also, our neighborhood school is an API improvement school and also wouldn't be one of my top six choices. Lisa

Unfortunately, no, you aren't guaranteed that you will be assigned to any of your top six choices. However, since your neighborhood school is program improvement, you have a much better chance than others. If you aren't assigned a school that you want, you can go through the appeals process. Also, OUSD usually holds a session to explain the options process, so keep checking back on the website to find out the date. We went through the options process this past year, and my child got into our first choice school. There is hope!


How does the lottery work for middle school & high school?

Sept 2012

Hi BPN, I'm afraid I might sound very unaware, but I can't seem to find any info on how the OUSD lottery works past elementary school. Once you're in an elementary school, are you prioritized for its ''feeder'' middle and high school? Or, do you have to do the lottery all over again? How hard is it to move into non-neighborhood middle and high schools? Confused about the lottery

No, if your elementary school is not your neighborhood school, you do not automatically get routed to your school's middle school (I'm sure that sounds a bit confusing). Middle and high schools are also assigned by neighborhood, but the truth is, they are not oversubscribed like some of the OUSD elementaries are, so your chances of going to a non-neighborhood middle or high school is good. I have NEVER heard of a child not getting their first choice middle or high school in OUSD (though that doesn't mean it can't happen). OUSD mom


Confused about how the Oakland school lottery works

April 2012

Hello: Am a new member of Berkeley Parents in anticipation of a move to the East Bay in July. I am sorry if this question seems obvious, but just can't seem to figure out an answer. Is the school district in Oakland lottery within a zone, or pure lottery? My oldest son will enter K in the fall, and we won't have an Oakland address until July. If we move to a neighborhood with good schools, are we guaranteed a spot in a school IN THE ZONE, but not necessarily the one closest to us? (Eg, if we moved to Rockridge, we could end up in Chabot or Hillcrest, but not necessarily the one closest to us?) Or is it that we'd be potentially given a spot anywhere in the district? (Eg, we move to Rockridge and end up in a school 30 minutes away). Again, apologies if this has been discussed before - I've scoured the boards and just haven't found the answer. Appreciate any help! Thanks, Amanda

Just to confuse you further--it's neither! Schools in Oakland are neighborhood-based, which means that for most schools, if you live in the zone, you go to the school. (One school per zone, generally.) The maps for each school are on the OUSD website. There are a few exceptions (like Hillcrest) where schools are oversubscribed, so then you may get redirected to a designated second school if there's no room. You only go into the lottery if you do not want to attend your neighborhood school. BUT a big exception to this is if you enter the enrollment process late, as it sounds like you will. School assignments for next fall are already made, so children entering late are assigned whatever spots are left. However, you will get preference on the waiting list for your neighborhood school if a spot opens up (which is sometimes not until after school starts--there are usually no-shows). The sooner you get your address and get your son on the list, the better. Good luck, and welcome to Oakland! Another Oakland parent

Call OUSD and ask them. People with children move all times of the year and face the same situation. Ellen

There are no ''zones'' in Oakland. You're either in your neighborhood school, or you're not. There are a lot of great elementary schools in Oakland, so even if you don't get a coveted spot at your neighborhood school, you might end up at some other excellent school. BUT, it's a little bit risky, the way you're doing it. Kids already have their school assignments for fall and even though there are many good schools, they are probably all filled up. I'm sure there are others on this list who can give you a list of good elementary schools that are likely to have a kindy spot available, but there are many schools where that is highly unlikely (Chabot, Peralta, Crocker, Thornhill, etc.). It would take some luck to get a spot at one of these schools in July, though it's not impossible. It might be worth calling individual schools to get a sense of the likelihood of getting in. I hope I haven't confused you more...but navigating OUSD can be tricky. Weary OUSD mom

Moving within Oakland after kindergarten

Jan 2012

Is it okay to move to a different neighborhood a few years after you've enrolled in an Oakland elementary school? My son will be attending kindergarten in 2013. We currently rent so we're planning on moving this summer to a rental in one of the better school districts.

However, we are hoping to buy a house in three to four years' time. If the house we purchase is not in the same school district, would we have to transfer our son out of third grade? For example, if we rent in Rockridge but later buy in Temescal, would he have to transfer from Crocker to Emerson? Or is it a case of once-you're-in, you're-in through fifth grade?

Also, I know siblings get first priority, but is that whether or not you're in the district? If we moved before my younger son entered kindergarten, would he still get priority for the school his older brother attends? Thanks so much! Adams Point Mama

Yes, OUSD policy allows children to stay at the same school even if the family moves. You also keep your sibling preference even if you're no longer in the school zone. So your plan sounds like a good one! Another Oakland parent

Once you're in a school you can stay there as long as you live anywhere in OUSD. For example, our friend rented in the Thornhill catchment to get into Thornhill kindergarten, then moved to a cheaper part of Oakland but her child stayed at Thornhill. anon

You should confirm this with the enrollment office in OUSD but my understanding is that you can stay at your school. I work in OUSD and as far as I know they only do address verification once. But call the school you hope to go to too to be sure.

Hi - So, not to worry. If I am understanding your question correctly, once you are in a school in OUSD, you don't have to transfer simply because you have moved. You CAN transfer - which is another story. Once you are enrolled in an OUSD school, you are in until 5th grade. Check with SAO if you are worried, but being a past OUSD employee and current educational consultant - that is my understanding. Best of luck,

Regarding Oakland schools, once you're in, you're in. You are free to move around Oakland but stay in whichever school you're enrolled in. Siblings, even non-neighborhood siblings, have priority over neighborhood kids. OUSD mom


How to get into Thornhill or Montclair Elementary?

June 2010

Our son will start kindergarten in Fall 2011. We're renters and can relocate anywhere. We're very interested in having him attend either of the Montclair elementary schools - Thornhill or Montclair. I assume we need to live in one of those school districts to have him attend? Are there any exceptions to that? Is renting okay? Do you have to live there for any specific length of time beforehand? Should I meet with someone at the schools first? What other practical advice could help us? Thank you so much! sarah

It's great that you are portable!

With ANY Oakland public school, you must have an address and related identification (car registration, driver's license, electric bill, etc) to prove your residence before the application date. Renting is fine. The date for a 2011 start is likely in mid December 2010.

I suggest you visit the schools you are interested in and talk with parents and teachers. This school year ends in 12 days-so act fast if you want to see action this year (or visit schools then move in the fall).

Please note- occasionally a school will have more neighborhood kids applying then they have space. I know that Hillcrest, for one, has this problem. So make sure wherever you move, your kid has a guarantee of getting in! You can get a sense of capacity by talking with principals, parents, and the person who runs placement for the district.

We toured schools and moved to the Montclair boundaries just before application. We also considered Thornhill, JM, and Piedmont. We're very happy at Montclair. Kim

Moving within Oakland - required to switch schools?

March 2010

Our daughter is currently enrolled in the 2nd grade at Thornhill Elementary and we are very happy with her teachers and progress so far. We have the opportunity to buy a great house that, while still in Oakland and not very far away, is in a different elementary school district. Must we change our daughter's elementary school? I would hate to move her away from her friends and comfortable school envirnoment but also don't want to pass up this opportunity to own a home. Would love to hear from people who may have been in a similar situation. Conundrum

If you are still in OUSD, you can stay at Thornhill. Double check with Kathy in the office, who knows everything. But I know people who've started out in the Thornhill ''catchment'', who moved out of it, but still attend, because they don't make you switch. People move apartments all the time, can't be switching all the time. anon

No, you don't have to change schools. Once you're in, you're in, the school district doesn't require you to change schools because you moved, you just have the *option* to do so, if you want to. Anon

Hi There, You do not have to move your child to another elementary school. As long as you're still living in Oakland, once she's in, she's in. Last Spring, I registered my daughter in K at our then-neighborhood school, we moved during the summer to another school neighborhood, she began the year at the school where she registered. I updated the school w/our new address to ensure we'd receive mailings, records would be accurate, etc. no need to move though. Your next school move will be middle school- which will be based on your current Oakland neighborhood, not her current school. Moved homes not schools in Oakland

March 2006

Our son is starting Kindergarden in the fall. Our lease will be up after he starts, and we'd like to consider buying a house. What happens if we move, within Oakland? Must our child switch schools? At the beginning of the next school year, would we face the interdistrict transfer lottery? Once a child is in a school, can he stay there until he graduates (so long as he lives in Oakland)? We haven't called the OUSD office because we have been told more than once not to trust information from the OUSD office. We like our current district school and wouldn't want him to be forced to move. What are the rules? We're not trying to game the system, but may likely buy in a less-desirable area. anon

We moved within Oakland when my daughter was in 1st grade and had no problem keeping her in the school where she'd gone for kindergarten. I think we discussed it with the principal before we enrolled her in the school to begin with, since we were renting at the time and didn't know how long we'd be staying, and I think that the principal told us that it wouldn't be a problem keeping her there if we moved as long as we stayed in Oakland. If I were you I would check with the principal of the school where your child is going to kindergarten.

I don't think you'll need to change schools. But, with the new ''Options'' plan (only for kids entering K & 5th) I might be wrong. You won't get incorrect information if you call OUSD and talk to Noah Bookman. (Or, sometimes it's even better to email him - his address is on the OUSD website.) Alison al forums. anonymous

Go to this website to find out your school. It is put out by the OUSD. http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/ To find out what to do and what the process is, go to the OUSD site and click on PARENTS tab. There will be some tabs at the top, right under where it says PARENTS in blue. One says enrollment/assignment info and click on it. If gives you all your info. You will never get an info by calling them. No one there ever knows anything. The website is pretty good though. Karen

The Oakland school district has a map tool at http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/welcome.htm that should help -- you can check any address in the City of Oakland to see its Elementary, Middle, or High School boundary, among other things. If you are in the boundary for the school you're applying to, you do not have to go through the lottery system UNLESS there are more kindergarten kids within the boundaries than there are slots for. This hasn't happened at Montclair or Thornhill yet, but it has happened at other Oakland elementary schools. Montclair Mom

Getting into Oakland High Schools

August 2008

We're going to be buying in Oakland, and want to understand the impact of various neighborhoods for education options down the road. Many things (including OUSD rules) could, of course, change in the next decade, but we'd like to understand where things are at right now. We will buy in the flats and will decide based on many factors - not just the schools. We are currently in Oakland Tech's area, which seems fine. How about Oakland High School? It appears that the high schools tend to have small-school academies -- how hard is it to get in, if you meet the academics, on a transfer? thanks for any insight. anon

I work at Envision Academy, a college prep charter high school in Downtown Oakland. I wanted to make a pitch for the many charters schools throughout Oakland that are providing students with a quality education. As you may know, charter schools are public schools, except that they handle their own finances and create their own curriculum. They are not exempt from state mandated test like the CAHSEE, etc. Lastly, the process of enrolling in these schools is not dependent on where you live. Schools like Envision Academy have great leadership and are doing great things. You can find out information on EA and other charters that doing good work at the California Charter School Association. anon

OUSD Enrollment Policy Changes/Megaboundary

June 2008

Dear Parents- I hope you can help. I want to get feedback on the proposed changes to OUSD enrollment policy for elementary schools. We're moving from Oakland to Boston this summer and hope to buy a house by fall. We used to live in Oakland & my husband worked for OUSD so we know its pitfalls. My question is whether or not the proposed changes (sibs first, megaboundaries for enrollment because of overcrowding) will actually effect the neighborhoods/schools. Will people move out if boundaries are expanded? Will home values dip? Will the schools change that much as a result? I know it's an emotional & political issue, but we're devestated to have settled on area that was challenging to begin w/in terms of enrollment (REdwood Heights) only to learn the policy might change drastically w/the new boundaries. Would it be a mistake to buy in such a neighborhood if the policy changed? Any answers welcome. E

There is a good discussion of these changes here: http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2008/05/30/oakland-might-move-away-from-school-choice-model/

The Education Report is a blog where reporter Katy Murphy discusses Oakland schools in great detail. There are many active participants on the blog and it's a decent source of information and opinion on the current issues. crocker parent

OUSD districting and cut-off date changes?

June 2008

I understand that OUSD in the process of making changes to the cut-off date for kindergarteners from December 1 to September 1. I have also heard that they will be adding a lottery system whereby people in neighborhood schools are not guaranteed their neighborhood school and it is a lottery system instead much like San Francisco Unified. A couple questions, one being when are these changes going to take place, and also, do I have the facts right? Could someone clarify? We are thinking of moving to a new Oakland neighborhood for the schools and I would hate to move and then find out that we can't even go to our neighborhood school. anon

Most of the schools with high API scores (over 900) in OUSD are full or are over capacity. I recently called OUSD about the waitlist policy and the waitlist supposedly ends 2 weeks after school begins this year. School in Oakland is slated to begin on August 25th. Call OUSD directly to verify policies and dates as they may change, 879-8200. You can also go directly to each school's website to find out further information about any re- districting that may affect you.

I heard the same rumor about OUSD cut off dates changing. I asked OUSD and they referred me around until I got this reply on May 1st. Hope this helps. ---

In the last few years or more, there has been a measure in the legislature to change the kindergarten age 5 date requirement (usually a phase in) from Dec. 1 to Sept. 1. However, there has generally been a conflict with folks that like it the way it is, the fact that compulsory education begins at age 6-18, and what to do about the kids that are not placed because of change-which generally means some sort of preschool placement which is always a cost issue. To answer your question directly, there is a bill- AB 683 authored by Sharon Runner that failed to get out of the Assembly Education Committee. See link below. Since this bill failed passage, there is no real threat of anything changing anytime soon.


Lupita Cortez Alcala Director, Legislative Affairs Office of Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction California Department of Education

future OUSD mom

We live in Montclair - which school?

May 2008

We live in the Montclair District of Oakland and have a son who will attend elementary school in 2010. I need to figure out which elementary school our son is eligible to attend in Montclair (I assume it's based on our street address) and whether or not there is a lottery system or if we are guaranteed a spot by virtue of being Montclair residents. I would appreciate some guidance and advice. I tried to research the OUSD website but it wasn't very helpful. Chris

It is based on street address. Call the schools nearest to you, or call a real estate office. OUSD is in the process of changing the ways kids are assigned. Even now, you aren't guaranteed a spot in your neighborhood school, some have too many entering K students. Once you find out what school you are in, get in touch with the school parent association to find out more and how to get involved. OUSD has been holding information

OUSD: do neighborhood siblings have priority?

