About OUSD: General Advice

Parent Q&A

Waitlisted for TK - What to do when school starts? Jun 4, 2020 (2 responses below)
OUSD curriculum questions 2nd grade Apr 9, 2020 (4 responses below)
Hot lunch at OUSD Aug 11, 2019 (1 responses below)
Updates after enrollment completion for incoming kindegartener? Jul 23, 2019 (3 responses below)
Move from Oakland to Concord for possibly better public schools? Apr 19, 2019 (7 responses below)
Looking for Oakland school advice? Moving from SF Mar 12, 2019 (7 responses below)
Public schools Upper Rockridge Feb 22, 2019 (4 responses below)
Seeking recent reviews of Oakland public elementary schools Jan 22, 2019 (2 responses below)
Oakland neighborhoods with good schools and transit options Aug 8, 2018 (6 responses below)
Enrolling a foster child in the OUSD Jul 26, 2018 (6 responses below)
Seeking Oakland School spreadsheet May 27, 2018 (2 responses below)
Oakland vs. Lamorinda schools + Commute to Palo Alto Aug 25, 2017 (5 responses below)
Best way to approach unexcused absence (vacation) with OUSD Aug 22, 2017 (12 responses below)
Oakland charter schools Apr 2, 2017 (3 responses below)
Hidden gems in OUSD - smallish and diverse? Mar 5, 2017 (2 responses below)
Oakland school report on KQED Aug 30, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • We live in the school boundary for Glenview but my son landed on the wait list for TK. He's at #3, so I realize he may move up before school starts. My main concern is that if he's still waitlisted on the first day of school, what do we do? Do we just show up? (I got that advice from an OUSD teacher friend of mine at one of the top schools.) Do we stay home and wait to hear back? How long? Who would contact us to let us know he got in or didn't? 

    I'm concerned that if I'm not proactive, my son could be overlooked, but I'm also concerned about starting off on the right foot and not being disruptive. It's a crazy time, it's a new campus, we're new to the whole process, so I'm nervous. Any insights from those of you who've been through this is much appreciated!

    In normal times, they would call you to offer the spot, and generally TK neighborhood waitlists do clear, so I expect you will have a spot shortly after registration ends in June and it will be moot. But if you don't get in, there's no particular benefit to just showing up--the school doesn't have control over getting you in. (This used to be less true, but one benefit/downside to the newish online enrollment process is that the waitlists go in order, and you can't jump them by being the squeaky wheel as you could before. I think this is a plus from an equity perspective, but appreciate that it can be frustrating!) If you've accepted a spot elsewhere in the district, you'd go to that school until the waitlist moves. If you haven't accepted any other spot and are just on the waitlist for Glenview, then yes, you can stay home until something shifts. The waitlists expire on the 10th day of school and then you can go into the enrollment office to see what other openings exist if you don't get in and aren't placed anywhere else (i.e., if you were planning to do preschool or have your child home if you didn't get into Glenview TK). It's not yet clear how the pandemic may affect all of these processes, though.

    #3 is very high on the waitlist. So many kids get off of waitlist in the summer or during the first 2 weeks of school. 

  • OUSD curriculum questions 2nd grade

    (4 replies)

    Hi there bpn community! Like most of you, we're trying to prepare for a drastic shift in life and wonder what your experience with 2nd grade math in the OUSD system has been? Our kid really enjoys math and is doing multiplication and a bit of division now in 1st grade. She's also a great reader. What kind of math can we expect she'll have a chance to do as a second grader in Oakland? Also, what's on the reading list? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    OUSD follows Common Core standards for math, so you can check out the second grade standards for a sense of what she'd be learning. (In general, not multiplication or division quite yet, at least not formally--for more advanced math, you'll likely need to supplement.) Different schools use different math and reading programs, so there's no districtwide reading list. Best bet is to talk to your child's teacher to get a sense of what lies ahead. If you're not currently at an OUSD school, you might reach out to the principal where you'll be enrolling to see if they can connect you to a second grade teacher to get a better sense of what to expect.

    The California state (and thus OUSD) curriculum for all grades is here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/ccssmathstandardaug2013.pdf. When my daughter was in school I referred to these standards frequently when I was helping her at home.

    We have a first grader in OUSD who loves math as well. Your kid sounds a lot like ours. Unfortunately, my kid finds math at school too easy and boring and his grade in math is slipping. We supplement at home and know that he has a high level grasp of mathematical concepts and is simply frustrated with what he finds to be busy work. His work is “sloppy” at school but when encouraged intentionally at home, he excels. 

    OUSD has no support for younger kids who are advanced. We sadly feel that our kids languish while waiting for other kids to “catch up”. 

    Common core is very confusing which makes supplementing at home tricky. We end up ignoring some common core approaches when we supplement. My spouse majored in physics and Statistics and I am grateful she is able to supplement at home and feels confident in her approach despite it being a bit different from common core. I am a history major, so I would be lost without my spouse.

    We are not happy with OUSD in terms of its “teach to the lowest common denominator” approach but that is the only option we have, so we try to provide a lot of enrichment at home. 

  • Hot lunch at OUSD

    (1 reply)


    Does anyone know how to actually order food for OUSD specifically Chabot Elementary. I have already put money in the "mybucks" account and I looked on the OUSD for the Childcare Development Menu as of tonight, that is what it reads. Do kids just go to hotlunch cafeteria and get their own lunch and get charged by the cafeteria staff. Our old school would allow parents to pre-order their lunch but it was a private school, and lunch was $8.00 a day but had so many amazing options. Upon looking at OUSD, it seems there is only 1 option or did I read the menu wrong. Again, I have looked everywhere on the OUSD Nutrition page and only found 1 menu to look at and it only read 1 option per day. Please help me. Thank you

    RE: Hot lunch at OUSD ()

    Yes, there is one option daily. There is a main dish, milk, and usually two choices of veg/fruit. Sometimes two choices on main. Kids make the choice when they’re picking up their lunch in the cafeteria. Sometimes they get to choose between chocolate milk & regular milk. 

  • After completing enrollment registration online for kindergarten, what kind of information do you receive from the school and when?

    We're trying to figure out:

    • When does the before/after-school care starts (1st day of school? September?)
    • What's recommended for the school supply list?
    • Is there a new student orientation? If so, when is it?
    • In terms of the health forms, are they due on the first day of school? (Our kiddo's check-up is a few weeks after school starts.)
    • What if you can't register on the registration dates--can you register on the first day of school? If so, what time would you show up?


    You don't mention which district, but your first steps should be to call the school and check the school website. In Oakland, you do need to register on time or call to let the school know that you won't make the registration day. School supply lists and afterschool programs also vary by school so you'll need specific information; same for orientation or summer kindergarten play dates. Some OUSD schools had registration for after school programs in the spring and are already full; others always have space. This may vary based on the district, though. Health forms are due before school starts, so you'll either need to move your appointment or have your doctor's office fill out the form based on a prior visit. (Generally as long as the doctor has seen your child in the last year, they can fill out the form at any point.) 

    Which school district? I'm in WCCUSD and we were sent this info in a letter directly from the school. We had to provide all the health forms during registration, which was in January. Orientation is the day before school. 

    This is our experience with OUSD:

    -Before/after care is available the first day of school.  However, sign ups for the program tend to occur in the Spring before the school year begins.  Enrollment is often very competitive and space is not guaranteed.

    -If specific supplies are needed, a list will be sent home.  Sometimes the school is able to provide the supplies.

    -New student orientation will be school specific.  I recommend calling the school office.  They may not open until a week or so before school starts.

    -Health forms with immunizations are due before school starts and your child will not be admitted to attend class without the forms on file.

    -There is likely to be a long line at the school office on the first day of school.  I would find out when the office opens and show up then. Be prepared to wait.

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

    So, my questions are...

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

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

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

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

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

    Take care!

  • Hello! We are looking to make a move from SF to Oakland or Berkeley and have a 7 and 9 year old, so elementary and almost middle school. We don't know many people in the east bay so would love some advice on schools both public and private. For Upper Rockridge, I know Hillcrest is small and crowded with no guarantee. What other private schools for both elementary and middle would be an option for that neighborhood if public is full? Would love any and all advice! Much appreciated. 

    We moved from SF to Upper Rockridge about 3 years ago. Our kids are much younger (4 & 6). We are currently enrolled in a public K-5 (not Hillcrest) but I have toured almost all the surrounding private schools. There are a few private school options in or around Upper Rockridge. Aurora K-5 mixed age classes, Park Day, K-8 progressive, St. Theresa's Catholic School, K-8. Then there are many more private schools outside the UR area. Tours usually happen in Nov-Jan and acceptance in March.  Hope this helps. 

