Photos

What evidence do we have that the 2020 Vision for equitable outcomes in Berkeley schools will reach its goal by the year 2020?

The photo, left, shows 10 members of the 2020 generation when they were in kindergarten. They are now in the sixth grade. Have they advanced significantly? Are they on target for outcome equity?

The 2019-2020 school year is just five years away. And we are nearing the point where the promise of the Vision will either flounder or be fulfilled. The promise made was that when black, brown and white students graduate from high school in 2020, they would graduate with equitable outcomes. It was a noble and beautiful promise, based on the understanding that it could only be achieved by integrating all citywide resources. (See two Berkeley Daily Planet articles: A 2020 Vision for Berkeley Education, December, 2007, and The 2020 Vision: How good is our garden?  March, 2008.)

When the Berkeley community launched the 2020 Vision it was agreed that there would be an annual “Report Card” to the entire community, prepared by the Berkeley School District and the City of in order to track progress toward the goal. Though such a Report Card has been requested several times, we have yet to receive one. My intention is not to point fingers but rather an effort to re-engage the community as a significant partner in this citywide effort, that includes the School District, City of Berkeley, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Univ. of California, the Faith Community and a multiethnic coalition of community groups.

The Report Card, which would answer the question at the top of this article, cannot be stated in generalities nor in an articulation of the measures that have been introduced, but rather must be presented as quantitative benchmarks that demonstrate what has or has not been accomplished, and what will be accomplished each year between now and that fateful year, 2020. I’m sure that everyone would like to see the benchmarks distilled down to a couple of truly illuminating graphs easily understood by all, and easily updated yearly. We originally envisioned something like the one below. That is, whites continuing to make modest gains, while Latinos and African Americans make steeper gains moving the groups toward equity.

We currently have five outstanding school board members, all elected on a 2020 Vision platform, a new superintendent, hired to achieve the Vision, and several council members and staff members who are solid advocates for it. They have taken on this enormous responsibility while making the personal sacrifices that are needed to reach equitable outcomes for our children.

It is the kind of effort that can proudly distinguish us as a community. We profusely thank them for their efforts. At the same time, we challenge them to demonstrate to the community that the 2020 Vision is on plan and continuing to move toward our goal.

We all know that after initial public enthusiasm for any substantial change effort those sentiments can wane when faced with competing priorities. Without constant vigilance, things can just get away from us. Perhaps that is what has happened, despite the best intentions.

This is a hopeful time. Spring is around the corner — metaphorically the time for rebirth and new beginnings. And here in Berkeley, it is the season for vetting and endorsing candidates for School Board, for the City of Berkeley, and for the 2020 Vision for children and youth. Three of the five School Board seats and four City Council seats will be up for election in November.

So, as candidates seek endorsements, I suggest that voters ask the candidates, incumbents and others, to answer the question that opened this letter. What evidence do we have that the 2020 Vision for equitable outcomes in Berkeley schools will reach its’ goal by the year 2020? And then use their answers as the decisive element to decide whom you will endorse and vote for.

Please do not rubber stamp the incumbents, nor elect someone new because they are new, or who simply asked you to endorse. Rather please ask the hard questions. That is our best hope for all of us to celebrate in June, 2020 a triumph worthy of this great cutting edge community — black, brown and white students, like those pictured above, graduating equitably with one another.

It will not be easy, but you can be the decisive factor in reasserting the priority of the 2020 Vision.  Our children are counting on us being clear sighted.

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Santiago Casal is the former chair of United In Action, a multi-ethnic organization of community groups united in the effort to eliminate the achievement gap in Berkeley schools.

Santiago Casal is the former chair of United In Action, a multi-ethnic organization of community groups united in the effort to eliminate the achievement gap in Berkeley schools.