Nov 2007

A couple years ago I was told by an official at OUSD that neighborhood children who had a sibling currently enrolled at school would be admitted first, so we thought we'd be fine when it came time to enroll our second child. Now I've been hearing rumors that ''neighborhood siblings'' will be in the same pool as all other applicants from the neighborhood and may not be assigned to the same school at their older sibling. Has anyone else heard this or had this happen? Are you aware of any other school districts that don't prioritize siblings who live within the school boundaries?
Just want my kids to attend the same school!

No! I went to an OUSD meeting two weeks ago with the head of the schools and issues realted to the options program. (I can't remember his name.) He was very clear that neighborhood siblings do NOT get priority over regular neighborhood kids. The computer program that runs all kids who apply to each school picks neighborhood kids first, then, if spaces are available, chooses siblings, then moves to other groups of kids. You older one's little brother or sister has the same chance of getting into that school as any other neighborhood kid does. This OUSD man expressed his frustration that the same family could be sending different kids to different schools, but that is just the way it is. I have a child entering kindergarten in Redwood Heights in 2008. The numbers show that Redwood Heights will not be a problem this year. Next year, however, is going to be a problem. I have another little one who will be in school in 2010. I plan on pressuring OUSD to change their policy on siblings for 2010. I would imagine, if they change it at all, it might take that long!--but one never knows. Good luck! anon

Current OUSD Open Enrollment Policy?

February 2007

We are hoping to send our son to public elementary school next year. Does anyone have any current information on how open enrollment works? Is it hard to get into your school of choice? How soon do you have to apply? We are debating whether to move to another area with a better elementary school or to stay put and hope he gets into one of the schools we prefer. We were thinking of listing about 6-8 schools. Is there a good chance we will get one of them? Our local elementary is in the low 600s for API performance, and we are not very comfortable sending him there, but we want to send him to public school. Thanks.

As far as I know open enrollment applications had to be in at the end of January, with assignments being mailed in mid-march. If you do not want to attend your neighborhood school the best thing to do is call the placement specialist at OUSD. If you are okay with your local school go talk to the administator as they always hold spaces for late registration/late moves to the neighborhood. Just an aside - don't judge your school by the numbers. Go for a tour, meet the parents, etc... we have two children in the public schools in Oakland and have been very impressed and happy. Maggie

Open Enrollment ended in January. I'd contact the district to see what the next step for you would be. -Good luck.

Considering a move from SF - is Oakland school assignment more certain?

Jan 2007

We are thinking about moving from SF to Oakland in the next few years for the schools but are not sure about how the neighborhood school system works. If we move into a home that would be in the district for, e.g. Crocker Highlands, before the application deadline, are we guaranteed a spot as neighborhood residents? It wasn't clear from the OUSD website whether living in the neighborhood is more than just a priority ranking. Also, is it difficult for families in the ''more desirable'' school neighborhoods, like those funneling to Crocker, Joaquin Miller, Chabot, etc., to get their kids into their local school? Do neighbors living in the area by the application deadline ever (or routinely) lose places to applicants from other areas? One of the reasons we're thinking of moving from SF is to get away from the uncertainty of the SFUSD's assignment system and we'd hate to move into Oakland only to face the same. Thanks for any insight -- and any recommendations on elementary schools!
East Bay bound?

Yes, I know, that same OUSD ''explanation'' made me nervous too. But it seems that, at least for now, your kid gets priority in your neighborhood school, if you get your application in by the proper deadline. Of course, the hill schools tend to be full, so this doesn't guarantee you a spot. Please think at least somewhat carefully before you choose Oakland for the schools. Be sure the system there is one in which your child will do well. All of the schools are required to use the Open Court reading curriculum pretty religiously. Even in my school (one of the ''better'' ones), this results in what I consider an inordinate number of worksheets, homework, and assessments. My son, who is plenty smart but has writing difficulties, hates kindergarten halfway through (although he loved preschool, and loves his current teacher) -- he hates the work and it is too hard and too boring, at the same time! A kid who's better at both sitting still, and writing, would probably do a bit better. Karen

Information from my experience 2006-2007: You are not automatically enrolled in your neighborhood school: You need to choose it as one (your first one, I would guess, for the popular schools) of your choices in the school option period, although you have priority. If you don't already live in the district, I think they keep some spaces open for move-ins. YOu should call Noah Bookman in the OUSD assignment office, and he can give you all the details. It is a bit of a pain but not an impossible system. OUSD mom

Only a few Oakland schools get full with neighborhood kids. As of three years ago, these were only Hillcrest & Manzanita (elementary schools) and none of the middle or high schools. In all other schools, if you registered before the late-January deadline you are pretty much guaranteed a spot, although it does not say ''guaranteed'' on any paper since any school is limited to its capacity (but some schools do use the word ''guaranteed'' in the public forum). If you are in the right neighborhood and do paperwork on time, you have nothing to worry about.

In good schools there are good teachers. They teach great under Open Court or any other system, with lots of support from parents, and lots of school support (including individualized) for high-performing children, of which in good schools there are very many. maria

I have two quick comments on your question. First, someone else suggested you call Noah Bookman at OUSD. Unfortunately, he is no longer with OUSD. The current head of the school assignments office is Elizabeth Hensley.

Second -- if you're going to move to Oakland for the schools, you might want to read some BPN reviews on the middle and high schools here. Your child will not be in elementary school forever. Obviously, opinions on the grade 6-12 options here vary, but unless you're SURE you want to move again in 6 years, I think you ought to at least think about the schools beyond elementary. You may or may not find them acceptable, but I think it's worth at least thinking about. Good luck! Diane

Regarding elementary schools in Oakland, I wanted to mention that IF your address assigns you to a NON-program-improvement (PI) school, it is very difficult to transfer to an ''already excellent'' elementary school that is not in your Oakland neighborhood. If, on the other hand, you are assigned to a PI school -- and there are more than 20 elementary schools in Oakland that this applies to -- it is very possible to transfer to an ''already excellent'' school. Without getting into the merits of this direct effect of the No Child Left Behind legislation, as applied in the OUSD, it does mean that non-PI kids have very few schools available to them, outside their neighborhood school. (Of course, it also means that the PI schools lose a lot of neighborhood kids.)

One thing to do if you find yourself in this situation is to go through the recent OUSD ''Options'' process -- results of this will be out in March -- and if you receive none of the choices that you requested, appeal and get your child on a waiting list at one of your school choices. Then, you have to wait it out, sometimes until August, or even the first week of school. People do this and it is risky but possible. (Note that for PI kids who don't get their choice of school, appealing the Options outcome is an excellent strategy -- the PI kids are put on a waitlist that is entirely separate from the non-PI kids' waitlist. In other words, the PI waitlist must be exhausted before any non-PI kids are taken.)

The other thing to do is to think about what would make you comfortable sending your child to your neighborhood school, even if it's not a ''10'', or even a ''7''. What if there were an active PTA, and several other neighborhood families that were open to sending their kids to the school? Or what if you don't feel comfortable with your immediate neighborhood school, but you've heard that there are some good things happening at another school close by -- would you consider sending your child there for kindergarten, knowing that you could try for a transfer again at 1st or 2nd grade if things didn't work out? If in March, PI or non-PI, you find yourself with a difficult decision to make, please consider Piedmont Avenue Elementary School. There is a new-ish, very active PTA doing some good fundraising; there are neighborhood families sending their kids to the school as well as lots of Oakland families who've transferred into the school because of some of the good things going on there; and the school's physical facility is excellent, unlike some OUSD schools -- no portables, well heated and maintained building, safe neighborhood, and lots of garden and playground improvement in the works. If you'd like to hear more about the school, or would like to follow its progress, please sign up for our Yahoo group -- send an e-mail to walktoschoolPANSA-subscribe [at] yahoogroups.com. Thanks for your interest, Philippa

Do I have any legal right to enroll in the school that is in my neighborhood?

April 2005

I recently decided to enroll my daughter in public kindergarten instead of continuing with her private school. When I called the school to inquire about registering, I was told that the school is full and that I should call Oakland Unified to get assigned to a school with space available. This is our neighborhood school, btw, not one we were hoping to transfer into. Has anyone else had this happen? What stategies did you use to get your child enrolled? Do I have any legal right to enroll in the school that is in my neighborhood? Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Just because you live in your OUSD public school neighborhood, you are still required to go through the standard registration process in order to enroll your kindergartner in your local school. This is true for everyone in the neighborhood, even those with siblings already attending the school. Good public schools in Oakland are in high demand, so the spaces that are not filled by neighborhood kids are quickly filled with transfer students. Meeting the registration deadline is the only way to guarantee your place in your neighborhood school, which must meet enrollment levels in order to receive full funding and continue the level of educational excellence. Residing in the district won't guarantee your place if you haven't gone through the process. People who move into the neighborhood during the school year face these issues all the time.

The first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with the principal to learn about the waiting list process. OUSD schools don't have an actual enrollment count until around the third week of the school year, so there usually are unanticipated openings. Sometimes people move away during the summer and don't notify the school; sometimes parents get accepted to private schools... there are a myriad of reasons that create last-minute openings.

Rather than pursuing any type of legal action, which may or may not get you the desired result (and likely leave a foul taste), you would be better off to work with the principal and show your willingness to be involved with the school and an active and positive member of the school community. Principals have more pull than one might think. I know of at least one case in our high-demand local school where the principal went out of the way to enroll a transfer kindergarten student simply because his parents were so enthusiastic about being part of the community and it was clear that their unabashed involvement (which was not, I might add, financial) would make a great addition to the school. As it turned out, there was an opening to accomodate him anyway, but the principal added him without knowing that because of the perserverance and enthusiasm of the parents. Also, be willing to have some flexibility to enroll in another Oakland public school in hopes that something will come up at your neighborhood school. Chances are better than one would think that even at the highest-demand public schools, there will be an opening at some point (even a few days before the school year). Yes, it can be frustrating and stressful for you and your child. However, I would be willing to bet good money that if you stay on top of things, are patient and work in partnership with the principal and can be flexible right up till the end, that you will be able to enroll your child at your neighborhood public school. Patience, pathos and perserverance will pay off. Knows whereof I speak

We have been looking into this issue of legal rights to enroll in your neighborhood school and as it turns out you do not have any legal rights to your neighborhood school. We have this issue in Pacifca, which is an all open enrollment system. Also look to the SF School district for other examples. The school districts are required to treat everyone equally and to of course provide a spot at A school, but not necisarily the school you want. If your child has some disability and it just so happens your neighborhood school is the only school in the district that can accomadate your child then you would have a legal basis to demand enrollment in that school. But other than that there is no legal basis to demand access to your local school. Joe G

I put my kids through my neighborhood elementary school, which is one of the more popular ones in Oakland. To my knowledge, neighborhood children are given priority to register through a certain date, which I believe is sometime in March. At that point the school opens the unreserved spaces to the out-of- neighborhood children on the wait list. If you decide, after the deadline, to put your child in the school, they put you on the wait list. You might go to the top, but they won't displace anyone already given a space, which certainly seems fair to me.

I know this is after the fact in your case, but,a word of caution to others: If you think there's even a slim chance you'll use your neighborhood school, register your child early. You can always call the school and tell them you won't be attending. The logistics of assembling classes is mind boggling. The schools have no choice but to set limits for the good of all children. OUSD parent

My neighborhood school is full - don't I have priority over transfer students?

Feb 2005

Our child attends a private Kindergarten. We recently moved into the district of a desirable elementary school. When I went to register my child for Fall, 2005 in first grade, I was told that there would only be space if one of the current Kindergarteners didn't attend first grade at the school. I've learned that as many as one-quarter of these Kindergarteners are inter- or intra-district transfers. As we live in the neighborhood, doesn't our child have the right to attend the school, even if it means displacing a current transfer student? Trying to get an official statement out of the superintendent's office is challenging. Is there a written policy? Any advice would be welcome! Thanks, confused

The OUSD is confusing and impenetrable. As a result of this, each school has it's own creative procedures. I recommend going to the principal or secretary of your local school and letting them know you are very interested in the school. (Don't be put off by busy or monosyllabic desk people, get all your questions asked.) They'll tell you that the window period for open enrollment is already over, which is true. BUT, each school saves a number of slots for last minute neighborhood enrollers. They have to let you in! I think you're entitled to sign up right at the school. Don't be intimidated by the desirable school thing, many families leave after kindergarten, desirable or not. You may have to also go downtown and enroll with the people there. The secretary at your school can tell you where that actual downtown person can be found, it seems to change every year. Volunteer at your school before you are enrolled, ask if there are any garden or pta tasks you can help with, attend a pta meeting, make yourself known & get a feel for the school at the same time. Good luck! You're welcome to contact me if you wish. Happy OUSD parent, Jenny

Unhappy with School Assignment

Assigned to neighborhood school - any way out?

March 2013

I just got my childs elementary school assignment & she was assigned to Carl Munck. Although it is the closest to me, I applied for the options program because I had not heard 1 good thing about Carl Munck. Can anyone shed some light on the school? Is there any other way around this assignment? Panicked mother

Try Community School for Creative Education. It is a sweet public charter in Oakland that is still accepting applications for Kindergarten. maya

Appeal! Go down to the district office and request to be put on the waiting list for the school you want. They may try to discourage you; that the wait list is long, but get on it anyway. I got the school of my choice this way. If you are willing to wait through the summer, and maybe even to the first week of school, the chances are high that you will get the school you want. In my son's K class this year there were a few kids who arrived after the first day of school since several kids who were assigned didn't show up and didn't tell the school. The school has to hold those spots for a certain number of days, and after that they open up to the waiting list. Stick to your guns! anon

Hi, I know several families at Munck who are perfectly happy there. The staff is very caring, there are some great teachers and the diversity is a huge bonus. Before you write it off, why not pay a visit and consider it against the criteria that are important to you. Kim

Advice for OUSD appeals-didn't get into any of 6 choices

March 2011

I read the postings about OUSD School Choice and Open Enrollment and I need advice for anyone who has recently gone through the options process and appeals. We did not get into any of our 6 choices, we are hoping to get in to the NOCCS, however we know it is not easy - the percentage for getting in is not great. My son is going to be 5 in October of this year and his pre-school said he is ready for kindergarden, however our neighborhood school is Santa Fe Elementary and this was our assignment. It is program improvement school and I'm afraid he will not do well in Santa Fe. Does anyone else have experience with Santa Fe or advice for what you would do. I hate to hold him back - we do not have money for private schools and I don't know if we can still get into another pre-school now that it is getting late. We had such a hard time just finding good daycares, that I'm not sure I will have time to find a good pre-school now. I don't know much about homeschooling, and my husband I both work full time, so I don't know if we would even have time to be home with him. any advice? Frustrated mom

So sorry to hear your son didn't get placed in a school of your choice. I think you have a few things to consider...since your son has a late bday, you can consider waiting one more year. I would try and use every option available. Meaning, go ahead and appeal to OUSD, find an alterate preschool or day care in case you need to wait a year, and also get an inter-district transfer to Anna Yates. We also live in the Sante Fe zone. If we had not gotten one of our choices for OUSD, our back up plan was to send our child to Anna Yates for a year and then try again. Anna Yates is certainly better than Sante Fe, and much smaller class sizes too. Also, don't get too discouraged just yet. With OUSD options, things shift around a lot, especially toward the end of the summer. I saw another parent on hear who was also zone for Sante Fe. She put her child in Anna Yates while appealing to Peralta. She got a call for an open spot 2 weeks into the school year, but ultimately decided to stick with Anna Yates. Lastly, if you are zoned for Sante Fe, NOCCS is putting 2 lottery tickets in for your child, so that helps your chances as well. Best of Luck!!! very fortunate ousd parent.

