Requesting a Non-Neighborhood School in OUSD

Parent Q&A

2021: East Bay kindergarten acceptance - public and private Mar 12, 2021 (5 responses below)
Easier to get into OUSD in 1st grade? Feb 3, 2020 (2 responses below)
OUSD Waitlist Experience Mar 14, 2019 (1 responses below)
OUSD 2019 Lottery Mar 14, 2019 (3 responses below)
Requesting Non-Neighborhood School in OUSD Lottery Jul 26, 2017 (3 responses below)
OUSD School Appeal Help Mar 13, 2017 (2 responses below)
OUSD waitlist response Jul 8, 2016 (3 responses below)
  • Hello,

    We are navigating the East Bay kindergarten scene for the first time. A few questions in case others have more experience! 

    OUSD:  we received waitlist placement from all 6 schools we ranked.  We chose a good mix of how in demand schools are (two top schools, with lower ranking spots, and 4 mid-range/more average rated schools).  We would really prefer not to go to the neighborhood school (only offer we got).  I read an article from OUSD yesterday that over 95% of applicants received their top three schools.  With that kind of stat, did anyone else get 0/6 this year?  Mainly just curious.  But also.., could I have done something wrong/better or just got very statistically unlucky?

    Private:  we applied to 5 private schools as well which we will hear about next week. I just read that you can actually get straight declines vs waitlisted. I guess that makes sense, but does anyone know why you would get a full decline for a “normal” 4 year old?  Is that the kind of thing you can ask specifics if it happens?  

    in either case, I’m trying not to get my expectations up too high for this year, but would love to get feedback on how to do better next year if we end up with only our neighborhood school as an option. 

    All thoughts and feedback would be appreciated!!



    I’m sorry you didn’t get into your choice school. And you spent $$$ and time on school applications! This is crazy making for sure. My spouse who grew up in a small town is often baffled by the school craziness here, as kids in their hometown all went to the same school since there was only one elementary, one middle and one high school choice.

    Re: OUSD, it is common not to get into the out of catchment school for the first around. Those who get into a select few coveted schools are very lucky. After the private school decisions are mailed out, spots start opening up at these popular schools because many choose the private option or prefer another OUSD or are waiting to get off of the charter school waitlist. Throughout the summer and into the first 1-3 weeks of school, there is a lot of movement and spots open up. Many kids start at the school they got selected and then move to a different school. In my kid’s TK class, by week 3, 3 kids moved to Monclair, Glenview, and somewhere I don’t know, because they were selected off of the waitlist. For most kids, you get off of the waitlist sometime in late spring / summer before school starts. So, where you are on the waitlist matters. A single digit or low double digit on the waitlist gives you a good chance. Waitlist 300 something will be a long shot. It is also common for kids to move schools after TK or K, so people do keep trying for their choice school. We are moving our 2nd grader to a different school in the fall and movement in lower grades is extremely common. This is a sad reality of Oakland but we remain friends with several kids who are now at different schools in Oakland, Berkeley, Lamorinda, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, which is good because they may be in the same school for middle and high as well as school break camps. 

    Especially this year, many parents are trying to maximize options because of Covid. OUSD process is long and the March selection is only the beginning. 

    For private schools, I understand luck is also a factor. They try to build a diverse class, so if you have a boy and they need more girls, you have a less chance that year. Most private schools want racial, gender ID, and to the extend possible socio-economic diversity. They also can’t overload a class with kids with special needs. They look at parents and the potential for parent contributions — money, time, connections. Many get accepted and see that they didn’t get financial aid or didn’t get enough so they turn down their acceptance. April and May are the second round of admissions cycle for private schools. So people from waitlists and late applicants do get accepted. We are holding a spot at our zoned OUSD school which is one of the popular schools with a 3 digit waitlist. We will be relinquishing our OUSD spot if we get into our top choice private school. 


    What waitlist spots are you? We’ve been on the waitlist 2x in the past 3 years and got what we wanted. I’d call the district office and get their odds on each school.

    The reason that number is so high is because most people are ok with their neighborhood school. The privileged few (including me) who weren't interested in our neighborhood school, were left to the waitlist lottery. It depends on where you are on the list whether you'll actually get there or not. (I was 56 at Montclair, and made it down to 20 something by September, and started at 112+ for the rest of the schools, so never stood a chance)

  • Easier to get into OUSD in 1st grade?

    (2 replies)

    We have no neighborhood priority for any of the schools we're hoping for so are considering private for K and trying the lottery again for 1st. Anyone have experience getting into a not-your-neighborhood school in 1st grade? Is it easier/less stressful than applying for K?

