How Oakland International High School Rethought Math to Meet Student Challenges and Help Find a Path to Success
By David Hansen, Vice Principal, Oakland International High School, and former head of the Math Department
In 2015, as the governor was looking to end the use of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), the math department at Oakland International High School (OIHS) debated which metrics we should then use to gauge a successful program. Given the unique needs of our student population – all of our students are newcomers, recent arrivals in the US – we thought it made most sense to look at college placement and work backwards.
That year, we had 80 seniors. Most of them would be going into community college, a few into CSU’s and maybe one or two into UC’s. Of those 80 students only three were placed in college level math class upon high school graduation. The rest were placed in remediation. Over half in fact were placed in Arithmetic, a class that was two-years below credit bearing math classes.
As we looked more at data and talked to more alumni, we found that math was most likely to be the thing that prevented our students from succeeding in college – even more than English despite the fact they were all still learning English. By being placed in remediation in college, they were likely to take years to move into credit bearing classes. Some students would never move into credit bearing classes and would be stuck in remediation in perpetuity.
As a department we decided we wanted to tackle this issue and affect both students’ success in college math and their placement upon leaving high school. We decided to take a two-pronged approach to this.
The first thrust would be to add dual-enrollment math classes after school. These are college classes that also give high school credit. Students would take the classes after-school and receive homework support during the day.
The second part was to work with students, to help them understand what math classes they could and should enroll in once they left high school.
This year at OIHS, we have approximately 85 student seniors. Of those 85, over 90% of them will be placed directly into college level math and almost 50% will have already completed at least one semester of college math classes. This dramatic shift has been made possible only by the hard work of the math department and the partnership work with Laney College.
It’s vital to rethink our educational systems on the structural level, using data to determine the gaps and pain points for students, then create alternative pathways to support them through.
The ACE Spectrum Blog will be sharing stories of those who have been making it happen in ACE Learning Centers. Check out their superpowers and be inspired by our local teens and teachers.