New Position to Address Equity Gap

By Lev Facher

The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has announced the creation of a new district–level position dedicated solely to dealing with issues surrounding the equity gap in the district.

The Supervisor of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Systems, a position that has yet to be filled, will attempt to improve performance of students from varying backgrounds at Berkeley High School by giving more support to families and improving com-munication.

BHS Principal Pasquale Scuderi explained that one of the main issues contributing to the achievement gap that the new position hopes to address is the lack of coordination between the approaches to academic and behavioral issues that many BUSD students experience.

“What we need to do,” said Scuderi, “is prevent the disconnect that occurs so often between low–achieving students and teachers. If we can get students, parents, and teachers all on the same page, we’ll be making progress.”

“[The Supervisor of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Systems] is somebody who’s going to interact directly with BUSD principals,” said Mary Buttler, BUSD’s Director of Human Resources, who expects the position to be filled by November. “He or she will be creating systems to help low-achieving students succeed, and collecting data that demonstrates exactly how effectively our programs are operating.”

Part of the job of the Supervisor of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Systems, according to Buttler, will be to coordinate services provided by teachers, counselors, administrators, and other district employees so that all involved parties work collaboratively and more effectively.

The BUSD Personnel Commission, which is conducting the hiring process, will require all candidates to take a performance test determinate of their ability to, according to the official BUSD position description, “promote District–wide cultural and linguistic competence” and “integrate culturally–responsive pedagogy into all training to transform instructional practices to meet the needs of students of color.”

The person who will fill the position will also assume the task of identifying career options for students at BHS, and ensuring that non–native English speakers are given the tools necessary to succeed academically.

The achievement gap at BHS is an ongoing problem, which the district is trying to eliminate through various programs. For the 2009-2010 school year, 26 percent of African–American students tested as “proficient” or above in English, while 79 percent of white students tested at or above that threshold. Similar statistics apply to Latino students. Nineteen percent of the juniors within the Berkeley High Latino population scored proficient in mathematics, compared to 48 percent of grade 11 Caucasian students tested at that level.

Buttler cited the 2020 Vision as one of the main reasons the district created the position. The 2020 Vision, a set of goals announced in March of 2010 by BUSD and the Berkeley Alliance, is a campaign dedicated to creating educational equity for statistically low–achieving students and bringing standardized test scores up.

The 2020 Vision mission statement presented its goals as attempting to ensure “that all children, regardless of race, ethnicity and income, who enter Berkeley public schools beginning in 2007 will achieve equitable outcomes with no proficiency differences by the time they graduate in June, 2020.”

The salary of the Supervisor of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Systems will not affect the BUSD General Fund. It will be funded instead by federal grants, such as those designated for low–income students support.