Dedicate yourself to the appeal process. It does work. Email me if you'd like to hear more about our experience. viu

I'm surprised that you didn't get into any schools if you're zoned for a PI school. Did you apply for the hardest to get into hill schools? Here's what we found when we were desperate to get out of our zone school 5 years ago -- that there are some not-so-hyped schools that were easier to get into. Then there are the rising schools, which are on an upward trajectory.

At that time, Cleveland (near the lake) was fairly easy to get into (I believe this is no longer the case, but it still doesn't have the hype some other schools like Peralta and Chabot do). Our second kid is starting K in the fall and will go to our neighborhood school, Piedmont Ave. which we avoided 5 years ago. New principal and now it's a rising school. It will never have stratospheric test scores because of its demographics, but it's doing a fine job. I'm sure there are other schools that are similarly rising. Look around and be open minded. I also think it's possible that the Title 1 schools (more low-income kids) will not get hit as hard in next year's budget. It's going to bad for all the schools. (Of course, less ability to raise money from the parents so maybe its a wash.)

I suggest that you appeal first to get into a school you really want. But, start figuring out a rising school that you can easily get into. Also, lots of things shake out at the end of the summer (and even into the first weeks of school). Remember, every study says that a child's home situation is the predictor in school success, rather than the school. good luck!

You can appeal to 1 school. All appeals postmarked before a certain date will be put on a waiting list in random order. There are always kids taken from the waiting list, but how many depends on the school and the year. Since OUSD is cutting school budgets by up to 10%, a lot of schools will be losing 1 or more teachers. That means class sizes will be bigger as they have to accommodate all the students in the school into fewer classes. Also, because of the budget uncertainty, they probably won't know for sure how many teachers and how big they have to make the classes until June. There may be more uncertainty about how many K students to accept, at least until the summer. There are always a lot of last minute changes and kids getting into the school (from the waitlist) either at the last minute or after school starts. Thats what you will have to live with this summer.

I would advise you to pick a school you want to go to (but maybe isn't the most popular school you would send your kid to), get on that waitlist and wait it out. Also, if you can send him to a year of pre-k, keep that as a backup plan and if nothing comes through by the fall, wait another year and try again. That is what we did with our fall birthday boy in 2009. We were on the waitlist at Peralta for months and had given up hope of getting in, but in late October there was an opening and we took it! He started K on Nov 2, but it all worked out in the end. Openings that late are unusual, so you may only end up waiting until sometime in September.

We kept in touch with the principal and with the assignment office (Mike Bonino). In October we were offerred spots at Chabot or Kaiser, but we chose to wait for Peralta (we were prepared to wait another year). But it did show us that openings are often available once school starts and not being there at the beginning of the school year was a little disruptive, but totally worth it in the end. Remember also that class sizes are getting bigger in public schools because of the budget cuts and so waiting a year may not be so bad for a younger kid. There will probably be 27 kids in K, 28+ in 1st and 2nd grade. There just isn't enough teacher time to spend a lot of time on kids that need a little more help staying focused and following directions.


We were assigned our neighborhood school

March 2011

I Did not get my child into an Elementary school of our choice, we put down all schools not including our neighborhood school, and got our neighboorhood school. We are not happy and going to make an appeal. How does the wait list work and how many appeals can you make?

I called a few of our schools of choice and they had not sent our their letters to the children they are offering spots to yet. I had hoped to get an idea which school I should put down so that we would get into any of our 6 choices, however, the schools were no help, because they have to wait for the children to register before they know the projected attendance apparently. Does anyone have any advice? Thank you please help

See my response to the other question about OUSD school assignments. To answer your specific question, you do have to pick 1 school to appeal to and commit to that one. When we did it in 2009 we were assigned to Piedmont Ave Elem and we did register there to hold the spot but also appealed to get on the waitlist at Peralta. (Neighborhood school was Santa Fe). We later took our kid off the list at Piedmont because we decided we'd wait another year if Peralta didn't come through. In the fall, about 6 weeks after school started, we were offered spots at Kaiser and Chabot even though we weren't on the waitlists there. Still we waited and eventually got into Peralta. The important thing is to have a backup plan. For us it was another year of PreK. It could also be a less desirable public school (but one that you are willing to attend) or one of the many charter schools in Oakland. Most are not as hard to get into as NOCCS. Chris

I recently gave some advice to a parent who did not get into the school they chose. Perhaps it can help some other people.

Overall, I urge parents not to freak out about low-performing schools. There are often complex reasons behind test scores that have nothing to do with your child's experience.

- visit the school. Start by coming in after school and poking around the kindergarten classrooms with your kid - less intimidating than doing a class visit. Meet some teachers. Ask questions. Caring teachers who can talk to parents make the biggest difference in a school.

- talk to parents. Talk to neighborhood parents. Ask them what best and worst experiences have been.

Here are some things I've learned about public schools:

- API can be decieving. Parents want to go to schools with the highest numbers, but that's only one part of the picture. For me, having my son be around people from different countries (who of course don't score as well - until they know the language) was more important to me than being around brainiacs. Parents are the greatest determinant of a child's success, so early on, have confidence that your child will do well in any school.

- Don't be afraid of black kids, brown kids, or poor kids at your school. Schools with a high number of kids on the lunch programs get funding for great programs. Their parents all want the best for their kids, too.

-Playgrounds are scary. Kids are so big and noisy, and thinking about putting our babies in the mix is horrifying. But I mean it when I say you can make a difference! Our school had a horrible playground when we started, now it's green and drought-resistant and welcoming!

- Character education is important. Ask parents and teachers if they have Second Step or Tribes or equivalent programs. See what p.e. and playground programs they have. Sports for Kids, for example, really creates a great playground dynamic a fabulous thing.

- Parents really make a difference! People were afraid of our neighborhood school until neighborhood parents got involved. They started a yahoo group, set up pre-k playdates, built a community, started a parent's group. Today's 'scary school' might become tomorrow's 'hot school' once the energy and direction builds. It feels really great to be part of that, WITH your kids.

If you decide to go with a school you're not crazy about...

- volunteer once a week in the kindergarten classroom and try to find 4 other parents as well. Kindergarten teachers really need help. It makes a big difference to the kids, and you get to know other parents and their kids.

- know that you are doing a great thing for the greater good. The more you learn about how public education works, the more you realize it only works if people - especially educated people with some skills - participate. Kristen


I didn't get any of my 6 choices - what next?

March 2010

I am a parent of an incoming Kinder and I completed the Options enrollment form for Oakland Unified Schools and was told at the options enrollment process meeting back in December to list 6 schools I would like to get into and I am guaranteed to at least get 1 of my choices. Well, I didn't get any of my choices. They assigned me to my neighborhood school.

After reading the Appeals process paperwork, I am told that I need only petition/appeal one school of my choice. The issue I have is that I have no idea which of my original 6 I would have a better chance of getting in at? Sorry (teachers) for ending my sentence with a preposition. :-)

Anywho, when I went to the tours and asked about potential class sizes and incoming neighborhood kids, siblings, and others, none of the principles or tour guides seem to have a clue about potential slots open for outsiders. I feel like I am shooting in the dark here. How am I supposed to put ALL my eggs in one school's basket without knowning my chances of getting in to that school?

Also, in terms of my appeal letter, does someone know on what grounds my appeal should be submitted? In other words, what situations or circumstances will make my appeal stronger for my son?

I am desperately seeking answers, if any of you parents have navigated this process, or you are a teacher, principle, or a OUSD employee, I would LOVE any feedback or insight you have.

Thank you so very much

You might want to take a look at this. It is from Katy Murphy's log. She writes about the OUSD. Apparently as of last year the Hills schools are really full of neighborhood kid so trying to get your child into one of those is difficult. There are very few spots. http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2009/03/05/hills-schools-not-much-of-an-option/ Karen

We followed the advice we found on the Berkeley Parent Network to appeal last year for the 2009-10 school year. Though the advice was a couple of years old, it was still relevant. This is what we did:

We put down the schools we wanted on the Options form, listing Crocker Highlands first and our neighborhood school last. In late February or early March we got a letter that said we had been assigned to our neighborhood school. My husband went down to the School Assignment office the Monday after we received our assignment letter at 5:00 am to stand in line to appeal to Crocker. We were about 3rd or 4th in line. He filled out the appeal form. Some time in May we got another letter saying our appeal had been denied. My husband went down again to the School Assignment office and said we still wanted Crocker. About 2 weeks later we got a call from the office saying that our appeal to Crocker had been granted. A few notes:

1) Michael Bonino at the schools assignment office was very helpful. I don't know if he is still there, but try calling the office.

2) If you received the assignment letter a few weeks ago and missed the Monday morning line, I would still appeal to the school you want. Be peristent. Every time the office tells you your appeal has not been accepted, tell them you still want to go to the school of your choice.

3) One thing I appreciated about the interim principal of Crocker last year was that she was clear about how many appeals had gotten in. She told us all appeals the year before we started had been accepted but that the year before that, not all had. Some of the schools we looked at wouldn't give us any information about this. Ellen

The Elementary Options brochure on the OUSD website lists, for each school, the percentage of families who were accepted (out of those who chose it as their first-choice school). So, a 100% school is easiest to get into, and a 40% is harder. Here's the link: http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/19941081118174370/lib/19941081118174370/ousd_options_broch_ELEMENTARY10-11.pdf and if that doesn't work, click through from the ''enroll'' portion of the ''for students and familes'' page at http://ousd.k12.ca.us. Marta

Worried about our local school assignment

April 2008

My son will attend our local grade school this fall, and I am already worried about it. We applied to a few private schools but got no financial help and so we are forced to go with the 'option' of our nearby school. My child will be in the minority - the school has 3% Caucasian kids; it is mostly working class, nice kids, but I feel a bit out of place. The teachers are long timers who do not like to have parents in the classroom, which makes me nervous; there are very few extras like art, music, computers, Spanish. I could do some things after school, but with the all day K I have been told not to schedule anything more for K year!! We are thinking if the Oakland school isn't adequate we will try to move. Any advice on where to go? Piedmont, Albany, Lafayette?? We love Oakland, but also love our kids, and want them to get a good education. Thanks...

you are still pretty early in the game, from my experience. i have a current first grader in OUSD. 2 years ago, when we ''walked through the fire,'' we found that EVERYONE got assigned to their local school in the first round. so then you ''appeal.'' and you STILL get your local school, but do get to choose which other school to be put on the waiting list for. THEN... you wait. we got the news that we got into our first choice school in mid may. some of my daughter's classmates found out in july.

during all this time, be in frequent contact with your preferred school. see if the principal has a ''list'' of his/her own of interested out of neighborhood families. go to volunteer days (garden/work days, festival, garage sale...), talk to current parents, talk to the principal, the secretary, the parent group/PTA...

i nearly gave up on my preferred school, and switched to the waiting list of a school i thought we'd stand more chance of getting into (one where the waiting list was shorter). two days later the principle of my preferred school called me and curtly said, ''i'm about to take everyone on the waiting list, and you are in my 'book,' but you are not on the waiting list. get on it.'' i quickly made a phone call and sent an email to OUSD to switch us back to our preferred school's list, and we got in that next day. the principals do not have the ability to pick and choose from the waiting list, but they DO want motivated families, and will help you though the process, if you show them you are willing to invest your time and energy in their school.
signed: learned to have nerves of steel

Have you talked to any of the families that attend the school? I find that many people just assume the school is bad - based on what other people say, what the papers say, what real estate agents say, etc. Visit the school, meet the parents/families/kids ... then decide. T.S.


My son's kindergarden assignment sucks!

April 2007


I am in the Oakland Unified School district..the elementary school my son has been assigned to is Santa Fe....unacceptable according to lots, including people who work for the district. I filled out an ''options'' form listing Peralta as my n8mber one choice...but we were turned down for everything...all six options. I filed an appeal, but was again turned down. I cannot afford a private school, didn't win the NOCCS lottery...I feel totally helpless. I cannot send him to a school that I would have considered a nightmare as a kid.. I went to all public schools in Berkeley...including continuation high school, so I'm no prude. anyone have any ideas? thanks, tresca tresca

I am assuming that Santa Fe is your neighborhood school. It was placed on PI starting in the 2006-2007 school year. This probably didn't assist you in the lottery, although it would give you lottery priority if you were to delay and re-apply next year (is this an option for you?) If you reapply, then make a more conservative first choice, not somewhere so wildly popular as Peralta, Chabot, etc that can't even accomodate siblings. My understanding of the lottery is that choices 2-6 on your list are basically ignored because the lottery tries to assign everyone to their first choice first and that fills all the seats leaving no room for 2nd choices, 3rd choices, etc. There are more charters than NOCCs: Lighthouse, Berkeley Maynard, and EBCC are all in North Oakland. You have missed that application deadline, but all are posssibilities if you go for it again next year. Berkeley Maynard (in the old Golden Gate School on San Pablo) is new (so not wildly popular YET) and accepted applications until the start of school last year: check with them, thay may have space available. Good luck
-Parent in the Santa Fe neighborhood


Our neighborhood school was overenrolled - what can we do!?

March 2007


I need advice on what tack to take to get my child into kindergarten at our local school, Hillcrest. Although we have lived in the area for years and registered on time, this year our child and several others were turned away. (The rumor is 25.) They have also decreased the class size by 10. I immediately got on the waiting list, but the district didn't give me any information about how that list works. The principal and staff are being evasive.

