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, a Special Board Meeting, held on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, moved the core elements of the first phase of the BHS Redesign forward with the unanimous support of all Board Directors to move to the next phase of planning.
Update 4/25/17: Middle School Community Meeting Nights are being planned at each of the three middle schools the week of May 8, 2017. Meetings are open to all families from any school interested in learning more about the BHS Redesign Plans, and in particular the first phase of implementation of the Universal 9th Grade Program proposal for Fall 2018. (If approved, current 7th grade students would be the first class to participate in the Universal 9th grade program.)
King Middle School: Monday, May 8, 7:00 pm
Longfellow Middle School: Tuesday, May 9, 7:00 pm (Spanish interpretation provided.)
Willard Middle School: Thursday, May 11, 7:00 pm
The final proposal will be brought to the Board for first reading on May 17, 2017 with the goal of 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:
- 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.
|Essential Elements||Benefits to Students|
|Universal 9th grade program composed of “houses” of 112-120 students and 4 core teachers.||
|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.
|Common collaboration time for 9th grade teachers during teacher “prep” period.||
|LEAP: Academic Development Period for high needs students lead by 9th grade core teachers (English, History, Math, Science) staffed at approx. 8:1||
|Teachers all “in”: teachers in this model are “9th grade specialists,” they do not teach out of their house||
|Reformed 10th grade lottery||
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org