Advice about OUSD High Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, my child will be entering high school in Oakland this fall. There is a chance we may need to move into my mother in law’s house in Berkeley. My child wants to stay with their friends in the Oakland high school. Will they be able to if we move? 

    Which high school in Oakland?

    do you like his friends and their families?

    In general Berkeley High School has a better reputation but your child friend’s influences to make the right decisions, challenge themselves with academics and extra curricular activities can be much more important.

    Good luck!

    As long as you live in Oakland when they start school, I don't think it matters if you move away after that -- they have a spot until graduation. We know many others who have done this.

    Hi, I don't have an answer to your question however if the situation would be the opposite (if you were living in Berkeley and had to move in to Oakland) according to BUSD Inter District information. I'm positive you would have to go with a similar process through the Oakland Unified School District. A life shared with friends is a happy one! Good luck.

    For most district transfers, you need to get an okay from the desired district (Oakland) and then a release from the home district (Berkeley). How easy it is depends on the desirability/waiting lists at the schools. If your kid is already enrolled, it probably won't be an issue.

  • The archives have a lot of posts about Tech, but unfortunately we can’t afford to live in North Oakland, and I know it’s a long shot to get admission through the lottery. I would love to hear about recent experiences with any of the other high schools in OUSD. How are the academics? The social scene? Are academically advanced students being challenged? How is support for kids with IEPs, both from the resource team and from classroom teachers? How is the selection of electives? Any other insights are welcome as well :)

    (I’m not interested in charter or private schools, just OUSD district-run schools.)

    Thank you!

    Just wanted to say that we're in the process of choosing a high school for our 8th grader, and since we live in central/east Oakland, and don't have an interest in our child schlepping too far every day, we're focused on options other than Oakland Tech.  She does want a "big" school, and Oakland High and Skyline are our top choices so far.  Neither school has every possible activity and elective, but it still seems it will be hard to narrow down from among many fun and challenging opportunities.  We have friends who are happy at both places; I haven't asked about IEPs, specifically. 

    My son is finishing up his senior year at Skyline HS in the spring. It has been an overall good experience for him and me. He’s been able to take a variety of challenging classes, including multiple AP’s and dual enrollment college classes. He’s felt generally supported, even more so this year with the college application process. During Covid, Skyline, like all OUSD schools, had its speed bumps with virtual learning, but he was able to get support from his teachers as needed and ended up ok. Electives seem to be standard, nothing over the top. My kid took ceramics and wood shop this year. Socially, they’re teens, and they’re experimenting with drugs and alcohol and focused on their Instagrams like every high schooler in the country. I’m available for more questions if you have them. 

    We have a child who is a freshman at Skyline. Pluses: as a big school there are a ton of really engaging electives and the various pathways seem pretty good (freshman year is general ed, kids choose a pathway that they start sophomore year). Some of the teachers are outstanding. Dance, drama, and orchestra have been amazing and the teachers for English and Ethnic studies seem pretty dialed in. We've had two teachers out on long term leave (I think this is luck of the draw) and this has been a set back for those two classes. There are busses from all over town that will take your kid right to campus. On the down side, it is a large urban school with a lot of kids who are not focused on academics at all. It has been rough for everyone transitioning back from COVID and our child has struggled with a lot of emotional issues around that (and being a teen). My kid really loves it and would not want to go anywhere else. 

  • I am reaching out to get feedback on several Oakland public high schools. Our 8th grader is academically very gifted and motivated and finishes work quickly. We are seeking a rigorous/creative academic high school to keep him engaged and learning. He especially loves math, science, computer science and engineering. He has a robust personality but is also a sensitive soul and would benefit from a school that supports community-building (including LGBT community). His current school is very big but breaks down classes into smaller families, and that seems to work fine for him. Currently looking at Oakland High School, Skyline, and Oakland Tech. We know schools change over time and would love an updated view into any of these. Any thoughts/experiences you can share? Are we missing schools we should consider? We are wondering about academics, community development, creativity/innovation...We know it's all up to the lottery, but just trying to look at what to rank. 

    Have you consider charter schools ?   I don't think you have much of a choice when it comes to public schools.   School will be assigned according to your zip code of residence.

    My daughter goes to Oakland High, and we've been very happy with the social atmosphere and supportive environment. Academics have been a mixed bag with my daughter complaining that some classes feel remedial (relative to her middle school coursework), which frustrates both her and me. She is a junior now in their STEM pathway (called "Project Lead the Way") and is taking computer science, physics, and principles of engineering this year. Those are all going well. Geometry last year did not go well as the work did not challenge my daughter, and the class completely fell apart with remote learning.

