OAKLAND (KCBS) – By middle school, more than half of the black students enrolled in the Oakland Unified School District show signs of dropping out of school, according to studies released Tuesday. The signs include chronic absenteeism and suspension.
“Especially alarming was the high rates of chronic absence of kindergarten, first and second-grade African-American Boys,” said Junious Williams, CEO of the Urban Strategies Council. The group was commissioned by the district to carry out three studies of student success and retention.
The report found during the last school year, almost one in five African-American males was chronically absent, defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year. That’s double the district average.
KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:
Williams said the rate of suspension for African-American males was found to be six times higher than for white males.
“About 38 percent of all of their suspensions are attributable to defiance of authority and disruption,” Williams said.
Urban Strategies found 45 percent of African-American males from kindergarten through 12th grade are on track for graduation, compared to 63 percent of the overall student population in Oakland public schools.
District officials said the studies provide the most comprehensive numbers to date on the disparities among its student body, and opened the door for a more comprehensive strategy to be rolled out this fall.
“Teachers have differing standards for what’s acceptable,” district spokesman Troy Flint said.
Flint said that would be replaced with more consistent policies both within individual schools and throughout the city.
“Let’s really be firm in holding the line so kids know what to expect,” he said.
The Urban Strategies report recommends tracking attendance in real time so interventions can be done before a critical number of days are missed.
Flint said the district would also look at strategies besides suspension for addressing behavior problems that disrupt the classroom or school environment.
“There are other ways you can bring a student into line if they’re being verbally disrespectful,” he said.
He noted that automatic suspensions have the secondary affect of pulling students who are already missing too much school out of the classroom entirely, “and fall behind even further.”
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