Bid for Trimester Block System at Berkeley High School Voted Down

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A proposal to change Berkeley High School's schedule to a trimester block system did not receive the votes needed at the high school's School Governance Council meeting on Monday to proceed on to the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education.

The proposal would have changed the current six-by-two system-students having a total of six classes over two semesters-to a five-by-three system. The change would have attempted to provide better personalization and opportunities for those at the bottom of the achievement gaps, said Peggy Scott, a parent representative on the School Governance Council.

"It's about taking what we have and making it work towards the goal of helping kids who are struggling with an equity gap that we all recognize is huge," Scott said.

The proposal came from the Berkeley High Scheduling Committee's work that began in April, said district superintendent Bill Huyett.

Mark Van Krieken, the president of Berkeley's Parent Student Teacher Association, added that part of the five-by-three system's appeal was its flexibility. By giving students more time to master fewer subjects, the proposal would hope to close the achievement gap.

"Teachers would have less students, and more time with each of those kids on any given day," Van Krieken said. "Instead of teaching to a broad range (of students), you could dial in."

Though the proposal came one vote short of the necessary two-thirds majority, Scott noted that some of the votes in favor were "lukewarm."

Van Krieken added that though many parents were "intrigued" by the proposal, there were many unanswered questions.

Two of the major concerns were the continuity of classes and teachers, Van Krieken said. The trimester system posed problems towards the curriculum, especially for Advanced Placement exams, which would not line up with the start and end of trimesters. Also, students might not have the same teacher over the course of the trimesters, which would undercut the personalization the school aims to achieve.

School officials are also trying to garner more support for an advisory program that would incorporate more tutoring and student advising in daily schedules.

"One of things that is driving the schedule change is advisory," Van Krieken said. "(We are) trying to find a schedule that will accommodate that in the most productive way possible."

According to Scott, the School Governance Council will meet again during the first week of December to move forward with the advisory program.

"People ... had strong reservations about the trimester plan, but that does not mean that they had reservations about advisory," Scott said.

Van Krieken added that other possible schedule models will be discussed.

"Each schedule has different advantages and disadvantages," he said. "(We) need a better understanding of them to make the most comfortable decision."


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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