UC Berkeley students gather to discuss Bay Area education reform

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UC Berkeley students gathered with Bay Area teachers and administrators in Dwinelle Hall on Saturday to discuss ways to reform K-12 education in the Bay Area.

The event — called the Educate the Bay Summit and last held in 2009 by the UC Berkeley Public Service Center — provided student groups and community organizations the opportunity to showcase their work in improving pre-K and high school student success.

The summit, sponsored by the ASUC, was organized by the offices of senators from various student political parties, including SQUELCH! Senator Emily Truax, CalSERVE Senator Briana Mullen, CalSERVE Senator Justin Kong and Independent Campaign for Common Sense Senator Solomon Nwoche.

Two of the summit workshops were facilitated by ASUC senators. In her workshop, Mullen addressed the challenges of being a tutor and how to better equip tutors to handle students who might come from backgrounds different from their own. CalSERVE Senator Destiny Iwuoma focused on the statewide IGNITE campaign, which centers on outreach to students of underrepresented backgrounds and preventing the expansion of local county jails.

The ASUC Senate recently unanimously passed a bill, co-authored by Truax, in support of increasing early childhood accessibility. The bill calls for the ASUC to endorse the Educate the Bay Summit and also for the Lobby Corps within the External Affairs Vice President’s office to advocate for California Senate Bill 837, which would create a new transitional kindergarten program and add a 14th year to K-12 education.

“I would hope people would get different perspectives on how inequality exists in K-12 education and find newfound solutions to mitigate these problems through student and community organizations,” Truax said.

The conference’s main speakers — Darrick Smith, a professor at the University of San Francisco, and Donald Evans, Berkeley Unified School District superintendent — both spoke about the diversity of the educational experience. A series of workshops followed, facilitated by community organizations and several student groups, such as People’s Test Prep Services, a campus organization that provides free SAT test prep classes to underserved high school students.

“It’s not like we can just go in the community and know what’s best for the community. We need to ground ourselves in the community,” said Katrina DeVaney, a UC Berkeley senior and executive director of People’s Test Prep Services. “You really need to be careful about how you’re approaching education.”

UC Berkeley junior Matt Nguyen, a Teach for America campus representative, emphasized the constitutional history of affirmative action and its implications for K-12 and higher education.

“We’re living in the Bay Area — one of the nicest places but also one of the most inequitable places as well,” Nguyen said. “Even after the summit, the conversation needs to continue.”

Jane Nho is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article’s headline misspelled UC Berkeley.