    If I could go back in time to give myself advice about schools in Oakland, I would tell myself to NEVER move to Oakland.  We are very involved parents, but after 6 years of trying very hard to make the schools work for our kids, we finally decided to move.  It was the best decision we ever made.  My kids went from being stressed & suicidal to being happy and engaged at school in another district.  Our experiences came from top-rated elementary schools in OUSD, so I don’t think that a top rating means much.  If you enroll in one of the “good” elementary schools, you will be asked to contribute about $1000 per child per year otherwise the school can’t pay for anything beyond the basic classroom teachers (no PE, art, computer, library or music programs without parents funding).  Some schools aren’t even allocated enough money to pay the class teachers, so parents have to pay just to cover the basic teacher salaries.  It’s bad!

    I would love to recommend Berkwood Hedge, a small private school near Downtown Berkeley. Our 5 year old entered halfway through the year and has been met with such care by his teachers Hanan and Silver. He is thriving there and we love the emphasis on social-emotional learning and creativity, and a lot of opportunity to be outside, which is wonderful for my son. The school is a warm indoor/outdoor space and there seems to be a lot of fun school-wide events all the time. There is a real positivity to the school that you feel upon entering and when you see the children's comfortable and contented faces. I would highly recommend this hidden gem!

  • Public schools Upper Rockridge

    (4 replies)

    Hi all, My husband and I are looking to relocate from San Francisco to the east bay with our 2 year old in the coming year. We would like to move to a place where the schools are of great quality. We are not looking at Piedmont just yet but would prefer a public school in the Upper  Rockridge Area. Any advice as to the resources I can look at to learn more about the schools in that neighborhood? I understand that it’s a lottery system except for some area in upper Rockridge (?) where you are guaranteed an admission in the public school from K -8 or is my understanding wrong..? Any advice regarding navigating the school system is appreciated.  

    Also, are there preschools that we should be thinking about that ‘feed’ into the recommended schools? I am presently a stay at home mom.  (Apologies if I’m using the incorrect terminology! We are transplants unfamiliar with the US schooling system.)

    Oakland uses a neighborhood school assignment system, so your school zone is based on your address. There is a lottery if you want to attend a school outside your neighborhood, and there are a few schools that are consistently oversubscribed where not all neighborhood students will be admitted. In Upper Rockridge, you're looking at Hillcrest, Kaiser, and Chabot, depending on where in the neighborhood you want to live; all three have taken all neighborhood kids in recent years. (Peralta, which is the school for Lower Rockridge, often does not take all neighborhood kids.) All are great schools in my opinion, although Hillcrest and Chabot are considered stronger than Kaiser (and Kaiser may or may not move to North Oakland next year, at which point you'd likely be rezoned). Hillcrest goes through 8th grade, although you are not guaranteed a seat in middle school and must reapply (though current students get priority so most do get in). There are not "feeder" preschools except inasmuch as people choose preschools near their homes--you will find kids from most of the Rockridge preschools moving on to most of the Rockridge elementary schools. Good luck with the move, and welcome to the East Bay!

    There is no public school in Oakland with guaranteed admission. Most (not all) of Upper Rockridge is zoned for Hillcrest, a K-8 school. Students living in the attendance boundary for each neighborhood school get preferential status in the "lottery," which is actually much more complex than a lottery.  Please read the OUSD Options process and examine school neighborhood zoning boundaries at the links below.



    We live in Upper Rockridge and the schools here are very good, but far from perfect - our child attends Hillcrest, a K-8 public school. We're happy and we love the community but the academics in OUSD generally aren't stellar. That said, there are quite a few good "hills" schools and some good OUSD public schools not in the hills. The elementary schools in Montclair are also good. Note that Hillcrest is the only K-8 in OUSD and if you're at any other elementary (K-5) school in this area your child will be going to Claremont MS or Edna Brewer MS. That seems a long way off for a 2 year old, but I assure you it'll happen sooner than you imagine! 

    Many people end up sending their kids to private schools for MS (at a cost of about $30k/year) and many more send their kids to private schools for HS ($20-$40k/year)  if they don't love or get into Oakland Tech (by far the best public HS in Oak). I just mention that so you understand that a straight 13 year run in public schools is not necessarily what you'll end up choosing if you land here. Many people opt out as kids get older.

    If you can afford Piedmont, the public schools are arguably a bit better and a bit safer if you want your kids' entire education to be public. We have 1 child so we can afford some private schooling, but if we'd had 2-3, Piedmont would probably have been a better decision.

    There is a semi lottery. You get zoned for a particular neighborhood school - you can figure out the school before you buy your home - and it's likely but NOT guaranteed you'll get in. It is also NOT easy to get into a school that you're not zoned for. Hillcrest in particular is notorious for not having enough space for every child in the hood - we were waitlisted after we bought our home. We were lucky and my son got in (1 day before school started in K), but some people have to wait a few years and attend Chabot or somewhere first (a very good school). And you have to reapply to the Hillcrest MS - about 1/3 of the Hillcrest 5th grade class doesnt get into the MS, which is super tiny. So they go to Claremont or private. It's nerve wracking.

    There are no preschools that feed into any public school. But I'll give a shout out to Blue Skies - an awesome preschool. Also Duck's Nest.

    We love Upper Rockridge and feel lucky to be here, and we love our school, but there are other good options all around the hills and in a couple of other areas.

  • Hello parents in Oakland!  Our daughter will start Kindergarten next year and we're trying to find the right school for her.  We've applied to private schools (Redwood Day and Head-Royce) but we're hoping to get lucky in the OUSD lottery process and get her into a good (or good-enough) public school.  Our lottery picks are due Feb 8, 2019.  I've read all the BPN reviews, but many of them are a few years out of date, so if you have recent experience with OUSD schools, please share with us anxious parents.  Right now our top choices, based on school quality and proximity, are these:  Cleveland, Sequoia, Redwood Heights, Joaquin Miller, and Glenview.  Any feedback on these schools?  Or other recommendations? Thanks!!

    As far as other recommendations, have you considered Aurora School? (https://auroraschool.org).  My son goes there and my daughter will start Kindergarten this Fall.  It's an amazing school.  If you applied to other private schools, I would strongly suggest you consider if Aurora is right for you.

    With regard to the public schools you listed I know a couple families at Sequoia and Cleveland who seem satisfied.  

    Best of luck with your search!

    We are a Cleveland elementary school family. Cleveland is a wonderfully diverse school full of great kids, dedicated and fantastic teachers and staff, exceptional principal, and very involved and supportive families. There are 1 - 2 teachers at Cleveland who are more old school and just about everyone complains about them but other than these known 1 - 2 "problem" teachers, parents LOVE all of the other teachers.  Kindergarten teachers are beyond fabulous -- fun, engaging, dedicated. PTA is very active and the school does an amazing job of keeping all families informed. Cleveland has many community events. It's a relatively small school and the campus is small in a nice and cozy way. I do wish that we had an indoor gym. The school lacks a large open indoor space. Its eco-literacy program is unique and lovely. It has OUSD district wide challenges and PTA works very hard to make up the difference. The school emphsizes inclusiveness, respect, and kindness.

    Although we have been satisifed with Cleveland, if we had the money, we'd want to be at a private school like Park Day, St. Paul or Redwood Day. Private school education is better in many ways. Private schools win hands down on teacher to student ratio alone. Our K class at Cleveland has around 22 kids with one teacher and no aide. The on-site after care programs do not have an option to add enrichment class like musical instrument or martial arts unlike private school after school programs.  The curriculum is rigid. My spouse and I both went to private schools where learning was more project based. That is not how public school students are taught, so we're a bit disappointed and feel that private school kids really get individualized learning and get to develop love of learning and intellectual curiosity while our public school kids get a bit shortchanged on that front. In K classes, there is quite a bit of crowd controlling as opposed to actual learning due to large class size and varying maturity levels of kids. But, we can't afford private school while paying off astronomical mortgage and student loan and supporting elderly parents, so among the Oakland public school options, we are grateful to be at Cleveland. The thing about many of the schools you listed is that if you are not zoned for the school, you will most likely be waitlisted and then come off of the waitlist very late in the summer just before school starts or within the first 1 - 2 weeks after school starts. By then, you will have started at a private school and probably don't want to switch school. Cleveland was considered a hidden gem for a while but the word must be out because last year there was a very long waitlist for Cleveland. 

  • Dear Parents, 

    We are in the midst of the impossible task of trying to buy house in East Bay. We primarily have 2 considerations - public transport feasibility & good public schools (K-12). Other than looking at different websites and scores -- I wanted to get a more personal sense regarding public schools in the area, specially Oakland district. I know Lamorinda, Albany and Berkeley - there is a general consensus of having "good schools"  -- we are unfortunately more or less priced out most of the houses there. 

    From what I could gather,  Montclair and Upper Rockridge has good elementary schools -- are they hard to get in even if you live in the assigned district? Do people usually end up sending their kids to private schools after elementary school? 