The school he was enrolled at is much farther from our house, and not what we want.

Can anyone tell me how we can find out how many children were turned away, how the waiting list works, whether the school has to at least go back to the class size it had last year to accomodate a few more children, whether it can use its large excess funds raised by the PTA(over 100K) to help accomodate displaced children? Does the school have any legal responsibilities to neighborhood children? Who in city government can advocate for us? Has anyone else been displaced from their local school in Oakland, and if so what did you do about it?

We cannot afford private school, and really didn't think would would have to.

Check out the Tues March 20 SF Chronicle. There's an article about Redwood Hts and how 15 local families were redirected for Kindergarten. They had an emergency PTA meeting and it appears that the school district is going to put in a portable and let all these families in. I think it's a Chip Johnson or CW Nevius column? Maybe the Redwood Hts PTA can give you advice. anonymous

The principal at our Oakland Public School sent out an e-mail reminding parents who are disappointed about their assignments that there is an appeal period (which apparently has to be done through the District Student Assignment Office--Portable 15). She has also told parents that when that process is over, parents can request to be placed on waiting lists. If a family is willing to wait until the last minute for an assignment or will accept a transfer at any point during the school year, it is very likely you can end up at your first choice school. In her experience, there are always families who move out of the area, transfer their child to a preferred school or choose to send their children to private school, so spaces will open. Our principal says parents who keep in touch weekly and are eager to enroll in a particular school often can make a change. She wants to keep our school fully enrolled because it keeps the money flowing. So she enrolls children throughout the school year. She also wants to enroll families enthusiastic about attending our school because their participation is so much stronger than families who wish their kids could go somewhere else.

To be honest, I wish families who don't want to go to our school could transfer out to their first choice school. Instead of working hard to create the school experience they wish for, some dissatified parents just discourage and sap the energy of the rest of us. Even the best schools aren't perfect.

I know a lot of us don't want to upset our Kindergartners by enrolling them at the last minute or moving them after they get settled somewhere. But you can work to prepare your child for that eventuality if you think your first choice school is the best place for child to attend. When we didn't get the Kindergarten assignment we had hoped for, I chose to keep my child at her assigned school. It's actually worked out very well for us. But I know others who have transferred and it's worked out well for them, too. Even a mid-year transfer can make sense if you think your child will attend the school of your choice for many years. A child could be at their elementary school for six years. So several months out of so many years may not be that significant for many children.

I think you deserve to send to your child to your neighborhood school. (I read in Tuesday's Oakland Tribune that a family who did not get into their neighborhood school was told it was a mistake by the the District Assignment Office and assured that their child would be re-assigned. So you might find it easy to get your child re-assigned.) But where ever your child ends up going, I hope you can make it a great experience for your child. OUSD Mom

You are not alone. This has happened across many ''hills schools'' in Oakland. I live in Redwood Heights and 16 families in our neighborhood were redirected to an underperforming school nearby. In our case OUSD and the principal had stated previously that all neighborhood kids would get in. That, combined with pressure for the displaced parents and other concerned citizens, led OUSD to reverse its decision and make room for all children within the Redwood Heights School boundaries. Official letters have not gone out yet and they are trying to figure out how to accommodate a huge number of incoming kindergartners. If I were you, I'd get together with displaced parents and others in your neighborhood and demand that your children are admitted through any means possible. One final consideration: there are families that use false addresses to enroll their children in the desirable ''hills schools''. OUSD should be encouraged to do surprise home visits to deter this practice. It's only fair that legitimate residents of the neighborhood are admitted first. The SF Chronicle wrote about what happened in our neighborhood: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/20/BAGPSOOA7F1.DTL Redwood Heights neighbor

Unfortunately, we hear that there were over 65 kids trying to get into Hillcrest this year. Given that there are normally 2 classes of 20, that means that the excess represents even more than one extra class. It may seem like the principal is being evasive as you noted but this is really a district issue. She can't make space when there is no space at the school. It seems that they did a lottery after they let siblings of current students in the neighborhood in, which sounds reasonable. Also, they placed those who did not get into Hillcrest very close at Chabot and Kaiser. Both of these are excellent, nearby schools with good test scores. I recommend that you get on the waiting list for Hillcrest just in case some people who got in don't go there and that you visit the school to which you were admitted. You will find that they are both great and that your child will have other kids from the neighborhood at the school. I think that being in a small classroom at one of these two schools would be better than being in an overcrowded classroom at Hillcrest. anon


Did not get your public school choice in Oakland?

March 2006

A group of North Oakland/Temsecal parents who did not get their Oakland school lottery choices are attempting to join forces to make Emerson Elementary School (located in the vibrant Temescal neighborhood) a viable option for our prospective kindergarteners. (Emerson is the neighborhood school for most of us; my daugher's local school is Santa Fe). We would love to hear from any other Oakland parents in or out of the neighborhood (the school is currently underenrolled) who would like to help us make Emerson a vital school. You can email me, or better yet, show your interest at EmersonSchoolNeighbors[AT]yahoogroups.com. Thanks

I think that not getting in to your Oakland elementary school of choice if you don't live in the neighborhood of one of the higher rated schools is a problem of supply and demand, rather than a problem with the Oakland School district registration office. There was a report in the Montclarion last fall that quoted several principals of local schools saying that the new registration process would have little or no effect on their schools because the students all or mostly come from the neighborhood. As long as my children have been in the OUSD, Hillcrest has not offered spaces to children outside the area, and this is now true of Thornhill. At Joaquin Miller, there have been only a handful of spaces open in kindergarten each year to children outside the neighborhood (and a long waiting list).

In previous years, parents registered at the local school so you knew where your child would attend elementary school, and it was a given that the open enrollment period to change schools would result in only a few available spaces at the coveted schools. My feeling is that the new central registration process has given parents false hope that there are suddenly more spaces available at the top rates schools, leading people to believe that there was a better chance of getting in than in previous years. From what I see, this isn't the case. Montclair and Rockridge are full of little kids (''baby boomlet''?) and, as the cost of private education and life in the bay area gets more expensive, more people in these areas will send their kids to public school. For the first time in several years, Joaquin Miller has 3 kindergarten and 3 first grade classes. Mom and supporter of Oakland schools

I also applied through the OUSD Options process for several of the high performing elementary schools -- for the record, I think there are at least 8, and probably 10 or more. However, our neighborhood school, Piedmont Avenue, is not Program Improvement, and there isn't an older sibling already attending one of the schools we applied to... You guessed it, we were not given a spot anywhere except back in our neighborhood. After the process was over, I exchanged e-mails with Noah Bookman, who is the architect of the Options process for OUSD, and who had already answered questions for me via e-mail prior to the Lottery taking place. He let me know that ''At kindergarten, 278 students were admitted through the open lottery round or approximately 12%. However, almost none of these admissions were at our most sought after schools. We had approximately 250 students assigned to their neighborhood schools because they were not admitted to one of their selections.''

We also applied to a charter school, only to find ourselves competing (unsuccessfully) with 74 other families, for 5 kindergarten spots! To me, it seems pretty clear that we will not be able to transfer to an already excellent public school outside of the neighborhood, this year or in the near future. Therefore, I am hoping to feel comfortable sending my child to our neighborhood school next year -- we're doing 1 more year of preschool, for a number of reasons. For those who live in the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School neighborhood, and are thinking some of these same thoughts, I hope that you will sign up for the Yahoo group I started. Here's the information: Group name: walktoschool Group home page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/walktoschool Let's talk about what we can do together so that our kids really can walk to an excellent Oakland elementary school. Piedmont Ave parent


Desperate for alternatives to our assigned school

March 2005


I have several friends and acquaintances who have children starting kindergarten in the fall. They put in intradistrict transfers, since their assigned school was considered really awful by most measures. None of them got accepted to any of the schools they listed on the intradistrict transfer forms. I also have a daughter starting kindergarten this fall, and I put in my forms for transfer as well, but can probably kiss that (already mediocre) solution goodbye, as I didn't even make the open enrollment deadline. I have also applied to three different charter schools in the area, all three of which have admitted that they have received around 100 applications for anywhere from 5 to 15 spaces, with decisions made by lottery. I have even looked at numerous private schools, though I cannot afford them. I am overwhelmed, stressed, and full of anxiety about what my daughter's education will hold for her next year. As a single, working parent, options are limited, so the really wonderful cooperative schools and homeschooling are, unfortunately, out of the question for now. But I am desperate not to put my daughter in our assigned school, (Emerson Elementary), which I've heard horrible things about. A couple of people have mentioned being in similar circumstances. What is the possibility of forming a small group of parents to hire a kindergarten teacher? Has anyone heard of anyone doing this kind of thing? Or does anyone have any other advice for me? I could really use any information anyone can offer! Thanks!

My advice is to visit the school (whether elementary, middle or high school) before becoming desperate. If the school does not allow visits, ask the office or PTA if there are any opportunities to volunteer in a work day, the library, or to read stories to younger students. In the course of my job, I have visited several schools with horrible reputations and found them to be just fine, schools to which I would send my child. liz

that sounds terrible. There is a public school or two in Oakland that have open enrollment, and need students. One is up near the top of Broadway near Claremont -- can't think of the name right now, but its reasonably close to berkeley. you can go on line to the oakland school district and find it. its a really good school. also, though at this point its getting really really last minute, you can apply to a private school or a Catholic Private school and ask for tuition assistance and you would likely qualify. That is what we do, and what many of the people I know do who don't have the extra funds for it. We are very grateful for the support and help, and it makes a huge difference in our ability to go to an independant school. I think of it this way: if we were to go to a public school (in oakland) I'd be spending the same amount of money on after school care plus other enhancements.

OUSD Options - Requesting a Non-Neighborhood School


We might not get into our neighborhood school

hello, I am relatively new to the area and am facing the kindergarten enrollment process for my daughter. i know that my neighborhood school is a very competitive one, and i am trying to weigh the pros and cons of various K-5+ in our area. knowing that we might very well have preference for our most local school is great, but given its competitiveness, theres no guarantees. I'm wondering two things: if i shop around and put another school at the top of our OUSD list will we lose that advantage of being close by to an apparently great school but not our first choice in a perfect world, and also, i would love feedback about one particular school, Emerson elementary in Oakland, which i am so drawn to but seems to have super low ratings on test-based rating sites. we are also pretty in love with Kaiser, but it feels like maybe a long shot due to its desirability. We feel strongly that diversity (for real diversity), art-leaning curriculum, and community are far more important than testing scores, but im new at this game and would love some feedback. thanks so much in advance! Rebecca

Hi Rebecca,
If you're in the neighborhood, you'll very likely get into that school. There's only been a few instances in the past ten years where a school was oversubscribed: Hillcrest about 5 years ago, Redwood Heights about 6 years ago, and Crocker two years ago (though they added a fourth kindergarten class to solve that issue, and have since redrawn the boundaries). So I wouldn't put another school above your great neighborhood school unless you really prefer it. You'll probably still get your neighborhood school, in which case you could appeal for your first choice, which you'd probably get if someone else wants your neighborhood school (which it sounds like they would).

I don't know much about Emerson, but I would assume you'd have no trouble getting in there. Kaiser would be more of a gamble, but most kids there come from out of neighborhood so you'd have as much of a chance as anyone.

If you're looking for true diversity, community, and an arts-integrated curriculum, I suggest you look at Glenview Elementary (where my son goes). It's the most diverse school in the district, there's a strong focus on the arts, and the community is tight-knit, caring and down-to-earth. The principal is amazing and the kids are thriving. We couldn't be happier. If you haven't checked it out, we're having another tour on 1/12. Sign up at http://www.glenviewelementary.org/school-tours.html

I'm an Emerson parent, and am the one who leads the school tours so maybe I've met you. My daughter and our family are very happy at Emerson, love the teachers, the principal, and the community. I'm happy to answer specific questions if you want more info on Emerson.

In terms of school choice and the OUSD paperwork, my advice is to put your favorite school at the top. Last year was a low enrollment year and I think more people got their top choices. The enrollment office has demographic studies by year and maybe able to tell you if they expect to be over-subscribed at a particular school. Kia

Happy New Year!
Options Veteran

I would take the spot at the seemingly great local school, and here's why: it probably is great. AND it's in your neighborhood which is huge. It's easy to get to for your regular school day, and easy to get to for PTA meetings and other school events on nights and weekends. Your child's new friends will be in the neighborhood also and that is plain awesome (I speak from experience). My kids walk by themselves to their friends' houses. Carpooling to soccer and birthday parties is super-easy because there are at least five other neighbor families going to the same place. You will be simplifying your life by choosing your neighborhood school (and lucky you, that it's a good one).
in love with our Oakland neighborhood school

Truth & myths about OUSD's OPTIONS lottery Dec 2014


The OUSD OPTIONS lottery is underway, and I'm trying to navigate the process. I feel that although I have read everything I can, attended the OUSD presentation about the process, and have visited several school tours, there is so much contradictory information out there.


First, I would love to know if anyone understands/knows how the lottery works. I don't mean, what the exceptions are - sibilings first, neighborhood school second, open lottery third. What I mean is what are the different weights in the actual open lottery itself? Are income, race, proximity to zone, etc. factors?

Second, I heard from school-based insiders that entering the lottery early affects placement. What they mean is that you are more likely to win a spot in a school if you turn in your application on Dec 8 (the day the application is released!). When I and other parents asked OUSD during their OPTIONS presentation, the denied this and said as long as applications are in before the deadline (Jan 16), that is all that matters. So, some school personnel might be fostering this myth to make sure people apply early/on time/to avoid the rush, but really, it makes no sense if the thing is a lottery. Does anyone have more insight?

Third, I wanted to share, since I've read on BPN this year, that many people still think that being in a Performance Improvement school zone can increase your chances of scoring a spot in a higher performing school. According to OUSD, Performance Improvement has NOT been a factor in the lottery since 2012, given changes at the state level with regards to NCLB.

That's it, I think. Insights are welcome! getting ready for kindergarten

There are no weights in the lottery. As you said, first they assign siblings of current students. Next, people requesting their neighborhood school (i.e. are you in the school's zone - if you are in another nearby zone, that doesn't count at all. Several of my friends found this out the hard way - they assumed being in the next neighborhood over would give them an advantage, which it doesn't.) Third is a completely random lottery. Income, race, etc. don't make any difference.

