On Wednesday night, the Berkeley school board voted to proclaim Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day. During the public comment period, Rosa Parks Elementary School students lined up to speak in favor of the honor.
“I am proud to be a Rosa Parks student,” said one student. “Rosa Parks deserves our respect and we need to show that we still have her in our hearts.”
The board agreed.
“Rosa Parks was one of my heroes,” said Shirley Issel, a member of the board. “She is a lesson to all of our students.”
Following the public comment period and comments from the directors, the board voted unanimously to approve the consent calendar, thereby passing the measure to proclaim Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day.
California standard tests report
The majority of the board meeting was spent on looking at student achievement data from the standardized tests, such as the CAT 6 and the California High School Exit Exam (CASHEE). There was comprehensive data on English-Language Arts and Mathematics, some of which compared the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) to the state in general.
MPR associates, the company that administered the study, found that while Berkeley students had a higher proficiency level than the state as a whole, the gap between the two was narrowing. MPR also concluded that the BUSD has “large and persistent achievement gaps in student sub-populations.”
For example, students with disabilities (in the Berkeley High class of 2006) had only a 30 percent pass rate on the CASHEE. Another test that spiked controversy was the California English Language Development Test (CELDT).
“Children who speak a language other than English at home are required to take the initial CELDT,” said MPR associate Robin Henke. The results found that only 3 to 4 percent of BUSD students took the initial CELDT.
“It’s kind of surprising,” said school board President Nancy Riddle.
Some board members were unhappy with the results and felt that others were taking the results too lightly.
“This is a shocking report and we just can’t ignore this,” Issel said. “I just have to point out that only 22 percent of African-Americans in high school score proficient on English-Language Arts and only 5 percent of African-Americans score proficient in Math. The trends are down. If it were up to me, I’d declare a public health emergency.”
Board Vice President Terry Doran responded, “I look at this data with skepticism. MPR told us also that many students look at some of the tests as ‘low-stakes’ tests.”
In the end, everyone agreed that they needed to do more things in order to close the achievement gap.
Youth Commission appointments
Prior to the regular board meeting, the school board completed interviewing for candidates to fill two spots in the Berkeley Youth Commission. One position was an appointment by School Board Director Joaquin Rivera, and the other was a board-at-large position.
On Tuesday, Rivera announced that he selected Calvin Young, a sophomore, to fill his position. The board choose Sophie Bridgers, a senior, to fill the at-large position.
Rio Bauce is a Berkeley High sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.