Peggy Scott, one of the four parent representatives on the Berkeley High School Governance Council, sends this update from yesterday’s meeting:

[Berkeley High School principal] Mr. Slemp announced that the enhancement funds that pay for 0 and 7 period labs may not be available due to cuts in the state budget. He does not plan to take his  new plan to the School Board meeting next  Wednesday 1/13.

Additionally, the next SGC meeting, which planned to consider the first round of equity grants, will not have that item on the agenda either.  On the other hand, that doesn’t automatically mean parents shouldn’t go to the Board next week. Nothing is certain; everything is up in the air. The Governator is supposed to release his budget for the schools at the end of this week and that will be an important factor.

What can I say? We live in an age of uncertainty and now you can add this to the list.

I am pleased to report that Mr. Huyett, Dir. Issel and Dir Selawsky also attended the SGC meeting to discuss parity issues, composition of the Schoolsite Council and possible redesign of the high school SGC. As the Policy Committee, it is their job to (among other things) to make sure that all BUSD schools have governance structures that are in alignment with the state Education Code.

While it has been  slow going, I believe they are making a good faith effort to fix  this situation and assure compliance. They hope to meet with parents in the very near future to discuss this matter. When they do, please show up! This is unbelievably important. Consider the fact that a Schoolsite Council is supposed to have 1-to-2 parity as regards parents to high school staff, and our current SGC has 1-to-5 parity.  That is the group that voted to de-fund science labs.

Perhaps with true parity the same thing would have happened, perhaps not. But I say this to express just how important this governance issue is.  So OK, I am a wonk*…

I hope this is a reasonably accurate report.

Xin nián kuài lè (Happy New Year)!

*wonk – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: a person preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized field.

Read Berkeleyside’s previous coverage of this issue here:

Endangered science at Berkeley High School [12.11.09]

Science at BHS: An open letter [12.14.09]

Science and equity: BHS parents weigh in [12.16.09]

BHS Board meeting dominated by science issue [12.17.09]

The BHS science flap — the ripples are spreading [12.30.09]

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  1. “So most of the rhetoric comments I read here do not connect to the reality of BHS politics, culture or climate.”


    I should have edited but I took time out while busy repairing the plaster walls in this dilapidated crack house I bought years ago.
    I meant rhetorical, google for definition, if read in context it is obvious my meaning, and NO I have no problem with disagreement or debate, just little tolerance for abstraction that have no relation to the facts. I have been deep in the school issues for years and the person behind several reforms, including a major role in forcing compliance in school governance procedures.

    Go back and read the Express spring story about the redesign and you will see that Slemp latest attack is not random nor a budget issue, it is pure retaliation, the smoke screen is clearing.

  2. In contrast, I appreciate your background on the history of double period science. As I pointed out in the other thread, I’m strongly of the opinion that 6 periods is plenty, even for the highest achieving students. A five-course load, including some four-hour courses, should be plenty. I don’t much care if there is an 8-period bell schedule – that’s fine with me. But there is no obvious reason why core curriculum, including AP prep, can’t fit into a 6-period, trimester schedule — leaving lots of room for the other aspects of education.

  3. Ms. Menard, you write: “Berkeley activists prefer to blame institutional racism as the primary reason for the achievement gap contrary to an enormous body of research identifying literacy, kindergarten readiness, neighborhood, and poverty as primary factors.”

    You ought to understand that, from the perspective of us “activists”, what you have said there could be paraphrased as “[you activists] prefer to blame institutional racism as the primary [problem] contrary to an enormous body of research identifying the consequences of institutionalized racism as primary factors.”

    I’ll tell you what, though: if you have a plan for fixing the kindergarten readiness of any student who will enter BHS in the next 10 years, I’ll be first in line to nominate you for Nobel prizes in physics and peace!

  4. BHS double period science program was designed by UCB and taught at BHS for 65 years until 2001/02 when Supt Lawrence reduced the school day to 6 periods. The program is based on direct instruction with regular feedback to students via assessment, which is why it is so valued by students, teachers and parents. In order to complete the plan for “wall to wall” small schools advocates felt they had to dismantle the dept based governance structure hence the attack on the science dept. By reducing the school day to 6 periods they automatically cut double period science and created the O and 7th period lab schedule augmented with BSEP parcel tax funds.

    PTA Council leaders worked with the science teachers to develop alternative scheduling options. Supt Lawrence nor the board would discuss the proposals. We had a fiscally viable schedule which maintained the 7 periods day, with double period science, split lunch closed campus (reducing truancy and increasing BUSD budget, currently general food subsidizes the food court while students eat downtown) more electives available in a four year program, and most important a resource period scheduled into the school day. This resource period could solve the current need for an advisory period which is the primary motivation to redesign the school day.

    For the newcomers and those without a kid in the fight, all I can say is what school board member Joaquin Riveria told me before my 1st kid attended BHS
    “BHS is a different animal”. So most of the rhetoric comments I read here do not connect to the reality of BHS politics, culture or climate.

    Relevant commentary and the research on Direct Instruction:
    Achievement Gap / Ignoring what works in exchange for more handwringing.

    Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not
    Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist,
    Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and
    Inquiry-Based Teaching
    “Direct Answer”
    John McWhorter, The New Republic Published: Wednesday, January 14,

    A solution for the reading gap between black and white children was
    discovered four decades ago. So, why aren’t we taking advantage of it?

