Berkeley school district talks support of Latinx, independent study students

Photo of Thousand Oaks Elementary School
Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday. The resolution aims to close the achievement gap many Latinx BUSD students face.

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Following a year that exacerbated inequity for Latinx students, among others, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday in hopes of supporting the achievement and success of all Latinx Berkeley Unified School District students.

The resolution aims to close the achievement gap Latinx BUSD students face. From 2017 to 2019, Latinx students consistently scored below average on standardized assessments, and only 50% completed the UC A-G requirements in 2020, versus 71% of their non-Latinx white counterparts.

To ensure the goals of the resolution are met, the board plans to improve Latinx parent engagement throughout the district and analyze annual Latinx academic achievement data to address persisting racial and ethnic disparities and support the needs of Latinx students as early as pre-K. In addition, the district will educate the BUSD community about Latinx culture and history, as well as observe annual culturally affirming celebrations such as Latinx Heritage Month.

According to school board director Ana Vasudeo, the importance of the resolution is clear — when students of color and students with disabilities succeed, the district succeeds. She added, however, that there is still a long way to go before the board no longer needs resolutions to realize this success.

“Now we have a Black Lives Matter resolution, a Latinx resolution hopefully after the vote, but we’re still missing something for our special ed students. … We have not forgotten them,” Vasudeo said during the meeting. “That comprehensive framework needs to come, and it needs to come soon because a lot of our most vulnerable students will continue to suffer because of the long-term impacts of the pandemic.”

Aside from supporting students of marginalized groups, the board also discussed how they plan to support those who choose not to return in person come fall.

Such students will take on independent study which may come in one of two forms.

The first model mirrors Berkeley Independent Study, or BIS, in that the parent is the home teacher 25 hours per week and the student meets with the BIS teacher once per week to set learning goals and assignments. The second model is a virtual academy in which the schedule is the same as the distance learning schedule and students are taught in combination grade-level classes.

Though nothing is finalized, the California Education Code is expected to be updated in reference to independent study June 14. Tentatively, BIS students must document daily participation, the district must have a plan in place for students who wish to transition back to in person and students can cite health concerns as a reason to participate in BIS.

Berkeley High School students, on the other hand, will return to a modified block schedule with a flex period, a prospect that some students disagreed with in public comment.

“I still believe the regular six class schedule is the best option because students get passing periods after about an hour of learning. Sitting in a classroom for 100 minutes at a time is exhausting, and students will lose focus and interest,” said Alana Lee, a Berkeley High sophomore. “We’ve gone through so many schedule changes in the past two years, and I feel that a sense of consistency and scheduling would be most beneficial for students.”

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.