2020 Vision symposium highlights progress in Berkeley

A packed cafeteria at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Last week, more than 100 community members, educators and city and school officials came together to share a meal and a vision for a future of equal opportunities for all children in Berkeley schools.

The theory behind the effort, 2020 Vision, is that success at school should not be predictable based on a child’s race or ethnicity. The goal, as the name suggests, is to eradicate the achievement gap by the year 2020. As it stands, Hispanic and black students, as a group, consistently score lower than peers on standardized tests, while having higher rates of chronic absenteeism, truancy, suspension and dropping out altogether, according to a statement posted by Berkeley Alliance, which is spearheading the Vision 2020 effort.

Max Anderson at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The first ever 2020 Vision community symposium, held at Longfellow Middle School on Oct. 11,  was a celebration of this citywide effort to close the achievement gap and ensure academic success for all children in Berkeley.

“I think it is making a difference,” said parent Abigail Surasky, who has children at Longfellow and Washington schools. “You do see the (achievement) numbers rising overall in the subgroups. It’s making everybody work more comprehensively and really look at the whole child.”

The campaign, which launched in 2008 with a joint city and school board resolution to adopt the 2020 Vision, has more than 30 listed partners throughout the city, from the mayor’s office, school district and the University of California Berkeley to a wide range of education, health and advocacy organizations.

In 2011-12, organizers attacked three priorities: (1) kindergarten readiness; (2) reading proficiency by the end of third grade; and (3) regular attendance for all children. In 2012-13, two additional goals have been added to the list: college and career readiness, and completion of algebra or an integrated math class by the end of the ninth grade.

A shared dinner at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Following dinner and short presentations about 2020 Vision, participants in the Thursday symposium split off into two sessions of breakout presentations. Topics included a summary of the data collected thus far, overviews of pilot programs that have been used to address program priorities, kindergarten readiness, student attendance and more.

Pamela Harrison-Small, executive director of Berkeley Alliance, 2020 Vision Symposium. Photo: Emilie Raguso

“We wanted to share what we’ve been doing as a community and also keep the community updated on progress,” said Pamela Harrison-Small, executive director of Berkeley Alliance, adding that the symposium will become an annual event. “It’s just the beginning. We’re going to keep moving.”

In a session on data, Debbi D’Angelo, who runs the school district’s Evaluation and Assessment department, explained how, this year, all kindergarten teachers were trained for the first time to collect and record information from students about what they knew, and what kind of preparation they had, coming into the classroom for the first time. Teachers asked about what sort of preschool experience students received, and rated students based on their ability to identify numbers and letters, count and write their names.

Tanya Moore discusses data at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

“It helps to identify where students are coming from,” said Tanya Moore, a city staff representative working on 2020 Vision. The screening will help teachers understand “the areas we need to work on with early childhood providers, and how to create supports for children and families.”

Former kindergarten teacher Tracey Iglehart, who sat in on the data session, said it’s the kind of effort that could have a huge impact going forward.

“For the first time ever, everyone will have the same baseline data,” said Iglehart. “It is so cool. It is so cool that every kindergarten teacher in the district implemented it in the same way.”

D’Angelo described efforts by the city and schools to address chronic absenteeism and truancy. The goal, she said, is to reduce the number of students who are absent for more than 10% of the year, which translates into about 18 days. The district has undertaken an aggressive prevention program to try to get students back into the classroom.

“We’re standing on the corner, asking kids to go back to class. During the Occupy movement, we walked into Occupy and tried to find Berkeley High students to bring them back to class,” she said.

Debbi D’Angelo, Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Part of the effort involves looking at the disproportionality in attendance between white and non-white students, and finding out what is causing the absences. The school district found, for example, that some groups of students are disproportionately hospitalized for asthma reasons, so educators and health officials are working together to try to address that.

D’Angelo also said that, following implementation of the 2020 Vision program, more third grade students were found to be reading fluently than during the prior year.

“We are closing the gap, but there is still a gap, absolutely,” she said. More data will be available later this month related to 2020 Vision efforts and goals, she added.


Using 2020 Vision to help Berkeley’s children [03.08.12]
Pilot 2020 Vision projects announced [03.24.10]

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  • Aperson

    I was in Longfellow between 1969 and 1972. Even way back then, the teachers and administrators were going out of their minds trying to find ways to “close the achievement gap.” The solutions back then? Not much different from the solutions now. In 1969 we had:

    • Free lunches for black students. It was overtly race-based back then — not sure they could get away with that now.

    • Every single topic in every single class was put through an African or African-American lens. Thus, for example, when we had “pre-French,” it was with a Senegalese teacher and we learned Senegalese patois and Afro-French vocabulary. 

    • The school song for Longfellow was changed to “Young, Gifted and Black,” a trendy uplifting reggae hit from the era — even though the school was still majority non-black. Everyone had to sing it.

