As a teacher, I had the privilege of working with one teacher who has the whole preparing-your-8th-graders-and-their-families-for-high-school down.
From about September-December, she has representatives from neighborhood high schools to come speak with our 8th graders. Throughout the months, we usually get a mix of guidance counselors and students who come and tell us about their schools and sometimes share school swag with the students! This also allows us opportunities to goal-set and just start to prepare for the future. At the end of the semester, after seeing a few of these schools, it’s a good idea to run a “town hall” or “community circle” so that students can bring up questions and share their learnings.
During the first conferences, we share a packet with the students and their families where we talk with them about what they’re interested in and provide recommendations.
Here’s a bit of what we say:
If the child is less self-motivated and has trouble with executive function, homework, positive choices, etc (basically every middle schooler ever!), we suggest a smaller school.
MetWest – this is small, it provides internship opportunities. LOTS of positives.
Oakland Unity – small charter school. Our alumni and their families speak positively about this school.
Envision – another small charter. A few mixed reviews, but in general, our students and families feel positive about this school.
Leadership Oakland (LPS) – A small (strict) charter. Again, some mixed reviews, and I think I’d recommend Unity and Envision over this one, but LPS > a large OUSD high school any day.
If the child really doesn’t want a small school,
Oakland Tech is a district school and it’s okay. If the student is an academically successful student, there’s also their PAIDEIA program which sort of functions as a small school within a larger one.
Lighthouse and Life Academy are both great high schools, but unless you have a sibling there, you most likely will not get in. 😦
OAKLAND SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS requires try-outs/portfolios/etc… so look into this EARLY.
If the child is self-motivated, they’ll be successful anywhere, basically. We still highly recommend Unity and MetWest, though, although Oakland Tech should be fine too.
By January, once the district applications are out, we run a parent night so that we can help fill out the form together.
Some insider info (which you probably won’t need if you’ve been working in OUSD):
- If students are at all interested in MetWest (which I recommend), they need to mark it as first since it’s so small.
- For the larger schools, Oakland Tech > Skyline > Oakland High > Fremont > etc. (Sorry, no offense; just one middle school’s teacher’s experience with her students going there. Like I said, if the child needs more focused support, I’d suggest MetWest OR a small charter school).
- For charter schools, students might as well apply to all of them since they could just say no once they get in. For district schools, it’s important to put your first choice first. DO NOT LET KIDS PUT SKYLINE FIRST. Because Skyline is a hot mess (it used to be better) AND most likely, they’ll get placed into Skyline anyway. (although if they are going to Skyline, have them apply to College Track which will help them stay on the right path towards college).
- Students without an Alameda or Berkeley address cannot go to a school in Alameda or Berkeley
- Students going to school in San Leandro could also try out the Envision school there
- Castro Valley has great schools if students are moving there.
- If in Richmond, there is Aspire’s Cal Prep (which is actually pretty great) and LPS Richmond
By March/April, students should start hearing back about where they’re going. If somehow they dropped the ball on applying to charters and ended up getting placed in Skyline or Fremont (a frequent occurrence), have them sign up for the waiting lists at…
- The ASPIRE schools in Oakland
- Alternatives in Action (some of my struggling kids go there and they feel positive about it… although I can’t safely say that this prepares students for the rigor of college)
- I guess… ARISE? I mean, ARISE has a great social justice focus but the academics are a hot mess and I can’t really recommend it over Fremont or Skyline. I mean, I guess it’s small? I know some teachers there who are awesome (but then the same could be said for Skyline/Fremont)
IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE or just IF YOU CARE ABOUT STUDENTS BEING TREATED HUMANELY
- just say NO to Oakland Charter High School and American Indian. (Why are they still open? Oh yeah. High test scores. And friends in high places. And the fact that California actually doesn’t have any real accountability towards their charter schools which is why paternalistic, abusive, and embezzling schools continue to stay open. It’s not libel if it’s true).
PS: If you can somehow get your kids into Life or Lighthouse, they are set!