I’ve long had reservations about Berkeley High and the way its small schools function to divide students academically, which unintentionally tends to lead to further divisions along social and racial lines. Earlier today I was talking to another teacher about how I’m working to address the achievement gap in my classroom, and happened to bring up my criticisms of Berkeley High. After our talk I ran out to grab a coffee and what was the first thing I saw on the table at the coffee shop? This week’s East Bay Express with the glaring headline on the cover:
Separate and Unequal at Berkeley’s Small Schools
Berkeley High embraced the small schools movement to close its staggering racial achievement gap. But evidence suggests that these schools are exacerbating the very problem they were supposed to solve.
At first I was excited to read the article–finally an indictment of the segregation at Berkeley High! But, like so many in Berkeley, and I’m afraid so many powerful white teachers and parents, author Rachel Swan got the story all wrong.
Swan’s initial skepticism of the small schools movement is not unfounded. Small schools, like their larger counterparts, are not without fallible teachers and administrators, or moments of pedagogy that miss the mark. But Swan appears to view the issue similarly to the teachers at BHS who rail against the small schools.
I’ve selected some of Swan’s own reporting to articulate what I see at Berkeley High, as a teacher, scholar, observer of BHS classrooms, opposer of segregation, holder of almost unattainably high expectations of all students, local resident, relative of a BHS student, and friend of many BHS alumni.