As a side note, I want to point out that listing one school multiple times on your application does NOT make you more likely to get that school. Parent of OUSD kindergartener

This is not a direct response to your inquiry, because we've been lucky enough not to have to enter the lottery, choosing our neighborhood schools for elementary and middle (and will for HS as well), but in case it's not obvious, if your first choice is a larger school, you will have a better chance of getting in. I don't know if Chabot is on your list, but I was told by the PTA president there (it's not our school) that there is lots of room for out-of-neighborhood kids at Chabot, because the neighborhood demographic is changing (young families cannot afford to buy there!). Do your due diligence, of course, and call the school to confirm this fact. Good luck! North Oakland mom


List our great neighborhood school as #2 choice?

Sept 2014

thanks in advance for your patience if this is a ridiculous question- we are gearing up to register my oldest daughter for Kindergarten in Oakland, we are lucky to live in a neighborhood with a pretty great school, but in all honesty it's our second choice school right now. I'm curious if it can at all affect our neighborhood proximity advantage to put this school second on our list, and put our favorite, outside our neighborhood school, in as our first choice? can our advantage of getting into our neighborhood school be diminished if we don't list that school as our top choice? they are both pretty sought after schools, so i want to be careful. thanks so much! a worrier by nature

I'm not sure how the office ranks that kind of choice. I would call the main registration office and ask them directly. It's possible you would be slotted behind people from underperforming schools who chose the first choice school. However I would also reconsider not choosing your neighborhood school if it is, as you say, also well-regarded. One of the things I've loved best about my kids attending OUSD is having friends in the neighborhood. As they get older they can walk to a friends or walk to and from school. Playdates are super easy and generally our quality of life is enhanced. it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

In my experience with OUSD, neighborhood proximity doesn't limit you from the option of putting a different school as your first choice as they allow you to choose several. Also even if you lived in the neighborhood of your actual choice, that still doesn't guarantee you a school assignment. I've dealt with this on both sides. My stepson was sent to a school (middle school) outside of our neighborhood school (which was our 1st choice) because they had no room due to high demand. You do have the right to an appeal if you don't get your choice which the district can explain the process.

With my daughter I ran into exactly what your describing last year when she was starting kindergarten. My neighborhood elementary school was my last choice. The one which she currently attends was one of my top choices (it was number three on my list). She was assigned to be placed at my neighborhood school, however I went through the letter of appeal process. In the event that a child who already has a spot at that school decides not to attend, then their spot can get filled by one on the wait list which is what happened for us.

Also when I did my letter of appeal I walked in into the district office. I made sure that in it I referenced the pros of the school choices I wanted vs. the cons of where she'd been placed. My issue was that most of the enrichment programs weren't offered until she got into 2nd grade (for music it was 4th) and they offered no after care and no Spanish classes (since the demographic of the majority of children which attend have this as their first language). I do a lot of enrichment on my own with her and also had her in Camp Galileo that summer and used these as points to drive home that I needed these things in place in her learning environment.

Your question wasn't ridiculous at all, it sounds like your striving for the best education for your child! I hope this helps, and good luck! Anon

To me, this sounds risky. Do you know if your 1st choice school fills up with in-neighborhood kids? Like, is there even any room for someone from outside the neighborhood? I would definitely worry about losing the spot at your neighborhood school. I think a phone call to OUSD is in order (I know, sounds painful). Good luck. You're already lucky to have a highly-regarded school as your assigned school. OUSD mom


Ranking schools for 5th grader's ''late'' enrollment

Feb 2014

Our family will be in the East Bay area for the 2014-2015 school year (husband doing sabbatical) and we'll most likely be renting in Montclair. We're trying to fill out a ''late'' enrollment app for a school slot at one of several schools in the Montclair area. Wondering how to rank the following schools (the app requires 6 schools listed) when we don't know a lot about them (we used to live in Montclair when our daughter was little and knew that Thornhill was a good school...) Our daughter will be going into the 5th grade. We're thinking of putting some of the following schools on our list: Montclair, Thornhill, Joaquin Miller, Chabot, Kaiser, Peralta, Hillcrest, Crocker Highlands... Thanks for any insights!

All of the schools on your list are great, but all are popular with long wait lists, so you may not get into any through late enrollment unless you are in the school zone. I would try to find out which schools might have open places in the fifth grade and rank them based on that likelihood. If you're renting in Montclair, get your lease signed ASAP and provide that to OUSD and it will bump you to the top of the list for any openings at whichever school you're zoned to. Montclair Elementary is likely a good bet from your list simply because it's a large school, so more chance of turnover (coupled with the fact that you may be in the school zone anyway). Chabot is also on the larger side, so might have openings. Kaiser is somewhat less popular/less well known than the others, so might also be a better bet. The good news is that it does tend to be easier to get into these schools in the upper grades. Good luck--and the sooner you can get your lease squared away, the better! Another Oakland parent

You can't go wrong with any of those schools--there's a lot of love for all of them. It's easier to get a 5th grade spot than a kindy spot, so it seems likely you'll get one of your top 2 or 3 choices. Also, it sounds like you will be here for one year only, in which case you don't have to think about middle school (kids like to go where their friends go), so really your only issue is commute. I am a big fan of walking to school. If that's not an option, then at the very least I would not put a freeway in my commute to school. So I guess what I'm trying to say is choose a local school. You will have no regrets when your child can easily get to a friend's house after school, birthday parties are more local, etc. It will be easier to build yourself a little community. Good luck and welcome to Oakland! Oakland mom


Might buy a house in Oakland - lottery?

Sept 2013

We're thinking about buying a house in Oakland and in our research discovered that the elementary schools aren't that great. They rank about 2-3 on Greatschools.com I've heard that if you don't want you child to attend the school in your neighborhood, you can apply to be in a lotto for the school you desire. Does anyone know about this or have personal experience with this situation? The housing market is insane enough, but schools add a whole new layer to it. Thanks! anon

We did the lottery and got into Montclair. Other people we know did the lottery and didnt get placed anywhere. I've heard that if you don't get in anywhere, appeals can be sucessful. We like Montclair but definitely get the side eye from neighborhood families like we don't belong (and I've talked with other lotteried families that agree). If I was making my top five over again I'd probably pick other schools and not just look at the API as much. Anon

First off, Great Schools is a NOT a reliable resource for assessing whether a school or district is good or not. It just happens to be an easy site to go to. The best way to find out about any school is to talk to people who have kids there. OUSD has plenty of wonderful schools and others that are not as well resourced. After you do a bit more research, you can post questions about specific schools here to get a better picture about what is really going on. If you go to the OUSD website there is a description of the options process for school assignments. Good luck! Happy OUSD parent

Highly recommend Chabot Elem. We transferred from private Montessori to Chabot, and the transition was easy. Great teachers, beautiful library, diverse student body, strong parental involvement. If you are out of district you should apply at district office. Elem parent


If we move to another zone, can we keep our school?

Oct 2012

Hello: My family is a recent transplant to the east bay so hoping someone can help. We're currently renting in oakland with our older son enrolled in a K program we're very happy with. However, our lease is up in the winter and we're looking for a house. Until now, we've been focused on other homes in our very small zone, and frankly there just isn't much out there. I believe I understand from the Ousd website that once enrolled, we could move my son out of zone and he could remain enrolled at his current school. Has anyone done this? Similarly, if we moved to Berkeley, could we keep him in an oakland school? Any help is appreciated! Thanks

Yes, once you have a spot at an OUSD school you can move anywhere in Oakland and keep that spot. But if you move to Berkeley, officially you have to be released by BUSD, then accepted by OUSD, in order to continue at your Oakland school. I don't know anyone who's attempted this and have no idea how likely it is to happen. Another OUSD mom

OUDS Options 2012 -- How'd it go?

April 2012

I'm curious as to how the OUSD options process went this year. I heard about Crocker being over-subscribed and neighborhood kids getting turned away. Did this happen for any other schools (beside the usual suspects -- Hillcrest, Thornhill, Redwood Heights)? I'm curious about Glenview, Montclair and Peralta mostly. Did all the neighborhood kids get into these schools? Did any non-neighborhood kids get in? In general, did parents get the assignments they were hoping for, or were there a lot of disappointed families? Thank you. Adams' Point Mama

This is a rant. We live in Crocker Highlands, bought in this neighborhood specifically because we were told we would get into the school and did not. Beyond disappointed about the school closings in OUSD. I'm wondering how long it will take Crocker residents to realize that their property values (including ours) are going to plummet with the loss of the school being a given. OUSD is a mess. Decisions are made with short-term goals in mind. They saved a million bucks by closing and displacing kids at five schools??!!. And they're turning one of the closed schools into the new OUSD headquarters--doing construction WHILE SCHOOL IS STILL IN SESSION!!?? Is anyone paying attention? Are the kids at Lakeview at risk due to exposure to potentially hazardous construction materials? I hear they're talking about closing more. I'd start looking at independent schools and financial aid. Upset Crocker Resident

We got our first choice (not our home school), Sequoia Elementary, which is a great school with wonderful teachers and awesome supportive families. OUSD did right by us & we couldn't be happier! Happy Sequoia mama-to-be

It went great for us: we got into our 1st choice school, Sequoia Elementary! Our home school is Cleveland, which we would have been fine with since it really is also a great school, but a lot of my daughter's friends are also going to Sequoia and we wanted to keep her with them.

After researching the OUSD options process, we knew it would be pointless to try for Hillcrest, Thornhill, even Redwood Heights, so we ruled out those schools & researched lots of others and found Sequoia to be the best fit for our family. With all the school closures, we were expecting to go through the appeals process, but it didn't come to that. It may have been due to the fact that they were opening a 4th kindergarten class, which we found out at an open house. Good luck! Melissa


How to choose in OUSD options?

Jan 2012


I know there are a million different ways of looking at this and a thousand different opinions, but what are people doing? Should I try for a competitive well reputed school where there are 30 kids per class starting in 1st grade (my dtr's year) or one that has more resources and smaller class sizes, but was totally underwhelming when I toured? Is it worth it to try to get into Thornhill being outside the neighborhood, especially as schools are being closed and kids are being moved in (increasing competition for those precious few 1st grade spots in any good school). I'm thinking of Thornhill, Joaquin Miller, RedwoodHts, Sequoia (my neighborhood school) Glenview, Crocker. Any ideas?

Unfortunately I don't have any answers--hopefully others who have transferred after kindergarten can weigh in--but we have been looking at a similar list of schools and it's my understanding that even in the upper grades, the OUSD preferences still guide enrollment (so because your neighborhood school is high-performing, they would assign all siblings, neighborhood kids, and students from schools in Program Improvement before getting to your daughter). The students from closing schools have already been assigned, though, so that's not a factor (though it undoubtedly affected how many available spots remain). We have several friends with kids at Sequoia who love it--I'd look closely at that, since it's your neighborhood school and you'll be far more likely to get a spot there since you'd be at the top of the list. Good luck! Another Oaklander

You could call the individual schools now and see if there are any kindergarten spots (due to people moving mid-year) and try to switch schools now. I do hear good things about all of those schools that you mention. As between two schools that are comparable, I'd choose the one with the lower class size because the teacher can get to know 20 kids way easier than 30 kids, and because the kids get a chance to get attention/participate more often and are more engaged. Also there's just a smaller chance of getting a really disruptive kid when there's 20 kids. anon

Hi, I think if you are really committed to a school, you should apply for it as your first school and then be really persistent (with both the school and the district) if you don't get it. Don't list a school in your first three choices if you are not super excited about it.

Thornhill is our neighborhood school (and our first choice) but I don't think it is out of reach for you -- even if it's full after the options process, things will change as time goes on (people opt for private school or change their minds, move, etc.) You only need ONE spot so stick with it and be enthusiastic and persistent. The only school this doesn't apply to is Hillcrest -- not even room for those in the 'hood. Opinions, not insight!

You are asking what people are doing. People are doing a lot of things. Several years ago, my family only listed our neighborhood school, Sequoia, and we've been very happy there, so much so that I can't really understand living in the attendance area and trying to get out. However, other families in the neighborhood chose other schools. I'm not sure why but my guess is that they thought those schools were ''better'' in some way. Anyone can find all of the statistics (''Live/Go'' info) on the OUSD website. Sequoia has a new principal who is smart, thoughtful, and committed to serving the needs of all of Sequoia's kids. She has a plan for keeping the school open in time of closures and for returning to small class sizes in K, 1, and 2. There are many, many amazing teachers at the school, and the community is wonderful in many ways, but it's not for everyone. Those who want a more affluent school are probably right to look up the hill. so glad I didn't over think it

Hidden Gems that Accept Transfers

Oct 2011

Hello - We are looking to apply to transfer within Oakland. Our son starts Kindergarten in the fall. From what I can tell reading on BPN and talking to others it makes no sense at all to put schools in my application that are overcrowded as is (i.e. Chabot, Hillcrest, Thornhill). I know parents are happy with Kaiser and that they need to increase enrollment for the fall. What other schools do people feel are headed in a positive direction, have strong school leadership, and have a creative nurturing school environment? In other words...what are some other ''gems'' I should look at THAT WE MIGHT HAVE A PRAYER OF GETTING INTO??! Thank you! Sarah

Glenview and Cleveland are both on their way up with active parent communities. Slated for Lakeview

I recently wrote in to BPN about Emerson Elementary and all the exciting things happening there. We've got great teachers, a wonderful new principal, an active PTO and a ton of great new enrichment, including music, poetry and art. We're in the Temescal neighborhood, but families come from all over Oakland. Definitely call to arrange a tour. Kia

Glenview comes to mind, but sorry, I don't have firsthand info. Just the word on the street. OUSD Mom

First choice isn't our (great) neighborhood school

Jan 2010

I realize this is a bit of an annoying question, but here goes. Our child will be entering kindergarten next fall and we live in the Crocker Highlands neighborhood. Our first choice is actually Chabot (for a number of reasons that I won't get into- I realize they're both great schools). My first thought was that we'd be safe with choosing Chabot first, Crocker second because we could be assured a space in the neighborhood school if we didn't get Chabot (a likely scenario given how popular Chabot is). Anyone know if we would be shooting ourselves in the foot with this plan? Do we give up our neighborhood slot by doing this? thanks anonymous

You won't get into Chabot. The few available slots for the 'preferred' public schools go to kids whose neighborhood school is a low-performing school. Since your neighborhood school is a 'good' school, you won't be thrown into the lottery. We tried to get into Chabot 6 years ago (and a few other preferred schools as well), but because our neighborhood school was Peralta (a mid-range school at that time) we did not get into any of our choices.

As of last year, you could put the first choice of whatever you wanted and if you didn't get it, you would then be defaulted to your neighborhood school. Either way, both schools you mentioned are excellent, so you can't really go wrong. OUSD mom


Oakland Options--What order to list schools?

