If you’re keeping up with the running debate about changing the schedule at Berkeley High School, you’ll want to read all 11 pages of the latest action plan, submitted by teacher team leaders and principal Jim Slemp.

The action plan allows each of the small schools and programs to determine their own schedules to some extent. It still, however, eliminates 0 and 7th periods for science labs. According to some BHS science teachers, the reduction in time for science labs would mean that most students would not be able to take AP science classes without taking an introductory class in the subject first. So, for example, a first year student would take basic biology and then, in some subsequent year, take advanced biology. On the present schedule, students can leap straight into an advanced science because of the extra time for lab work.

The action plan makes clear that there are dramatic challenges faced by BHS:

This year Berkeley High was identified as the high school with the largest racial equity/achievement gap in the state.  This is unconscionable.

There are many sensible points in the action plan about the importance of achieving greater equity at BHS. I do, however, think the school opens itself up to parody with the one historical figure it chooses to (mis)quote in its discussion of the meaning of equity:

From each according to his (or her) ability, to each according to his (or her) need.

Surely BHS doesn’t need to invoke Karl Marx in its drive for better outcomes for all of its students?

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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4 Comments

  1. “Dumbing down” the school to even out the achievement gap is not the answer. If the Berkeley Public school district has not yet noticed, this strategy only results in invested, resourced parents who would greatly benefit the school district LEAVING THE DISTRICT IN DROVES to private school because they are not willing to have their children take the “hit” for these supposed equalization measures. When is the Berkeley Public school district going to wake up to the fact that the only road to success is KEEPING THE BAR HIGH in order to maintain confidence in those high achieving students and their families that the highest levels of academic achievement are resourced for their children. When are they going to wake up to the fact that their idea of “political correctedness,” while it may result in the principal and board members feeling morally self-satisfied, on a practical level, will result in nothing less than droves of would-be parents and their high-achieving children LEAVING THE DISTRICT because of the fact that the district is more interested in raising F students up to D students than supporting the A students in the top notch education they are looking for. WAKE UP!!!!

  2. I think it is editorially weak of Berkeleyside to rag on the Marx quote on a number of levels. The achievement gap around here does indeed appear to occur along fault lines of class and race. The quote is not especially misquoted. The quote does apply in that *stochastically* the withdrawal of some resources from the highest achievers and dedication of them to those on the downside of the achievement gap is justified by the “from each / to each” principle of communitarian effort (such as a public school).

    BS could have gone for so many possible angles on this story and, in this case, went for the most superficial, pandering, classist one. I presume that wasn’t intended, but…

  3. One has to compare the achievement “gap” of these students before they start BHS to see if the latter is remedying or exacerbating the problem. You can’t ignore the prior 8 years of tutelage.