    Kindergarten spots open up even in high-demand schools if you are patient. It can happen as late as the second week of school.

    We applied to an out of area school in 1st grade and got in 3 weeks into the school year.  We ended up not taking the spot since our child was so stressed out about switching schools. If you have an easy-going kid then it can be a definite option.  I am not sure if it is an easier lottery in 1st grade. We applied the year before when everyone applies and got I think number 18 on the waitlist. Then all throughout the summer, I watched our number drop.  School started and we were I think number 4 on the waitlist. Three weeks in we dropped to number 1 and they called us to ask if we wanted the spot.  Good luck-I know how stressful it can be for families dealing with this.

  • We are currently waitlisted #81 at Chabot, #13 at Peralta. (Choice #1 & #2 respectively) Does anyone have experience from past years as to what chance we have of getting into these schools? We aren't zoned for either. *Anxious parent*

    I have no advice but am also curious on other experiences last year, from what I understand this is only the second year for the current waitlist process.  Not really knowing how to rank these schools that all seemed great, our waitlist numbers are all over the place and seem to not correspond with how we ranked them.  For example, #3 is Montclair at 272 and Peralta is #4 but we're waitlisted at 21.

    I contacted the student center to ask this question and was given estimates of 10-15 students being expected to move off of the waitlist. You have a chance at Peralta. 

    The OUSD lottery isn't weighted to give you a better chance at your higher-ranked schools, which is why numbers are all over the place. Instead, you essentially get one "entry" into an independent lottery for every school you list (plus your neighborhood school, if you didn't list it). Your chances are based on how many other people also listed a given school, rather than how you or they ranked it. The rankings are only used to determine which school to offer you and which to drop--if you got lucky and had high enough numbers to get spots at both your #3 and #5 schools, for instance, you would get offered your #3 and #4-6 would drop off your list, while you'd stay on the waitlist for #1 and #2. It is true that this is only the second year for the current enrollment process, so the waitlist numbers aren't comparable to the waitlists under the old appeals system (where you could only be on the waitlist for one school). Hopefully in future years OUSD will publish some of the data on how far down they've gone on the lists at various schools--anecdotally it seems that it can be quite far at all but the most in-demand schools, so don't give up!

  • OUSD Waitlist Experience

    (1 reply)

    For those of you who were in the OUSD lottery last year, how fast does the waiting list move? What number on the waiting list actually has a chance of getting into the school? 

    RE: OUSD Waitlist Experience ()

    It really depends on the school. A single or low double digit number has a real chance at many schools.  I have not heard of anyone with a triple digit number get in from the waitlist. 

  • OUSD 2019 Lottery

    (3 replies)


    Can anyone offer some reflection on their lottery spots for LAST year? My son is #156 for Fall 2019 for his first school choice (JM) :<. Did anyone get a late offer last year who was low on the waitlist? He's #12 for Thornhill and #21 for Crocker.


    RE: OUSD 2019 Lottery ()

    What grade is this for? If it's for kindergarten, the lists moved a LOT last year, though not till April and beyond. Sadly JM does sound like a long shot, but Thornhill is definitely in play. Remember that the movement is not just neighborhood kids deciding not to attend, but also any kids who may have ranked another school higher getting into that school, creating a ripple effect down the rest of their list. The upper grades are more hit-or-miss in our (and friends') experiences, but last year they did move somewhat, though not until later in the spring as schools learned which students wouldn't be returning.

    RE: OUSD 2019 Lottery ()

    I’m in the same boat so I have no advice from last year. Just commiseration. We’re waitlisted at Joaquin Miller as well, and waitlisted #71 at Sequoia which was our first choice. We didn’t get any of our 6 choices. Some of the waitlist numbers seem impossible. We’re in the 200s for places like Montclair. 

    RE: OUSD 2019 Lottery ()

    I understand that movement varies quite a lot from one school to the next. We're #109 at Chabot, which was our first choice, and I don't anticipate that they'll move more than a handful off that wait list. Ditto, Cleveland, our second choice, where we're #96. Strangely, we're #8 at Sequoia, which we'd ranked lower, and so I just don't understand how the lottery process works if someone who ranked it first is at #71 (no, we're not even zoned for the school). Rather impenetrable!

  • Hi all,

    We live in a neighborhood with a pretty good elementary school that we were thinking of ranking second on our list for OUSD's lottery.  We were hoping to put another school that is K-8 as number one, even though it isn't our neighborhood school.  Does anyone have advice to share about this idea?  I saw someone posted a similar question over a year ago, but I have no idea how this worked out for them.

    Basically, wondering how much this hurts our chances of getting into our neighborhood school if we rank it second.



