[BHS Etree] BHS Principal - Spring Letter and Updates

BHS etree bhs at lists.lmi.net
Thu Mar 27 21:52:01 PDT 2014

Dear BHS Families:

With the third quarter coming to a close and spring break upon us, we 
enter the home stretch of another school year. This year, 
intensely-paced as always, nevertheless continues to be a very 
productive and creative year for both students and staff at Berkeley 
High School.

The size of our school, as well as the often intense nature of its 
rhythms, makes it challenging to sometimes step back, slow down, and 
appreciate the talents, skills, and personalities of our students and of 
our staff. Yet when I find moments in the day and I am fortunate enough 
to observe a compelling demonstration in a science class, see a work of 
student art unfolding, watch kids master higher level mathematics, or 
hear kids vigorously debate a social issue, I am brought back to why we 
are here and I am instantaneously recommitted.

Rejuvenation at BHS resides in those windows wherein we can momentarily 
set aside the sometimes misplaced urgency of adult issues, set aside the 
requirements of operations and bureaucratic necessities, set aside the 
demands of constant communication, and find our kids deep in 
collaboration in a classroom, on an athletic field, a dance stage, or an 
art studio. In these spaces, where our kids often further extend and 
develop ideas, voices, and perspectives that are their own, the chaos, 
the grind, and the usual stress can often give way to a calming and 
affirming clarity about the importance of why this place is here, why 
our school matters, and why we must all, educators, students, and 
families alike, contribute to and work towards a shared vision or 
conception of our learning community as an epicenter of possibility and 

It continues to be a privilege to serve the students and families of 
this community.

Acknowledging, appreciating, and recognizing the best dimensions of our 
school should in no way indicate that we are not cognizant as a 
professional community of our imperfections. The organization that 
claims it has arrived, to paraphrase writer Jim Collins, has likely 
already begun a slide into mediocrity. At Berkeley High School we will 
then continuously work to refine and develop our universal instructional 
strategies, our belief systems, and our classroom practices to better 
endow our students with, or reinforce for them, the foundational skills 
and fundamental concepts that are essential to their wider participation 
in the curriculum, and, more importantly, to the deeper and more 
thoughtful expression of their own ideas, perspectives, and conclusions.

Toward this goal we continue to offer professional opportunities to 
staff. Through academic language and lesson design trainings, coaching, 
and opportunities for teachers to observe each other's practice, we 
believe we can improve our collective instructional strategies and 
subsequently improve student outcomes. Our universal professional 
development has aimed to better enable teachers to construct daily 
lessons that incorporate focused modeling of /their/ thinking to 
students, then facilitate guided practice for them, and subsequently 
provide opportunities for students to collaborate; specifically, to 
problem solve, discuss, negotiate, and think with their peers. It is 
this type of instructional progression, a gradual release of 
responsibility if you will, that best positions students to internalize 
new learning, and then apply that new learning independently and in 
creative and constructive ways.

Gaining proficiency as educators in the technical and structural 
dimensions of our instructional practice does not, however, relieve us 
of the responsibility to also consider and provide the contexts wherein 
the teaching and learning can emerge in a manner that is relevant and 
connected to student experience; connected in a way that demonstrates or 
generates meaning or associations to our students' current and future 
lives. In his 1902 work The Child and the Curriculum (I know, but I find 
it extremely relevant still), John Dewey offered that a "lack of any 
organic connection with what the child has already seen and felt and 
loved makes the material purely formal and symbolic," and, he notes 
subsequently, "there is a sense in which it is impossible to value too 
highly the formal and the symbolic."

Our goal then is, and will continue to be, to create experiences wherein 
well designed and thoughtfully structured lessons make new skills and 
content accessible to kids, while concurrently infusing those lessons 
with real world and real time connections to students' own communities, 
perspectives, and experiences.

It is with those connections, reflected in some of the projects and work 
being done in our various departments and learning communities (some of 
which we share below), that we develop and deliver curriculum to our 
kids that transcends the purely formal and symbolic and generates and 
inspires meaningful learning that they can then apply in real-life 
settings for the benefit of themselves, their families, and their 

I wish you all a very good spring break.

