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Impact of Segregated Schools in Oakland

We highlighted some of the benefits of school integration in our overview.

We recognize, however, that demonstrating the causal effect of integrated settings on equitable resource distribution can be difficult. We instead focus on trends uncovered by national research as well as our own analyses that show the impact of concentrating students by race and class.

National Trends

While test scores are not always a reliable indicator of school quality - given how often they correlate with race and class - national research suggests that Oakland is likely exacerbating racial gaps in achievement as a result of school segregation.

Research out of Stanford demonstrates clear links between socioeconomic segregation and racial achievement gaps. While no large school district has closed these gaps, only those with less segregation have made any progress doing so.


Oakland's average Black - White gap in school poverty (the difference in poverty between where Black students attend school compared to White students) is 33%, one of the highest in California. Oakland's Black-White achievement gap is also one of the highest at 4.4 grade levels. 


Compared to Sacramento, for example, a city whose size and demographics is similar to that of Oakland's, the Black-White school poverty and achievement gaps in Oakland are 11% and 1.9 grade levels higher.

While school integration may only take us so far in closing racial achievement gaps according to test score data, the connections found here should not be ignored.

Gaps in resources

To demonstrate additional impacts of school segregation, we look at two measures of school stability:

  • teacher retention, and

  • attendance rates.

Schools that concentrate students of poverty tend to ask a lot more from teachers and staff because of the various health and socio-emotional factors associated with poverty. This can lead to increased levels of stress among staff, higher turnover, and more inexperienced teachers.

Relevant district-run schools' 3-year teacher retention rates (2019/20), sized by enrollment. Source: OUSD Public Data Dashboards.

Open in Tableau. 

Data for district-run schools in Oakland show that those schools with higher concentrations of poverty generally see high rates of teacher turnover, jeopardizing a school's culture, growth, and morale. On average, fewer than 47% of teachers in high-poverty schools are at the same school 3 years later, compared to over 65% at low-poverty schools. The link between high-poverty schools and the number of staff with less experience is similar. 



We see the same pattern for student attendance. Because of the factors associated with poverty, low-income students tend to miss more school. This jeopardizes students' learning opportunities, and places additional stress on staff and teachers.

Relevant district-run schools' chronic absence rates (2019/20), sized by enrollment. Source: OUSD Public Data Dashboards.

Open in Tableau

High-poverty schools serve about 3 times as many chronically absent students (those missing at least 10% of all school days). In high-poverty schools in Oakland, about 18% of students are chronically absent compared to approximately 6% in low-poverty ones. As a result, staff resources to address the effects of chronic absenteeism are more likely to be strained in high-poverty schools and, conversely, staff in low-poverty schools will have more bandwidth to address a wider array of school needs. 

By alleviating school segregation, Oakland could proportionally - and equitably - allocate critical resources to help address chronic absenteeism throughout the city.

The above examples are just two instances that demonstrate the additional stress that concentrating students in poverty has on schools.


We hope to continue highlighting data that demonstrate the disproportionate impact that concentrating students by poverty and race has on school environments. 

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