    I could be wrong, but my understanding is that listing a non-neighborhood school 1st won't hurt your chances of getting into your neighborhood school.  You should put your first-choice school ranked first, and your neighborhood school second. As it was explained to me, the system doesn't really need to be "gamed".   Some years there is lots of room in the K-8 school (Hillcrest) for non-neighborhood kids, and some years there isn't much room.

    However, if in doubt, you should absolutely call OUSD and ask the question. 

    Your local school is your default school. We didn't put our local school as any of our choices and still ended up assigned there (initially, anyway; we appealed and were finally notified we got into our top choice school in late June). 

    If you put your neighborhood school as your top choice, they aren't going to look any further down the list.

    We don't know for certain, however we didn't put our neighborhood school (quite under enrolled recently) in our 5 options at all and we still got assigned to our neighborhood school anyways. Probably, putting your neighborhood as number two will not hurt. We then got into the school we requested in May this 2017 through appealing. We felt like the options don't matter in our experience. The appeal process did have an option to especially state that you're not assigned to your neighborhood school and you want it. I hope this information helps, even though it's quite not your situation.

  • OUSD School Appeal Help

    (2 replies)

    HI BPN family,

    We moved to Oakland last year and our children currently still attend school in Alameda. Since our eldest is entering 6th grade and we no longer have an Alameda address, we are moving them to Oakland Schools.  We applied for schools and submitted our applications (For our soon to be 6th and 2nd graders) and our 2nd grader was assigned to our catchment school (Burckhart -which was not one of our choices).

    Please give me tips/suggestions on successfully appealing.  We are looking to get my 2nd grader into Joaquin Miller or Redwood Heights Elementary.  My 6th grader will likely (waiting on placement information still) be attending Montera Middle School. 

    We are a gay family and would prefer to be in schools with more gay parents to avoid my kids being teased/bullied (it's already started in their current school).

    Thank you in advance!

    RE: OUSD School Appeal Help ()

    At our OUSD schools, they suggest that you make yourself and your situation known with the school offices and keep in touch with them about possible openings. Also, there is a "shuffle" at the beginning of  the year and the first week of school is often an opportunity to get a spot.

    RE: OUSD School Appeal Help ()

    If you have ever discussed the teasing issue with a professional (pediatrician, therapist), you might attach a letter from that person to verify your child's needs for a safe environment in which self-esteem will not be undermined. 

  • OUSD waitlist response

    (3 replies)

    Our daughter is waitlisted for Kaiser Elementary for kindergarten this fall. She is #2 on the list and the district says she has a good chance of getting in. We have been waitlisted since March when appeals started and I was wondering if any BPN'ers who were/are also on a waitlist had heard back? The thought of it being July and not knowing is stressful for our family ):. Has anyone else had experience in the past with finding out this late?

    RE: OUSD waitlist response ()

    Hi! I am sorry to hear about the waitlist. As a planner myself having to wait for such a big decision is very frustrating.  I went through this with my older child (over 11 years ago! and at Kaiser as well). I can say we did get in. Things tend to shift a lot over the summer and often folks who have decided not to go, don't let anyone know. I recommend contacting the school directly to see if they might have a better handle on the number of incoming kindergarteners.  Kaiser is great! My youngest just graduated 5th grade from Kaiser.  

    RE: OUSD waitlist response ()

    We got in off the wait list at our first choice school and gave up our kindergarten spot at Kaiser. We got the call on June 1st, but it wasn't all official until about a week later when we actually got the paperwork in the mail. We had expected to not know for sure until the week before school started in August (or even later). I would suggest going to the Student Assignment Office in person (they have been much more helpful in person than on the phone) to find out your current position on the wait list and confirm/remind them that you really want to be at Kaiser. Most of the school sites (unless they have a summer school program) are closed until August and it is all controlled by the SAC anyway. If you were #2 on the original Kaiser wait list you should be at least #1 on now with our spot freed up, and it is possible that they have just stopped being proactive over the summer about re-assigning off the wait lists. Good luck; we were in the same boat until last month and it was really hard for everyone.  

    RE: OUSD waitlist response ()

    From what I've heard, many schools in wealthier neighborhoods (Kaiser, Hillcrest, Chabot) will put you on a waitlist and many of the neighborhood families first enroll in the public school as a fallback, and also enroll in private schools, without telling the public school that they are not attending.  So the waitlist families may have to wait until the first week, but will get their preferred school.  Best of luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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 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, or attend the Prospective Parents' Night at 7pm on Tuesday, November 13th. There are also very current posts from parents at

Good luck with your search!

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

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 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 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 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