Berkeley Pledge Programs Showcase Their Achievements for U.S. Department of Education Officials
By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs
Data from the 1997-1998 school year released Feb. 25 shows that K-12 students involved in a number of outreach programs, collectively known as the Berkeley Pledge, obtained significant improvements in math and literacy.
Among the most dramatic results are figures showing that, over a four-year period, the number of African American students in advanced math courses at El Cerrito High has more than tripled.
"I am extremely gratified by the work of Berkeley students and educators involved in the Berkeley Pledge outreach programs," said Chancellor Berdahl. "Their work proves that, when given the right resources, at the right time, students from all backgrounds can excel."
Launched in 1995, the Pledge entails innovative programs designed to improve the academic performance of hundreds of students at schools in Berkeley, Oakland, West Contra Costa and San Francisco.
Campus educators and students offer these K-12 schools help with curriculum development, teacher training, mentorships, summer school, in-class support and tutoring.
On Feb. 25 and 26, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education visited local schools to see the Berkeley Pledge and its partner schools in action.
Anita Madrid, coordinator for the Berkeley Pledge, said the visit by the U.S. Department of Education officials was extremely successful.
"We were able to showcase the successes that Berkeley has registered," she said. "The Department of Education visitors were very impressed with our results. By providing this input, we can help them craft guidelines for the new federal funding that will be available for such programs in the coming year."
During his State of American Education speech a few weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley hailed the Pledge as a national model.
The dozens of Pledge programs in Bay Area schools range from math and literacy tutorial programs aimed at encouraging very young children with guidance, hugs and trophies to high school programs that prime students for rigorous college preparatory classes.
According to figures from the 1997-1998 school year:
Enrollment in such college preparatory courses is a key component in helping students qualify for admission to the state's colleges and universities.
Education department officials witnessed vivid examples of the program's successes last week at such schools as Portola Middle School in El Cerrito.
Before participating in Berkeley Pledge's Access program, eighth- grader Carmen Vega wasn't performing well in math. After she was tutored by Zeba Noorani, a Berkeley Pledge tutor and teaching assistant assigned to Portola, her grades improved.
"My parents were like, 'How did you go from a D+ to an A?'" Carmen recalled.
Asked why she subsequently decided to sign up for an algebra preparation class taught by Noorani, a broad smile quickly spread across Carmen's face.
"I always wanted to take this class," Carmen said, "because when she helped me in my regular math class, I got it better."