    • Afro-American clubs and mentors for the black students only.

    • Daily “trivial” little abuses that added up over the years: White and Asian students who did too well in class competitions were criticized for “making the other students feel bad,” and were told to sit aside so that others could win; lectures from visiting retired Black Panthers about the evils of “White Privilege”; intentionally lax enforcement of black-on-Asian and black-on-white bullying; and so forth.

    • Ending the practice of “tracking,” which formerly placed students in classes according to ability; now students of all abilities were thrown together.

    And you know what the result of all these efforts was: Zilch. It’s now been 43 years of attempts like “2020 Vision,” and they’ve universally come to naught. In fact the “achievement gap” is worse now than it was in the 1960s. That’s because back then there was still a lingering thread of “The Three Rs” old-fashioned no-nonsense teaching.

    I guarantee that “2020 Vision” will fail as well. You are going down the wrong track.

    Bring back race-blind hardcore teaching of knowledge, and drop the self-esteem absurdity. Demand excellence, and watch kids of all colors excel.

  • 2Barb2

    The children who enter Kindergarten MUST have decent pre-reading and math skills. If they do not know the letters in the alphabet, cannot count, have not learned to write their names, cannot follow simple directions, do not have a large vocabulary and have not been read to by their parents or/and guardians, they begin school behind the students who have these skills.  It is imperative that the parents or/and guardians are included in the education of their children.  While reading this article, memories came back to me.  I was a volunteer, in my daughter’s Kindergarten classroom, in the seventies, and worked with children who did not know how to turn pages, did not know what “the cover of a book” was called, did not know their colors and could not follow even the simplest directions…and they were not English-language learners.  Needless to say, they were competing with children who had numerous books in their homes and who possessed the skills needed to be successful students. When my son was in the 4th Grade, in the eighties, his teacher sent him to the back of the classroom, to play with Legos, when the other children were involved with reading lessons.  At a conference with his teacher I was told…and this is a direct quote…which I will never forget:  “Your son is a very good reader….already.  He’s too smart.”  I asked her if she could use some “other books” and was told,  “I cannot use books which are past 4th Grade.”  For the rest of the school year, I sent my son to school, each day, with books at his reading level, including one by Jack London.  It sounds like some things never change…. there is an achievement gap which cannot be remedied in elementary school.  It must begin AT BIRTH!!!!! It MUST involve and include the parents and guardians!!! By the way, after my son’s experience, in 4th Grade, I enrolled both of my children in private school the following year. 

  • Anonymous

     With the exception of free lunch being raced-based (it’s income now) and the goofy song what you describe is pretty much our elementary school exactly. The celebration and back-patting over the trivial increases in subgroup API scores sends the same message to students as setting different standards explicitly like the district in Florida just did:

  • Anonymous

     Our third grade teacher said essentially the same thing to me a couple weeks ago (“You shouldn’t let your daughter get any farther ahead.” in math no less). We’re heading to private school next year but many of our friends in the same situation don’t have that option and it’s horrible that our schools are so well-supported both with money and parental involvement but do so little for our kids.

  • Mark

    In all white areas,in the rural upper mid-West for example, the achievement gap is between children of multi-generational poverty and the rest of the population.  The problem is not, or to a very small extent, is one of ‘race’ but of poverty. 

    Berkeley is stuck in the politics of the sixties. I expect it will get over it when my generation dies out.  Meanwhile we have politicians and others who pander to ‘radical’ left sentiment.  And I write as a member of the long gone Grassroots collective.  That was a wild and fun bunch which promoted any radical sentiment with enthusiasm.

    The proposed ‘solutions’ leave out the most important one – summer breaks.  It’s been rather conclusively shown that disadvantaged students (how is that for PC!) catch up during the school year, slightly, and fall much further back during the summers. Summers are extensions of the learning gap that builds prior to kindergarten. .

    Remediation is expensive but one free way to somewhat alleviate the problem would be year-round schools.  I taught for several years in a year-round school in Richmond and well all loved it.  Only four-five weeks off in summer but two to three weeks in spring and fall. Everyone stayed fresher all year and students didn’t ‘forget’ over summer what was expected of them in schools.

    There is a national organization promoting summer intensive programs for disadvantaged youth.(National Summer Learning Assn.is a place to start). 

  • Mbfarrel

    “perform much less well”

    Great writing

  • guest

     “…they begin school behind the students who have these skills.”

    Uh, why is it that the schools cannot accommodate students who are different from one another?

  • 2Barb2

    The schools, in Berkeley, DO try to accommodate these students with lower skills and quite often ignore the students with the higher skills. The attitude is that they, the higher achievers, will somehow make it….. So, the ones with the higher skills…. are not encouraged to strive and achieve..they are just expected to stay within in the guidelines for their grade level.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    and also: “more third grade were found to be reading”

  • emraguso

    Thanks for this — I’m still getting up to speed on our system and had fixed the line about third-graders but it didn’t “stick” when this went live somehow. “Much less well” could certainly have been smoother. 