Nov 2008

In the Oakland School District Options program, we are supposed to list up to 6 schools in order of preference. Should we also take into consideration whatever information we can learn about which schools are likely to be full of neighborhood kids and not taking any, or few students through Options? For example, if I list ''The Perfect School'' as my first choice, but I don't get in, will I be at a disadvantage in getting into ''Pretty Good School'' that I listed as number two, since other people listed ''Pretty Good School'' as their number one?

Along these lines, can anyone tell me which schools are impossible to get into through the lottery? Oakland mom

Dear Oakland Mom,

Having been through the options process last year, though I have no proof, I absolutely believe that it puts you at a disadvantage to ''shoot for the moon'' with your top choices. Last year, it seemed that most people who filled up most or all of their choices with the most well-known and highly regarded schools did not get a single one of their choices and were assigned to their neighborhood schools, even if their own schools were program improvement (which last year gave you third priority after neighborhood kids and siblings). That said, our school is program improvement and we did put ultra-popular schools down as our first two choices--just to see if we could get in--but were assigned to our third choice school and are now very happy. After hearing other people's experiences, though, I felt that we really gambled in making our choices and were very, very lucky to even have been assigned to our third choice school. My advice to you is to think very carefully not only about the schools you choose, but about the order you put them in. And if you are not successful into getting in to a school that is acceptable to you, use the appeals process.

To answer your question about schools that are pretty much impossible to get in to via the options process, and often don't even have room for all neighborhood kids: Hillcrest, Thornhill, Redwood Heights, Montclair, and Joaquin Miller. I believe that Peralta is also now overenrolled.

Good luck in your search! Another Oakland Mom

I haven't taken a poll, but I don't think I have met any who got his or her second or third choice on the options-- unless that choice was the crummy neighborhood school (Which most of us put last!) What i have seen is that it pays to be informed, persistant, and yes, to make strategic choices based on the information one has (which differs year to year as OUSD tinkers with the system and as school boundaries and politics change). So, I suggest: start calling the district office and the principals of the schools you are interested in and ask what their projections are for enrollment. Keep calling for updates. Then, if you don't get your first choice, update your information and make your appeal (immediately!) based on that updated info.Good luck! Happy Kaiser Parent (who got in on appeal)


Out-of-neighborhood school and twins

Oct 2008


I am the parent of twins in Oakland who will enter K in 2009. We will not enroll our kids at the neighborhood school (yes, I have put in a lot of time looking into this school and am not blowing it off without consideration). My question is, how in particular does the Options process work for twins? We need them to be in the same school, so are we that much more disadvantaged because we need two spots instead of that one lucky spot? Do the forms even have something on them to take this into account (i.e., two siblings entering K who must be placed at same school)? -mama de gemelos

Your chance of getting out of your neighborhood school are probablly 0. I tried this year to get my son into a good kindergarten for 2008 because I too felt that my neighborhood school was unacceptable. We did not get any of the 6 schools we were willing to transfer to. I don't know ANYBODY who was able to transfer out of their neighborhood school. I suggest that you explore the independent/private school options and apply as this may be your only option. Good Luck

I just went through this process with my twins. I too was in a position where the neighborhood school just wasn't where I wanted my kids going, and in fact was preparing to move to another district before the lousy housing market made me reconsider and stick around to fight the good fight at OUSD. There were a few things I did that were good strategies and a few that were not. First, when I filed my form in January, I listed as my top 3 or 4 schools, schools where while I would have loved to see my kids go, I had a pretty good idea we wouldn't get in due to oversubscription (Montclair, Thornhill, Redwood Heights and Joaquin Miller), but figured they would take pity on us and give us our 5th choice. Bad strategy: we got assigned our neighborhood school, which wasn't even on my list. (In fairness, though, most people I know got assigned to their neighborhood schools initially, so I'm not sure it was my strategy that failed.)

Second, because you can only target one school at a time to appeal to, and I needed two spots, I chose to focus my energy on a school I would be happy to send my kids to, that was a bit under most OUSD parents' radar (at least it was - that is changing), but where I thought I had the best chance of getting in.

Third, I went in a filed my appeal promptly, and treated the office staff very well.

Fourth, I met with the principal to talk about the school and my family, and why we were so exicted to attend this school. Officially, the powers that be will tell you the principal has no influence over school assignments, but I think the fact that I got a call from the district the next day, and my twins were accepted to this school within 2 weeks of that meeting, is telling. I did not ask for assistance from the principal, just met with her, learned more about the school, and shared with her my family's situation. Lastly, be persistent -- persistent without being a pest, that is. Also, if you are willing to be hanging out until August not knowing where your kids will go to school, I've heard there can be a lot of last minute shuffling around that goes on right before school starts and even into the first few weeks. While not ideal, if you have your sights set on one of the more popular schools, it may be the only way to get in.

And yes, they will place both your kids at the same school. When you file your appeal (assuming you don't get your choice of schools right off - although that is a possibility), make sure you tell the office that you have twins. They will mark the front of each application accordingly. OUSD Twin Parent

I know so many people who did not get assigned to an out-of-neighborhood school the first time around. It seems that OUSD is trying to get people to invest in their neighborhood schools (which may not be such a bad idea, because when it happens, neighborhood investment usually produces success. Just look at Peralta, Glenview, Sequoia, and others...there are many ''rising schools'' in OUSD that were considered ''undesirable'' not so long ago, and there are many, many more that could follow if people would take the leap and get involved). But anyway, once the assignments happened, parents still had a choice. Those I know who were already leaning private went private and claimed they did not have a choice, and complained about Oakland and the options process, and how much their private tuition cost. Those who were committed to public for whatever reason kept appealing, with success. I know many, many people who got into their school of choice through appeal. The uncertainty is hard for many (because we all love our kids, right?) but there are ALWAYS spots at schools, especially at the last minute (yes, even at some hills schools--I know kids who got into several of those via appeal) and I think that being open to a variety of schools and being persistent is good advice (unless paying $30K+ a year to avoid that uncertainty seems like a good deal to you). (I just met a mom of twins who are going to a private school that is constantly praised on this forum. I asked her how she liked it and she said, ''It (the tuition) is wrecking our life'' and ''We were too scared of our local school, but I bet we could have gotten into ____ if we'd tried'') Your twins will get in somewhere. And despite what you may hear from BPN or elsewhere, there are more than a handful of OUSD schools worth attending. Very happy at our non-hills school


Oakland School Lottery for 2008, how did it go?

April 2008

We're gearing up for kindergarten and the Oakland Lottery for Fall 2009 and wanted to get your feedback on 2008.
- Did you get your first, 2nd or any choices on your list? So far, I've only heard of families getting their local schools.
- Is there anything you would do different?
- What school will you be attending in the fall?
Obviously we are nervous about the process, but hope for the best outcome possible. -Nervous Oakland Mom

You should assume that you will not get placed anywhere but your neighborhood school. Don't let the name ''options'' fool you. It's not right that the program is marketed the way that it is because many families count on being able to go outside their neighborhood and make no contingency plans, only to be greatly disappointed. Of course go ahead and try, you never know what factors will be in play from year to year, but having just gone throught this I can tell you that no one from my child's pre-school community got into a school other than their neighborhood school. Look at your neighborhood school now or early in the fall and decide whether or not it is acceptable to you. If it isn't you should look at independent schools too and be mindful of their timelines for tours and applications which are due in January. Unfortunately this is the reality in Oakland and it seems like it will only get worse with the economy such as it is private school is not an option for many people. There also seem to be a huge number of young children living in Oakland because so many familes haved moved here after being priced out of San Francisco and other areas. Good luck, I hope it will be better next year but have a back up plan! anon

The lottery for Oakland schools was a major dissappointment for us. We did not get into our neighborhood school, and we paid a premium for our house because of this school. Not only did we not get into our neighborhood school, which only started turning away kids this fall, we didn't get into our top 3 school choices in Oakland, which we listed on our preference list of schools in December. This lottery process was like a slap in the face because we pay a premium in property taxes for a non-existent police force, high crime, and now lack of a neighborhood elementary school which is a block from our home. The appeals process for Oakland is interesting, once we found out what the process was. OUSD is not informative and when I called a few times in December no one knew anything. I always reached someone who said, ''talk to your neighborhood school.'' When you call your neighborhood school, they say to talk to OUSD. It is first come first serve on the Monday after you receive your OUSD letters the first week of March and the waiting lists for the schools are apparently based on timestamps for when you submit your paperwork (though who really knows), which we didn't know about. The waitlists or lotteries could just as easily be based on new, multiple sibling families or certain areas getting rejected. Most of the better elementary schools in Oakland are impacted and are facing major dilemmas with how to handle the overflow of children. anon

Sorry for weighing in late on this. We just went through the lottery process and were thrilled to be assigned via the lottery to our first choice school, and it's NOT our neighborhood school! I know we're in the minority, and that the vast majority of families were assigned to their neighborhood school regardless of their choices (many, many of our friends are in this boat), but I did want to share our experience so that others know that the lottery process does work (sometimes). Some of the things I think worked in our favor: we weren't targeting the highest performing schools in the district (Thornhill, Montclair, Hillcrest etc, because we were looking for more socioeconomic and racial diversity than those schools offer); our top choice school has a lower API score than our neighborhood school (and is therefore, I presume, seen by many as less desirable); and I made myself a complete thorn in the side of the staff at the district office during the options enrollment process. Well, a pleasant, respectful, friendly thorn in the side, but a nuisance nonetheless. I also know several people who've gotten their assignments changed through the appeals process by showing up at the district office first thing in the morning the day after the letters went out. I know the process can be daunting and discouraging, but I've seen persistence pay off over and over again. So be persistent! And check out LOTS of schools, there are some great schools out there that for some reason aren't on people's radar (yet). Cleveland, Sequoia, Glenview to name a few. Happy OUSD Lottery parent


Best schools to target for Oakland Lottery system

Oct 2007

My son is zoned for a less than desirable public school in Oakland so I am going to try out the lottery system as we cannot afford a private school. I am looking at Montclair, Joaquin Miller, Sequoia & Redwood Elementary schools as they are close to where we live (near Joaquin Miller Park) and seem like pretty good schools from what I hear. I wanted to get some feedback from parents on:

  -school recommendations -how to approach the lottery system -any ideas on how to improve my son's chances of getting into a school (i.e. - joining the PTA of the school now) -which schools afterschool programs are ok, good & great

Thanks for sharing your experience with me! Marcy

We have been Sequoia parents for 9 years now (older child in middle school and younger one still at Sequoia), and we have been extremely happy with the school. The teachers are excellent and are very experienced at dealing with a wide range of situations. We have always felt they have been very helpful and eager to work with us to help our children. The current principal is excellent and very helpful. I highly recommend Sequoia. long term Sequoia parent

Dont' target Redwood Heights! This school was way oversubscribed last year and 16 neighborhood kids were displaced. Although these kids were later admitted into the largest K class ever at the school, there was absolutely no room for families through the open lottery. As a smaller school than most in the hills, Redwood Heights will likely continue to be fully subscribed by neighborhood children over the next few years.

The best quality schools to target through the open lottery are Kaiser and Glenview in my opinion. I know people who got into both schools through the open lottery this past spring. If you are denied initially, act quickly with an appeal and be persistant and patient. Good luck! Redwood Heights Parent

Hi there,

My child will not start kindergarten until next fall, but I have been involved with my neighborhood school, Sequoia, for several years now. Through volunteering and attending school events, I have found a wonderfully diverse and interesting family population, a very talented, stable staff, and an accessible, intelligent, energetic principal. The school has been designated an Alameda County Arts Anchor School, and you can see new art going up inside and out. There is a thriving garden program and an active Dads' Club, among other things. And two brand-new play structures were installed over the summer, which are getting a lot of use!

Sequoia does not have test scores as high as the other schools you mentioned, nor does it raise as much money as those schools. This may work in your favor as far as the lottery goes, as those seem to be the determining factors as far as which schools parents most frequently request. As a teacher myself, I believe there is more to a good school than test scores, and I like much of what I have found at Sequoia. I think Sequoia is one of the best-kept secrets in OUSD and feel lucky to have access to the school without having to try and get in via the lottery.

To find out more, you could check out www.sequoiaschool.net, or attend the Prospective Parents' Night at 7pm on Tuesday, November 13th. There are also very current posts from parents at www.greatschools.net.

Good luck with your search!


How does Oakland public school assignment work?

April 2007


Hi, I thought that one's child was eligible to go to a particular Oakland public school based on home address, but I see BPN members talk about Oakland public school assignments, options, and being turned down on application forms. Can someone explain how the system works? Thanks. Rose

Here is how Oakland works. Parents fill out the options form listing up to 6 schools in order of preference. If you like your neighborhood school, you would probably put that as the first one on the list. Oakland accepts those forms until close to the end of January and then proceeds to issue school assignments. The assignment priority is as follows:

1. Children who currently reside in the neigborhood boundary of the school and who have siblings currently attending the school are admitted first.

2. If space remains after the children in (1) are admitted, other children who currently reside in the neighborhood are admitted next.

3. If there is not enough space for the children in (2), there is a lottery system to pick the names of the kids in category (2) who will receive the remaining spaces. The rest of the children under (2) are assigned to schools based on how they filled out the options form. If the parents of those children did not select another school option, the child is assigned to a nearby school in Oakland Unified.

4. If there is still space after the neighborhood children are assigned, the school will accept next siblings of students currently at the school but who do not live in the neighborhood.

5. After that, children who do not have a sibling at the school and who do not live in the neighborhood would be accepted. Children whose neighborhood school is a program improvement school would then have priority over other children whose neighborhood school is not a program improvement school. If you fill out the options form, your child is not assigned to your first choice, and you reside in the neighborhood, you can be placed on a waiting list in case someone who was admitted moves or chooses another school option. Admissions occur right up until school starts or even later.

If this year is any indication, there are several schools in Oakland that will likely have too many children seeking to enroll in kindergarten based on the spaces available for 2008/2009. This year that happened, but because the district could have done better at communicating with parents that they are not guaranteed their neighborhood school, the District has made accommodations this year for folks that were confused and that appealed their child's assignment.

It would be prudent for 2008/2009 for people to list other Oakland public schools that would be acceptable in case your neighborhood has a large entering K class and to consider applying to private schools also.

