Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Placing blame doesn't help in the fight for educational equity

It often amazes how easily people will place blame on each other in this fight for educational equity. How to close the achievement gap is one of the most most important debates we could be having- yet the polarization and finger-pointing sometimes seem to get in the way of collaboration and progress. Parents are often scapegoats for the problems we face in school. While there is no doubt that parents play a HUGE role in the education that children receive, they should be viewed as partners with educators and members of the community.

Today there was a live discussion on Berkeley Patch with Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, about the impact that Prop 30 will have on California's 6 million public school students. While the interview was interesting (and you can watch it in full here), I was most compelled by the  lively discussion amongst the viewers at the bottom of the page.  I found myself disagreeing with several people on assumptions they seemed to be making about parents and I wanted to share some of the interactions here.

Excerpts from our discussion
(Names are given by the posters and are not necessarily their true identities; I have shortened some responses for brevity, but the full responses are available on the Patch discussion; Any emphasis has been added here):
Giorgio C.: Everyone knows that many of the causes of poor results start at home, so why are we holding schools accountable for these problems that parents and communities should be addressing? Individual parents do not care about the "achievement gap." What parents want to know is if they do their part as parents, will the school do its part to provide an education for their child? That is all the school is responsible for. The school is not a baby-sitter or surrogate parent. If necessary, there are social services for such.

Jenny from Berkeley Schools Report: Georgio, I disagree with what you said here: "Everyone knows that many of the causes of poor results start at home, so why are we holding schools accountable for these problems that parents and communities should be addressing? Individual parents do not care about the "achievement gap.""
There is no question that there is a correlation between socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic background and the achievement gap. However, your comment suggests that this is the parents' fault and that they don't care about their child's education. If that's not what you meant, please correct me. I strongly believe that all parents have the best intentions for their kids and want them to succeed. Sometimes, they don't always have the resources and support they need to ensure that happens- and that's where schools can play a pivotal role. If someone's children are at the low-end of the achievement gap, then OF COURSE they care about that achievement gap- because their children are suffering as a result! And, for parents whose children are on the high end of the achievement gap (as I was and my daughter and nieces and nephews are), I think many of us care deeply that this inequality must change- and there is much work that can and needs to be done at the school level.

Kei:  Jenny...As for the assumption that all parents care: hmm... The one year that I taught at a school in East Oakland, for Open House I had just four parents even bother to show up (in a 28-student classroom). It could be they had jobs; it could be they were otherwise occupied; but to me it did seem indicative. That entire year, I had just one parent insist that keep her informed about her daughter's progress.
As I said, I was not a good teacher-- I was simultaneously a first-year and last-year teacher-- and it's possible they felt it was not worth the trouble. But it did make me wonder.
I do believe that if parents truly care and SHOW that education is a value, rather than an 'add-on' to a lifestyle, then their kids will absorb this as a value, and will then be serious themselves about their education.

Jenny at Berkeley Schools Report: Kei, I appreciate that you recognize your limited perspective from having only taught for 1 year. I think we have to be very careful about the assumptions we make - and we'll get much further if we operate with asset-based thinking. Let's consider WHY parents might not be more involved in school- you mention work, which is huge (many people work several jobs, including night shifts and can't make it to open houses), language barriers (not all schools translate memos home to multiple languages), prior experiences with school that could leave parents not feeling welcome or respected...the list goes on and on. I think we're doing a major disservice to our students and communities if we assume that just because parents aren't present that means they don't care. We'll make much greater headway if we're able to reach out, forge relationships and work together on what we ALL care about- which is ensuring that all students receive an excellent education.

I welcome any comments below or emailed to me at 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

BUSD Superintendent Search

One of the BUSD school board's most pressing responsibilities this year is to find a strong superintendent for our district. We need an instructional leader who can bring our community together, build on the progress that's been made and make rapid progress to closing the achievement gap and reaching our 2020 vision.

Judy Appel 
Judy Appel, the newest member to be elected to our school board, is the Executive Director of Our Family Coalition, which "promotes the equality and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer families with children."

In their Fall 2012 newsletter, the Director's note addressed the recent final candidate for Berkeley's superintendent, Dr. Edmond Heatley, who subsequently withdrew his application after an uproar from the Berkeley community.  When serving as the Superintendent of Chino Valley School District, Dr. Heatley issued a memo in favor of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative which provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in California. 