Pasquale Scuderi

Berkeley High School

*_What are We Doing?_*

*African-American Studies* hosted its third annual Black Scholars Night 
and honored several students of African descent who are thriving 
academically. Many thanks to Ms. Washington, Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Walton, 
Mr. McDonald, as well as Ms. Rhonda Jefferson, Ms. Trahan, and our 
Professor Emeritus, Dr. Robert McKnight for participating in the evening.

We once again remind families that African-American history receives the 
same UC/CSU credit as U.S. History, and encourage students and families 
to consider this option when choosing social studies in the junior year, 
or in the senior year as an elective.

Additionally, the administrative team, in consultation with the 
department as well as the College and Career Center, and in response to 
many community members and staff, plans to increase awareness and the 
availability of information on Historically Black Colleges and 
Universities (HBCU's) to students and families.

Look for a forthcoming email from Vice Principal, Vernon Walton, who 
will be inviting parents to join planning and work sessions to develop 
HBCU Tours for students, increase awareness of the annual Black College 
Expo in Oakland -which offers fee waivers, on the spot admissions, as 
well as workshops, and devise plans to increase the amount of 
information on site about these tremendous college options. For more 
information contact vernonwalton at berkeley.net 
<mailto:vernonwalton at berkeley.net>

*Academic Choice *teachers are observing one another's classrooms this 
spring and debriefing to improve practice, a process we are encouraging 
throughout the school; meanwhile, all AC freshmen, sophomores, and many 
juniors are engaged in an extensive research project in their history 
classes, exploring, assessing, and defending a thesis on a topic of 
their choice.

*English Language Learners Program:* In March, Mr. Mulholland-Beahrs, 
teaching recent immigrants in our language learners program for the 
first time, will take students to BioBlitz, a 24-hour event, sponsored 
by the National Park Service and National Geographic Society, in which 
teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other 
community members, work together to find and identify as many species of 
plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible.

A BioBlitz is being conducted in a different national park each year 
during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service 
Centennial in 2016.

Our *Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS)* is celebrating 
seniors as the college acceptance notifications come rolling in. AMPS is 
more than proud to report seniors being admitted to, among others, UC 
Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Howard, SFSU, Humboldt, UC Riverside, and 
Sonoma State, and there are more letters to come!

AMPS juniors engaged in a public health community asset mapping project 
which will culminate in our second annual health information fair for 
Berkeley High. They will be applying their newfound knowledge, as well 
as project management and community outreach skills, to a spring 
interdisciplinary unit on stress and trauma and its impact on both 
physical health and educational health.

*Green Academy* seniors are preparing their senior project, a most 
relevant education-centered endeavor wherein they will propose how to 
use the new Local Control Funding Formula money that school districts 
are receiving under California's new education funding formula.

At the end of April Juniors from Green Academy will be visiting UC 
Merced, the newest member of the UC system, which houses a strong Green 
Engineering program. Several Green Academy alums are attending UC Merced 

The third quarter in *Berkeley International High School  (BIHS)* has 
been full of activity. Our sophomore class visited four different 
colleges on the annual college field trip to build college-culture and 
learn more about the admissions process.

The annual *BIHS Art Exhibition* was held Thursday, March 27th, from 
5:30-8:30. Ms. D'Adamo once again put together an evening that showcased 
student work that was provocative, beautiful, gut wrenching, and 
colorful. Many thanks to the many incredibly talented and thoughtful 
students who showed their work.

The *Math Department* is gearing up for a significant transition to an 
international mathematics progression that will help us help students 
meet the upcoming paradigm shift in teaching and learning brought about 
by the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Elsewhere there are a record number of participants in the math club 
which meets every Tuesday at lunch (approximately 65).  They are getting 
positive results in their monthly competitions.

Our AP and IB students and teachers are gearing up for the AP and IB 
math tests. We offer 15 sections of these high level courses and our 
students typically perform very well on them.

