A packed cafeteria at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Last week, more than 100 community members, educators and city and school officials came together to share a meal and a vision for a future of equal opportunities for all children in Berkeley schools.

The theory behind the effort, 2020 Vision, is that success at school should not be predictable based on a child’s race or ethnicity. The goal, as the name suggests, is to eradicate the achievement gap by the year 2020. As it stands, Hispanic and black students, as a group, consistently score lower than peers on standardized tests, while having higher rates of chronic absenteeism, truancy, suspension and dropping out altogether, according to a statement posted by Berkeley Alliance, which is spearheading the Vision 2020 effort.

Max Anderson at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The first ever 2020 Vision community symposium, held at Longfellow Middle School on Oct. 11,  was a celebration of this citywide effort to close the achievement gap and ensure academic success for all children in Berkeley.

“I think it is making a difference,” said parent Abigail Surasky, who has children at Longfellow and Washington schools. “You do see the (achievement) numbers rising overall in the subgroups. It’s making everybody work more comprehensively and really look at the whole child.”

The campaign, which launched in 2008 with a joint city and school board resolution to adopt the 2020 Vision, has more than 30 listed partners throughout the city, from the mayor’s office, school district and the University of California Berkeley to a wide range of education, health and advocacy organizations.

In 2011-12, organizers attacked three priorities: (1) kindergarten readiness; (2) reading proficiency by the end of third grade; and (3) regular attendance for all children. In 2012-13, two additional goals have been added to the list: college and career readiness, and completion of algebra or an integrated math class by the end of the ninth grade.

A shared dinner at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Following dinner and short presentations about 2020 Vision, participants in the Thursday symposium split off into two sessions of breakout presentations. Topics included a summary of the data collected thus far, overviews of pilot programs that have been used to address program priorities, kindergarten readiness, student attendance and more.

Pamela Harrison-Small, executive director of Berkeley Alliance, 2020 Vision Symposium. Photo: Emilie Raguso

“We wanted to share what we’ve been doing as a community and also keep the community updated on progress,” said Pamela Harrison-Small, executive director of Berkeley Alliance, adding that the symposium will become an annual event. “It’s just the beginning. We’re going to keep moving.”

In a session on data, Debbi D’Angelo, who runs the school district’s Evaluation and Assessment department, explained how, this year, all kindergarten teachers were trained for the first time to collect and record information from students about what they knew, and what kind of preparation they had, coming into the classroom for the first time. Teachers asked about what sort of preschool experience students received, and rated students based on their ability to identify numbers and letters, count and write their names.

Tanya Moore discusses data at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

“It helps to identify where students are coming from,” said Tanya Moore, a city staff representative working on 2020 Vision. The screening will help teachers understand “the areas we need to work on with early childhood providers, and how to create supports for children and families.”

Former kindergarten teacher Tracey Iglehart, who sat in on the data session, said it’s the kind of effort that could have a huge impact going forward.

“For the first time ever, everyone will have the same baseline data,” said Iglehart. “It is so cool. It is so cool that every kindergarten teacher in the district implemented it in the same way.”

D’Angelo described efforts by the city and schools to address chronic absenteeism and truancy. The goal, she said, is to reduce the number of students who are absent for more than 10% of the year, which translates into about 18 days. The district has undertaken an aggressive prevention program to try to get students back into the classroom.

“We’re standing on the corner, asking kids to go back to class. During the Occupy movement, we walked into Occupy and tried to find Berkeley High students to bring them back to class,” she said.

Debbi D’Angelo, Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Debbi D’Angelo, Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Part of the effort involves looking at the disproportionality in attendance between white and non-white students, and finding out what is causing the absences. The school district found, for example, that some groups of students are disproportionately hospitalized for asthma reasons, so educators and health officials are working together to try to address that.

D’Angelo also said that, following implementation of the 2020 Vision program, more third grade students were found to be reading fluently than during the prior year.

“We are closing the gap, but there is still a gap, absolutely,” she said. More data will be available later this month related to 2020 Vision efforts and goals, she added.


Using 2020 Vision to help Berkeley’s children [03.08.12]
Pilot 2020 Vision projects announced [03.24.10]

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...