The good news is that even when other public school assignments are needed, the kids are generally placed together at a very nearby school (usually closer than the nearby private schools) so there remains the neighborhood feel and the ability to have playdates with kids from your class in the neighborhood and there is also diversity and broader experiences available. So the best advice is to fill out the form, visit all the schools that are nearby your home and consider all of your options! anon


We live just outside the Crocker district - how?

Jan 2007


We live in Oakland a few blocks outside of the Crocker Highland Elementary School district line. Is there anyway to get our children into Crocker Highlands Elementary since we live so close without moving? If so, what is the process? Please let me know. Thank you!

You should call Noah Bookman at the OUSD assignment office. Things might be different this year but last year the process was like this: You get up to 7 choices of schools in the ''Open Enrollment'' process--which, if you are wanting to opt out of your assigned school--is a lottery. At some date, I think in March or April, you will get your assignment. It will most likely be your assigned neighborhood school. You then can appeal it, and choose 1 school on the appeal form. Fax in your appeal right away, because waiting lists form in order received. (Last year we got our choice, Kaiser, on appeal a day or two after I faxed in my appeal). If your appeal gets turned down, there is one more shot, after the first week or school or so, when the schools find out what their actual enrollment is. If you are high on th waiting list you have a good shot at getting in (lots of folks in the better neighborhoods enroll but end up sending kids to private school or follks move etc). It really pays to stay informed: be a pain to Noah Bookman, let him know who you are, ask as many questions as you need to to understand the process. Call and visit the school or schools you are interested in. Talk to the principals to get their take on what they think their enrollment will be. Some schools keep a list of interested families, to call after that first week. The fact is, OUSD wants enrollment and especially middle class enrollment. Last year I was in touch with 10-12 families all involved in the process and wanting to get out of our assigned school and all of us eventually got into a decent school. It is nerve wracking but you need not despair! You may not get in to Crocker Highlands but you will get in somewhere! (I highly recommend Kaiser!)


What public school CAN we lottery into in 2007?

October 2006


Though we want to support our Oakland neighborhood school, we might want to attend someone else's Oakland neighborhood school. I want to make wise choices in the lottery, raising our chances rather than lowering them. I've heard enough negative stories, are their good stories? If we have to attend our neighborhood school, so be it, the system won't get better if we don't support it .

among the ususal ousd requested schools we put down glenview since a friend of ours lives in that neighborhood. that is the one we got! aside from the drive out there we really like it. my daughter is in kindergarten and to start, we are very happy with her teacher. the diversity is exactly what we would have wanted in any school for her. there is near equal representation of white, latino, african american and asian families. there are mixed races families, lesbian/gay families, hetero families, single parent families, all sorts. and a lot of these parents are very involved in the school and are doing what they can to better it. next weekend there is a big gardening event. most of the tired old plants have been removed and are going to be replaced with natives and drought tolerant plants. I think this will make a HUGE visual improvement which in turn will further school pride among the students. score wise it is doing quite well, I believe it received 814 in the last round of testing. at the first parent meeting of the school year the principal called glenview ''the best kept secret in oakland''. so if you are going to go public, which I am glad we did, you should check out glenview. gael


We live in the Chabot district - worried we may not get in

May 2006

We live in the Chabot School District. But from reading various posts, I'm beginning to get concerned that my daughter may not get in, regardless. Is it possible that she won't get in even if we live in the district?? Anon

Our daughter is currently a K student at Chabot; we live in the district. It is a fabulous school, and thus very popular for transfers. As long as you follow the new district guidelines for registering--most importantly, doing it early--you should be fine. Next year, from what I am told, there were 70 in-district kids who enrolled. That left only 10 spaces for transfers. Good luck! Elizabeth

Yes-- it is a possibility that you won't get into your neighborhood school. It happened to us this year, even though we registered when we were supposed to, along with everyone else. We've lived in our home for over 10 years, not that this has anything to do with the process. However, I do not think people are getting bumped from Chabot. Usually your child gets bumped to something somewhat close by. We weren't thrilled with what we were bumped to, although there is nothing seriously wrong with the alternative that was offered to us. We've decided to go elsewhere, after this experience with OUSD. ---anon

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Oakland Unified is quietly implementing a ''choice'' system similar to Berkeley and San Francisco? Although officially we have a ''neighborhood school policy'' the district has taken over the job of enrolling students, which used to happen at the school sites. I would be interested to hear other experiences.

I don't live in the Chabot district, but I live in an Oakland neighborhood with a very good elementary school. I have the same concerns that you do. The number of people (living within the neighborhood boundaries) applying to our local elementary school seems to have doubled in just a handful of years. Everywhere I turn in the neighborhood, new families are moving in and most of them want to send their children to the local school. My own theory is that private schools are less affordable with the rise in housing prices and mortgages. Unfortunately neighborhood schools aren't required to take neighborhood kids, although in the recent past this usually hasn't been a problem. With the current ''baby boomlet'' or trend to support good neighborhood schools, some neighborhood kids will probably not be offered spots at their local school. (It also doesn't help that there are those who cheat & lie to obtain spaces, depriving others of spots - you may have followed the recent thread about this issue). I would like to know what Oakland will be doing to accommodate neighborhood kids in the future
Concerned mom

The OUSD ''options'' assignment process has been confusing and frustrating for me too, but I have found the Student Assignment Office to be pretty responsive to my questions. If you have questions or concerns about the process, the numbers & statistics, waiting lists etc. call the assignment office and talk to Noah Bookman or send him an email ((510) 879-8111; enroll[at]ousd.k12.ca.us). There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions floating around -- if you want to get to the bottom of it, contact the District


Oakland kindergarten intradistrict transfers

March 2006


Can anyone give insight to what is happening to the Oakland Public School kindergarten transfers? All the letters seemed to have gone out after the 15th and most people I have talked to did not get any of their choices, but their neighborhood school they wanted to transfer out of. Was there an overwhelming amount of applicants or was it the new system? If anyone knows what happened your insights would be appreciated by many upset and frustrated parents. Thanks! Anon

There are only four decent elementary schools in Oakland. Not coincendentally, these are the same elementary schools that are NOT underenrolled. Consequently, there are only one or two kindergarten spots available at each school. Compare that to the numerous failing schools all accross Oakland, and the hundreds, maybe thousands of parents who want to get out of them. You do the math. I was personally very dissappointed with the results of the open enrollment process. I would also like to put in my two cents on another, slightly related subject: It seems to have become unfashionable to put stock in standardized test scores (I saw two postings this week in which people discounted poor test scores). I would like to point out that while there are many aspects to a child's development (social, emotional, etc.), the objective of school is (or should be) academic development. Standardized test scores DO measure academic acheivement (allbeit not perfectly), and what they show about the Oakland public schools in general is dismal. I just read a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone who is frustrated with OUSD. It is called ''Cheating our kids, how politics and greed ruin education'' by Joe Williams. -frustrated

I didn't see the original question posted here, but it was disheartening to see that only one person answered and his/her opening statements were ''There are only four decent elementary schools in Oakland. Not coincendentally, these are the same elementary schools that are NOT underenrolled.'' This is patently false. (And it makes me wonder which schools they are referring to.) I'm surprised that the moderator let this slip through the cracks. There are ''underenrolled'' schools that have excellent test scores - just go to greatschools.net and check it out - Kaiser, for one, is a hidden gem that almost no one in the neighborhood attends, has a ranking of 9 out of 10 and high, high scores. And, this is just one. The beauty of this network is we parents get to give and receive very helpful information to one another. The problem with it is that sometimes the information given is simply not based in fact. -Happy OUSD mom at an ''underenrolled'' school

I want to respond to the post regarding Oakland kindergartens in the April 2nd Schools digest. An annonymous parent stated, '' There are only four decent elementary schools in Oakland. '' I don't believe this statement to be true. There are several schools in Oakland, Peralta and Sequoia among them, that are centered in less affluent communities than the hills school, but are wonderful educational environments. We applied for an intradistrict transfer before our daughter started kindergarten to generate options for her before making a decision where she would go. After she ''won'' a space in one of the sought after hills schools we did our research and school visits. In the end we enrolled our daughter at Sequoia Elementary, our neighborhood public school, and have been very pleased with the both the education offered and the culture of the school. Our daughter is being well educated ( as well as her friends in Montclair ) and loves school. The kindergarten teachers at Sequoia are special jewels, and the new principal is fantastic. We can't wait for our son to start kindergarten at Sequoia next fall, so that we can all experience the magic of kindergarten again.

Check out parent reviews for Seqoia at www.greatschools.net www.greatschools.net/modperl/parents/ca/256/?ref=membership A well educated mother of a well educated child... Susan Stoeffler, LMFT

I respectfully disagree that there are only four decent elementary schools in Oakland. I have spent time in OUSD elementary schools and have observed some wonderful teachers and well run schools. If you have a specific experience, by all means share it. Generalizations are not helpful to anyone and negative generalizations are hurtful to many. anon

I found ''frustrated'''s posting on this topic to be needlessly alarmist, as well as elitist. There are more than ''four decent elementary schools in Oakland.'' Without thinking hard, I can name twice as many. I assume the poster's four are Hillcrest, Thornhill, Joaquin Miller and Montclair. But look at the postings just in the same newsletter praising Crocker Highlands, Kaiser, Redwood Heights, and the teacher with wonderful things to say about Carl Munck. Happy parents have posted recently about Chabot, Glenview, Peralta (check the Archives) and various Oakland charter schools which are, after all, public schools. The poster is certainly entitled to his/her opinion; however, except for the book recommendation, the posting didn't include any concrete, helpful information for the many worried parents who read and post to this list. What led the poster to conclude that there are only four? Test scores? rumors? personal experience? School decisions are so emotionally loaded for parents. They don't need more to worry about. There ARE very good public elementary schools in Oakland. My daughter is in one (probably not of one the poster's fabulous four). Oakland Public school mom

I am sorry to hear that you didn't get into one of the 4 schools in Oakland that you consider ''decent''. Have you considered renting in a district with very high performing schools? I was curious to read your post in favor of putting more (not less) stock in test scores. In light of the current scandal with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) incorrectly scoring SAT's for thousands of high school seniors and the subsequent cover-up of the scope of the problem, I have even less confidence in machine-scored tests than I did before. I am also deeply concerned that we have entrusted our high stakes testing to a handful of largely unregulated for-profit businesses. Should schools be held accountable for teaching children to read and do math? Of course they should. But in order to do this for the least amount of money possible, schools now rely on dumbed-down tests that can be read by a machine and the curriculum is geared toward ensuring that students score well on these tests.

States who prefer to include essay questions on their test which cannot be machine scored are forced to convert to bubble-in answer scheets because the feds want annual testing. And the people who largely benefit are for-profit test providers and for-profit Supplementary Service providers. I would rather spend less time on test prep, taking tests, and sweating test scores, and have more time for literature, dance, music, art, and science in public school classrooms. Maybe that's a fashionable view or just a cynical one but after 4 years as a public school parent, I see a few benefits from ''accountability'' but many troubling trends too.

I also take issue with the person who wrote ''there are only four good schools in Oakland''. We live in Montclair, and were assigned what many refer to as a ''good school''. We really wanted to send our child to our local school. Howver, after getting a tour and visiting various classrooms, speaking with the principal and staff, talking with other parents already at the school, etc. we realized we'd be much, much happier at a school like Peralta, Crocker Highlands, Kaiser, or Chabot. Unfortunately, because our neighborhood school isn't failing, we're stuck (no chance of transferring out from our school, even though we tried!) and have actually decided to move, since we really don't feel the so-called ''good school'' is a fit for us. I strongly urge you to visit schools (if you haven't already) before deciding what is good or not good. We were surprised by what we found after doing so.


Open enrollment: trying to enroll in a school outside my neighborhood

Feb 2005


We went through open enrollment in the Oakland Unified School district this year and didn't get into any! of the six schools we applied to. What do we do now? Private school is simply not an option (due to lack of $), and I feel awful about sending him to our local school (Parker elementary). The school district said we can't reapply for any potential spaces in the fall unless he has a sibling that already attends the school we want. What have others done in this situation? If you ended up sending your child to your local school, did you regret it? I have to work full-time, so spending a lot of time in the classroom is not realistic for me. Does anyone have anything *good* to say about Parker? If you sent your child to private school, how did you come up with the $? Did you move to a better school district? Even if you haven't been in this exact situation, any words of advice or encouragement would be greatly appreciated. -kindergarten blues

Call Sequoia Elementary school in Oakland and set up a visit and a time to talk with the Principal Kathy Maloney. I believe that Seqoia still has spots open for the fall. We had the opportunity to transfer our daughter out for Kindergarten and are very glad that we didn't. Please check out the parent feedback on the Great Schools website. Please feel free to email me if you have specific questions.

  Sequoia Elementary School 3730 Lincoln Ave  Oakland, CA 94602 (510) 879-1510 

There are several charter schools in Oakland that have an entirely different enrollment process and I know are now in process of taking applications. They fall under OUSD so there are no tuition costs. Enrollment is also based on lottery but the lottery is just for those applying at each individual school. From preliminary research on my part, some of these schools appear to be quite good. If you look on the OUSD website you can find all the charter schools currently in Oakland. I know that several are having open houses within the next few weeks. Parent in similar situation

One of the options I chose was to put my child in private school and apply for scholarship. It is still a big stretch for me, but I have a gifted kid, and I work in the public schools, and just couldn't see sending him there. Many of the private schools have generous scholarship assistance. Public school can be a backup if you don't get it, but i believe you must fill out the paperwork now if you want it for next year. It certainly can't hurt to ask, and several private schools want more diversity, both cultural and economic, so....give it a try. kv

I know it's difficult, but your best bet is to be patient. While you may not have gotten your choice in this round it is very likely that you will before the beginning of the year. I know many, many parents who have registered at their home school and by being patience and polite and keeping in contact with their first choice schools have gotten in. In fact, I don't know of a single parent who has not gotten a transfer into a school that they felt perfectly fine about. It's a little bit of playing chicken, but I know both Croker and Redwood Heights both had openings in the first weeks of school this year, and I bet Chabot and Thornhill both did. As for Parker, I know there are good things that happen at almost any school, but having worked as a volunteer at Parker, I have to say it would be difficult for me to place my child there. This seems to be a school in a constant state of flux with very high teacher and administrative turn over, very challenging population and a fairly high number of non-credentialed teachers. anon

I would encourage you, or anyone looking for an exceptional public school in Oakland, to check out Kaiser Elementary School (25 South Hill Court Oakland, 94618). It is a small school... in a very safe neighborhood....with an extremely close knit community feel. The staff and teachers are diverse and dedicated. The test scores are very good. Parents are welcome to come by the school at any time. Just check into the office or call. Renae

You are not finished with OUSD yet. Open enrollment is the very first step, after which comes the inter-district transfer process (using the same form as the open enrollment form, just check the inter-district transfer box, and where prompted state a reason for the transfer). I am not positive when the transfer process begins and ends but I know that it follows open-enrollment (check their website for the dates and procedures). Then you wait for an answer to that form, too. And after all that, or alongside that, I have been told repeatedly by the principals at a couple of schools (specifically Kaiser and Peralta) that if a parent is truly dead-set on their school, that they do have some personal pull in the process. I have also heard stories of determined parents, with the help of the principal, getting admitted as late as a few weeks before school starts to their school of choice. These principals seemed to want to honor a family's desire to go specifically to their school within the scope of this huge administrative and random process. I believe that there may be some schools where this is not the case (I didn't get the same impression from Chabot) but if you have a strong first choice where you want your child, I would make your personal presence and desire known to the administrative staff there and attempt to solicit their help (as well as jumping through the designated hoops of the inter-district transfer process). Hope this helps and good luck. Went to the OUSD info meeting


What are the chances I can transfer to a good school?

