Oakland school has more on time graduates than average

June 2, 2010 11:05:26 PM PDT
1 in 4 high school students in the nation fail to graduate on time. That is more than 613,000 students according to the National Center For Education Statistics and it is worse for blacks and Latinos. However, one school in Oakland is bucking the trend.

Oscar Servellon will be the first in his family to graduate from high school.

"I don't want to be the Latino stereotype that people see or think about when they think about Oakland," says Servellon.

His high school, MetWest in Oakland, has been a big part of his success. It is one of Oakland's small schools; there are only 131 students there.

"The teacher to student ratios have to be very low and that our teachers stay with the same students for at least two years in high school," says principal Eve Gordon.

They get in using a lottery system. The school is different in that twice a week students work as interns. They pick the job.

"The advisors are like parents, they help you out with everything," says student Marcos Ramos.

Ramos is working in an architectural firm, but getting to this point was not easy.

"In 6th grade I used to be a gangbanger all the way to my freshman year," says Ramos.

He and all his senior classmates will graduate this year. Eighty-five percent of students there are black or Hispanic.

But it's a different story nationally. Twenty-five percent of all students and almost 40 percent of black and Hispanic students fail to graduate from high school on time. This statistic is from the National Center For Education Statistics.

These numbers come a few months after President Obama announced he would pour $4 billion to turn around the nation's lowest performing schools, including 2,000 high schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the dropout rate a crisis.

In Oakland, the dropout rate is higher than the national average -- 31 percent.

"But we are doing a better job. Currently our graduation rate stands at 69 percent; just a decade ago it was 55 percent," says Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint.

Another report was done by Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm. They found that nearly half of students interviewed said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting.

"It is really hard for many of our young people to find school to be a relevant and important part of their growing up journey," says Gordon.

But MetWest is turning things around.

By the way, Servellon will now major in English at U.C. Davis.


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