In order to attain an upward trend in all the right places, the Berkeley Unified School District is reviewing strategies for improving student performance and narrowing the achievement gap. A two-hour study session planned for Wednesday's board meeting represents the second review of district goals and strategies since the new school year.
The upcoming session will focus on three of the district's five goals: promoting student success, ensuring cultural and linguistic responsiveness to students and their families, and allocating resources efficiently.
Board members will review the strategies outlined in the two-year action plan received in January this year. The overall outline, District Goals and Strategies for 2010-13, was approved by the board in October, 2010 and aims to improve the performance of all students and close the achievement gap through a number of steps. The full document can be found attached to the agenda packet online here.
The second district goal, promoting student success, focuses on engaging students in their learning and eliminating barriers to achievement.
Athough the Berkeley Unified School District celebrated good news this past summer with academic scores increasing and — an achievement gap still remains. The latest test scores show that Berkeley's white and Asian students are scoring higher than black and Hispanic students overall. The largest gap in the 2011 growth API score was between white and African-American students at 265 points.
The gap, however, is narrowing. In 2005, the API point difference between white and African American students was 290. Hispanic students were also behind white students on average by 224 points, while the gap in 2011 had narrowed to 164 points.Subgroup 2005 API
2006 API 2007 API 2008 API 2009 API 2010 API 2011 Growth API White 884
894 885 883 901 911 908 Asian 794 811 781 787 811 826 821 Hispanic 660 688 672 689 688 730 744 African American 594 601 597 620 621 642 643
In order to promote student success, BUSD has outlined a number of strategies, including:
- Increasing student engagement
- Providing academic and behavioral intervention
- Supporting positive behavior
- Reducing the disproportionate number of African-American and Hispanic students who are expelled or in special education
- Expanding educational options
- Extending extra-curricular opportunities
- Improving the transition between school levels and from special programs to mainstream education
Student engagement is an ongoing issue at Berkeley High School — as Superintendent Bill Huyett — where the achievement gap is also the largest in the district. The 2011 Growth API score for African American students was 53 points below the statewide average.
Ensuring cultural and linguistic responsiveness is the fourth of the district's goals, and strategy includes increasing the number of bilingual and mutlilingual staff. The district also plans to hire a supervisor of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Systems, who would provide support for staff of color and work with schools and departments to ensure their cultural competence.
The final district goal is to "generate and equitably allocate resources for programs and services that enable every student to succeed." Strategy includes developing a technology task force and streamlining district operations, as well as strengthening partnerships with the City of Berkeley, the Berkeley Alliance, the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, U.C. Berkeley, and other stakeholders.
The district also aims to "provide more transparent information" about parcel tax revenue and reserves, and work closely with the parcel tax and bond committees to identify how resources can be used to support the district's mission of closing the achievement gap.
What do you think are the best ways to engage students and narrow the achievement gap? Let us know in the comments.