Here is an excerpt from Judy (emphasis is mine):
"(The memo) goes on to state that 'the ideal learning environment for children is within a nurturing home governed jointly by a mother and a father.' It also states that the defeat of Prop. 8 would force schools to 'inevitably be required to adjust their policies and curriculum' in response to a redefinition of marriage. These arguments were based on and promoted fear and anti-gay bias. Someone with these values should not lead the schools where our children learn." 

Fortunately, we've moved past Heatley.  There are many things for the board to consider in the superintendent search- not least of which is finding a strong leader who will represent all families in Berkeley so that EVERY child can achieve an excellent education.  While the board will work together to do just that, it is also our responsibility as members of the community to be involved and make sure our voices are heard. 

Here are two ways in which you can be involved in the superintendent search:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Supporting Berkeley Education for Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a refreshing change from Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When I read Bill Gates' description of Giving Tuesday, I felt energized and grateful.

Here are my three choices for donations for Giving Tuesday:
  1. Writer Coach Connection (WCC): I started volunteering with WCC this fall. I've had the privilege of working directly with two eighth grade students at King Middle School, who regularly amaze and inspire me with their ideas, reflections and powerful voices.  WCC places trained writing coaches in middle and high schools in Berkeley (at Berkeley High School, King Middle School, Longfellow Middle School and Willard Middle School), Oakland, Richmond, Albany and El Cerrito.   Learn more in this video produced by students at Media College Prep High School in Oakland:
"Writer Coach Connection helps address the achievement gap. By serving every student in a given classroom, the Writer Coach Connection helps eliminate the stigma associated with remedial programs and gives the struggling writers who might otherwise fall through the cracks much needed, individualized help." 

2. Berkeley Public Education Foundation (BPEF):

This fall, I've also had the opportunity to volunteer in the High Fives program at Washington Elementary. I was incredibly impressed with the organization and efficiency of the BPEF School Volunteers program to get many dedicated volunteers into all Berkeley public schools.

"BPEF is proud to be the sole organization operating in every Berkeley public school as a catalyst for innovation and student success.  We do this through grants, volunteerism, and advocacy, linking our schools to one another, and to the community."

Here's an overview of the difference that BPEF is making for Berkeley Schools:

3.  Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS): BOSS helps homeless families and individuals move out of homelessness in Berkeley, Oakland and Hayward. Many of the students in Berkeley public schools are homeless and require services from programs like BOSS to help them overcome the adversity they face on a daily basis.

"The BOSS Children's Learning Center (CLC) is a specialized after-school program located on-site at Ursula Sherman Village in West Berkeley. It provides daily after-school services and a nurturing place for the homeless children who live there, most of whom have experienced homelessness, domestic violence, family substance abuse, and other crises. On-site services include daily help with homework, one-on-one tutoring by staff and community volunteers, access to computers, books, and school supplies, educational games, arts and music activities, sports and outdoor play, nutritious meals and snacks, family activities, and more."

 Here's an overview of the BOSS Village Program in West Berkeley (you can hear from some children in the Children's Learning Center at 3 minutes in)

To which programs are you donating on this Giving Tuesday? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Won't Back Down: A look at Parent Trigger Laws

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I saw the movie Won't Back Down, based on the actual events of two mothers, one a teacher, who fight to take over their failing school.

Here's the trailer for the film:

The plot is based on Parent Trigger Laws, which exist in a handful of states, including California, in which parents can transform failing public schools.

Here's a quick overview of Parent Trigger Laws in California (from the National Conference of State Legislatures): 
  • Qualifying Schools: Must have failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 3 consecutive years and been in 'corrective action' status under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for at least one year
  • % Signature Required: At least 50% of parents parents either with children enrolled in the targeted school or with children in lower grades that matriculate into the school
  • Intervention options include:
    • replace all staff and faculty relevant to low-performance
    • convert to a charter schools
    • close the school  
There's no question that the movie is one-sided and it has understandably been accused of union-bashing. Here are two contrasting opinions about Parent Trigger Laws from US News:
  •  Michelle Rhee, CEO of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools: Communities Need Parent Trigger Laws 
    • "Far too often, chronically failing schools—the ones that are subject to parent-trigger laws—serve poor and minority communities. These schools, if left unchanged, will perpetuate achievement gaps between minority students and their wealthier, white peers. No child should have to attend such a school, and as concerned citizens we have a special responsibility to close the unconscionably large learning gaps in our country. Poverty can present huge challenges in our schools—I've seen this firsthand—but with the right supports in place, all children can learn at high levels."
  • Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers: Parent Trigger Laws a False Choice
    • "Real parent engagement means establishing meaningful ways for parents to be partners in their children's public education from the beginning—not just when a school is failing. The goal should be to never let a school get to that point. Unfortunately, that's where many of the parent-trigger proposals start, offering parents a false choice: You can either live with a low-performing school or take dramatic, disruptive action to shut a school down."