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’m sure you’ll get it under control in no time. On a more substantive note, I wish berkeleyside would take a hard look at what BUSD refuses to acknowledge. Berkeley has been punishing itself for years because of the parenting gap, as described by others in these comments. Can we at long last acknowledge that a large percentage of the problem is an East Bay issue, not a Berkeley schools or city issue? We’ve had a massive influx of kindergarten students, far larger than Berkeley’s demographics support. Where are they coming from? Why aren’t they enrolling where they live? Why doesn’t BUSD do more to ensure that it’s resources go to residents? Is any effort being made to quantify the gap among Berkeley residents? Does it even exist in the community that is BUSD’s responsibility?

  • Howie Mencken

    These first dozen comments are a testament to the intelligence and ethics of our long suffering community. Where there should be angry cries for ending this expensive farce called ‘closing the achievement gap’, there is only polite resignation and unanswered questions. 

    Google: John U. Ogbu

  • The Sharkey

    Ending tracking in public schools and creating mixed-ability classrooms (coupled with the idea that every student should go on to college) was one of the most idiotic things  ever done in America’s public schools.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Agreed.  Important to note that when politicians talk about sending everyone to “college,” they aren’t really talking about a liberal arts education in some wooded glen with elbow patches.  It’s mostly a tip of the hat to the vocational schools that don’t actually guarantee a vocation but do guarantee a stream of student loan payments from which not even bankruptcy will save you.

  • The Sharkey

    You’d think we’d abandon the clearly failed non-tracking model and take a look at the successes of a country like Germany, but I guess it would be too politically incorrect to admit that different students have different abilities and public schools can only do so much.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    And Germany has a robust vocational model that leads to real apprenticeship on through journeyman to meisterbrief.  

  • Completely_Serious

    At a public school in Berkeley, it is celebrated that an uncle of a current student is a former Black Panther, “a bit of living history.”

  • Charles_Siegel

     Very good point.  Check out the graph in this article to see that there used to be a larger education gap based on race, but there now is a larger education gap based on income. 

  • Guestero

    I have no problem with the idea that not everybody needs to go to college; however, I do have a problem with an educational system that forecloses even the possibility for some people when they’re only 15.  I’ve known several people person from Germany, Japan, and the UK who certainly had the ability to do university-level work, but were denied, or almost denied, the opportunity because some teacher decided they weren’t university-level material.  In one instance (Germany), the parents had to move to another town so their kid could get a fresh start at a new school, and be allowed to continue on the university track.  In another (Japan), the parents had to fight the school.  In the UK instance, an intelligent and capable person who probably would have attended UC or Cal State, had they grown up here, got pushed onto the vocational track without ever being consulted about it.

    High school kids who aren’t very academic should have the opportunity to take honest-to-God, demanding vocational classes that could actually lead to a real job.  That does not need to close the door to applying to a bachelor’s program later, however, nor should it.  What would work well would be a non-college prep track that’s still academically rigorous enough that someone who wanted to could supplement it, at some point in the future, with 4-6 additional courses at a good community college, and then apply to a bachelor’s program.  Maybe not a super-duper elite one, but a solid one.  The community colleges could, if they wanted to, offer adult college prep programs that someone working full time could complete in the evenings over 2-3 semesters.  I’m not talking about courses where you just mark time, but ones as demanding as what college-bound high school seniors at good schools normally take — but geared, of course, to adults. 

    There should be no stigma attached to working full time after high school; it’s a perfectly respectable choice.  However, the idea that if you do that, it’s because you’re not college material and never will be, also needs to go.

  • Guestero

     Edit: “several people,” not “several people person.”  Or purple-people eating pleonasm…

  • The Sharkey

    So take the best things of those systems and make it easier for students to petition to switch tracks if they can test at a higher level and show that they are dedicated enough to move to a different track.

    Continuing with our current failed system just because others aren’t perfect doesn’t make sense.

  • Guestero

    I wonder, do ever they discuss those writings by Eldridge Cleaver in which he brags about raping white women?  Any girl, of any color, who seriously investigates the history of the Black Panthers is going to run into this, along with Angela Davis’s attempts to sanitize and downplay Cleaver’s statements.  And so, of course, will any boy.  What the hell kind of message does celebrating the Black Panthers send to Berkeley schoolkids?  Do they also hold up Sonny Barger as some kind of a folk hero?  What about the surviving members of the Symbionese Liberation Army?  Never mind, don’t answer that last one…

  • Guestero

    I’d be in favor of something like that.  The problem is, our whole society, and the schools system along with it, is hamstrung by anti-intellectualism on the one hand, and contempt for any kind of work that could be considered blue collar or “non-professional” on the other.