    Thank you!! 

    In Oakland, most of the hill schools have high Great School scores but it also means they have low walkability not close to public transportation. There are some buses that run in the Oakland hills. Unfortunately, if you are priced out of Berkeley, you are probably priced out of Upper Rockridge too. Montclair is more "affordable" and the elementary school is pretty big so you'll probably get in if you live in the neighborhood. 

    I find this constant question regarding schools and neighborhoods infuriating. Until we decide as a community to make all schools “good schools” by sending our kids (mostly of some privilege- either of race or income or both) to our local neighborhood school, no matter the score, we will have segregated “bad schools.” We as a society need to have the courage to do this, even if it’s just one family at a time.  All of Oakland’s schools, especially considering rampant gentrification, have the potential to be good schools.  Find a house you love and can afford, in a neighborhood you feel good about, and send your kid to a school in the district that works for your family. Scores are BS at best.


    an OUSD parent in East Oakland who’s kid has made it through OUSD through middle school as well prepared as his friends who went to Park Day

    Hi, Was in the same position as you and after looking all over the bay area, decided to buy in Oakland a couple of months ago due to the walkability and community - I didn't want to live in a ginormous house far away from people. We plan to enroll her in OUSD when she's 5. Oakland public schools get a bad rap so its easily overlooked, but after researching deeper in the school issue we're excited about the learning opportunities with her neighborhood public school. The diversity of the community provides a wealth of experience you can't replicate at segregated schools. I wouldn't rely on greatschools.org or any other site that uses standardized testing results as a measure of a "good" school - it doesn't provide a comprehensive picture. Good luck with your search!

  • Enrolling a foster child in the OUSD

    (6 replies)


    I will likely be getting a 9 year old foster child and will need to enroll her in the Oakland School District.  In trading voicemail messages with a school administrator I was told that a student doesn't necessarily need to attend the school closest to her residence and that the parent can request that the child go to a different school in the district depending on enrollments.  Can anyone here clarify this process and what elementary schools are best in the district?  I am located in the Laurel District right now.

    Thank you!

    There is an open enrollment process that runs each spring, but you don't actually need to worry about that, assuming this is a placement that is happening in the near future for fall enrollment. You can just go into the Student Assignment Office and see where there are openings, and those will be your options. (Note that there are usually more openings after school starts--right now there are still active waitlists and they will shuffle kids based on the waitlists for the first two weeks of school. After that the lists expire and new students are placed wherever there is space.) You will have priority at your neighborhood school (probably Laurel) but it's certainly worth checking out other nearby options. You might also consider Sequoia, Redwood Heights, or Melrose Leadership Academy if the child speaks Spanish. You could also look at Urban Montessori, a charter school that is near the Laurel.

    Dear potential foster parent, congratulations!  I really wish that our taxes were used better so that all Oakland schools were equally excellent and safe but that is not the case.  If the child already speaks Spanish, you can request one of the bilingual schools (Melrose, Manzanita seed).  If s/he already speaks Chinese, you can request Lincoln.  The Options process of requesting a school allows you to put several choices in order of preference.  If you have a child who already speaks English, I would go for the hill schools--Redwood Heights, Joaquin Miller, Thornhill, Kaiser, Hillcrest, Montclair.  It's sad to say but the hill schools have many more programs because there are a lot of wealthy parents who make donations.  My daughter who is non-white, is very happy at a hill school.  The hill schools do have a paler, more privileged ethnic mix but there are kids of every ethnic and economic group in each of them.  OUSD lets the most popular schools get bigger to keep parents happy.   I sometimes feel like the poor relation at our elementary school, but mostly I'm glad that she's up on the hill and out of the worst of the trouble and suffering.  Unfortunately, many schools on the flats of Oakland have large numbers of traumatized kids and your foster child will have been through enough trauma already.  You can get extra help for her from teachers and aides.  School lunches are free for all OUSD kids.  Once you get to know her you can make appointments with school personnel to get the best program for her.  Don't be afraid to change schools if you feel you really have to.  Go to the OUSD website and also look at Best Schools.  Good luck!

    Oakland (OUSD) has what is called School Choice, so in theory you can apply to any school in the entire district.  That said-I am not sure how the formula works but I do believe they give certain preferences to different groups.  For example it would be easier to get into your attendance area school or the school in your neighborhood. You will rank the schools you want to go to.  I would recommend reading up on the schools in your area and also throughout Oakland. 

  • Seeking Oakland School spreadsheet

    (2 replies)

    Hi - I am a mom of a 4 year old and i am looking to create a spreadsheet to begin looking at options for Oakland Public schools and charter schools.   I was wondering if anyone might have this information already organized into a spreadsheet of schools.  Some things I might include on this are name, location, # of K classrooms, level of impact, pro/cons. I'm about to create one but would prefer not to reinvent the wheel of someone would be willing to share.  Thanks, Andrea

    I’d say don’t even bother because OUSD just assigns you to your neighbhood school no matter what you put down 99% of the time. 

    You might get into a desirable charter or Kaiser elementary but not much else. 

    Good luck

    I don't have such a thing, but found the SARCs to be an interesting starting point - https://www.ousd.org/domain/56

    Having just gone through the process, be careful when you fill out your list if you live in a very popular district.  We did not get placed in our neighborhood school, and were placed in a school not on our list as I had only put 4 on our list thinking that one of those would certainly have a spot.  I did not know this at the time, but if you do not get placed into a school on your list, then you will be placed in another school in your middle school district.  In our case, that school was not a good match for us.  

  • Hi! 

    My family and I are thinking of relocating back to the Bay Area from LA this coming summer and would need to enroll our daughter in 1st grade come Fall 2018. Can any current OUSD parents, particularly at Chabot, Hillcrest, or Peralta, or BUSD parents, particularly at Emerson, Le Conte; John Muir, or Malcolm X) share your and your child's experience? 

    Thanks so much! 

    Be aware that OUSD enrollment for the fall is already underway, and Hillcrest and Peralta are unlikely to have space for a first grader. Chabot might since it is larger and seats turn over more often. (Once you move into a neighborhood you do bump above non-neighbors on the waiting list, but that only helps if there are spots to begin with.) I don't know what your odds would be for BUSD schools, although I believe the language immersion program at LeConte is in high demand and would likely be full as well.

    We're in our 10th year at Peralta and it's been the most amazing experience, notwithstanding what is true for all public schools, which is that parents are tasked with a high degree of seemingly endless fundraising.  Peralta is arts-oriented and it permeates most instruction, which has been great for our kids.  The community is small and welcoming, the teachers are excellent, administration is new but so far great.  I can't say enough good things, it's just unique and special.  It's true that there is always a wait list, so I would talk to the principal to see if she knows whether there will be 1st grade spots next year.  I've been surprised by the number of new kids year to year, so there must be turnover.  Good luck.

    My 3 children have attended Emerson Elementary School and we have loved it! It is a small school, supportive, dedicated and collaborative teachers, and excellent administrator, and a wonderful after school program. I feel incredibly lucky that my children ended up at Emerson.  That said, I also know parents and kids at Malcolm X, Le Conte and John Muir who have been similarly pleased.  

  • We have an infant, are currently living in SF, and are looking into buying a house in the East Bay for the better schools, to be closer to family and to get more space.  We have been concentrating in the Montclair, Crocker Highlands and Upper Rockridge areas of Oakland, but we are also open to the Lamorinda area.  

    1) Does anyone have advice on choosing between Hillcrest, Crocker Highlands, Montclair, and Thornhill elementary schools?  They all seem like decent schools with a strong parent base.  Are there any differences we should be aware of or any other factors we should consider?  Hillcrest is K-8 which is appealing.

    2) The main reason we have focused on Oakland rather than Lamorinda is because I work in Palo Alto.  However, my job is flexible enough such that I can try to avoid rush hour or work from home a couple days a week.  How much time would it add to my commute to go through the tunnel to Lamorinda?  Does anyone have any thoughts about Oakland schools (the specific ones listed above) vs Lamorinda schools?

    Thanks in advance!

    The main thing to think about schoolwise for the Oakland schools is which middle and high schools that they feed to--Crocker goes to Edna Brewer and Oakland High, while Montclair and Thornhill go to Montera and then to Skyline. Hillcrest feeds to Oakland Tech. Brewer is generally considered the stronger of the two middle schools right now, but Montera has a growing IB program that might be of interest. Hillcrest has its own small middle school; most years all Hillcrest fifth graders who want to stay for middle do get spots, but it isn't guaranteed.

    I can't speak to Lamorinda schools, but would strongly advise trying the commute realtime to see just how much time it will add to be on the other side of the tunnel. The East Bay "rush hour" window is LONG—traffic begins backing up in the commute direction as early as 7 and sometimes stays backed up till well past 9, and in the afternoons, the backup can begin before 4 and occasionally last till 7 before it's really moving again. So to really avoid it, you may need to leave extremely early or late. I would look at Piedmont before I'd go through the tunnel. For a Palo Alto commute (and assuming the other commute is to SF), I'd also be looking at the East End of Alameda.