    My daughter has many LGBTQ friends and the school and student body seem generally supportive. There is an LGBTQ center on Lakeshore that is only a short walk away, and pre-COVID my daughter would walk down with her friends after school pretty regularly.

    To rebut another response, my daughter initially got into Oakland Tech through the lottery process, though we are zoned for Oakland High. We reconsidered after facing the reality of what her daily commute would look like (one of the bus options offered by 511 was literally to walk to Oakland High school and catch the bus from there to Tech). She was also influenced by OHigh having a larger, and in her opinion better, orchestra. So we switched, which wasn't a problem since Tech has the longer waiting list. So yes, the lottery can work, though you obviously can't count on getting lucky.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Independant study or vocational high school?

May 2010

My daughter who struggles with ADD is having a very difficult time at Oakland School of the Arts and would have hard time in any regular high school. She would be much happier in Vocational training with a vet's office combined with individual tutoring. Hope to hear from anyone who has had experience with creating own independent home study combined with vocational training/mentoring? Any district and especially BUSD. Thanks! welcome any advice

You might look at MetWest High School. It combines high school with internships in a student's area of interest. My son didn't go there but I looked at it and was impressed. It's not a charter school. anon

You might look into MetWest High School , it is an independent high school that is part of the OUSD. It is located on 10th street across the street from Laney College. At MetWest, students have internships that they go to every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. They have relationships with places like Berkeley Humane Society, Children's Hospital and other nonprofits; I think if a student had a specific place to work in mind they could create a program.

Each student has to do a project that is related to their internship. There are academic classes as well, but much smaller than at a conventional high school -- for example, geometry was a ''big'' class with 24 students -- the whole school only has about 150 students. Much of the students' time is spent in an advisory group in which they study humanities and also work on their internship projects. Their advisor is their teacher, counselor, internship liaison, and at times, nanny and enforcer. The staff is amazing, so dedicated and resourceful, and they really walk the walk about getting students to follow through and be responsible. Our daughter has ADHD and she still struggles, but it is like night and day to last year when she was in a downward spiral at a conventional high school and we couldn't get anyone to pay attention. And even when they did, no one seemed to know what to do about it. MetWest Mom


Oakland Public High Schools - for a regular student?

October 2009


The response to the recent request for information about Skyline High School stated: ''... your child can get a good education at either [Skyline or Oakland Tech], the problem is at both schools if your child does not get into the honors program, then neither school is a good bet. I can state that unequivocally.'' Is this true? Only honors students do well at Oakland Tech? Where are ordinary, middle-achieving (Cs, low Bs) public high school students supposed to get an education? I know there are some charter options (and I know about Envision Academy), but I thought either Tech or Skyline would be options for my not-very-focused-on-academics child, who is now in 8th grade.
Worried Oakland Mom (REALLY worried now)

Your child really needs to be in a smaller school like any one of the charter schools in Oakland. The class size is smaller and the teachers are dedicated to teaching and don't have to deal as much with classroom management because of the ground rules each school has. BPN lists all the schools. My daughter is a senior at Envision Academy , and was a B and C student in middle school. She has been an A and B student at Envision. Oakland Charter and Lighthouse are 2 more to check out. Check them all out.

You're right, not everyone is an honor student, but no one deserves to be herded into a school of 2000 to 3000 people. Would you go and work for a company where you had to change desks every hour and move at the same time as 2000 other people. Of course you wouldn't. Then why do we make our children do this? OK you can have the soapbox back. Jenny

I thought much the same thing about Skyline and Tech, that they were only for the students headed for honors classes, but then my daughter joined the Health Academy at Oakland Tech and my thinking has changed. The Health Academy is not as rigorous and challenging as the Engineering Academy but it offers average students a chance to move through Tech from 10-12th grade as part of a cohort who take science classes together (and there are also English classes for the kids in the Health Academy so they are together for that class too) and therefore create a learning community who not only study together, but do community service work too. This weekend they are participating in the Lung Association Health Air Walk, which will help them fulfill the 50 hours of community service they need to graduate.

The curriculum includes lots of career oriented experiences, including shadowing someone who works in health care and doing an internship as a senior with someone in health care. They learn first aid and CPR in 10th grade as well.

The teacher of the 10th grade biology and bio-lab class has been there a long time, and she told me that they keep an eye on the kids in Health Academy and if their GPA slips below 2.0, they meet with the student and strategize how to improve their grades.

You might want to check into this. There are academies at Skyline that I am sure work in similar ways. They don't seem to be as well known as Engineering or Performing arts, but I think they sound like a great way for average students to get some personal attention and possibly develop some clear goals for their future education and career.

Good luck. mom of an regular hs student