Tag Archives: Berkeley schools

Dine out to help Berkeley schools’ gardening program

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Since it lost $1.9 million in federal funding last year, Berkeley schools’ much lauded, 12-year-old cooking and gardening program has been struggling to find a way to survive and continue to provide invaluable edible education to the city’s young.

The unique district-wide program encourages students to explore the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting physical activity, and knowing where their food comes from.

But the program is now “operating on a lifeline with a piecemeal budget,” said its director, Jezra Thompson.

The community has been very supportive to date and gets two new opportunities both this month and next to help.

On Tuesday May 13, you can participate in the second annual Berkeley Dine Out, when many local restaurants, bakeries and cafés will donate a percentage of your bill to the school program. Participating spots include Elmwood Café, Zut!, Cancun, Eureka!, Benchmark Pizzeria, Babette, Ippuku and Flaco’s. (See the full list.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley sets speed limit at 15 mph around 13 schools

Many drivers near Cragmont Elementary were found to be among the fastest motorists around local schools during a city speed survey. Photo: ELS
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Drivers will be asked to slow down near 13 Berkeley schools after the adoption by the City Council of a 15 mph speed zone around them, despite a police officer’s analysis of injury collisions near schools that showed speed was not a factor in those accidents, and another officer’s assertion that enforcement would be “difficult, at best.”

According to an analysis completed by a city traffic analyst of 327 documented injury collisions in Berkeley from August 2010 to July 2013, 23 took place near school zones. None of those accidents were caused by unsafe speeds, he said.

Most of the accidents — 73% — resulted from drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Another 23% were due to pedestrians who failed to yield to drivers in the roadway, police wrote.

Thirteen of the collisions near schools took place during the school day, and four involved juvenile pedestrians. The juveniles were found to be at fault in all four of the cases. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A Berkeley elementary school shows how it’s done

Kids on the Malcolm X playground
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When we first sent our two sons to Berkeley public schools in the mid-1970s, the debate about education was a little heated. Neighborhood schools were out, busing was in.  Tracking of any kind was a no-no. It seemed to some that in the name of equality, folks wanted to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. One by one, friends and neighbors were pulling their kids out and going private.

We stuck with Berkeley. Our experiences were mixed: some … Continue reading »

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2020 Vision: Skills improve, absences down, gap remains

Berkeley City Council and School Board special session, Jan. 28, 2014. Photo: Lars Skjerping
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A citywide initiative proponents hope will close the achievement gap in Berkeley public schools appears to be working, though significant disparities remain, according to data presented Tuesday night in a special session before the Berkeley City Council and School Board.

The 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth — called “2020 Vision” for short — is a broad collaboration dating back, in its earliest form, to 2008, and is designed to chip away at the achievement gap among racial groups in Berkeley schools by the year 2020.

According to organizers, African-American and Hispanic students consistently perform “significantly below their peers on state and district standardized tests and other measures that predict academic success, such as chronic absence, truancy, suspension, and dropout rates. By some measures, the disparity in the academic performance of Berkeley students along race lines, commonly known as the ‘achievement gap,’ is one of the widest reported in California.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley schools implement $2M safety plan

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When gun violence in the school’s neighborhood forced LeConte Elementary School to go on lockdown earlier this month, second grade teacher Pamela Diebel and her colleagues weren’t able to lock their own classrooms, and students in bathrooms and hallways missed the announcement on the loudspeaker. But the next campus in the district to go on lockdown may not face the same challenges.

The Berkeley Unified School District will immediately begin to implement a nearly $2 million school safety improvement plan approved by the school board to install new PA systems, increase the use of surveillance cameras, conduct armed intruder training for staff — and replace classroom locks so that the doors can be bolted from the inside.

“All of those improvements were ones we desired,” said Diebel. “I would’ve liked to be able to lock my door from inside.” … Continue reading »

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Tamara Friedman is 2013 Berkeley Teacher of the Year

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Berkeley High School teacher Tamara Friedman was named a “teacher of the year” on Thursday when the Alameda County Office of Education honored 20 teachers representing 20 Alameda County districts at the 2013 ACOE Teacher of the Year Awards, held in the Castro Valley Center for the Arts.

Friedman, a Berkeley High School teacher and proud product of the Berkeley schools herself, was BUSD’s representative. … Continue reading »

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St. Mary’s College High to expand after mediation

There have been five public hearings since 2011, and five mediation sessions since last November, concerning the expansion and renovation plans of St. Mary's College. Photo: St. Mary's College High School
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St. Mary’s College High School got the go-ahead last Wednesday for its master plan to add two buildings and renovate others. The move followed six months of mediation with its North Berkeley neighbors.

The private Catholic college preparatory high school sits on 12.5 acres, surrounded by about 100 homes in North Berkeley and Albany. Although St. Mary’s has a Berkeley street address — 1294 Albina Ave. — it actually sits on the Albany side of the line, so it was Albany’s Planning and Zoning Commission that approved the master plan and a conditional use permit.

