Regular reader Deirdre Nurre writes:

Tonight, for one night only: a rare joint work session of the School Board and the City Council convenes to present the 2020 Vision.  Session begins at 7 pm in the auditorium of Longfellow Middle School.

2020 Vision is a citywide movement to ensure academic success and wellbeing for all of Berkeley’s children and youth, by closing the achievement and health gaps in Berkeley’s public schools. The City Council and School Board made a formal agreement committing to work together to close this gap by the year 2020. A team of dedicated people from the city, school district and many parts of the community have collaborated to form draft recommendations for achieving the goals in the agreement.

I will attend tonight’s session with a certain excitement and a certain foreboding.  First, I’m surely not alone in working with various organizations that have benchmarked 2020 as the year by which we will vanquish poverty, sloth, disease, and environmental hazards.  Googling Nostradamus does not increase my confidence in these predictions, but hope springs eternal.

I am hoping to hear more about the achievement gap in public education, a term oft-used but never clearly defined.  Perhaps we’ll have a definition that will allow us to clearly mark our children’s progress.

I am hoping to hear how we can mark that progress in a district where children frequently transfer between schools, between districts, and between public and private education.  I’d like to hear how we can meaningfully help those families who desperately need service far beyond what schools can offer: housing homeless families, comforting the parents of teenaged gunshot victims, supporting parents enduring bitter divorces.  Such problems are often the biggest roadblocks to academic improvement.

Why does BUSD seem to provide so little in-class support to children with IEPs, in contrast to the impoverished Oakland school district?  Such support could help special-needs kids thrive while stabilizing classroom environments and (presumably) narrowing the achievement gap.

Why does BUSD seem to give little attention to the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program?  Is GATE ignored because it might only widen the achievement gap by boosting students at the top?

Still, I am in awe of so many of the teachers, administrators, children, and parents in BUSD.  I want to join them in making a difference in our schools.

Look for me towards the back of the Longfellow auditorium tonight.  I’ll be the one alternately moaning and applauding.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...