Monday, November 19, 2012

How Paul Tough helped me appreciate Berkeley (even more)

I feel as proud as ever to be a resident of Berkeley. This morning, I had the privilege of hearing PaulTough speak, the author of How ChildrenSucceed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.  Leaving the talk, there are a few reflections that remind me how fortunate I am to live in a community that’s as committed to education as Berkeley.

2020 vision:

Tough’s book takes a look at character traits that research has shown have a direct impact on a person’s ability to succeed in life.  (And by success, he means having a rich, meaningful, happy, productive life for the long-term). These character traits include optimism, gratitude, self-control, curiosity, and grit. The beauty of Tough’s book is that he illustrates that these characteristics are learned traits, which one can develop over time, regardless of the barriers in their path, such as growing up in poverty.  This research supports what I deeply believe: that ALL individuals have the potential to succeed in life, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, their socio-economic status or the educational attainment of the people in their family.

Many leaders in Berkeley believe that this is true- as is demonstrated through the creation and implementation of our 2020 vision.  Our community has come together, committed to erasing race-based predictability of student achievement. The city of Berkeley, BUSD, UC Berkeley and community partners are all working together to close the achievement gap in BUSD by 2020. To many, it’s a daunting task. But, it must be done. And we are so fortunate to have leaders at every sector of our community fighting to make sure:

“That all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, and income, who enter Berkeley Schools beginning in 2007 (and remain in the district) will achieve equitable outcomes with no proficiency differences by the time they graduate in June, 2020; and that all children born in Berkeley in 2007 and beyond, receive a healthy start and are equally ready to learn and succeed in Berkeley Public Schools.”

You can read more about the 2020 vision and Berkeley Alliance.

Diversity: When Tough signed my book after his talk, I asked him what districts or schools he’s familiar with that have a similar achievement gap to BUSD and if there are any success models he would recommend we learn from. He gave me a few names, but he also said that in general, American schools are so segregated that we often don’t have diverse schools. Instead, we tend to have schools that are high performing, high income, with predominantly white students and another subset of schools that are lower performing, lower income, with predominately students of color. This certainly isn’t always the case, but it reminded me how fortunate I feel to live in a community that IS diverse- racially, socio-economically, and religiously (to name a few).  Simply being diverse doesn’t mean we’re meeting the needs of all of our students, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Public Enrollment by race/ethnicity, 2011, for BUSD: 
 Source: BUSD Information sheet found here

Source: Kidsdata

Local support for our schools:
Tough closed his talk with the following remarks about the important role that we can all play. Here, he is referring to a student from his book, Kewauna, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago , who was involved with gangs and drugs and on the verge of failing out of school when she turned her life around, earned straight As and went on to college (where she is today): 

“So I hope in the end that this research doesn’t make us complacent. I hope it makes us want to help. You know, when I meet kids like her, who grew up in poverty and went on to success, they all share two things. One is character. They all have lots and lots of grit, perseverance, and resilience. But the other is that they all share the phenomenon of having received significant amounts of help. Help at some point in their lives. Often a family member, often a teacher, but not always, sometimes a mentor, a hairdresser, a coach, a neighbor. So, I think that gives us a way to think about our own role in the lives of kids like Kewauna. There’s lots of help that we can give them.  There’s help we can give in terms of policy, by talking to our leaders about ways to develop systems that would give kids growing up in circumstances like hers a better opportunity to succeed. There’s the help we can give by supporting organizations that are working with kids like her, to help them. And then there’s also the help that we can give one-on-one. It’s really striking to me how often, when I hear those stories, the kids who have made it out of poverty, what they describe as being the turning point was this one connection they had with one adult. And often it was a teacher or family member, but not always.  Often, it is just someone they encounter and so that someone then can be us.