    I will start by saying that my child is at Thornhill.  The neighborhood surrounding Hillcrest (Upper Rockridge) is highly sought after because of Hillcrest Elementary and the fact that it goes to 8th grade.  There have been years where everyone in the neighborhood did not got in.  I believe the kids were placed at other top schools, but just something to keep in mind.  Montclair is the largest of the schools you listed.  

    As you are doing your research, I encourage you to also research aftercare programs and their availability.  Like many Hills schools, Thornhill's aftercare program is run by Adventure Time.  We have been very happy with the program, but the demand for on site aftercare far exceeds the available number of spots and enrollment (required annually) can be a bit stressful.  

    Another thing to be aware of is that the class sizes tend to be on the upper end in these sought after schools.  I naively thought that schools with very active parents who do a lot of fundraising would be able to use some of the funding to secure smaller class sizes.  This has not been our experience.  There is a good chance that your child's Kindergarten class could have 26-27 kids, which is a lot.  

    Best of luck to you!

    Hi- my comment regards commuting from Lafayette (the easiest of freeway access in Lamorinda) to Palo Alto or main land Silicon Valley.  I work from home with corporate based in PA and do need to drive there for a week or so here and there.  I would never in one million years do that commute regularly.  The last time I had to be onsite for 3 days I got a hotel in PA.  The drive is that horrible (and I am likely highly sensitive to it's horribleness because I DON'T drive it every day).  I have tried various combinations of off-commute hours and there simply are not many windows with all the people in the bay area.  I have spent anywhere from 1.5-3 hours getting home if the weather is bad and never there in less than 1.5 hours.  It's exhausting and complete waste of time- and I do listen to pod cast, use Waze detours anything to numb the pain of sitting in a car THAT long NOT moving.  Of course you are doing it now from SF, which I wouldn't do either so you likely have a much higher tolerance for this sort of thing then I do. :)

  • Hi Parents - My son is in first grade at an OUSD school. We are planning a vacation this winter that would require him to miss 6 school days adjacent to a single holiday, so he would be gone from school one full week, plus the following Monday and Tuesday. I feel optimistic that I can develop a good relationship with his teacher prior to the trip and that he would be allowed to make up work, but I'm unsure how to approach the absence with the school. He should have consistent attendance aside from this (although illness is impossible to predict). Will we get in trouble if we are honest and tell the school that we are taking a vacation? Or do I need to make up something about a family emergency followed by an illness? Is there any option to call it an "independent study"? I will definitely work with him on his school work while we are away. I would love advice from anyone who has successfully navigated this with OUSD. Ideally, we'd like to take a trip like this every couple of years. Thanks!

    Yes, all you need to do is a get an independent study. We've done this several times with OUSD. Request it a few weeks in advance so the teacher has time to get the materials together. The school supports this because then they get paid for the absence. They will give you an independent study for absences between 5-20 school days. We've never had any issues. Enjoy your trip!

    Register them for independent study during that time. Give the teacher plenty of time to get the schoolwork together though.

    Yeah, if you give the teacher enough lead time -- mine needed 3 weeks -- she will send him with a packet of work he can complete during the vacation so that he is "home schooled" for that week. At least that's how it works at our school (which is WCCUSD). I am terrible about this, I pull them out of school all the time! 

  • Oakland charter schools

    (3 replies)

    We are moving into Oakland this spring with a fourth and fifth grader. Our neighborhood school is not very good so we are thinking of trying for a transfer into Berkeley schools or to get into the charter schools. We are both interested in recommendations and even more importantly if there is a secret/trick/burreaucratic tick to navigate the system.

    RE: Oakland charter schools ()

    Welcome! The first thing I'd do is find out more about your neighborhood school; look beyond test scores and you may be pleasantly surprised. If not, the first call to make is to the Oakland Unified Student Assignment Center. OUSD class sizes expand in fourth grade and many schools that are hard to get into for kindergarten have spaces in fourth and fifth grades as a result, so you may have some choices within the District that you are happy with. The sooner you get on the waitlist, the better, as enrollment for next year is already underway. If you need a spot immediately, you may have even better options since mid-year openings are not always filled (and will then get to continue at that school next year once enrolled). Charter schools have already run their lotteries for next year, but may also be more likely to have unexpected openings at those grade levels. It is extremely unlikely that you will get a transfer into Berkeley schools unless you are a teacher in the Berkeley school district; the bar is very high for granting transfers and Berkeley schools are currently overcrowded. Good luck!

    RE: Oakland charter schools ()

    I encourage you to give Oakland schools a chance.  We have been extremely happy with our local public school (Sequoia in the Dimond District)--I believe it is one of the most (if not the most) diverse school in the district in terms of both ethnicity and economics.  Oakland schools vary widely in terms of size, educational quality, ethnic diversity, etc.  If you explore the schools you are likely to find one that fits your needs.  While there are many neighborhood kids at our school there are also kids from all over the city.  And the teachers at our school are really amazing--they have done a great job of keeping our gifted child academically challenged and loving school.  I would imagine that at grades 4 & 5, it shouldn't be too hard to find a placement in a school you and your kids will be happy with. 

    A happy Oakland public school Mama

    RE: Oakland charter schools ()

    You are not limited to your neighborhood school so I recommend you check with OUSD about your options. There are several excellent Oakland public elementary schools. My daughter attended Kaiser Elementary (not our neighborhood school) and it was a fantastic experience. 

  • There haven't been any recent posts Oakland Public Schools. We're househunting in Oakland and want our now 3 year old in Public school if at all feasible. I've limited our househunting to Peralta and Chabot catchment, but are there any hidden gem schools/areas around? Looking for local parent involvement and smallish, walkable diverse and safe. Would love some first hand accounts!

    Yes!  Kaiser Elementary is a wonderful little hidden gem. Not sure how many kids from the neighborhood attend. Plus, don't discount Glenview Elementary. Great neighborhood and many of the neighborhood kids go, which is fun. And, what about Redwood?  Montclair?  All of these are great schools with super involved families. My kids attended Kaiser and many of our friends had/have kids at the other three I mentioned.  Oakland Public has a lot of great schools!  

    There are many great elementary schools in Oakland. My kid goes to MLA and loves it. We are very happy there.

    I don't know what your criteria is, but if you are considering Chabot (which is very big) and Peralta (small), you may also look into Glenview, Cleveland, Montclair, and Sequoia.

  • Hi BPN! My kids are 8 and 4, and we are moving from Seattle to the bay area in the next couple of months. We are going to rent somewhere in the East Bay and are looking in Oakland, which seems ethnically and culturally diverse, relatively affordable, and well located for a commute to downtown SF. Can anyone recommend a family friendly neighborhood with a good elementary school?

    A school review website ranks Oakland elementary schools as either very bad or very good, with little in between. I'm wondering if it's missing something. Can a district with a school lottery have such wide educational disparity? If you live in a neighborhood with black & brown faces, a school you like/love, and that's kid friendly, please let me know. We will definitely visit first, but a few pointers would really help narrow down the field. Thanks in advance for your input.

    Welcome to the Bay Area! I know you asked about Oakland, but wanted to offer up north San Leandro (just off of I-580) as another option. There's a BART station downtown and express buses to SF. Two neighborhoods in particular -- Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor -- have charming houses that are more affordable than Oakland, nice community, and tremendous ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity (more so, in my opinion, than many parts of Oakland with the "good" schools). There are a couple of neighborhood schools that serve those neighborhoods: Roosevelt and Washington. Roosevelt is the better performing school (in terms of test scores, which of course aren't the whole story) and is very culturally and ethnically diverse, with fantastic parent involvement (PTA, Dad's Club, LGBTQ association, etc). I've also heard good things about Washington Elementary, though historically their test scores have been low, but this is due to the linguistic/ethnic diversity of the school (which is also one of its best assets, IMO). In terms of community, the neighborhood is generally walkable, with some restaurants nearby (though you'd definitely have to drive 10 mins to Oakland for more exciting fare) and a fantastic coffeehouse/neighborhood meeting spot, Zocalo. The SL library is awesome, and there are a lot of new/young families moving in who were priced out of SF/Berkeley. Alameda is also a nice option with good schools, but much pricier. Good luck on your move!

    Oakland is based on a neighborhood school model, meaning neighborhood children get priority for the local school, before the Options process kicks in. That's how you get the educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities present in Oakland schools. Everyone is competing for a limited number of available spots at the best performing schools.

