Advancing the Pledge

Local Schools Join Us at Round Table

The Berkeley Pledge's outreach efforts took a major step forward recently as Bay Area teachers, principals and school board members joined Berkeley outreach coordinators, scholars and administrators to coordinate pledge planning.

The Feb. 21-22 Berkeley Pledge K-12 Roundtable, held on campus at the Bechtel Center, drew 200 participants each day. "It was incredibly creative," said Anita Madrid, pledge coordinator.

Representatives from Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and West Contra Costa County school districts worked with each other and with Berkeley outreach coordinators to plan ways to help underrepresented minority students get better prepared for university study.

An educational pipeline--a limited number of elementary schools that feed into a junior high school that feeds into a high school--will soon be chosen in each district. Each pipeline then will be strengthened by Berkeley outreach programs.

This focused approach is one of several recommendations in the UC Berkeley Outreach Task Force report entitled "Preserving Student Diversity." The 20-member task force was chaired by sociology Professor Martín Sánchez-Jankowski.

The task force concluded that Berkeley must direct efforts on both its immediate outreach to address an anticipated drop in underrepresented minority students and to work on long-term efforts to create an effective educational pipeline that will generate increasing numbers of graduating seniors prepared to compete for admission to Berkeley and other UC campuses.

The task force report and two-day meeting are just part of the activity underway since Chancellor Tien launched the pledge last September as a way to maintain student diversity in light of the Board of Regents decision to eliminate race, ethnicity and gender preferences in admissions.

This summer will usher in the first UC Berkeley Summer Academy, an attempt to coordinate and encourage collaboration among a number of summer outreach programs.

Many of these bring underserved student populations onto campus where a diverse environment and plenty of role models for academicachievement are guaranteed.

"We are raising an umbrella over all the individual programs," said academy director Margaret Wilcox of UC Berkeley Extension. "The programs will still each have a particular focus," she said, but, in addition, Berkeley "is looking at multiple ways of integrating and capitalizing on synergy between programs."

Also being developed is the Interactive University, the technology arm of the Berkeley Pledge, said project director David Greenbaum of Information Systems and Technology.

"We want to help with the issue of information haves and have-nots," said Greenbaum.

The Interactive University is currently funded to hook the Internet into 30 community groups, including several libraries, and to provide training, technical support and collaborative experimentation.

Working with K-12 schools, the project is seeking funding to develop curriculum modules and electronic mentoring, which would pair a Berkeley student with an elementary or high school student in the area, as well as other activities.

Development of a recruitment corps to encourage highly qualified minority high school graduates to apply to Berkeley is also under way, as is active fund raising.

Tien has committed $1 million annually for five years from his discretionary funds. Another $45,415 in private gifts has been given specifically to the pledge, with an additional $42,408 pledged through the campus's Charitable Campaign.

Interest in the promise of the pledge was visible at the recent K-12 campus round table. "The excitement started to build as representatives of our outreach programs and the teachers sat down together," said pledge coordinator Madrid.

"They shared ideas of what they saw as the barriers to achievement and then started to identify effective strategies and resources and to talk about how we will work together as partners," she said.

"The fact that we would stay together for the long term was significant. Now, as a community we are going to try to keep communication open," she said.

Everyone recognized that a major problem with current outreach efforts is the lack of coordination--from the university and within the schools, said Madrid.

The advantage of gathering K-12 and Berkeley people together, she said, is that everyone focused on the same goal. "That goal is improving achievement rates for these particular students in the pipeline," she added.

Everyone agreed that having very low "UC eligibility rates for African-American and Chicano/Latino students is not acceptable, and we aren't going to sit back and let it continue."

The program being developed with the four Bay Area districts is envisioned as an important step to creating a national model that could be expanded and replicated in the future.

In addition to recommending the K-12 pipeline partnerships, the outreach task force also recommended increased recruitment of highly qualified African-American, Chicano/Latino and Native American students.

Berkeley must also increase its recruitment efforts in Southern California, where there are far more underrepresented minority students than in Northern California, said the report.

Better recruitment of community college students finishing their lower division course work is another goal.


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