“I think these often feel like two very different conversations. It’s the conversation about our own kids and the conversation about the kids across town. But I think the messaging in this book is that these two conversations should be and really are one conversation. That kids need the same thing, whether they’re growing up in Pacific Heights or Bayview Hunters Point. They need love. They need support. They need connection. And then they need just a little bit of adversity. “

We can't have an “us vs. them” mentality when approaching the challenge of closing the achievement gap in Berkeley. It is imperative that change comes from within and that everyone is fighting for the same destination- to provide ALL of our children with an extraordinary education.  But the crux of what Tough is saying is just that- we all have a role to play. Berkeley residents are already doing so much- from consistently voting for local taxes that support our school district, such as the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP), which has been in place since 1986 and the Facilities Bonds (2002 and 2010) and the Maintenance Parcel Tax (2010) to volunteering in schools through the Berkeley Public Education Foundation.  You can learn more about howto get involved here.

Thank you, Berkeley. Let’s keep the momentum going.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What do you want to know about Berkeley Public Schools?

Starting this blog has been incredibly exhilarating. I’m asking questions, meeting brilliant people and the more I learn, the more I realize I have left to learn. Today, I’m going to share with you my current thoughts on future posts and I’d love to hear from YOU what else you’d like to know!

1.    Achievement gap revealed
a.     I’ve had so many conversations recently with people who aren’t aware of the extent of the achievement gap in Berkeley. As a result, I’m digging deeply into the CA Dept of Ed’s accountability and testing system to parse it out and make it clearer and more accessible to many interested (and busy) people.
d.     Given that there’s so much more than just standardized tests that create a quality, meaningful, life-changing education for our students, I want to get a holistic view of the education our students are receiving in Berkeley Public Schools. 

2.    2020 Vision for closing the achievement gap in BUSD
a.     BUSD, the city of Berkeley, UC Berkeley and Berkeley Alliance are working together to close the achievement gap in BUSD by 2020.
b.     We'll look at the indicators of success we’re aiming to achieve (such as kindergarten readiness and reading proficiency by the 3rd grade), why each of these indicators were selected, how are they measured and what's currently happening in the schools to achieve these indicators?
3.    Bright Spots: What programs and people are having a positive impact in our schools? As I mentioned in this post, I want to:
a.     Figure out what’s working and why
b.     Replicate it
c.      Scale it up
d.     Make is sustainable
4.     Voices from Berkeley: I will incorporate the voices of students, parents, school board members, administrators, community members, staff of the city of Berkeley, Cal, Berkeley Alliance, BPEF- basically, if you’re in any way connected to and interested in Berkeley public schools, I want to hear from you! 3 main questions I have: 
a.     Please share a brief story that tells us something important about who you are.
b.     What are 1-2 bright spots in Berkeley public schools that should be replicated?
c.      In your opinion, what needs to be done to close the achievement gap in Berkeley public schools?

I want to hear from you! Please submit questions, feedback and topics for future posts in the comments below or email

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How are our students doing? (A closer look at the API)

The race-based achievement gap is far more pronounced in Berkeley than it is in the state of California as a whole. While there is a 143-point difference on the API (Academic Performance Index) between white and African American students in California, there is a 264-point difference between these two groups of students in BUSD. That’s 264 points out of a total possible 800 points, which means that white students in Berkeley are achieving 33% HIGHER than African American students.

In a press release from Co-Superintendents of BUSD, Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith in October, there are additional data points for our district’s Academic Performance Index. which supplement yesterday's post on the achievement gap in BUSD.

Progress has been made and there are successes worth celebrating.  According to the BUSD press release, “The greatest gains in academic achievement are reflected in the 25 point increase in API for English
Learners, 37 points for Students with Disabilities, and 16 points for Socio-economically Disadvantaged Students. When disaggregated by ethnicity, the API increased by double digits for African American (15), Asian (12), Hispanic or Latino (15), and White (13) students.” 
This is significant and deserves recognition. We need to figure out how this progress was made so that it can be replicated (as we discussed in the “Bright Spots”post).  But we owe it to our students, families and community to not hide behind the progress we’ve made, without taking a hard look at the reality a very large group of our students in Berkeley are not receiving an excellent education.  
In the words of Co-Superintendent Neil Smith, “Our work is moving us in the right direction but we are still not where we want to be. We now have to focus targeted instruction and resources to the specific areas where we know we can better serve our students.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taking a look at the Achievement Gap in Berkeley Public Schools

Let's face it: African American and Latino or Hispanic students are not receiving the education they deserve in Berkeley Public Schools.  While our white and Asian students are surpassing state targets, our students of color are far below the minimum target. There are multiple ways to examine the race-based achievement  in Berkeley Public Schools. Today, let’s look specifically at California’s Academic Performance Index, or API.