    Since you are looking for a housing, you should definitely look at the boundary map for the school neighborhoods (http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/). The schools in the Oakland hills have the best test scores, but also the highest housing cost and, I suspect, the fewest available rentals. Also the whitest of Oakland's neighborhoods, although even the whitest of Oakland's elementary schools is 34% other races (the least diversified schools in Oakland are either predominantly Hispanic or predominantly Asian, with north of 90% of one ethnicity). Some of Oakland's most diverse schools are located between Interstate 580 and Hwy 13, with Glenview and Sequoia elementaries having a particulary balanced mix of black, white, Asian, and Hispanic students. Crocker Highlands is also in that area--it's whiter and a bit more affluent, but a gorgeous neighborhood. My daughter went to Cleveland, which is on the other side of 580 (the "flatlands"). Great school, majority Asian but a healthy dose of every other ethnic group, and a less expensive neighborhood.

    You can get the school report cards for all the Oakland schools from the OUSD website (http://www.ousd.org/domain/56). They have test scores, ethnic breakdowns. class size, teacher credential info, suspensions, expulsions, etc., etc.

    Good luck!

    I loved loved loved!! Sequoia Elementary. We actually live in the Crocker Highlands district, which ostensibly is a "better" school--but it is more white, and more competitive in my humble opinion. So our son went to Sequoia. He has some learning challenges and was then just a couple of years out of cancer treatment--so he looked different, sounded different, etc. etc. but the kids were super nice to him. My son is now in 8th grade, Sequoia goes through fifth, so it is possible things have changed.. but please check out Sequoia if you are looking at OUSD. The neighborhood around it is full of families and they had a bunch of "walking buses" for kids to pick each other up on set walking routes to school. And there is a garden!


  • Oakland school report on KQED

    (6 replies)

    KQED aired a report this morning looking at segregation in Oakland schools. https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/08/30/two-moms-choose-between-separate-an...

    Only 9.6 percent of Oakland’s public school students are white — that includes charter students. But they’re concentrated in a handful of schools, where they are the majority.

    What efforts have parents made to work within this landscape? Are there any schools that parents think have been able to succeed in spite of this? 

    Full disclosure, I work at KQED and just moved to the East Bay and I am looking at moving to Oakland but this reporting has me thinking very hard about what that would mean.



    RE: Oakland school report on KQED ()

    In my experience teaching in Oakland, this is very true. In fact, I wrote a book ab out teaching there (coming out Oct 1!) 

    I taught in a very low-income school for 8 years and attendance fluctuated between 600-1000 while I was there. The ONLY white students we had were Bosnian refugees. Literally.

    There's segregation and there's serious white flight to private schools.

    (my book: www.bronwynharrisauthor.com)

    RE: Oakland school report on KQED ()

    I don't have any advice for you, but I wanted to thank you for posting the question and the article. The info in the article is unsurprising, but disappointing to say the least. And given that any school districts that are truly diverse probably have the same problems that Oakland has, it is heartbreaking, really. Berkeley is a notable exception, at least on paper.  Hypersegregated schools are real! I teach at one.

    RE: Oakland school report on KQED ()

    Your question is vague.  But there are lots of good schools within OUSD (we have experience with elementary, middle and HS).  Some of the good ones are diverse and some are not.  Beyond that, I'm not sure what you're asking.

Parent Reviews

I have to disagree with the post about OUSD sucking. Our kids are at Oakland Tech and Claremont Middle School. Tech is a bit more all over the map but our older kid has a LOT to do in many classes, regular zoom meetings with small groups, regular teacher check in from some teachers. There is also a lot of communication about AP testing. Our middle school child is having a very structured and reasonably rigorous experience and we are very impressed. Every teacher is giving regular assignments, posting to google classroom, and I believe most are having zoom meetings. Both schools are also doing a lot of communicating about what's happening. I'm sure it all depends on the school, but I dispute that OUSD in general is awful, that has not been our experience at all.

We are at OUSD and it has been thoroughly chaotic, insufficient, ineffective and disappointing. 

At the beginning, there was a message that the district will provide kids with a chrome book which turned out to be an empty promise as the demand surpassed supplies. They quickly changed the message and asked if parents who had access to any device could give up the device. (We have devices for our work. We needed a device for the kid which we ended up buying on our own.)

For over a month, there was nothing from the teacher other than a “how are you doing?” Email. At about 5 week mark, we received a few links to YouTube videos for kids to watch and a few projects that require active adult participation (ie adults end up finishing it).

1 hour zoom calls per week with a class of 24 kids are excruciating. What kids really need is small group online instruction which is not happening much at our award winning OUSD school. I am so saddened when I hear about my friends whose kids are at private schools whose teachers got their act together so quickly and are doing much more engaged and involved online instruction and interaction and providing a sense of community and structure. Small group work. Short community gathering. Break out sessions and reasonable assignments with recognition that none is mandatory but encouraged. Daily touch points even if it’s brief and enrichment opportunities that are not at lunch time. Our school is attempting to provide enrichment at noon or 12:30 (that’s lunch time.) Some may say that for the price they pay, Private school folks should get stellar education. But what about the rest of us? We pay close to a private tuition on property tax. Seriously considering moving or alternate schooling... 

A silver lining is that we are discovering our inadequate OUSD has been for our kids. We were busy and the teacher never really raised an issue so we didn’t realize how our kids were held back by OUSD. With us being more actively involved, our kids flew through their grade level proficiency and are now working on  next grade materials. (It’s heck of a lot of work and we are exhausted beyond belief, but when we saw what the teachers were sending as instructional plan, we could not ignore how terribly unfit they were for our kids.)

Don't discount Oakland schools. Oakland gets a bad rap in so many ways, yet there is so much to love. It is extremely diverse, family friendly, amazing food, LGBTQ friendly, and yes, have great schools. Like previous poster said, don't rely on test scores or great schools.org to be the only data in your school research. When we applied to K, we had more than the 6 allowed schools you can apply for that I would send my kids to. She is now in 1st grade and extremely happy in an Oakland public school.

As for buying a home within your budget, that may be more challenging, but there are still some diverse, affordable areas. Some areas to look are Maxwell Park, Dimond District, Santa Fe, Longfellow, Laurel, Golden Gate...

Good luck!

There are lots of good schools in Oakland besides Peralta. And if you are looking to start Peralta in 1st grade as opposed to kinder, there just might be a spot for you. But also consider: Chabot, Kaiser, and Glenview at Santa Fe (though I guess they'll be moving back to their old site soon).

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to navigate OUSD GATE program

April 2016

Does anyone have experience navigating and enrolling an elementary school child in the OUSD GATE program? I've been searching for information about how to test into and enroll a child in GATE, as well as which elementary schools offer it, but I'm not finding much. I'd love to hear how other parents did it and when they started preparing for the process. Rebecca

OUSD does not have a GATE program. They test all students in 3rd grade (or at least they still did as of last year), as a holdover from when there used to be GATE programming and GATE funding from the state, but then they don't provide any services for the kids after they test them. The state has eliminated designated GATE funding. Everything is now left up to local control formulas. OUSD stopped offering anything GATE related some years ago. I turned over every stone the past couple of years, trying to get services for my PG son, all the way up to the 2nd in command of the district. There is nothing. PG parent w/no place to go in Oakland

In which grade is your child? Although it has been a few years since elementary school for us, it is my understanding that students are tested for GATE at the end of third grade, and programs, if there are any, start in 4th grade. If your child is not there yet and your child seems advanced, you may want supplement his education outside of school. Then in middle school, there are choices of advanced classes, so GATE really only comes into play in 4th and 5th grade. Good Luck

I'm confused by your post. There is no OUSD GATE program beyond a visual discrimination test given to all 3rd graders. There is no funding for GATE. Teachers are expected to ''differentiate '' in the classroom. Some schools with PTAs fund activities, which vary from year to year. Oakland needs to fund its schools better before a GATE program can be a reality. OUSD

OUSD Hills School-Wondering if we will ever belong

Jan 2013

My child started kindergarten this year at a top OUSD hills school that I worked hard to get him into (our neighborhood school is not as stellar, but not awful). Our current school is great in many ways, but nearly 5 months into the year, we haven't found our niche socially even though I've put a lot of positive energy into trying to connect with parents and arrange get-togethers. My child is very sweet and social; I'm social, professional and well-educated. A few parents have expressed fleeting interest in play dates, but there's no follow through. Perhaps people are just busy and we'd come up against the same anywhere? But I'm starting to wonder if we just don't fit in as we don't live in the neighborhood and I'm divorced (I have yet to meet another single parent at our school). This sounds a bit paranoid, but Is there an unspoken bias in hills schools against non-neighborhood kids or single parents? How long should we wait to feel like we belong before looking for a school where we'd be more connected, and is the academic benefit of a top performing school worth it if you feel like you never quite fit in? Wondering...

I'm posting a sympathetic reply here, from another outgoing, professional, well-educated and single parent. You are probably not being 'paranoid' and your sense is correct.

