Solutions to achieve school integration in Oakland
In the coming weeks, we'll investigate various scenarios that could increase the number of integrated schools in Oakland.
A number of districts around the country are tackling the problem of school segregation and Oakland has taken some positive first steps as well:
OUSD convened an enrollment working group where school integration has been a frequent topic of discussion
OUSD partnered with UC Berkeley to further investigate student assignment policies
OUSD joined a national collaborative related to school diversity and integration
Solutions to school segregation in Oakland are not necessarily hard to find. In fact, nearby Berkeley Unified's model has been upheld as one that embodies many of the values related to neighborhood preference and school choice while prioritizing school integration.
Berkeley Unified Diversity Categories (left) and Berkeley Unified Attendance Zones
Based on neighborhood demographics that includes both income and race variables, Berkeley creates diversity categories at the neighborhood level. Attendance boundaries for elementary schools then purposefully cut across different diversity categories (and include multiple school sites) to ensure school demographics represent a cross-section of the city. Berkeley will likely implement a similar model for its middle schools.
Learn more from the research.
Another school district that uses a model similar to Berkeley's is Jefferson County in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jefferson County Diversity Categories (left) and Jefferson County Attendance Zones
In 2014-2015, about 66% of Jefferson County's students were classified as low-income, not too dissimilar from Oakland's rate.
While Oakland enrolls about 62% of its students in schools that serve at least 75% low-income students, however, the same was true for less than 40% of Jefferson County students. Overall, the plan is thought to be "relatively effective in maintaining racially and economically diverse schools".
Learn more here.
As an experiment, here's what a similar scenario to Berkeley's attendance zones would look like in Oakland. For simplicity, the zones below are balanced only according to childhood poverty data from the American Community Survey. Each zone serves approximately 20% of children in poverty, right around the city average.
San Francisco Unified, after working extensively with researchers at Stanford, has even landed on a similar model to Berkeley's to improve their own integration plan and the Board of Education passed initial plans in December 2020.
Does Berkeley's model make sense for Oakland? What would diversity categories and zones look like? And how would segregation decrease if it were implemented?
Come back soon for additional insights.