by Jesús Mena
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin has agreed to serve on the policy board of the Berkeley Pledge, a statewide outreach program launched last month by Chancellor Tien.
"I will work hard to strengthen the ties between higher education and K-12," said Eastin. "The Berkeley Pledge is a wonderful idea. It's a win-win situation. I hope it can become a model for the whole state."
The endorsement by the state's top public school educator reflects the breadth of support the Berkeley Pledge has garnered since it was first announced by Tien Sept. 7.
Eastin added that California's schools are burdened with the largest class size in America, an inadequate library system and a low level of computer literacy.
The revitalized partnership with higher education is vital to K-12 students who could otherwise enter the next century facing a major disadvantage, she said.
Tien said he was elated that Eastin had agreed to join the Berkeley Pledge policy group.
"Her participation as the leader of California's public school system will greatly strengthen our partnership with K-12," he said.
Tien announced the Berkeley Pledge in an effort to preserve the campus's celebrated diversity despite historic changes in UC Regents' policy on student admissions.
Tien committed $1 million of discretionary funding to the Berkeley Pledge and said he would recruit additional funding from private sources and foundations.
Since the time of the announcement, William K. Coblentz, a prominent San Francisco lawyer, has donated $25,000 to the Berkeley Pledge.
Tien has also personally has contributed $10,000 from a pay raise given him by the regents.
Furthermore, the United Way has selected the Berkeley Pledge as one of the options for donors to its annual drive through employers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including UC campuses and laboratories.
The partnership with the schools is exemplified by the work being done with the San Francisco Unified School District. Berkeley faculty, including Tien, have worked with the district to revamp the Galileo High School curriculum.
This year, through a partnership of business, academic and community leaders, the school initiated an academically rigorous curriculum focused on mathematics and science in an effort to increase the number of UC eligible students.
Tien will be speaking to Galileo students Nov. 29 about his research on the Space Shuttle. Other faculty members will address students in the course of the semester as the teachers raise their academic sights.
Waldemar (Bill) Rojas, SFUSD superintendent, said the Galileo High School project shows the powerful role Berkeley can play in addressing some of the challenges facing the public school system.
"Berkeley carries a real aura for our teachers," said Rojas. "You have no idea how exciting it is for our teachers to know that they are working directly with Berkeley faculty to upgrade their curricula."
To further encourage San Francisco students to set their sights on UC, Rojas announced that the school district will pay the $40 application fee for any student from a family with limited income.
Tien hopes to develop similar partnerships in other areas of the state and will be visiting public schools, especially in Southern California.
The Berkeley Pledge also calls for an increasingly aggressive recruitment of students to Berkeley through the establishment of the Berkeley Recruitment Corps. This group, which is to visit high schools throughout the state seeking prospective students, is co-chaired by Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs Genaro Padilla and Rick Russell, regent designate and California Alumni Association president.
Russell, who lives in the Los Angeles area, said more than 100 Southern California alumni are already working hard to recruit a diversified student population to Berkeley. Cal Parents, an organization of parents of students currently attending Berkeley, recently pledged to join that effort.
"We hope to double the number of alumni participating in our recruitment program and we hope to assign them to particular schools so they can be the liaison for potential students in targeted schools," said Russell.