My child attended 'the' top Oakland hills school, we bought a home here and we still live in the district. During 3 years at that school, there were only two single parents of around 45 students at our grade level, otherwise all two-parent familes and no economic diversity whatsoever. It became very clear from repeated remarks and encounters from other parents (esp. moms) that a single parent or even working mom was not their idea of normal.

My child, gregarious and friendly at school, had trouble getting playdates reciprocated and I was sometimes asked the same (puzzled, pitying) questions at our local coffee shop. Young classmates actually said to my child that it was impossible not to have two parents, among other things. When asked to draw the family tree, the assignment assumed two parents, etc., and again my kid was called out by a few young peers -- who had checked with their parents. I finally pulled my child out before it began to have an impact on self-esteem.

We left the school and went to an excellent, diverse private school in Oakland. My kid made friends, was popular and a leader from the week we walked in the door. Ironically, the private school is far more welcoming, diverse in every way, and more of a community than the Hills school ever was for us (even though there is a lot of money and accomplishment at our current school). My kid has a wide variety of friends and never has chosen friends based on looks, size of house or family structure. Looking back, I am so glad I pulled my child out of a school that was full of itself but not full in its heart. Been There

Our son attended a preschool in Montclair and it was a miserable experience for the reasons you describe (we don't live in Montclair). My son had no friends, I had no friends, and I just felt uncomfortable, like I didn't belong. Now my son is in kindergarten at a school in our general neighborhood (although not technically our assigned neighborhood school) and he has completely blossomed. He has a ton of friends and I feel like this is my community. If there is a school in your larger neighborhood that might be a better fit, or someplace like kaiser elementary where so many kids are out of neighborhood. I have found that the schools with more socio-economic diversity are also more inclusive and welcoming. And I would add I am delighted with the academics at my sons school even though it isn't one of the highly sought after hills schools. Anonymous

I suspect you're paranoid, and expecting too much from a pile of very busy parents, probably half of whom have already established friendships at the school from their kindergartner's older sibling(s). If you aren't in the neighborhood, it may be even harder for parents to consider the extra time that it would take to get to your house, and they may not necessarily be interested in hosting other people's kids in their house, especially if they've already got a network of friends (and their kids may already have friends that they've been hanging out with for the last several years.

You'll hear from people who will tell you that people are ''unfriendly'' wherever. My experience is that people are friendly basically everywhere. Nobody cares that you're single; every group of parents has single parents, and it's generally the moms who are getting together anyway. Nobody cares where you live, although convenience plays a factor. People may care if you seem to be critical of them, which is a vibe I'm getting even from your posting.

Our child is in a lovely hills school, and we are not in the district. I initially felt like I was having trouble connecting, and I felt like people looked down on me when I told them we lived out of district. But I think I was paranoid at that time too. What I eventually learned is that nobody really cared where I was from, and I hadn't yet found the group of parents (moms, really) that I connected with. And that group changes a little from year to year, depending on what class you're in.

What I did, and what I'd recommend for you, is to go to all (or as many as possible) of the school's activities: auction, walkathon, carnival, rummage sale, PTA mtgs, etc. Volunteer in your child's class & go on field trips. Volunteer in the library, computer lab, playground, whatever is available. Volunteer to help w/ everything the PTA does. Come to the school. If you pick up after school, come early. Smile. Get to know the kids. Find out who your kid's friends are and offer to take them to or meet them at the zoo, Fairyland, or a playground. Don't focus on a perceived lack of friends; focus on what you can do to help. Friends will emerge in your shared activities. If you can't or don't want to do any of these things, that might be why you aren't meeting anybody: you don't have the time and/or interest. If that turns out to be true, or you don't really like the parents, and you feel more comfortable in your own neighborhood & they feel like your own ''tribe,'' then transfer back to your neighborhood school. In elementary school, the individual teachers, and your comfort and your child's comfort is what counts more than a school's test scores. You could also find your tribe in soccer or another sport. But in any case, friends don't just magically appear for anybody. They come out of mutual interests and activities. It takes a little outward friendliness, effort, participation, and time. You'd be silly or paranoid to blame it on geography.

Hi, I just wanted to chime in on your concerns. I am a divorced, single mom, who lives in the hills and sends her son to a private school in Berkeley. My experience is that most people are either too busy or shy, which may be the reason for the lax attitude towards play dates. I would not worry about your ''status'' as you describe. Keep making requests and as your child settles in with a group of kids he/she likes, the play dates will follow. If you feel that some people are definitely ''snobbish'', ignore them and find the cool folks at the school...they exist and they are looking for you, too. Good luck. anon

If you are an educated professional, I really don't think there is a pronounced academic benefit to hills schools over slope schools. I'm not sure about the flatlands schools because I don't have any direct experience with those. But I've been a teacher for a long time and I know that kids with educated parents tend to do well in school. And it's really, really nice to attend a neighborhood school--at least at ours, the community can't be beat. So what exactly is ''stellar'' about your current school? The scores? Scores don't tell the whole story. The fundraising? Extra money is nice but it's not everything. Both of my kids attend a non-hills school in Oakland. We fit in and so do they. My older child's scores are very high on the STAR test (the younger one has not yet begun testing) despite the fact that many peers' scores are not. Our families work hard to raise money and we do a lot with what we have (a small fraction of the hills' schools efforts). I don't think my kids are being hurt by being in a non-hills school. In fact, I think they are getting a better and more comprehensive education where they are than they would at other more highly regarded public schools in Oakland. The teachers are creative and dedicated, in part because they are used to meeting the needs of a very wide range of learners and languages. That has not been my experience at homogeneous schools, where it is expected that all kids will come to school ready to do well. And since you asked, honestly, I do think there can be a bias against non-neighborhood kids at hills schools, at least at the one I used to teach in. I found that among the staff, the parents, and the students, and I didn't like it. I also had a parent (actually, the PTA president) at another hills school tell me, ''It's good to hear that your school is okay. Now when your neighbors come up the hill and try to get into ______ we can send them back to you.'' Seriously. Wouldn't Trade for the Hills

I don't think it's a neighborhood kids vs. not, or two parent vs. single parent thing. My son started K this fall and we haven't made many new parent friends but that is mostly because both of us work full time and we have limited time at drop off or pickup to socialize. Our son goes to our neighborhood school and both neighborhood and non-neighborhood kids' parents have made passing comments about play dates but have not actually invited our son and I am getting the feeling they are waiting for an invite from me, but frankly we are so busy generally that unless my kids really bug me about setting up a play date with a friend I just don't get around to it. I should also add that I moved schools really frequently as a kid, and my family and I found that it really takes a good year, maybe a year and a half, before we felt truly a part of the new community. Our family mantra was to get involved in our new location - my mom volunteered at school and she encouraged us to join after school activities. I think it will work out fine for you and your child in the end, but it may take more time. Poor Play date Planner

Hi There, If you have doubts about things turning around--come visit our school-Kaiser Elementary! I guarantee you fill fit in. We are a small, welcoming, inclusive community--also in the hills--but less well known. I have a Kindergartener and a 5th grader there. Our families come from all over Oakland and the community reflects the diversity of our city in a well-rounded way. We have spots for first graders next year due to an enrollment glitch this year resulting in a smaller K class. Kaiser is an arts magnet school and a CA Distinguished school--and our first grade teachers are seriously the best in OUSD! Annie

Hello, we are new parents at Thornhill School this year. While I can't say that we've found a ''home'' here, people are friendly and welcoming enough. I can say for myself that I am a busy parent, and that we have preexisting relationships (preschool, friends who have kids of a similar age) so we're not in the mode of trying to make new friends. We too have had offers of playdates that have never really materialized but I've also not followed up as much as I could have. I've never questioned whether that was because we don't ''belong'' in some way -- maybe I should! Although we do live in the neighborhood, I bought my extremely tiny house in 1993, and could not afford to move here now, so I suppose I'm less well off than others. But I think if you peer into all of the various families circumstances, we're probably not all super educated, super wealthy, just regular people who want a nice enough life for their kids. If you are a parents at Thornhill and looking to connect with another family, please contact the moderator for a playdate! A kindergarten mom

After 6 years in OUSD, here's what I have learned. It took me about 3 years before I felt like I ''belonged.'' At that point I had two kids at the school and I had spent hours and hours on the playground after school. It just takes awhile to click with people, I think. Our school is a mix of neighborhood kids and non-neighborhoood kids (almost 50/50, I think) and I have heard that the non-neighborhood families sometimes feel a little excluded. As a neighborhood parent who has the luxury of walking to school, I can see why they may feel that way. When my kids are clamoring for playdates after school, it's a lot more convenient to have them with other neighborhood kids who can either walk home or be home in a 2-minute car ride. So all of their spur-of-the-moment playdates are with other neighborhood kids. Every once in ahwile they will play with out-of-neighborhood kids, but this takes planning in advance. So there is a natural bias there; no one is purposefully excluding anyone else, but some things come down to convenience, especially for busy parents. There is another natural bias, and that is against parents who work fulltime, who don't have the opportunity to hang out and chat after school. Not sure if you're in this category or not...My advice is to stick it out, don't take anything personally, and start volunteering at school (or for school events). This is a great way to get to know other families. Also, if your kid is sports-inclined, sign him or her up with schoolmates. We've gotten to know several families this way, including those not in our grade. Good luck! OUSD mom

