Last September, the Berkeley Pledge was launched by Chancellor Tien as a positive step to assure the future diversity of the student body.
To find out what has occurred in the year since the pledge was announced to widespread praise, Berkeleyan sat down to talk with Anita Madrid, pledge coordinator.
Berkeleyan: It's been a year since the announcement. What has happened?
Anita Madrid: We've made great progress. When we started we basically had a name, a message and $1 million. What we've done in this year is develop the original goals -- strengthening our partnership with K-12, enhancing our recruitment effort in the State of California, keeping Berkeley affordable for students, and creating a campus environment that fosters success and inspires students to pursue graduate studies and professional careers.
Q: And this was intended to make sure Berkeley remains as diverse as possible?
A: Yes. Chancellor Tien was very concerned that all the attention on changes in admissions would send a signal that underrepresented students weren't welcome at Berkeley. So the Berkeley Pledge's initial message -- and I think we've succeeded in getting it across -- was that we would continue to provide top quality education to all of California's diverse populations and to work to change the disparities in access to higher education.
Q: That's a tall order. How did you know where to start?
A: The Chancellor's Outreach Task Force provided a specific blueprint for the distribution of funding for new initiatives to increase our partnership with K-12 and increase our recruitment effort. Also, a small staff think tank in the Office of Admission and Relations with Schools brainstormed the initial road map.
Q: Who was on the task force?
A: A group of 22 members composed of faculty, business and community members, students and staff, and a member of the Board of Regents, Rick Russell.
Q: How much funding is available?
A: The chancellor initially pledged $1 million to initiate the goals. Since then we've been able to raise money through United Way and direct campus contributions for the pledge. We've also been able to attract outside funding to support our outreach programs. Chevron has made a substantial contribution, and the Clorox Foundation is providing support to help expand the Incentive Awards program to the East Bay.
Q: Before we get into the details, what's been the most satisfying part of this year for you?
A: The most exciting part is seeing so many talented staff from outreach programs and teachers and administrators from the schools come together to solve a problem. What comes to mind as a high point was the February roundtable for teachers and administrators from four Bay Area school districts and the campus outreach programs. In that conference, 200 people worked together for two days. We came out with new partnerships and ideas that eventually worked themselves into very concrete programs that could be implemented in K-12 this September.
Q: It seems that the goal of strengthening ties with K-12 is the one the pledge has focused on in this first year. Is that true?
A: Yes, that's the starting point for all this. In fact, there would be no need for an affirmative action admission policy if all students were equally prepared to enroll at the university. The fact is they are not.
Q: But what about the other goals?
A: Actually, we are working on them simultaneously, but they do fall in sequence. We have enhanced our recruitment efforts this year. We hired a recruitment coordinator, Roberto Rivera, who brought together nearly 100 people who go out to schools to promote Berkeley. They have increased the number of personal contacts with newly admitted students this year and as a result, student yield rates increased -- that's the number of students admitted who actually enroll.
Q: Back to the K-12 goal, what's the most significant progress there?
A: We have developed a new K-12 outreach model that we hope will be exportable and replicable across the country. One of our objectives was to go beyond one program so that whatever we developed could be used by universities anywhere in the country.
Q: What's the model?
A: We call it the pipeline.
Q: Can you explain that?
A: We needed to do something different from was done in the past, even though many of those program efforts had been individually successful. What we had done was disperse outreach efforts so that programs were rarely working together for the same goal in the same school with the same populations. For example, we would provide professional development for teachers in one school, provide curricular resources in another school and pull out students in another school on Saturday or for summer enrichment. But we weren't doing this at any one school at the same time.
Q: What does this have to do with pipelines?
A: Everything. Our aim is to partner our outreach efforts in a way that helps students as they flow from elementary schools to junior highs to high schools so that we concentrate the benefits for maximum effect. This also means that our effort with teacher development is concentrated in those same schools as is curriculum development. This fosters strong communication among all the teachers and the campus's outreach programs working along the educational pipeline.
Q: This sounds so obvious. Why has this not been done in the past?