April 2004


I am interested in learning what parent experiences have been with school district transfers within Oakland. I'm wondering particularly if it has been difficult to get kids into specific schools if you don't live in the school's district? We would consider buying a house in Oakland if we could send our kids to one of the better 8-9 elementary schools.

From what I know, transferring to a 'good' school in Oakland is possible, but not easy. Each year a lottery is held, but preference is given to kids from underperforming schools. (You can get more info on the lottery process at the OUSD website.) We have been told by a couple of principals that if you really want to get into a certain school, things usually 'work out'. Basically, after 'losing' in the lottery, you need to contact the principal and lobby them on a regular basis. We really wanted our son to go to a certain public school, but the principal said it would be August before she would know if she had any openings. We didn't want to risk it, so enrolled in private school. Also, several of the better schools (Thornhill, Hillcrest) weren't accepting any transfers this year. Your safest bet would be to buy a house in one of the school neighborhoods you're interested in. (And research that carefully -- we were told by our real estate agent that we were in the Chabot district, but we're not.) You might also visit some of the schools you're interested in and talk to the principals to make sure it's worth your while to move.

I'm afraid, since the No Child Left Behind law was passed, interdistrict transfers in Oakland are far more difficult, unless you live in the area of a low-performing school. The district is required to give preference to those whose neighborhood school is low-performing (I believe the district publishes a list of these schools). If you live near a school that is merely mediocre, your chances of transferring in are slim. So if you are looking to buy, you might want to look for the areas with the really bad schools to increase your chances.

When we went through the process several years ago it was frustrating and unpleasant, I think they are trying to be a little more user-friendly now but don't expect much in the way of information or help from the district offices.

I suggest you try to buy in the district of those 8-9 schools that you would find acceptable. That is what we did and we are very happy with our neighborhood school, Joaquin Miller. an OUSD parent


Inter-district transfers in Oakland

Sept 2003


I was just wondering if anyone has done an inter-district transfer (we have a 4-year-old heading off to kindergarten in Fall 2004)in the Oakland? We've heard about ''lotteries,'' but no response from the Oakland Unified, with which I left messages for a callback. Any input would be greatly appreciated!! Kathy

Don't expect friendly and responsive treatment from the Oakland School District. They HATE transfers and picky parents, we are all so whiny you know (I was told that by a Principal at my daughter's former public school).

Did you know that you don't need a transfer to apply to a public Charter school? There are many in Oakland. My 12-year old goes to a terrific small school called Lighthouse Community Charter School in Downtown Oakland (on Telegraph at 19th St.) They only take new kindergardeners and 6th graders each year, and occassionally have a spot open in an existing class, but there may be a long waiting list for those. Lighthouse is very clean, safe, college-prep focused, Spanish, P.E., and art all included and they have an extended day/free afterschool program until 5:30pm 4 days a week.

I have heard good things about other charters also, like West Oakland Community Charter School, and Conservation Corps. To find more info about Charter Schools in Oakland (or anywhere for that matter) check the CANEC website (don't know if that is .org or .com...) The folks at the Oakland Public School District don't know much about the charter schools and if they did, they wouldn't tell you. They are under the mistaken belief that charter schools are bad. They are only bad for the district's highly paid administrators and teachers union. Great for parents and kids who want a small school/ safe school environment.

Good Luck! Mother of 3 in Oakland

It used to be easier to get a transfer to another school within Oakland Unified, but that's changed over the last couple of years. The transfer application process still exists, but priority is now given to kids whose home schools are considered low-perfoming schools (I've never been successful at getting a definition of that term!). I'm not sure whether siblings of existing students get secondary priority, but they probably do ''unofficially'' if not officially. After this, there is a lottery - but there may not be any spots available at any of the schools you want.

Neighborhood Parents Network sponsors an annual forum/fair of North Oakland elementary schools, and this school year it will be held in January (date to be determined). It will be listed in the Berkeley Parents Network announcements digest as soon as we have a date.

We are hoping to get Randy Ward, the new state administrator in charge of the district, to speak, as well as a kindergarten teacher and others. We will also invite PTA representatives from as many schools as possible to take part in an effort to give incoming parents a chance to meet parents already at the school and get the ''low down''.

Another good source of information is http://www.schoolwisepress.com. You can buy profiles of individual schools for $6, compare different schools, and get good general information about testing, etc. Lysa

Correction to my previous post:

To clarify some things on the recent post about transfers: Under the No Child Left Behind Act, districts are obligated to provide options for parents wishing to transfer from schools that are Performance Improvement Schools 2 years in a row, and which receive Title I funds. PI schools are schools that have not met their API (now AYP) targets 3 years in a row. Districts should have sent out (sometimes vaguely worded) letters to this effect to ALL parents of PI schools that receive Title I funds (most PI schools do). Althought they are obligated to allow parents to move their children from these schools, there are few guarentees that districts in all actuality have places to move these children TO, particularly in grades K-3 receiving class size reduction funds. The Chronicle has done several articles recently about the difficulties districts are having meeting these Federal requirements. But if your school meets the requirements, they must send you a letter and allow you to move...somewhere. The API/ AYP will be posted on the California Department of Education website in October; past years are posted now.

A note about the comment on charter schools...check them out carefully. The state is closing charter schools more and more frequently, and for good reasons, notably fiscal mismanagement and failing to provide adequate instruction, often due to unprepared and uncredentialled teachers. I am a teacher in a non-OUSD district, and some of the students who have come to us from Oakland charter schools have been far below grade level in all academic areas, despite report cards to the contrary. educator


Househunting: How hard is it to get into a better Oakland school?

Aug 2003

I have been househunting in oakland and am using the school district as one of the main requirements, so mainly we have been looking in Rockridge, Trestle Glen, upper oakmore, and montclair. And while there is nothing wrong with these neighborhoods I finds myself drawn to the lower price tags and level back yards of Piedmont ave, lower Oakmore, and Off Grand ave. Which are in the lakeview, and glenview school districts. (Though these may not be bad schools my main worry is that by the time our son is in school the great schools will just be okay, and the good ones will be terrible.)

So my question is considering our son is only 18 months old is basing our move on a school district unnecessary, and if we do decide to live in an okay school district (instead of a great one) how hard is it to transfer your child into a good one, if we decide to do so? Also since we are planning to have 3 kids if we do get into a better school district, are siblings allowed to follow? Thanks in advance

I had a lot of the same concerns as you when househunting (with an infant) and we too liked Glenview and Oakmore a lot. In the end, I was concerned about the school district enough to start looking in other neighborhoods. We ended up buying a place in Redwood Heights, which has a very good elementary school (not as great as Montclair schools, but a close second). We also found a home with a flat backyard, another one of our critiria. We love this neighborhood -- in addition to the school, it's got a great community feel with lots of young families, a mom-baby playgroup and neighborhood softball teams (both thru the Redwood Heights Improvement Association), a nice park, good access to 13 and 580 and so on. So, maybe the answer is to expand your househunt to include other areas. Redwood Heights Mom

First of all, I think basing your housing location decision on schools is a great thing to be doing even though your son is young. You don't want to be a situation in a few years where you feel like you HAVE to move. I picked my house because of the neighborhood school and didn't even have children at the time! Secondly, while theoretically possible, it is REALLY difficult to transfer into the best public schools in Oakland (Montclair, Thornhill, Hillcrest, Joaquin Miller) and I certainly wouldn't count on it. That being said, I have friends with children at Glenview and Lakeview and they're happy there; there's more to school than test scores. You need to live in a house and location where you feel happy, too. Good luck with your decision! - been there, done that

My daughter starts Kindergarden at Crocker Highlands Elem. school next week, so I'm sort of a novice. But I watched plenty of people I know try to get interdistrict transfers. Some were sucessful (those in the most underperfoming school districts), but most were not if they lived near a decent school. One freind did get a transfer from Piedmont Ave. elem. to Crocker, but ended up going private for other reasons. Then I have a friend who lived here when her first child started school, but not when her second was about to. She was actually denied a transfer at first, but ended up getting in. Kids from underpeforming school districts get preference over siblings. That said, I was told early last year at some meeting about OUSD that persistence and patience re; transfers usually pays off. Good luck.

There are so many criteria to consider when buying a home, and schools is certainly an important one, but not necessarily the most important,in my opinion. I wouldn't assume that schools are necessarily going to go down in quality over the years. There are a number of neighborhood movements, groups working to improve their neighborhood schools so that families can feel comfortable sending their children to the school in their own neighborhood along with neighborhood friends. Redwood Heights did this and it's now a very strong school, Peralta is currently doing this as well as Glenview, which is where our son is starting next week. I have the sense that Glenview will only get better over the years, due to more and more parent involvement. However, if you do find that you want to transfer to a school outside of your immediate neighborhood, the success rate seems to change year by year. This year, everyone I knew got into one of the schools that they requested, though it wasn't always their first choice school. Siblings are not guaranteed entry, but they're given priority over some others. I have heard of a few families that were not able to get siblings into the same school. Good luck! Johanna

Another option, rather than moving into a neighborhood with a top rated school or choosing the neighborhood you like and transfering to a top rated school, is to get involved in the school in your neighborhood and make it a top rated school. Families are doing that in my neighborhood (Glenview) and it's pretty exciting. Many families have been involved in the parent's group at the school despite having children who are a few years away from kindergarten. This year, there's a big crop of middle class families from the neighborhood entering kindergarten, some of whom, incidentally, applied for transfers to the top-tier schools, got them, and decided to stay in Glenview and invest in their community instead. It's always hard to make the leap first, but making the leap in the company of others is much easier. And of course, since income is the biggest predictor of test scores, if middle class people sent their kids to their neighborhood school, the test scores would go up. By the way, I love living in Glenview -- it's the most neighborhoody neighborhood I've ever lived in. Good luck, wherever you end up! nelly

hi there, just wanted to say that as both a new mom (to a baby) and new stepmom that i've been through the moving and school search and believe my hindsight might help.

as a new stepmom our son (now in middle school) has suffered from young and naive parenting and his sister will undoubtedly be spared the mistakes we made.

the question and some of the responses refer to Lakeview Elementary... without a doubt one of the worst decisions we made was sending him to Lakeview elementary a couple years ago. i think sometimes being young and liberal clouded our heads a bit, as well as having to move at a time that was inopportune to thoroughly investigate private schools and other options. i think we thought our ''involved'' parenting would help buffer some of the less desirable aspects of the school.

but in the end, sending him there set him back academically and in other ways (socially, emotionally, developing good school habits and attitudes) a few years. i know it sounds harsh but i still feel bad for him about it.

i'm also not a supporter of test scores determining the goodness of a school - but if they are testing that poorly it does reflect much of what is or is not going on there. and our son was one of the top two kids test-wise in his class and his scores were pretty bad. he missed 18 out of 19 questions in some sections and did only around 50-65 percentile in the few sections he did well on.

also, when i would go over homework with him, i would find (several times) there were things that his teacher was telling him that were wrong. like when they were preparing for those darn tests, they went over the answers in class (after a practice) and he gave them the wrong answer. when i looked at the answer and talked with him about why it was wrong, he was confused because the teacher had done it with them! and it was the ''close'' answer, not the right answer, so i could see how ''someone'' would get it wrong, but not the teacher!

and, by the way, he had a great teacher who really cared and worked hard to create a good environment in the classroom. but the academics just weren't there (the teacher was young and had little mentorship resources). they were 5th graders going over math and reading - ONLY. they suspended the science and social studies because the kids were so far behind. they were still doing phonics - the class, not just the kids who needed it. i had a friend on the school board and asked him about that and he was astonished because they had even purchased new science books (which i saw in the class and the teacher thought it was funny since they weren't going to use them). so the communication between the district to the classroom is not working as it should be. and, he also said ''we just don't know what to do with lakeview.'' (!)

also, he had learned/witnessed very poor attitudes and behavior from some of the other kids who rarely or ever did their homework, did not do very good quality work and talked back to the teacher. i'm not saying these things to be judgemental, but it is hard to persuade your kid to do things way outside the ''norm'' of their environment. the district policy is also to call the police whenever a violent incident occurs and i saw the police there quite often when i passed by or stopped to drop something off at the school - i think this is to record each incident in the case of a lawsuit or something. but seeing an officer called because a 6 year old threw something at another boy, the boy crying and freaked out - (let alone a young boy of color having to deal w/ the police at such a young age) was just depressing.

i have friends who teach in the district and they wouldn't send their own kids to the schools they work in.

anyhow, now that we have him in a different public school the differences i see are astounding. however, the struggles we went through this past year - transitioning from low expectations/academics to high (from the school) - had a lot to do with his previous experience at lakeview - and lakeview doesn't even have ''underperforming'' or now deemed ''high need'' status because their scores are just above that threshold. at his new school we worked intensely with his teachers to get him on the right track. and part of our success was only due to the fact that he is a bit older now and maturity is starting to take hold, with a younger kid it may be much harder.

of course some of our circumstances are extreme or different because he had a difficult background up until recently , switching schools often etc. but regardless, i think our experience made us get our act together and made the school the number one priority for where we lived. (and we did try the transfer thing and there is very little likelihood of getting them, let alone the chase you have to go through to be denied anyway).

again the great problem is that good school areas have really high rent/housing costs. so you may consider living somewhere cheaper the first few years until your kid is ready for school and then move - because it is really expensive! good luck anon