Update on BUSD 20/20 Vision Plan

By Zalman Orloff

On Tuesday, November 3, the 20/20 Vision Planning Team presented their first round of recommendations
to a joint session of the Berkeley City Council and School Board. The 20/20 Vision Plan aims to ensure that all students enrolled in the Berkeley Unified School District in 2007 will graduate and move on to college in 2020. An assortment of strategies to close the achievement gap, including redesigning the Berkeley High bell schedule, an 18–month plan to immediately address the sizable equity gap within BHS, and improving the district’s technology systems to give students better access to imortant educational tools are being implemented.

The plan’s concept was approved back in June of 2008, as a joint effort between the City of Berkeley, Berkeley Community College, UC Berkeley and the BUSD. According to BUSD Board Director Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, “Right now, we have the School Board, the City Council, the Mayor and the Superintendent all on the same page: agreeing that in Berkeley, while we are all proud that educational success is possible for some students, it is not acceptable that the gap between white and black Planand Latino students is widening each year.”However, many issues are still up in the air about the plan, with the primary issue being funding due to the significant budget cuts in education and California’s weakened economic state.

Some ways that the project might get funding include city funding for the project, as well as government grants and money directly out of the pockets of the plans planning partners. “Everyone has less money to spend,” said Nicole Sanchez of Berkeley Alliance, one of the leading groups in 20/20 and a strong promoter of economic and social
equity throughout Berkeley. “But if we combine our resources, the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts.”

Other options are being discussed and implemented in order to close the equity gap. These include finding new ways to build partnerships between the parents of BUSD students and the staff, data–sharing systems between the city and BUSD in order to better improve communication between involved parties, and increasing the understanding that everyone involved in this project, including community members, teachers, administrators, city councilmembers,
and private citizens can put in effort to help see the plan through to fruition.

Members of the 2020 Vision Planning Committee also stressed that standardized tests are only one way to measure the success of the plan in closing the achievement gap. As Nicole Sanchez of Berkeley Alliance put it, “Of course, that will be one measure of progress, because that is what the district will be judged on for funding, etc.... The problem is that our gap can be illustrated by a lot of different indicators--school attendance, asthma rates, GPAs, college attendance, rates of violence, homelessness — and it keeps looking the same. Our white children and youth are in one place, and our Latino
and African American children are in a very different one.”

Some of the most significant changes are already in the works at the moment including small school redesign, increased teacher training and support from the district, and the newly implemented teacher training during Monday morning late–starts. While this progress has led to cautious optimism from sectors of the community, there is still more be done. “We have come to agreement that the children and youth of Berkeley do matter to all of us,” said Beatriz-Leyva Cutler, School Board member. “That’s why we will work on the 2020 Vision.”