Tag Archives: BHS science labs

Schools

Huyett clarifies BHS science lab procedure

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Parents at Berkeley High have had regular emails this week outlining the procedure for registering for the optional, additional science labs. Berkeleyside has already commented on the rather humdrum approach of those notices.

It looks like BUSD superintendent Bill Huyett had a similar reaction. Last night, parents received an email with a very different (and welcome) tone:

Reported Problems In Students Signing Up For Science Labs: On Tuesday, BHS Admin put out a post stating, “Information … Continue reading »

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Schools

Comment: BHS science labs need more push

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After I wrote about the approved compromise deal in the Berkeley High science lab flap, commenter Maureen Burke replied, “Color me unimpressed… This new procedure is cumbersome and most kids are being steered to not sign up for science labs. And guess what? Next year we will hear that there was no demand for science labs after all and they will be eliminated.”

From my reading of the tea leaves, Burke may be right. Here’s the text … Continue reading »

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Schools

BHS science labs — the denouement

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After months of wrangling, the Berkeley Unified School District board last Wednesday finally passed a compromise on science labs at Berkeley High. Under the plan, proposed by superintendent Bill Huyett (photo right), AP and IB science labs are preserved, and other science courses will provide optional labs in either 0 or 7th period, as happens this year.

The plan that passed provides 1.4 full-time equivalents (FTEs) for two before or after school labs for AP and IB science … Continue reading »

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Schools

What next for science labs at BHS?

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Peggy Scott, parent representative on the Berkeley High School Governance Council, has sent out to a community email list a summary of last week’s SGC meeting. It has been slightly edited for style:

Regarding BSEP funds: According to Jim Slemp’s “Principal’s Report” at last Tuesday’s SGC meeting, Superintendent Huyett plans to submit these budget recommendations for approval from the school board:

1.4 FTE for AP/IB science labs
1.0 FTE for regular science labs
1.0 … Continue reading »

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Schools

Breaking: Berkeley High principal Slemp to retire

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Jim Slemp, principal of Berkeley High School, said today he plans to retire at the end of this school year. The announcement was made at this morning’s public announcements at the school.

Slemp has been at the center of this year’s controversy over the future of extra time for science labs at BHS. He proposed in December to eliminate the 0 and 7th period science labs and reallocate the funds to “equity grants”, designed to narrow the large … Continue reading »

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Schools

BHS science compromise slipping away?

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Parents attending the open house at Berkeley High School last night were handed a leaflet from “concerned parents and staff” about the science/equity controversy at the school. According to the leaflet, BHS principal Jim Slemp is opposed to the compromise plan suggested by Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett:

Superintendent Huyett has publically [sic] stated his support for extra time for college preparatory science and for AP science courses. However, Principal slemp wants to eliminate this instructional … Continue reading »

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Schools

BHS science labs not just for the ‘privileged’

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Amy Hansen is a long time science teacher at Berkeley High School. When she read Rick Ayer’s opinion piece on the science lab controversy, she felt compelled to send a letter to the school board rebutting Ayers’ charges. This is a copy of the letter.

Contrary to Mr. Ayers assertion, it is not a privilege to take challenging college preparatory or Advanced Placement classes. Neither is it true that these classes are for only white students. In Academic Choice, Advanced Biology is taken by 95% of our freshman and enrollment matches the demographics of the school.

It is not a “privilege” for students to expect to be prepared to do college level work. In fact, it is our obligation as teachers to teach the state standards and more. It is, in fact, our solemn duty is to teach all students, those academically prepared and those underprepared.

Mr. Ayers is wrong to say that nothing has changed. In the last six years, Mr. Slemp has instituted four small schools and is about to add another. Mr. Ayers correctly points out that the achievement gap is still there. In fact, it has gotten worse in the last six years. In 2003 28% of African-Americans were proficient in 11th grade English Language Arts but in 2009, it was 14%. Proficiency in chemistry dropped from 20% to 4% during this same period. (As a side note, in 2003 the district dropped double -period science classes.)

Small schools may have been conceived as a way to integrate classes but they in fact are more segregated than the large school. Academic Choice is 24% African-American but  the small school population is 43% African-American. (The total African-American population for the entire school is 28%.)

