Staff recommend Berkeley school district reject charter proposal

As the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education convenes for the first time this month, the board is planning on doling out an all too familiar verdict.

A proposal for a charter school, called Integrity Education Center, will most likely be denied by the board at its Wednesday night meeting. After holding a public hearing and reviewing the proposal, district staff now recommend rejecting the proposal, an earlier version of which fell to the same fate in June.

In the staff report, the grounds for denial of the revised proposal are listed as such:

  • The Revised Petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the required elements of a charter petition.
  • The Petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Revised Petition.
  • The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.
  • The Revised Petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions required by statute.

Integrity Education Center, which would emphasize drop-out recovery, is based in Oakland. Over the past several years, the Oakland Unified School District has accumulated dozens of charter schools — it even has a special charter school office — all aiming to find a solution to the district’s low test scores, while neighboring Berkeley Unified School District had none.

Although, according to state law, a school district must approve a charter if it meets certain criteria set forth by the state, the district had found fault with every proposal brought forward, rejecting numerous over the past several years, until last year. In June 2010, the board approved its first charter school, the Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement middle and high school. The REALM school opened its doors in August — a historic moment for the Berkeley Unified School District, which had never housed a charter school before.

The charter school movement began about 20 years ago, as community members across the country, frustrated by their local, public education systems, looked to try their hand at teaching kids. But officials in the Berkeley Unified School District have said multiple times that charters are typically looking to make a profit, not educate students.

So, the REALM schools came as a welcome change for the district, since the man behind their conception — Victor Diaz — was the principal of the district’s continuation school, Berkeley Technology Academy. Since Diaz isn’t an outsider, the district saw his proposals as a “grassroots effort,” as district spokesperson Mark Coplan told The Daily Californian in August.

But now that REALM is up and running, the district’s need for an alternative to Berkeley High School, its only comprehensive secondary school, is filled.

The district will vote to either approve or reject the staff’s recommendation Wednesday night.

Soumya Karlamangla is the assistant city news editor.

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  • Anticharter

    The evidence shows that parental involvement goes a long way in a kid’s achievement. Parents who don’t live in the district don’t usually get involved in their kid’s education other than to drop them off at the respective schools. They don’t do more for a myriad of reasons not the least of which is that they don’t want to reveal where they live. They are teaching real life lessons in lying and cheating to their kids! I have heard that upwards of 20% of BUSD kids aren’t from Berkeley! The district should do more to fix that problem! It is disturbing that non Berkeley parents vote down tax initiatives to improve their city schools and then put their kids in Berkeley schools where no tax increase for school has ever been voted down! I’m struggling to afford to live in Berkeley, but I do it to keep my child here in Berkeley for the decent schools and the diversity.

    BTW, Berkeley High has excellent graduation rates for African American as compared to neighboring school districts (I.e. Oakland and Richmond), or were the latest reports I read wrong?

    • Sarah

      I agree that a true partnership between schools and parents is fundamentally  important to a child’s success. I do not agree that parent’s from out of district are not involved. Even on a basic level if they know enough to send their child to a school out of district, aren’t they already involved? I think that your claim is too broad and not founded in any data. 
      Regardless I agree that BUSD should address the issue of non-district enrollment. Hearing that upwards of 20% of BUSD kids aren’t from Berkeley shouldn’t be taken as a fact, but I would like to know what the actual numbers are. 
      As for graduation rates being better than neighboring school districts, is that really good enough for you? I think it is appalling that BUSD is patting itself on the back because it’s graduation rate is better than Oakland/Richmond. To call drop out rate of 18% excellent is ludicrous.  It is  a disgrace that students of color are NOT being supported in the same way that white students are. As long as adults in this district are willing to settle for being anything but last, our community will suffer. By educating all of our children, we ensure that our community will be more prosperous.  (For the record, for OUSD the Af-Am drop out rate is 39%, white is 32% according to cde.gov).

      • Anticharter

        What support do “whites” get that “blacks” don’t get in Berkeley schools?  What data do you have to support this claim?  From my experience, in Berkeley schools, there is more support for kids who underperform, than for kids who perform at or above grade level.  (Is it your claim that the whites are the under performers receiving the remedial support?)  If there is a GATE program in Berkeley, I’ve never seen it, but there are plenty of support services for kids who have reading problems, emotional problems, behavioral problems, etc.  Too bad funding won’t support services for all kids, and not just the under performers!

        I have yet to see the data that supports the implied assertion that Charter schools help minority kids more than main stream public schools.  What Charter schools do is undermine unions, siphon money from public schools to quasi private interests with little or no proven track records, and make promises that gullible parents want to believe – their kids then become unwitting experimental subjects.  School districts are threatened with law suits, if they deny charter petitions.  Hopefully, the California legislature will do something to stop this charter school trend!  The CDoE is hamstrung as well.