What is API?
The Academic Performance Index is a score between 200 and 1000, which reflects performance on California statewide tests. The purpose is to measure academic performance and improvement of K-12 schools in California. The results can be looked at by school, local educational agency/LEA (for us that's BUSD) or student group (such as by race, socioeconomic status, English Learners or disability).

What is CA’s API Target?
California has set the target for all schools to score a minimum API of 800. If a school does not achieve 800, it is required to meet annual growth targets until 800 is achieved.
For more information, refer to the Parent Guide to California's APR System (PDF).  

So, how did the students in Berkeley do?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What do yesterday's election results mean for Berkeley schools?

For the most part, I’m thrilled with the election results. I think we’ve made very promising strides in the right direction for education.

Let’s take a look at what this means for Berkeley Schools:
  1. President Obama has been Re-elected!  While not perfect, Obama’s education plans ensure that:
o   There is more money for public education
o   More students can afford to go to college (student loans and Pell Grants)
o   States, districts and schools are thinking innovatively about how to improve the quality of education that ALL students receive (Race to the Top and public charter schools)
o   More students have ACCESS to higher education (Dream Act)

       2.  Prop 30 passed, which restores funding for our schools!

             3.  Judy Appel was elected and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler was re-elected to our Berkeley School Board!  Both of these women are strong leaders with high expectations and clear visions for the students of our district. To learn more about their priorities for BUSD and their opinions on how to close the achievement gap at BHS, check out our post from Monday.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners, their supporters and everyone who got out and voted yesterday.

How are you feeling after yesterday’s election? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Today is Election Day!

I just got chills when I heard the announcer in NPR say, "...when voters choose who will be President TODAY."

It's here- today is the day when voters make critical decisions that will impact the achievement gap in Berkeley and beyond.  Make sure you go to the polls and vote for:
  • President of the United States
  • BUSD School Board Members  (Check out yesterday's post on the 4 candidates)
  • Berkeley City Council members
  • Mayor of Berkeley
  • California Propositions 30 and 38
  • and much more!! 

If you're still undecided about these or anything else on your ballot, check out Berkeleyside's overview of today's election here.

Berkeley voting locations can be found here.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Who will you choose for our school board tomorrow?

Everyone around me seems to be equally fired up and anxious about the outcomes of tomorrow's election.

Today’s post is dedicated to our four candidates for BUSD school board.  They each answered three questions posed by Berkeley Schools Report:
  1. What would be your top priorities as a school board member?
  2. What are 1-2 bright spots in Berkeley schools that should be replicated?
  3. In your perspective, how do we close the achievement gap in Berkeley?

Below, you will find each question, followed by excerpts of each candidate's response to that question.  You can download their full responses here
Thank you to each of the candidates for your contributions and best of luck in the final stretch of your campaigns.

Question 1: What would be your top priorities as a school board member?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

1) Making sure that our schools are working for ALL of our children, and that all students are engaged in learning and achieving success. I want to help BUSD become one of the most attractive in the state both to new outstanding teachers and to retain the best of our trained educators.

2) Being visible, accessible and transparent To foster community and family involvement, and create effective policy, it is important that elected officials be an active and present part of the community.   

3) Securing outside funding sources through grant  Until our State begins to fund education adequately, we must be creative and look to securing outside funding sources.  There are grants available for well-strategized and creative programs but we must develop the process by which we go after them.

 Judy Appel 
  • Quality Education: Our schools should be challenging and supportive for students at all levels of achievement, giving every student the opportunity to succeed
  • Spending Wisely: We owe it to our children and our community to make sure that we are spending district resources to attain the best outcomes for our students. 
  • Safe Schools: Each of our students does best when they are recognized as individuals and are learning in an environment that is safe and secure.
  • Parent Engagement: Our schools must create opportunities for all parents and caregivers to engage in their children's education.  
  Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

·      I will continue to address the achievement/opportunity gap by prioritizing:
o   Kindergarten readiness
o   All students being at grade reading level and/or proficient
o   Improving attendance of students in schools
o   Improving the Math and English Language development of African American and Latino students and;
·      Improve and prioritize Parent Engagement and Involvement district wide
·      Support a Master Plan for serving English Language Learners

  • build our ability to demand that we are all able to give us all lovely lives in gentle care of Earth.
  • build our understanding that communism and anarchism are devices which enable us to provide well for all of us, with ease and pleasure.

Question 2: What are 1-2 bright spots in Berkeley schools that should be replicated?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

Tracy Hollander
We can learn from the successes that we are seeing at Rosa Parks School-right here in Berkeley.  Under Principal Paco Furlan they have seen significant growth in their test scores among all sub-groups.  Mr. Furlan has taken some very concrete steps that should be looked at to decide if these are steps that could be affective at some of our other schools.