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Schools

Are Berkeley parents like white Southern racists? Rick Ayers thinks so

Rick Ayers
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Rick Ayers was a well-regarded teacher at Berkeley High for 11 years, instrumental in starting the Community Arts and Sciences (CAS) small school and helping with the school newspaper.

But since his departure, Ayers has taken to criticizing what he considers a dangerous force at Berkeley High: the Parents of Power or the Parents of Privilege, a group he defines as white people with high incomes. The latest salvo: an article on Huffington Post about the science lab … Continue reading »

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Schools

BHS science lab debate: What Shirley said

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In the concluding moments of Wednesday night’s school board meeting, director Shirley Issel made a passionate statement urging an end to the divisive rhetoric used by some sides in the argument over equity grants and science labs at Berkeley High School.

Here’s some of what Issel said:

Many people in this community have stood up for science. Many board members have stood up for science. The science department has some responsibility here along with the administration of … Continue reading »

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Schools

BHS science lab controversy: A parent’s viewpoint

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Susan Helmrich has been a parent at Berkeley High for the last six years. As co-chair of the Development Group and a former member of the school site council, Helmrich is very familiar with the workings of the high school. Yet last night’s school board meeting left her – and many others – confused about which science lab proposal is on the table. The following is her report of the evening.

There was a tremendous amount of confusion around last night’s school board meeting.  Despite the fact that Superintendent Huyett stated he had worked out a compromise plan with science teachers in January to retain labs for some of the IB and AP science classes, Principal Jim Slemp appeared to be pushing ahead with his original plan to eliminate 0 and 7th period science labs altogether.  The Board packet for last night’s meeting included Principal Slemp’s plan and not Superintendant Huyett’s.  All of this was extremely confusing as the BUSD’s own homepage stated that a compromise had been worked out.  However, the superintendent’s proposal was nowhere to be seen in the packet, and he apologized profusely at the meeting for the omission as he tried to clarify the agenda.  Supt. Huyett assured everyone in attendance that “we are looking for high standards for all students and he had no intention to bring the top down in trying to close the achievement gap”.

As a parent very involved at Berkeley High and a former member of the School Governance Coucil, I remain extremely confused.  Which proposal is being considered?  Does Principal Slemp need School Board approval for his plan?  Does the Superintendent’s plan trump the Principal’s? Does either plan need BSEP P & O (Process and Oversight Committee) approval?

I was hoping to speak at the BUSD Board meeting last night. However my card did not get picked. Here are some of the points I would have made:

1)  When would these so-called “equity” classes on note-taking and study skills be offered?  If (as some have said) kids aren’t showing up for interesting classes like science labs, what makes anyone think they will show up for a class on study skills and how to take notes?

2) We need to invest this kind of time and effort in the middle schools so students can come to BHS already knowing how to take notes and manage their time. Also, can’t these kinds of things be incorporated into every class already being taught — or what about the advisories?  I thought this was going to be one of the goals of advisories.

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Schools

Lots of talk, but no action on BHS science classes

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More than a dozen people spoke out Wednesday night against cutting science labs at Berkeley High School, but the school board took no action on the controversial proposal.

Parents and students, though, did get to hear the thoughts of BHS principal Jim Slemp, who has been publicly silent in the last few months  — after he played a rousing speech by the late Martin Luther King.

“Our community at Berkeley High School has failed the African-Americans,” said Slemp, according to … Continue reading »

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Schools

Amended BHS school board agenda expected

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After yesterday’s storm over the agenda for tonight’s school board meeting, which did not include a compromise proposal on the Berkeley High science/equity controversy, it looks like wiser heads are going to prevail. According to school district spokesperson Mark Coplan, an amended board packet is being issued, which will incorporate Superintendent Bill Huyett’s compromise plan.

As soon as Berkeleyside gets the new plan, which Coplan said expands on the brief description provided to the board last week, we’ll publish … Continue reading »

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Schools

Class sizes at BHS

Student data 1
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Three Berkeley High science teachers have done an analysis of class sizes at the school. It’s an attempt to inject facts into the debate around struggling students at BHS, and whether cutting science lab time is an effective way to close the achievement gap at the school.

Part of the undercurrent in the debate is the tussle between the two largest programs at BHS — Academic Choice and Berkeley International High School — and the “small schools” — CAS, AHA, SSJE and CPA. The School Governance Council, which originally considered the proposal to eliminate 0 and 7th hour science, has a high representation of small school faculty.

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