        If claims are that minority kids are underperforming, then we need to find out why that is the case.  Is it possible that Berkeley has more highly educated white parents?  Data does show a correlation between parental education and student performance.

        Regarding parental involvement:  have you been to PTA meetings at Berkeley schools?  If not, I suggest you attend one or two.  It saddens me to see the meetings are predominately attended by white and latino parents.  It is rare to see black parents at the meetings.  Again, the data shows that there is a correlation between parental involvement in the school and student performance.

        I don’t think a parent is “involved” in their child’s education, if they cheat and lie to get their kids into a school illegally.  No, that is nowhere near being involved. Further, by lying, the kids are hurt – no play dates at Johnny’s house, since he lives in Oakland – Bobby’s mom may report Johnny’s mom; no investment in the community, since Johnny’s family doesn’t live in Berkeley;  no community in Berkeley, since Johnny doesn’t know the kids outside of school because he lives in Oakland.  These are very important elements in the kid’s education that make the family “involved” in the school and the education provided there.  So, I don’t agree that by putting a kid into a school that means the parents are involved in the school.  Education isn’t limited to the mere 4 hours or less the kid has in the classroom!

        BTW, I think a drop out rate that is half the drop out rate of Oakland is a damned good start.  The data is showing that Berkeley is doing a great job in addressing the drop out rate in its high school.  Is it perfect?  No.  Hopefully, two things will happen:  (1) BUSD will get serious about culling the non-resident kids without transfer approvals, and (2) the principal at BHS will continue the upward trend at the school.

  • Anticharter

    Realm isn’t all it is cracked up to be! It certainly is not solving any alleged overcrowding at any berkeley school, especially if its student population isn’t entirely or even mostly berkeley residents! That is the lie behind a charter school – they don’t need to take the school district kids, but they sure can take the district money! Berkeley doesn’t need another charter school – the schools are doing an excellent job, despite the efforts of the school board!

    Follow the money – look at who are supporting Realm and many of these charter schools. They aren’t as altruistic as they claim to be. Religious entities and conservatives have found an ingenious way around their stymied efforts to get vouchers to fund their schools – it’s now called the charter school movement!

    • Sarah

      I am really sorry to hear that Realm is not doing well.  Do you have a connection inside of Realm how you got this information?  Apparently the district school of Berkeley high doesn’t need to take district kids to get district money either. Aren’t there more students enrolled than the census states live in Berkeley.  I know that this issue has come up over and over again.  But, I’d really like to see some hard data on it. 

      I actually don’t agree that Berkeley high is doing an excellent job… unless you are white. The drop out rate is higher for minority students (18% for Af-Am) than it is for white (10%) students. The CAHSEE pass rates show HUGE achievement gaps, and when Berkeley high gets enough students on campus to take the exams, the CST scores show the same. (849 API for White students vs 532 for Af-Am). Yes, these are simplistic measures and I only dug into the data for Af-am students, but I’m sure the results are mirrored in other ways. I’d like to know how many students graduate from Berkeley high CSU and UC eligible and what that breakdown is on gender and ethnicity and SES. If Berkeley high were doing an excellent job, there would be no achievement gap on these measures. If Berkeley high were doing a good job, then the achievement gap that exists would be decreasing over time. 

      Again, my comment that accusations are vague and only surface level stands. I see no data to back up your claims. 

  • Sarah

    This is just a general comment about charter schools in Berkeley. There are some good, some great, and some downright awful charter schools. The same can be said for public schools. Anytime a charter school does have excellent results, it is accused of having all kinds of crazy back-room shenanigans, most are totally vague and are never explored just taken at face value.  Berkeley only has one high school and it is incredibly overcrowded and while it may serve the needs of some students, it definitely isn’t serving all students, based on the public data from the CDE website.

    Not that the CAHSEE is the best measure, but it is probably the simplest. Last year in February, sophomores took the CAHSEE for the first time. During this sitting only 59% of Af-Am students vs 97% of white students passed the ELA portion. The numbers are pretty similar in mathematics. I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons and excuses that folks could come up with, but why is this okay? Berkeley high simply isn’t doing what it needs to do for all students, why are they against giving another organization a shot. I don’t know anything about this particular charter school that applied, but it seems anytime the word “charter” comes up, nearly every Berkeley teacher and administrator goes red with anger.  I guess I just don’t understand. 

    I’d love an update on how REALM is doing so far. How is attendance looking? Any informal parent satisfaction ratings? I wonder what the school is doing to set up school culture and community.