BHS School Redesign Process

After a period of more than 18 months of research, dialogue and discussion, and extensive engagement with Berkeley High faculty, staff and students as well as parents, and community groups, the School Board will be holding a Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, February 15 from 6-8pm to discuss the core elements of the first phase of the BHS Redesign that are being proposed for implementation in the 2018-19 school year. (Public comment will be taken during the first 30 minutes of the board meeting.)

Update 2/15/2017: The School Board voted unanimously to proceed with a redesign of the 9th grade program at Berkeley High. The final proposal will be brought to the Board for first reading in May and final approval in June, for implementation for the incoming 9th graders in Fall 2018. You can watch the Feb. 15 board discussion here.

The lessons from a broad body of research, combined with our school and community outreach, led us to focus on four main areas of redesign:

  • Personalization,
  • Improving our student assignment system,
  • The transition between 8th and 9th grade, and
  • Collaboration time for teachers.

The current proposal for the first phase of the BHS Redesign is summarized in the chart below, followed by more background information on the redesign efforts.

A brief overview was also presented at the January 25, 2017 School Board Meeting and can be viewed starting at the 1:06 mark. During this meeting, board members posed specific questions to the Berkeley High School Administration and Design Team leadership. Below is a brief outline of the proposed redesign elements.

You can read a more detailed outline of the proposal and find specific answers to Board questions from January 25th in this document (PDF) prepared by BHS Design Team leaders.

Updated February 2017: Essential BHS Redesign Elements Being Considered for 2018-19
Essential Elements Benefits to Students
Universal 9th grade program composed of “houses” of 112-120 students and 4 core teachers.
  • Elimination of the 8th grade lottery
  • Shared 9th grade experience
  • More personalization from teachers who know students better
  • More time to learn about high school courses and learning community program choices for 10-12 grade, including career pathways and elective offerings
A “modified block” schedule* of six period courses for the whole school in which students do not attend each class every day.

*Staff will consider more fully all options for bell schedule in spring of 2017.

  • Longer class periods that meet for a comparable amount of instruction time but not every day
  • Fewer transitions from class to class
  • Labs and project/problem-based learning more feasible
  • Time for homework assignments/project completion spread out over more days
Common collaboration time for 9th grade teachers during teacher “prep” period.
  • Shared best teaching practices
  • More personalized instruction
  • Time for teachers to communicate around student needs and supports
Academic Development Period periods for high needs students lead by 9th grade core teachers (English, History, Math, Science) staffed at approx. 8:1
  • One period per day for every Freshman Math, Science, English, History Teacher to provide direct services to high need students in the teacher’s house:
    • Calling home weekly / Regular Parent Meetings
    • Regular meetings with focal students / monitoring grades / monitoring attendance / monitoring supports
    • Regular communication with house teachers re: assigned students
    • Direct support on executive functioning skill building and some academic supports
  • All teachers trained in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and use AVID strategies with their class
  • Possible “Get Focused/Stay Focused” curriculum to build academic plans starting in 9th grade
Advanced Math
  • The advanced math course progression will be provided to students who test in, but will be outside of a student’s “house”.
Teachers all “in”: teachers in this model are “9th grade specialists,” they do not teach out of their house
  • Focus on one grade level, one subject matter, and one set of students during professional development and collaboration time
  • Teachers have a group of students they share and are responsible for
  • Anti-racist and culturally-responsive pedagogy and curriculum for all
Reformed 10th grade lottery
  • Better, more accurate information for 9th graders through a year long information campaign
  • Application to CPA academies

The projected cost to fund the elements for the universal 9th grade program is estimated at between $500,000 and $600,000 depending on the final staffing needs. These costs are determined by the additional teacher staffing required for the Academic Development period and teacher collaboration time.

Background for the Redesign

In the Spring of 2015, a group of teacher leaders, inspired by an educational lecture from Linda Darling Hammond, proposed to pursue the redesign of Berkeley High. The purpose of this proposal was to solve the following problem: The current structure of BHS was not created intentionally to meet the needs of all students. This structure is not aligned to what a broad body of research tells us is effective school design for the success of all students. The research, combined with our school and community outreach, led us to focus on four main areas of redesign: Personalization, improving our student assignment system, the transition between 8th and 9th grade, and collaboration time for teachers.

During the Academic Year 2015-2016, a 40 member Design Team with staff, student, and community stakeholders was formed to devise a research based proposal which we presented to the school board in May of 2016. This was after a thorough, year long vetting by Berkeley High staff as well as presentations to, and feedback campaigns with, the wider community.  That proposal included a Universal 9th grade, with students diversely placed in houses; a 7 period day that included collaboration time for all teachers in a modified block schedule; an advisory in the 9th and 10th grades; and a merger of the two large school programs, AC and BIHS, into houses for grades 10-12.  

In 2016-2017, the Design Team changed its structure to accommodate the tasks specific to each element of this well supported plan. We created committees, led by staff and students, to specifically address: Advisory, Lottery/Student Placement, Performance Based Assessments, Humanities Scope and Sequence, Bell Schedules, and Campaign/Communication.   

In a parallel process, the Design Team leadership collaborated with District administration in pursuance of the proper funding channels for the $1.3-$1.6 million cost of adding a 7th period to our schedule.  Despite our belief that this set of reforms, comprehensively implemented, are best for Berkeley High, we encountered insurmountable funding challenges.  District administration returned to the Design Team with a request for a proposal which would more closely align with the district’s budget realities, understanding that our expectations for student outcomes would be commensurate with the reduced financial investment.

We believe that the plan outlined here will bring more personalization to the 9th grade through houses and common teachers, more targeted interventions for our most struggling students, a resolution to our flawed student assignment system, and a more unified and integrated school culture.   The Design Team, along with BUSD Administration present this plan in the hopes that as future funding becomes available, we can add some of the features from the original vision for redesign at Berkeley High.

Questions or Comments:

The Design Team leadership is interested in your comments and questions, and is committed to keeping you informed about and engaged in our work to build an effective high school for all students. Email inquiries are welcome:

Earlier Documents Pertaining to the BHS School Redesign Process

Principal’s Design Update from September 13th, 2016
Berkeleyside article on the Redesign
Video stream of the special study session with the BUSD Board of Education
Principal’s April 20, 2016 Email Regarding the Re-Design
Principal’s October 10, 2015 Email Regarding the Re-Design
Summary of Research about Successful High Schools
Design Team Board Comments
List of the Design Team Members
Glossary of Terms
Parent Workshop Presentation
Parent Forum FAQ and Glossary of Terms
Glosario y Preguntas Documento
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