Are they not interested in playdates because you're divorced? Doubtful. Is it because they are busy? Very likely. Is it because you don't live in the neighborhood? Quite possibly. I know several families in our hills school who cheated (used a friend's address) to get their kids into the school. When people found out about this, there was some bitterness. When the topic comes up, explain that you got into the school through OUSD permission, not through cheating. That might help. But aside from these questions, keep on being sociable and friendly. Sometimes it just takes time for people to warm up. Hills Mama

I read the responses. The main thing I wanted to say, is don't take the social scene too seriously! We've been several years at a ''crown jewel'' of OUSD. We still do not ''belong''. We don't care--we love the teachers! Donating ostentatiously helps, volunteering at the auction etc. Also go to nollsoll.com and join a t-ball team for your school. At my school there are many people who take themselves very seriously, and are not pleasant people--just blow them off! I do not know if you would be happier at your neighborhood school, which you ask. I'm sure there are trade-offs. My global advice is don't have the school social scene be your whole social world--do other things with groups. anon

Are more Oakland schools closing next year?

Jan 2012

I'm in the midst of the Oakland Options Process frenzy and have been madly touring schools. On top of the five schools closing this year, I've heard rumors that another crop will be announced for closure next year. Does anyone have any information on what schools might be on the chopping block? I would hate to jump through hoops to get into a school only to find out it's closing next year. Thanks! Thinking Ahead

It's very possible that there may be more school closures in Oakland--the district has far too many seats for the number of students it serves--but school closure is a months-long process, so the earliest that the next round will close would be Fall 2013 (and I actually suspect they'll wait a year or two). You can check out the current criteria and this year's short list at http://www.thrivingstudents.org/restructuring to get a sense of which schools could be next, though. In general, they've been looking at smaller schools with few neighborhood families attending. Equity and performance are also criteria. Another Oakland parent

Resources for Navigating Oakland Public Schools?

Oct 2011

Does anyone have any advice/experience/resources regarding navigating the Oakland Public School System? i.e. What are your options? How do the charter schools work? How likely is it that you get into your top public school choices? What happens if you don't? thanks, ...thinking of buying in oakland...

I recommend starting with the OUSD website. It's terribly designed and hard to find things, but there is a lot of stuff there if you poke around enough.

Start with the options brochure: http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/19941081118174370/lib/19941081118174370/ousd11-12_options_ELEM_FINAL.pdf. It describes the schools and tells you, among other things, what percent of kids who listed the school as their first choice got into the school. It also provides survey results on parental satisfaction.

The website explains Oakland's options process. Basically, Oakland works on a neighborhood school model but you can ''opt out'' by submitting a form ranking your school preferences in Dec-early Jan. You hear back what school your child was assigned in March. There is then a window of time in which to appeal the assignment. I think this is supposed to be sorted out by May. My daughter got the school we wanted, eventually, but we didn't get the good news until the end of June. And I have heard, that if you are willing to wait until after school has started (missing the first couple weeks of school), you can usually get the school you want because every school will have some no-shows at the start of the school year. I've heard.

Sorry, I don't know much about the Charter school system; only that assignments aren't made through the Options process. I think you have to apply to each school individually.

BPN is a good resource for school reviews; there is also GreatSchools.net. Carrie

You're asking an important question at a really good time: it's still early in this school year, but many sites are looking ahead to next year already and some (including the school where I teach) have begun offering tours.

One website resource I'd recommend is actually a blog by an educational consultant who helps local families navigate the wide range of options in the Bay Area--public, private, charter, etc.: http://beyondqualityconsultants.blogspot.com/

She maps out a timeline for a school search process, and also discusses a lot of different factors that folks don't always consider right away. A lot of good food for thought in all of the posts about this really complicated, really important process, and how to really find a good ''fit'' for your child.

I know Theresa professionally, and know that she's very linked into the Oakland public school system (probably knows a lot about many ''hidden gem'' schools and classrooms that are flying under the radar and thus may be safer bets for the Options process): she also knows a lot about other districts and private schools as well. Her business site is: http://www.theresalozach.com/

The Oakland Unified School District is a large and sometimes puzzling entity (hopefully others will weigh in on Options specifics--I haven't experienced the process on the parent side myself), but there really are some good things going on here. Good luck in your search! --Sonia (an Oakland teacher)


Oakland School Closures -- New Districts

Sept 2011

Hi Parents,

I just heard about the proposed school closures in Oakland and wondered if anyone knows more about them, specifically:

1. Does anyone have information on the rezoning proposals? We live in the district of a school slated for closure and are curious what our new district would be. Our oldest child is in pre-school, so we're starting to think about kindgergarten. We were planning to move before kindergarten due to the poor school in our area, but if it's closing, maybe we'll be zoned for a better one (fingers crossed). I assume this information isn't available yet but maybe someone has the inside scoop? We're currently zoned for Lakeview and I'm hoping this would mean we'd be rezoned to Crocker.

2. How on earth is this supposed to work, since most of the good schools are oversubscribed already? I don't see how there will be room for all these new students. Will we see higher teacher-student ratios? More trailer classrooms parked in the playground?

Thanks so much! Thinking Ahead

Another Lakeview family here, and I've been watching the school closure process carefully though we have a few more years before school starts. My understanding is that if they do decide to close the school, most Lakeview families will be rezoned to Piedmont Avenue Elementary, and that it is extremely unlikely that many families will be rezoned to Crocker because the school is already at capacity. (If you live right along the edge of the Crocker boundary where you're in walking distance, you might be able to advocate for it, but I wouldn't count on it.) I would also imagine that Cleveland might be a receiving school for Lakeview families in that neighborhood, though it hasn't been mentioned yet. (They haven't announced any formal rezoning plans yet, though--this is just based on OUSD responses to questions from parents at the meetings.)

As to how it will work, who knows...but I don't think the assumption is that all of the students at the closed schools will transfer to the strongest schools (which are already full, for the most part)---just that the schools they wind up with will be higher performing than the schools that are closing. There are a lot of empty classrooms across the district right now (one reason they're closing schools) so I suspect a lot of this will be about moving students and teachers around so that the open schools are using all of their classrooms to minimize administration costs. Curious to see, though! Another Lakeview parent

If you were to be rezoned to Cleveland, on the other side of Lake Merritt, you should be very happy. It's a wonderful school. I know this because I volunteer there. Cleveland booster

Should we be concerned about Oakland's Schools?

March 2010

We currently rent a house in Berekley and are starting to think about buying. We are going to have our first child soon, so we are also thinking about schools in the sreas we are looking to buy. Are we crazy to buy in Oakland? We have only heard pretty terrible things about the Oakland Public Schools, so now we're thinking about staying in Berekley. Are there affordable private school options in Oakland? Thanks, Heather

If you have the money for private school for all your children, then you don't need to be concerned about Oakland public schools. Otherwise, you do need to be. Our public elementary school that we go to (one of the ''better'' testing ones) is fine. Not excellent but fine. We are concerned about our middle school options. anon

The first and most important thing to say is that, no, you're not crazy at all! We live in Oakland and I love it. There are lots of good options for public elementary schools, middle schools, and even high school. I can think of many, many public elementary schools I'd be delighted to send my kids to.

17 (seventeen!) of them occur to me with very little reflection: Sequoia, Hillcrest, Montclair, Chabot, Glenview, Thornhill, Joaquin Miller, Redwood Heights, Cleveland, Crocker Highlands, Piedmont Avenue, Kaiser, Lincoln, Peralta, Carl Munck, Think College Now, and I'd give Emerson a try, too. Some of these schools you can get into only if you live in the neighborhood, and some of them are ''up and coming'' and are still open to transfers.

Don't believe what ''everyone'' (or your neighbors in Berkeley) says about Oakland schools. Ask them whether they sent a child to an Oakland school; if they say no, ask them what they're basing their opinion on. In my opinion, if there's no first-hand experience, then I wouldn't value that person's vision of Oakland schools. But then I've grown kind of tired of 2nd- and 3rd-hand opinions of Oakland!