  • bgal4

    Local Trivia

    When my oldest son was a tot, some 23 years ago, he and his dad were playing at Grove St park in our south Berkeley neighborhood. It was dusk.  A tipsy Angela Davis put the moves on my 29 year old very light skinned husband. He declined her advances.

  • Anonymous

     Not to mention the technical university system which, if the dozens of people I’ve worked with that came out of it are any indication, are excellent.

  • Guest

     And this is why we chose to send our child to private school, which was a really difficult decision for us. It’s really important that kids start school (i.e., kindergarten) LIKING school, and if a child goes to school and is bored and not learning and not getting positive messages, it has grave implications for the rest of his/her school career.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Another bit of local trivia:  Eldridge Cleaver became a born-again Christian.  He ran for Berkeley city council in 1984 as a conservative Republican and lost.  He always referred to then-mayor Gus Newport as “Teddy Bear.”  

    One of Newport’s political enemies appointed Cleaver to some commission or other, just so Cleaver could have an ongoing forum for attacking “Teddy Bear.”

  • Anonymous

     The Black Panthers were nice compare to the Nation of Islam idiots that the district actually allows on the BHS campus to speak to students.

  • Bartoli842

    great story and great comments, looking forward to more from this editor

  • EBGuy

    Emilie, way to finish strong in the article; I’m looking forward to more of your missives.
    The attendance gap would almost be comical, except for the fact that BUSD misses out on the ADA funding and the kids, well, they miss out on an education.  Can’t learn if you ain’t in the seats. Maybe I’m being too harsh.  Perhaps the kids at OWS were taking part in roundtable discussions on the systemic risks that securitization can pose.

  • bgal4


    Brandee Tate, “Pre-K Power Play Class Evaluation,” May 2012

    Participant Demographics, Attendance and Administration of Assessment
    Key Findings:
     96 children have participated in at least one session of Power Play, 39% of these children have participated in more than one session
     There were a greater number of male (56%) and 3 (versus 4) year old participants (57%)
     Only 47 out of 96 participants (49%) had both a pre and post assessment within a given session.

    Rigorous data collection????

    Hardly. They are purposely undermining the first attempt at data collection by choosing an opt in versus opt out parent consent method.

    Teaching impulse control is one of the main purposes of the program Power Play, yet BUSD brought Second Step: Social Skills for Early Childhood–Grade 8 and paid staff at each school site to be trained in the TOT program back in 1998. Second Step was never implemented. Yet school district nationally have been using the program successfully for nearly two decades, Berkeley teachers decided amongst themselves the curriculum did not meet the special needs of our special kids.

    How about starting with the basics:
    Has BUSD identified an attendance rate per student?
    How are children referred to Power School?
    When will the program revise the data collection parent consent to an opt out system?


  • Mark – again

    Good to hear mention of  Mr. Ogbu.  
    Having ‘taught’ for 12 years I despair.  Our system of education was designed in Germany 150 years ago for the coming industrial age. Now, we import unskilled labor and pretend that we need to track all our youth through academia.  Only a small portion of jobs, even in this de-industrializing country need any kind of college training.  Even those who do go through to higher degrees aren’t well trained for success in our changed economy where creativity, imagination, co-operative skills, etc. are the most valuable skills.Some people hold that use of digital technology has the power to lever open our system and rebuild it. I agree to a large degree yet most of the curriculum I’ve seen is still seriously lacking in quality. There are other models that I think hold more important lessons for us such as the Montessori model, although one strand of Montessori is rather ossified.  I never thought I’d be saying this but maybe turning every Berkeley school into a charter is the only way to break the strangle hold of the state and federal bureaucracies (to say nothing of the local ones – school boards, even the best of them, have neither the skills nor the willpower to do this.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’ve been interviewing engineers for a senior role.  All of the top candidates are immigrants who did graduate work in the US.  

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Second Step is a great program and is used in some of the private schools in the area.  

  • bgal4

    post should be linked to Pragmaticprogressive

    Yep, I worked with Javanne Strong, the district Violence Prevention coordinator, and board member Shirley Issel, to get BUSD on board. We had a good opportunity and once again, the district wasted it.
    Check out the evaluation of Power Play linked above, plenty of warnings about administrative omissions in      

       data collecitn.

  • bgal4

    Yep, I worked with the district’s Violence Prevention coordinator and board member Shirley Issel, it seemed so promising at the time, especially when teachers attended the trainer of trainers programs. Once again the district wasted a valuable opportunity, only to reinvent it years later, missing the vertical alignment through 8th grade.Check out the evaluation of Power Play linked above, plenty of warnings about administrative omissions in data collection.

  • Mark – again

    Kind of sums it up, doesn’t it.  Maybe its the natural way of humans: Get successful and rest on our laurels or feather beds or …