There are certain schools in our district that make a real effort to build school-wide community.  All adults feel invested in the success of all students, and certainly high expectations are expected of all students. This is something I have seen in practice at Longfellow Middle School under Principal Pat Saddler’s leadership, but also this comes from the dedication of all the staff, working together to help all students to feel safe and valued.  

 Judy Appel

There are many bright spots in the district that I would hope to replicate.  I will mention two:
1.     The integration of Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) at Jefferson elementary school.  RtI2 recognizes that all students need supports to perform at their best potential and that it is important to help identify what interventions each student needs and that adults at the school site have their eye on each child’s progress.   

2.     The professional development plan at Berkeley High School. Dave (Stevens) and Susannah (Bell) (who coordinate the impressive professional development efforts at Berkeley High) shared with me the complex and nuanced plan for professional development across all of the learning communities and subject matter departments at Berkeley High. They are now doing recurring, standards-based assessments whose sole objective is to improve student outcomes.  
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler 
BUSD has many bright spots as is evident in that all of our elementary and middle schools exceed the state’s API (Academic Performance Index) score of being over 800. Here are just two of many examples in Berkeley:
·       Rosa Parks Reading Lab
o   Rosa Parks has had tremendous success in improving reading proficiency of children and this year Cragmont and other schools are replicating the model and have been trained by Rosa Parks’ Literacy coach. The results of Rosa Parks students excelling in reading is evident in that Rosa Parks after 8 years under Program Improvement has now been removed from the list.  

·       Longfellow Math
o   Students at Longfellow have excelled in Math/Pre-Algebra to the degree that it received the attention from the U.S. Secretary of Education. He visited Longfellow because of the strides being made in Math and with students of color making noticeable academic progress in this subject.

  Norma Harrison
"Bright spots" are deceptive; they are about making it look as though it is possible to 'correct', to 'reform' school. 

Question 3: In your perspective, how do we close the achievement gap in Berkeley?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

 Tracy Hollander

First, we must have the highest expectations of all our kids.  It is essential that all of our kindergartners -- from the very first day -- are seen as potential college students, because that is what they are. 
Second, is to not operate in isolation and make sure we are using well-researched methods. 
Third, it is essential that the board operate as an extension of the community- working with our most affected communities to help solve these issues. 
The priorities I outlined in the beginning regarding teaching and learning environments is also a key component to closing the achievement gap. 
Closing the achievement gap will not be easy, but in contrast to what others may think I do believe it is possible. 

Judy Appel
We need to set up criteria to identify what practices are effective and replicate them district wide while exploring new and creative ways to deepen this work. Most importantly, it is critical that we invest in a cohesive and well thought out plan at the ECE, primary and secondary levels that is based on research and/or experience, and involves continuous feedback mechanisms that allow for consistent evaluation and tweaking. 
The investment in our children and youth must begin at birth and continues on through High School graduation. The newly thriving preschool program is critical to this scheme, as is working closely to engage parents.
The work over the past years has laid a solid foundation through which we have cultivated an expectation at the administrative and school site levels about the importance of educational equity. This represents a sea change in the District.  To be effective, the 2020 plan has to include ALL students, whether they are achieving at, below or above grade level. In order to do that, we need to support our teachers in offering a quality education, equip them with the ability to offer differentiated learning, and provide concrete and multiple supports with the goal of meeting the educational, social and emotional needs of each student.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

I personally have maintained (a) lens of equity by looking closely at policies/practices and data that BUSD has for each school site and as a district.
I have maintained in all committees this lens and I have been asking repeatedly how BUSD is serving students equitably with all the resources that are at a district’s disposal and assuring that school sites are following the district goals and outcomes. I support professional development for our teachers throughout the district that has proven successful and has the greatest impact on ALL students like, GLAD, Academic Language, and Constructing Meaning.  I am supportive of services that serve students that are not proficient in academics and/or English Language and identifying practices to ensure that ALL of our schools, consistently and throughout the district students are afforded intervention services to support their learning.
I believe that the key to student success is also parent involvement in our schools. Parent Liaisons will be working to engage diverse parents in welcoming, meaningful and supportive practices as decisions makers in policy, budget and governance of school sites.

Norma Harrison

Why do you think 'the achievement gap' can be closed, is being worked on to be closed .... is anything but giving lip service to the problem endemic to capitalism?