Berkeley Board of Education evaluates progress in plan seeking to end racial predictability in academics

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In an effort toward greater academic racial equity, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education assessed recent policy changes as part of the implementation of a state-mandated academic improvement effort at its regular meeting Wednesday.

Berkeley school district directors overseeing the Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, reported at the meeting that the plan’s second goal to end racial predictability — anticipated student achievements based on race — has been working effectively within the district over the past academic year.

“It’s really around ending the racial predictability of academic achievement by ensuring that all systems are culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of our students,” said Debbi D’Angelo, the school district’s director of research, evaluation and assessment at the meeting.

According to D’Angelo, LCAP is a funding source that every California district receives from the state. The plan also aims to improve school safety and emphasize college and career readiness.

In order to meet the goal of ending racial predictability, the district has dedicated a large portion of LCAP funding to the implementation of more effective English learner programs, D’Angelo said at the meeting. Board member Josh Daniels said that with visible progress already being shown from the implementation of LCAP, he wants to uncover how to further invest in the goals outlined in the plan.

Within the district, about 50 percent of English learners are Spanish speakers, and the remaining half combined speak approximately 37 other languages. D’Angelo said during the meeting that with LCAP, the English learner teachers at every school are providing uniform English language development curricula.

The LCAP has prompted a 6 percent increase in hiring teachers of color over the past two years, and according to D’Angelo, 41 percent of teachers in the Berkeley school district identify as nonwhite. One aspect of LCAP is the professional development in equity practices, which is linked closely to the recruitment and retention of teachers of color.

With the hiring of more teachers of color, board member Karen Hemphill raised the issue of making sure they feel supported during the meeting. Hemphill added during the meeting that just as racial isolation can occur between students, it can also occur between teachers.

“It’s not just getting them, it’s keeping them,” Hemphill said at the meeting. “So I am hoping that all the principals are being given some additional pointers about how to keep staff, how to make staff feel welcome.”

Previously, the district partnered with the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley in order to articulate a 2020 vision for the education of Berkeley’s children and youth, with the goal of improving academic outcomes for underperforming students.

D’Angelo said at the meeting that funding needs to be targeted to Berkeley’s low-income students and English learners in order to reduce the achievement gap. She added that the Berkeley Unified School District celebrates its steps toward achieving LCAP’s goal of ending racial predictability and the 2020 vision.

“In education, it’s really (about) interrupting the patterns of racial bias,” D’Angelo said at the meeting. “Rather than equal we want to be equitable.”

Kailey Martinez-Ramage covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kmartinezramage.