    One does not expect to see New York’s school Chancellor Joel Klein on
    the same stage as Reverend Al Sharpton. Klein is infamous for his
    emphasis on test scores and shutting down schools that fail to measure
    up. Not so long ago, Sharpton was in the barricades with Russell
    Simmons protesting mayor Michael Bloomberg and Klein’s plan to cut New
    York City’s education budget.

    Yet these days the two are teaming up for the Education Equality
    Project, which seeks to close the achievement gap between white and
    black kids in public schools. And at the New York City Department of
    Education’s kickoff in a series on the topic last week, Klein and
    Sharpton agreed on most issues. Sharpton, who in his “reformed” guise
    has decided that education is a key civil rights issue, actually spoke
    up for vouchers and mayoral control of the school board.

    The forum was a typical one on race and education, as ritualized as a
    religious service. First, an introducer recites the latest dropout
    statistics. Then, discussants and audience questioners flag the usual
    terms–Low Expectations, Parental Involvement, Vested Interests,
    Resources, Accountability–each greeted with knowing murmurs and
    applause. A tacit assumption is always that the grievous intersection
    of these factors explains why poor children, especially black and
    Latino ones, tend to trail so far behind white ones in reading skills–
    a maddening gap that persists in National Assessment of Educational
    Progress reports year after year.

    Yet a solution for the reading gap was discovered four decades ago.
    Starting in the late 1960s, Siegfried Engelmann led a government-
    sponsored investigation, Project Follow Through, that compared nine
    teaching methods and tracked their results in more than 75,000
    children from kindergarten through third grade. It found that the
    Direct Instruction (DI) method of teaching reading was vastly more
    effective than any of the others for (drum roll, please) poor kids,
    including black ones. DI isn’t exactly complicated: Students are
    taught to sound out words rather than told to get the hang of
    recognizing words whole, and they are taught according to scripted
    drills that emphasize repetition and frequent student participation.

    In a half-day preschool in Champaign-Urbana they founded, Engelmann
    and associates found that DI teaches four-year-olds to understand
    sounds, syllables, and rhyming. Its students went on to kindergarten
    reading at a second-grade level, with their mean IQ having jumped 25
    points. In the 70s and 80s, similar results came from nine other sites
    nationwide, and since then, the evidence of DI’s effectiveness has
    been overwhelming, raising students’ reading scores in schools in
    Baltimore, Houston, Milwaukee, and other districts. A search for an
    occasion where DI was instituted and failed to improve students’
    reading performance would be distinctly frustrating.

    Still, at this forum you would never have known Project Follow Through
    existed. Key moment: A teacher reminded us to keep “creativity” in
    mind as a teaching tool, with coos and scattered applause from the
    audience, and Sharpton milking it by chiming in. Indeed, schools of
    education have long been caught up in an idea that teaching poor kids
    to read requires something more than, well, teaching them how to sound
    out words. The poor child, the good-thinking wisdom tells us, needs
    tutti-frutti approaches bringing in music, rhythm, narrative, Ebonics,
    and so on. Distracted by the hardships in their home lives, surely
    they cannot be reached by just laying out the facts. That can only
    work for coddled children of doctors and lawyers.

    But the simple fact of how well DI has worked shows that “creativity”
    is not what poor kids need. At the Champaign-Urbana preschool, the
    kids–poor kids, recall, and not many who were white–had a jolly old
    time with DI, especially when they found that it was (hey!) teaching
    them to read.

    In 2001, third-grade students in the mostly black Richmond district in
    Virginia were scoring abysmally in reading. But once a scientifically
    proven reading program similar to DI was brought in, by 2005, three-
    quarters of black students passed the third-grade reading test.
    Meanwhile, out in wealthy Fairfax County, where DI was scorned as
    usual, the black students taking that test–despite ample funding–
    were passing it at the rate of merely 59 percent.

    The saddest thing about the blithe neglect of Engelmann’s findings is
    that they are the answer to the problems people at forums like these
    find so challenging. It’s as if you’re listening to people discuss the
    merits of moving a two-ton load of grain into a barn by spreading the
    ground between the load and the barn with cooking grease and heaving-
    ho. The solution’s “creative,” alright–but hasn’t Engelmann already
    invented the wheel?

    Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s appointed Secretary of Education, happens
    to be a signatory to Klein and Sharpton’s Education Equality Project
    to bring “equity to an educational system that, 54 years since Brown
    v. Board of Education, continues to fail its highest-needs students.”
    In Washington, Duncan might consider taking the blinders off and
    forcing America’s urban school districts to teach poor kids to read
    with tools that we have known to work since the Nixon Administration.

    Otherwise, all we will have is the likes of the audience at the Klein-
    Sharpton event coming away thinking the event was “great” because
    Sharpton is a jolly presence and everyone got to clap upon hearing
    terms like Low Expectations and Resources. I submit that this is a
    distinctly thin basis upon which to translate our President-Elect’s
    call for hope into action.

    John McWhorter is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the
    author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of

  5. Roots of Reform/Redesign movement

    -Glenn Singleton diversity consultant
    -BHS Diversity project members who morph as needed into new organization
    for political leverage: UIA, PCAD, 2020 Vision, BOCA etc

    Huyett created an Equity Initiative as Supt in Lodi which is why the BUSD board hired him

    check out two blogs from Illinois school communities critical of Singleton “unique” perspective of equity. There lies the conflict, Berkeley activists prefer to blame institutional racism as the primary reason for the achievement gap contrary to an enormous body of research identifying literacy, kindergarten readiness, neighborhood, and poverty as primary factors.

    It is a sad day when conservatives advance social justice principles better than so called progs.
    blog with some background on Singleton’s concept of racial predictability (embraced by UIA and 2020 planning group)