Anyway, you're not crazy. If you have other questions, send me an e-mail. Loving Oakland


Looking for feedback on Oakland public schools

July 2008

I wanted to get some updated feedbacks on Oakland public elementary schools. Our son is turning 4 and we are starting look into possibly moving to an area with a school that's a right match for our son. We are especially interested in diversity both socio-economic as well as ethnic, and teachers who are energetic and dedicated. It seems info on BPN regarding Oakland schools are pretty dated and I was wondering if there are some new info. caroline

I have two children in the OUSD: my daughter just graduated from Chabot elementary and will attend Montera Middle in the fall and my son is at our neighborhood school Montclair. We have been very pleased overall with the quality of the education they have received both academically and in the interactions they have with a diverse group of students and families. We have had some phenomenal teachers and we have had some ordinary teachers but they have learned and grown every year, they have a great group of friends and the energy level of the parents at the schools is fantastic: people are engaged, involved and having a great time.

You really need to get into the school before you can get a good sense of what is happening and what the community is like. The fact is that it is difficult for the public schools to compete in a ''beauty contest'' because they just don't have the resources for promoting themselves superficially. I encourage you to talk to the parents at the school you are looking at because they will give the best sense of what is really happening. Maggie

Oakland Elementary Schools - Three Questions

September 2006

My daughter is in her pre-K year and we are getting ready to send her to our local elementary school in 07/08. We are in one of the better school districts in Oakland. I have three questions:
1. I heard through another mom, whose child will attend another good elem. school in Oakland, that her school meets with incoming kindergarteners to assess their skills and place them in an appropriate classroom with the idea being that the students were were performing ahead of their peers would be in one class, those who were average in another and those who needed extra help would be in a third class. Is this how it works at other elementary schools in Oakland?
2. With students are varying levels of preparedness for kindergarten, is teaching done to the ''lowest common demoninator''? What happens to those kids who are ahead? Is extra or advance work given to them?
3. Are there any language immersion classes available in Oakland? Thank you
Getting Prepared

Answers to your questions:
1. Never heard of grouping Kindergarten kids by ''learning'' level. Does not make sense anyway. What criterias would they use? How would it be explained to parents of the ''lower'' group? How about how the teachers would feel about that? It is definitely not done in any Oakland public schools I know of.
2. No, in my kids' school they don't. Teachers provide appropriate work and goals to kids. It is not part of the teacher's program anyway to teach to ''the lower denominator''. Visit your school and ask questions to teachers.
3. I don't know but look in the Oakland School District webpage. There might be information about it.

Oakland School rankings?

Oct 1999


Is there a web site that lists the ranking of Oakland Public schools, particularly elementary? I went to the Oakland Unified site and couldn't find anything there.

The October 26 advice given column had a message stating that Montclair, Hillcrest, Chabot, Thornhill, Juaquin and Miller schools were the highest ranked of the 90 Oakland public schools. I would like to see more information on how they determine these rankings, by test scores, or grades, or what. Not surprisingly, there is no link to such information on the Oakland Unified School district website that you listed: http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/
Is there another website where one can look, or is this information available through other sources, such as the local news agencies?

The following site does not strictly rank schools, but has a lot of information on individual Bay Area public schools. By just plugging in a school name, district or your zip code, you can find out a particular school's test scores, number and experience of teachers, ethnicity of students and faculty, number of computers in the school, etc. Also, what's nice about the site is that it has information and advice about *not* judging a school strictly by test scores or other objective criteria. www.greatschools.net

OUSD has recently redesigned it's web site so the school finder which had a statistical snapshot of the school is no longer there. There is a state web site: http://star.cde.ca.gov/star99/AC97star.html which requires you to download a file in various database formats. In addition, last week, there was a supplement to the Oakland Trib which had all of the schools test scores. However, as a Redwood Heights parent (and someone who pays attention to these things) I can tell you Redwood Heights is in the second tier of Oakland Public Schools, It's test scores show that 77% of the children perform above the proficiency level in reading at both the 2nd and 5th grades and slightly less than that in Math. Best test scores are (I believe in order, but I might have it slighltly skewed)
Joaquin Miller
Thornhill/Montclair (virtually identical)
Redwood Heights/Glenview/Crocker Highlands

Test scores, of course are never the whole story, especially since Socio-Economic factors play into the scores in a big way, so one should note that the wealthiest school has the best test score (Hillcrest). This is not to say that Hillcrest isn't an excellent school... It is, actually an extraordinary school. Redwood Heights, I think is a good school too, with a very diverse population. Glenview was the real surprise to me here. Looking at the SES stats, more than 50% of the children receive free lunches, and yet it has done something really right. Yeah Glenview! I'd be happy to discuss this with any parents who are interested in Redwood Heights. Myriam

To the person who inquired of additional comparative data for Oakland Public Schools, there are a couple of web sites that might be useful. Neither of these is dedicated to Oakland Public Schools, but both provide comparative data including test scores, demographic data and some performance data.

Ed-Data Partnership--http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us Managed by the Alamaeda County Office of Education, the California Dept. of Education, EdSource and the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, this website tries to provide easy access to consistent data about public schools in California.

School-Wise Press--http://www.schoolwisepress.com This is a commercial site that provides comparative data on all public California schools. There are detailed profiles for $6/profile, as well as free data on test scores and other objective data, school by school.

In addition, Neighborhood Moms is planning a Parents Roundtable event for Oakland Public Elementary schools sometime after the first of the year. When that event is actually scheduled, you'll see an announcement for it. These events are free and open to all. They typically provide a panel of parents whose kids go to the schools being discussed, with plenty of time for QA and one-one-one discussion. Parents seem to find them helpful.

Jan 1999

I've done a LOT of research on Oakland schools, and I'd like to offer a few of my impressions. Please understand that these are the impressions of a dad who's sons are not quite school-age yet. (4 and 2)

There is a school district report card that's a big newsprint publication, and the publications office will mail you a copy if you call 879-8582. This publication is full of great info. They have been very helpful to me. Open enrollment is from Feb-9 thru early March (March 3?sorry I can't recall the exact date) for next year--applications can be picked up in Portable #15 at 1025 2nd. Avenue.

Hillcrest Elementary in Rockridge seems to me head-and-shoulders above the other schools in terms of test scores anr activities available. They have language, art, and music classes available as well as a sports program that competes in a private schools league, as most other public schools in Oakland don't offer sports. It's a K-8 school, too.

I have a 16 year old sister who's now an honor student at Bishop O'Dowd HS who attendent Hillcrest and loved it. Good preparation for private HS honors classes.

One drawback--it draws almost exclusively from Rockridge, so most of the kids come from quite affluent families, and there is some social pressure to have $$$. It is also very difficult to get in-district transfers into Hillcrest.

Thornhill and Montclair schools in Montclair are also quite good, but they are K-5, I believe. Kaiser Elementarty is a magnet school that has great test scores and goes up to eighth grade.

Grass Valley has solid test scores, and a LOT of parent participation as well as a dynamic and energetic prinicpal.

District maps are readily available from the district, as is test score information and school profiles. Interestingly, if you look at the test scores in conjuction with the map, it appears that there are three seperate districts. One small district has about six elementary schools, very high test scores, and is located above Hwy. 13. The second is a bit larger, and consists of schools with good-to-middling scores between 13(or south of 13) and above 580. The largest has a number of schools with fair to poor scores below 580. This is a generalization, of course.

There ARE exceptions to these rules of course, and in talking to a number of people in elementary ed, one thing keeps coming up: aggregate test scores are not as important as YOUR comfort level. If you are a parent who is involved in the life of the school, and you like the teachers and principal, that's what really matters. A school with excellent scores may not be the right environment for your child, and no school is perfect for every kid.

Good luck! Eric


Uniform Requirement

Oakland Unified School District has a mandatory uniform policy. However, you may choose to exempt your child from it by exercising the District's Exemption Process which amounts to completing an exemption form at the school's office.


I believe every school decides what their actual uniform code is, but most schools look as though they have the same guidelines to me. At Joaquin Miller it is solid, plain white or dark navy blue tops and solid, plain dark navy blue bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts, jumpers, or skorts). Any appropriate shoes and outerwear are acceptable. Optionally, kids can wear any JM walkathon or other fundraiser T-shirt or scout uniforms. The uniform is optional at JM for Kindergartners. There is also a weekly free dress day on Wednesdays. Cathy (Aug 2000)

These vary from school to school both in the form of what is considered the uniform and what is customary. Although uniforms are theoretically required in all Oakland public schools, in actuality many of the schools don't require them at all. There's a form which you are supposed to fill out if your child isn't going to wear the uniform but we haven't filled it out for the past two years at Redwood Heights without problem.

Some of the schools are more likely to be strict, but they can't actually require you to wear the uniform. The school is the best resource for what the uniform is (and their web site, perhaps). Mostly it's a combination of blue slacks/skirt/short/jumper and red/white collared shirt. All of these items are available at Target, K-Mart, and more expensively at McCaulous. Myriam