Grades Mean Nothing in Oakland Schools

Jun 6, 2024 1:34:37 PM


Grades Mean Nothing in Oakland Schools

In Oakland, we are facing a critical challenge that threatens the future of our students: the stark disconnect between the grades they receive and their actual proficiency in essential subjects like math and reading.

It's disheartening to see our students striving for high grades only to discover that these grades don't always accurately reflect their understanding of the material according to grade-level standards. This issue isn't just a minor oversight; it's a systemic problem that demands immediate attention and action.

Citywide Youth Survey

Our recent Citywide Youth Survey brought this issue into sharp focus. The survey revealed that while three out of four students believe they are reading at grade level, and nearly 60% think they are proficient in math, the reality is far different.

State testing data shows that only a fraction of our Black and Latino students are meeting these proficiency standards.

This discrepancy is a wake-up call because grades alone are not enough to measure our students' learning and readiness.

Grades vs. Proficiency

The voices of our students highlight the urgency of this issue. They express their frustration and confusion, realizing that high grades don't necessarily mean they are prepared for the next academic challenge. This misalignment between grades and proficiency undermines their confidence and hampers their educational journey. It's time for educators and policymakers to address this gap head-on.

We must foster transparent communication about proficiency standards between teachers, students, and parents. Educators should regularly inform students whether they are meeting grade-level expectations and provide clear pathways for improvement. Additionally, we must advocate for a more robust assessment system that accurately measures student learning and guides effective instruction.

Our students deserve better. We can ensure they are truly prepared to succeed academically and beyond by bridging the gap between grades and proficiency. Let's commit to making this change for the sake of our students and the future of our community.

Read the full report, The Oakland Report 2023-24: Demanding Proficiency Over Pageantry, to learn more.



Charles Cole III

Charles Cole III is an educator and media producer focused on the advancement of all youth of color, but more specifically Black males. The passion comes from his own experiences growing up without proper support. His life’s goal is to better the communities he grew up in through his work. He has served as a social worker, a director for Teach For America, the vice chair of the California Young Democrats, Black Caucus and at a director’s level at various youth-focused nonprofits. Charles is a national speaker and writer and can be found in Oakland and around the country working with youth on how to equip themselves appropriately to lay the groundwork for a bright future. He is currently finishing his first book aimed at Black males titled, "Stop Hustling Backwards." Charles decided to return to work for the district he grew up in, as a community engagement specialist. There, he worked closely with the community to help drive policies that lead to educational transformation. Charles blogs at One Oakland United, Education Post, Citizen Education and Huffington Post, as well as other outlets.

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