The plan for the school of about 600 students includes:

  • A new music building of 13,400 square feet, to replace the much smaller current one;
  • A new campus chapel, 4,400 square feet, single-story;
  • A 14,000-square-foot addition to St. Joseph’s Hall (classrooms, library and offices);
  • A larger kitchen at the student center;
  • A new drainage plan.

At this time, St. Mary’s has only enough money to replace the music building, according to Vivian Kahn, planning consultant to the school. That construction is not likely to begin before summer 2014, she said. The rest of the master plan could take “10 to 15 years – or more” to build, Kahn said. “They need to raise money as they go.”

It’s been a long process already: in 2006, the school submitted a larger plan, withdrew it in 2008, and submitted the current, scaled-back plan in 2011. Five public hearings were held since 2011, and five mediation sessions since last November. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students narrow achievement gap, work needed

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Berkeley students on the lower end of the achievement gap made critical academic gains in the past year, according to a report released last week by the California Department of Education. The Academic Performance Index (API) for Socio-Economically Disadvantaged students rose by 21 points, for African American students by 16 points, and for students with disabilities by 11 points. API scores increased for Asian students by only 3 points and for white students by 2 points.

But a comparison of actual scores shows the achievement gap is still painfully wide in Berkeley. The API for white students in the district was 925, while for African American students it was 675. Hispanic or Latino students are steadily making gains, but at 766 points their score still doesn’t hit the state benchmark.

“For the API as a district we did see an achievement gain because our white students only showed a 2 point gain, whereas our African American students had a 16 point gain,” said BUSD’s director of evaluation and assessment Debbi D’Angelo. “But that doesn’t mean the work is done. That just means we’ve made some gains.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students improve on 2013 STAR tests

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Berkeley students improved on the California Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments this year, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

State-wide, scores declined marginally, as the percentage of students who performed at the proficient level or above — the target level for all students — decreased by less than one percent in mathematics, English language arts, and science. But in Berkeley schools that percentage rose on average in each category: in math, the number of students meeting the target level increased by 2.3 percentage points; in English, it increased by 0.4; in science, it increased by 2.8; and in history, it increased by 4.5 percentage points since 2012.

In addition, the total percentage of target-level scores in Berkeley remained higher than the state average in all subject categories. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Rosa Parks students have their day in court

Bailiff Jack Egawa swears in witness Kaila Lenrow. Photo: Drew Goetting.
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If you’ve never heard of the trial of Timmy McGraw, don’t consider yourself uninformed. McGraw vs. The People was a local, low-profile case of vandalism and mistaken identity. There were no life-changing revelations, the defendant was ruled not guilty and the parties parted amicably. Oh, and the lawyers, bailiff and witnesses were all aged 10 or 11 years old.

Ty Alper, a clinical law professor at UC Berkeley, was the driving force behind the mock trial on June 13 conducted by fifth graders at Rosa Parks Elementary School. (Watch the video of the trial embedded below to see how the kids performed.)

Alper and his colleague, James Stevens, trained the students who volunteered for the trial, wrote McGraw vs. the People, and supervised the trial as it unfolded in the courthouse. Why? Because, said Alper, having 10- and 11-year-olds participate in a mock trial would expose them to the lawyer’s world, introduce them to public speaking and be fun to boot. … Continue reading »

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Why most Berkeley 9th-graders aren’t actually failing PE

District officials say after-school sports can count toward PE credits, but also make it hard to administer state fitness tests to all students, especially at the ninth-grade level. Photo: Berkeley Unified School District
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A recent state report that includes fitness test results for Berkeley students in three grades shows the district’s ninth-graders falling far short of county and state benchmarks.

Berkeley Unified School District officials said last week, however, that the results actually are an indicator of a more holistic approach to health, rather than a sign that Berkeley teens are out of shape.

The 2012 Physical Fitness Test Results, released in mid-November, were given to 1.3 million fifth-­, seventh­- and ninth-­graders statewide; they make up more than 93% of all students enrolled in those grades in California public schools, according to the state Department of Education. … Continue reading »

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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
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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. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley schools show gains on standard tests

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The California Department of Education yesterday released its 2012 Accountability Progress Report, which show significant gains for Berkeley schools on both the state Annual Performance Index (API) and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). (Details of both district and individual school results for API and AYP can be seen on the state’s Accountability Progress Reporting site.)

Berkeley Unified School District had an overall growth of 19 points for a district-wide API of 810. Each of Berkeley’s elementary and middle schools exceeded the statewide API target of 800 or above. Berkeley High School, which went years without having enough students take the test to get an API, had a 19-point growth for a school API of 734, which was above the school’s target growth for the year. Only 30% of high schools in California exceeded an API of 800.

“I think these results are evidence that Berkeley is on the right track, that we’re making a difference for our kids,” said Co-Superintendent Neil Smith. “I think particularly looking at achievement all across elementary reading was a real strength for the district. Where we still have a lot of work to do is the high school.”  … Continue reading »

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