Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) was founded in 1997 by teachers and families who had the goal of tapping into the rich diversity of Berkeley High students to create a heterogeneous learning community of 240 compassionate and collaborative learners. Distinguished by its focus on critical thinking, social justice, media literacy, and community, CAS offers an academically rigorous course of study and trains its students to communicate effectively in both print and electronic media through curriculum built around experiential learning–learning by doing. In addition to traditional forms of expression like fiction, essays, lab reports and research papers, students create their own videos, podcasts and print projects, and they travel to museums, theaters, and cultural centers.
When students commit to the CAS curriculum, they voluntarily give up the safety of homogeneous learning and learn how to communicate, collaborate and excel within a diverse community. The curriculum and the faculty ensure an atmosphere of academic rigor while facilitating and respecting different learning styles and cultural experiences. To excel in CAS, a student must meet the dual challenges of intellectual mastery and effective collaboration in the classroom and in the larger world.
CAS classes are heterogeneous and challenging; students who have achieved different levels of academic success are taught together in demanding academic core and elective classes designed to engage every student. For students who are interested in supplementary academic challenges, CAS offers a second English class for 11th and 12th graders: Advance Placement (AP) English. Classes are integrated with cross-disciplinary assignments and consistent articulation between the grade levels. The English/History Core emphasizes written communication throughout the fouryear curriculum and focuses on the development of critical thinking and analysis. Opportunities to explore areas of interest to individual students exist in all grades. CAS classes are challenging, benefiting students who have high achievement records as well as those who have struggled in school. The school’s collaborative teaching model and close student-teacher relationships create an environment in which teachers are able to carefully assess student effort and performance and find ways to motivate and challenge each student to meet their full intellectual potential.