Turning 48% into 99% — raising the percentage of public school students who graduate in Oakland

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REAL HARD retreat — bonding before tackling the dropout problem and (second photo) “Watch My Back” at Mack”]

By Eric Gant

A survey on how fights and bullying affect learning. Positive stickers that say “Watch my back.” And painting  “48%” on the faces of students (because only 48 percent graduate high school in Oakland). These were some of the “actions” that 14 students took this week after a two-day Real Hard retreat sponsored by Oakland Kids First.
“Students recognize that their community is going downhill and want immediate change and improvement, “ said Angelique Villasana, a junior at McClymonds. “They’re willing to take action.”

The activities grew out of the retreat for students from rival high schools, Oakland Tech and McClymonds, who focused on the controversial question: what stops a high school student from learning in Oakland? Peers, teachers, or the environment?

The goal was to write, through classroom exercises, and enforce a code of conduct that would improve interaction between students and teachers  and stop students from dropping out.

Fourteen students — five from McClymonds, the rest from rival Oakland Tech — attended the two-day leadership retreat. Real Hard is an after-school leadership training program that meets twice a week for two hour each session. Participating students receive a stipend of $350 a semester.
It was not the first time that the students tackled issues like bullying, teachers’ indifference and violence. However, this time students concentrated on relationships between teacher and student as well as among students.
Students also gathered more information than before. The survey at Oakland Tech, for instance, revealed that 54 percent of students feel that fights and bullying in school — whether they are personally involved in them or not — affect their learning and academic success.
At McClymonds, students proudly paraded their “We Got Your Back” stickers in psychedelic green, yellow and  orange. “It was a day of creating a culture of community,” said Stephen Vance, a senior at Mack and president of Oakland citywide high schools’ student government.

2 responses to “Turning 48% into 99% — raising the percentage of public school students who graduate in Oakland

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