William Huyett, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent, this morning issued a statement to parents on the Berkeley High science/equity debate.

There are two important items in the statement. First, Huyett writes that the proposal is expected to come before the BUSD Board of Directors on February 3. BHS Principal Jim Slemp has been asserting throughout the controversy that the board did not need to approve the plan. Second, on my reading, the thrust of the statement is to support the elimination of 0 and 7th period labs, and find a way to provide the science curriculum — with lab time — in the regular school day.

Here’s the full text:

Dear Berkeley Families,

Berkeley High School is in the middle of a major redesign, primarily focused on four areas: Advisory Classes, Bell and Lunch Schedules, Decentralization of the Small Learning Communities, and the Configuration of Science Labs. Science is only one aspect of that; it is the subject of this letter.

At Berkeley High, students are currently required to attend science labs either before or after school for Advanced Placement (AP) classes and most College Preparatory classes. In nearly all other schools in California, science labs are held during the regular school day science classes when students are required to be in school, avoiding any conflicts for students who work, participate in sports or other extra curricular activities or are required to be at home before and after school.

The proposal from the principal and the school leadership is to integrate the labs into the regular school day, not to eliminate them as has been reported by the media. Typically in California, college prep science classes meet only five times a week instead of six times as many BHS science classes do. The proposal would bring instructional time in line with the rest of the state; however this would decrease instructional time over the current practice at BHS, especially for AP classes. Note that it is common for AP classes to have more learning time by extending a course into two years or over the summer.

The principal and leadership team believe that by offering a full science program during the regular day, science classes will be more accessible to all students, and that attendance and performance in science will improve. The proposal has received the support of the BHS School Governance Council and is expected to come before the BUSD Board of Directors on February 3, 2010. This Board review of the high school redesign has been delayed because the administration and science teachers are meeting to resolve the instructional time issues.

As Superintendent I have been following the redesign discussion closely, and have taken a special interest in the question about the science labs. I have met with concerned parents from both sides of the discussion and have personally been meeting with Principal Slemp and the science teachers. The Superintendent’s primary questions/concerns are the issue of requiring students to attend school during extended school hours; how to provide the instructional time necessary for AP and College Preparatory students and how to provide quality science labs and additional support for all science students.

Sincerely,

William Huyett
Superintendent of Schools

Catch up on the story so far with Berkeleyside’s coverage:

Endangered science at Berkeley High School [12.11.09]
Science at BHS: An open letter [12.14.09]
Science and equity: BHS parents weigh in [12.16.09]
BHS Board meeting dominated by science issue [12.17.09]
The BHS science flap — the ripples are spreading [12.30.09]
BHS science/equity debate: The latest [1.06.10]
Next on the BHS agenda: Meeting with superintendent [1.11.10]

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...