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Stellar Results
Berkeley Pledge Programs Showcase Their Achievements for U.S. Department of Education Officials

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs
Posted March 3, 1999

Photo: Berkeley freshman Emily Young tutors a sixth grader at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School

Berkeley freshman Emily Young tutors a sixth grader at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, as U.S. Department of Education official Tom Nucci looks on. Noah Berger photo.

At a time when the nation's leaders are searching for ways to improve the performance of students in low-income, inner city schools, campus's Berkeley Pledge is racking up successes.

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:

  • At Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, first graders in the Pledge program, called Project First, outperformed a comparison group of second graders in 14 of 16 classroom reading exercises.
  • At Washington Elementary School in Richmond, where the Pledge offers its Break the Cycle program, the percentage of first graders scoring above the 50th percentile in standardized school district math tests increased from 30 percent to 72 percent in two years. More importantly, the percentage of second graders in the program scoring at or above the 70th percentile increased from 12 percent in fall 1996 to 47 percent in spring 1998.
  • At Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, students who participated in the Pledge's Cal Reads tutoring program saw their reading skills improve by an average of nine months.
  • In the Berkeley Pledge's Professional Development Program at El Cerrito High, the number of students taking advanced math classes, such as calculus, jumped from 125 in the 1994-95 school year to 208 in 1997-98. Among African American students at the school, where the Pledge program began in 1996-97, the number in advanced math courses jumped from 12 students in the 1994-95 school year to 39 in 1997-98.
"Berkeley Pledge outreach program teachers are now examining ways to ensure equity in the college prep courses," said Madrid. "They no longer accept the fact that there are few minority students in such classes. Instead, they expect to see a representative number of African Americans, Latinos and other minority students in these courses."

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."


March 3 - 9, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 25)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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