A: So many people have asked me that. When they see this, they love it. It reminds me of the phrase: The fish are the last to discover water. It is obvious now because of the great need. We looked ahead at the new California population and saw that without an affirmative action admissions program, something dramatic had to happen.
Q: Will this be effective in bringing underrepresented students to Berkeley?
A: We are confident that it will help us preserve Berkeley's ethnic, gender, class and income diversity. But it will take time, a lot of time and a lot of hard work and even more resources. But we will look for successes each semester. We will look, for example, for a group of elementary students whose test scores improve, whose attendance improves. That's a success. And we can do this at every grade in the pipeline.
Q: When does this all get started?
A: We've already started. This is our implementation year, as a matter of fact. Over $700,000 will be spent to fund new initiatives in our four pledge districts.
Q: What are those?
A: Our pledge districts are Oakland, Berkeley, West Contra Costa and San Francisco unified. Each district has identified a K-12 pipeline of schools for us to work with.
Q: Why these districts?
A: They are in our backyards and are the four districts that initially pledged with the chancellor to adopt the goals last September. Since then, six additional districts have contacted me for involvement. We are now trying to figure out how to work with them. Funding, other resources and distance are barriers we will have to resolve there.
Q: Can you give me a real life example of the pledge in action?
A: At Washington Elementary School in West Contra Costa, one of the campus's own outreach programs, called Break the Cycle, will employ 45 undergraduate tutors to work with 90 elementary school children in grades 4, 5 and 6. They will tutor the children for two hours three days a week after school to improve their achievement in mathematics.
Q: Are only certain students eligible for this help?
A: Yes, students who score at the 70th percentile or below in mathematics on the standardized state test will be referred to the program.
Q: Are you only accepting minority students?
A: No. None of our outreach efforts exclude. However, we work with schools whose populations are often from underrepresented groups and have high numbers of low-income students.
Q: Back to Washington School. We know how the children were selected. What about the Cal tutors?
A: They are broadly recruited from the campus's undergraduate population. They are paid and trained for their efforts. I've met with these students. They are very committed and very enthusiastic about the program. They also play another role. In addition to the tutoring, they are mentors, acting as role models for many of these students. Additionally, for some of them, giving back to the community this way enhances their own success on the campus.
Q: What do the Washington teachers think about this program?
A: This is a new program at Washington. We have been enthusiastically welcomed by the teachers, and the principal, Kaye Burnside, is contributing substantial funding. At Malcolm X School in Berkeley, where Break the Cycle began, it has had a dramatic effect in increasing test scores and overall school performance.
Q: What else do you have going this fall?
A: In the other three school districts our outreach programs have adapted their services to the unique needs of each school. For example while in West Contra Costa, we focus on strengthening the K-12 mathematics curriculum, in San Francisco the focus is on technology.
Q: What will that mean in San Francisco?
A: That means resources of more than 30 academic departments will be provided to teachers in their educational pipeline. And that we will experiment with one-on-one online tutoring and mentoring between our students and San Francisco students.
Q: Is this the Interactive University we've heard about?
A: Yes. The Interactive University has been developed at Berkeley by David Greenbaum, a staff member in IS&T. What it does is put the unique resources of our departments online for teachers to use in their curriculums. For example, the Center for Particle Astrophysics has developed a program on satellites for use by K-12 teachers. It helps the kids understand how satellites in space deliver the images they see on their TVs. Another example -- the Center for Latin American Studies has put online more than 35 years of interviews with heads of state. This allows a social science teacher and the students to see and hear an interview with Golda Meier or Gorbachev.
Q: This all sounds great. Where do you go from here?
A: We have a long way to go. The school system is in great need, and we have to make sure these efforts are successful and sustainable for a long period of time. We need to see increased achievement levels and increased numbers of students competitively eligible to attend UC and Berkeley. This is the real challenge for K-12 outreach. We also have to concentrate on our other pledge goals, recruitment, academic support and affordability. Berkeley's faculty, staff and students have been tremendously generous and supportive this year. And I know they will sustain us for the future. Much of our work this year is attributable to the many efforts of the Berkeley staff, faculty and students.