Here is an equity problem that has arisen in Berkeley High School in California. President Obama has called for “a national commitment to science education and training” that will enable the U.S. to compete globally, and Berkeley High School has achieved that goal. Last year 82% of Berkeley students passed a rigorous exam that gives them college credit. The students majoring in physics and biology did even better, Berkeley's science department is one of the best in the country.
But President Obama has another goal: closing the gap between the better students and minorities. So the Berkeley principal now wants to eliminate science labs to pay for ‘equity’ classes for struggling students who need note-taking and study skills. The principal wants to cancel five science teachers and 65 lab sections for college prep and AP classes. This proposal is supposed to reduce the school's “achievement gap” between higher-performing white and Asian students and lower-performing black and Latino kids.
Part of the gap is due to the unique mix of students at the town’s only high school. Kids of dot-com professionals and University professors mix with children living in poverty. Most people think it’s wonderful that all these kids go to school together. Berkeley residents voted for a tax to give additional education funding to bridge the achievement gap. Most of the money is used to reduce class sizes and provide academic help such as tutoring. But the extra funding did not close the performance gap. Now, parents say that equity should not be sought by cutting out classes for high-performing students, but by improving classes offered to those who don’t do as well. No final decision on the proposal is expected until May. You can express your opinion on our Blog.
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