To close the racial achievement gap, Berkeley High School’s Governance Council, made up of teachers, students and parents, has a modest proposal: Cut science labs and five science teachers to “free up more resources to help struggling students.”
Science labs mostly benefit higher-achieving white and Asian-American students, the council believes. The school’s enrollment is 33 percent white and 7 percent Asian; blacks make up 28 percent and Hispanics 13 percent.
Berkeleyside has more on the debate, including a link to a letter by the high school’s science teachers. They say dropping the labs, which are scheduled before and after the regular class schedule, would cut science instruction time by 21 percent in most science classes, 30 percent in AP classes. It’s not clear how the savings would be spent, but commenters believe the plan is to create small “learning communities,” an innovation that’s failed to show results so far.
Update: A special bond issue funds music, art and an extra lab period once a week for regular science classes and twice a week for honors and AP classes. All labs meet in period 0 (before school) or period 7 (after school). Because AP classes have time to cover more ground, high-achieving students may skip Biology I to go directly to AP Biology, skip Chemistry I for AP Chemistry and so on. A new “Science and Equity” group argues that good science teaching benefits all students and that extra lab time is most important for struggling students.