Berkeley High May Cut Out Science Labs

Eric Klein, East Bay Express (Oakland), December 23, 2009

Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.

The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High’s School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley’s dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.

Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.

{snip}

Sincular-Mertens [Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School’s science department], who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and that her four environmental science classes are 17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino. {snip}

The full plan to close the racial achievement gap by altering the structure of the high school is known as the High School Redesign. It will come before the Berkeley School Board as an information item at its January 13 meeting. {snip}

{snip}

 Students by Ethnicity 

 This School 

 California School Average 

% American Indian

n/a

3%

% Asian

8%

8%

% Hispanic

12%

39%

% Black

31%

9%

% White

35%

36%

% Unknown

14%

5%

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