The *World Language Department * saw French students from Donatella 
Carta's classes participate in a French contest at Cal that included 15 
schools and about 70 students. Three of Ms. Carta's students won in two 
categories out of three -- one first prize and two second prizes. None 
of the other winning schools won more than one prize.

World Language teachers have created exemplary lessons using the 
strategies of Constructing Meaning, an instructional framework that, 
among other things, highlights the role academic language plays and 
should play in both lesson design and delivery. These World Language 
Department lessons integrate the instructional practice we call Gradual 
Release of Responsibility, and the department has begun building a 
catalog of lessons for all teachers to use and share for the rest of the 
year, and as they take over different levels.

*Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS)* sophomore Jackson Grigsby was 
chosen to be Speaker of the House at the Black Youth Leadership 
Project's annual Legislative Open House in the Sacramento State Capitol 
building.  He had the opportunity to meet state representatives and 
preside over a mock trial.

CAS Staff including Ashley Daly, Amy Crawford, Philip Halpern, and 
Hasmig Minassian, along with Green team lead Dagny Dingman, recently 
presented at the Educating For Careers Conference for California 
Partnership Academies in Sacramento.  They presented on the AP 
Augmentation program, Community Retreats, and Digitial Media projects.

CAS Seniors are ending an in-depth study of education by creating 
proposals for a BHS redesign effort to help increase success for all 

CAS seniors in Advanced Digital Photography will be taking part in a 
Photo Exchange with students from Sakai High School in Japan in April.

*The Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA)* held its annual art exhibition 
at Kala Gallery and proved to be a huge success.  All students had work 
displayed at Kala and over 300 people attended the opening reception. 
Please refer to the following link for pictures of the show: 

In other AHA news, 9th grade students are studying AB 1266 (the 
transgender bathroom bill) and hearing from guest speakers about why the 
bill is important.

In science, freshmen are studying evolution, a unit which will culminate 
in a trip to the California Academy of Sciences, and freshmen also 
participated in an acting workshop with the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

*The Science department *has done extremely positive work this year 
developing common assessments for biology and chemistry. Additionally, 
Thursday June 5 from 5:30 - 7:30 is the annual AP/IB Chem and Bio Poster 
session. It will occur in the community theater galleries. Look for 
additional info via e-tree prior to the event.

*/MUSIC:/ *Several weeks back, Berkeley High Band & Orchestra musicians 
performed at a CMEA Solo & Ensemble festival held at Cal State East Bay, 
in Hayward. There were three ensembles and one solo performance, and 
each of the performances earned the highest score: Superior. Karen Wells 
and Mary Dougherty were most excited for their young musicians who 
played their pieces beautifully and were solid representatives for 
Berkeley High.

Sarah Cline and her jazz program continue to impress and have, among 
other appearances this year, been seen at Yoshi's and also traveled to 
Cuba where they played, learned, and raised funds in advance to bring 
along music supplies for their fellow musicians.

*Physical Education and Athletics: *The PE Department and athletics now 
has access to new gym space, a fitness center, and a multi-purpose room.

The winter athletic season was a success with both boys and girls soccer 
and boys and girls basketball making the playoffs.

Individual nods here go to...

  * Carlin Hudson, a four-year girls varsity soccer player with a 4.0
    GPA, who was also named league player of the year.
  * Yassine Hamdouni Alami - boys varsity soccer, a 4.0 student, also
    named league player of the year.
  * Last but not least, Desire Finnie, a 3.4 GPA student, league player
    of the year, who also led the girl's basketball team to the Northern
    California Division 1 basketball championships.

*SPECIAL EDUCATION: *30+ students in the BCC College Transition class 
took their college reading and math assessments today.

In addition, students in INE Literature Exploration classes are making 
solid progress to independently read 20 books in five different genres 
this year. They are steadily advancing in their reading levels and they 
recently wrote and recited their own "I Have a Dream" poem in tribute to 
Dr. Martin Luther King.

Students in CLC classes have also been working to complete and refine 
their resumes.

*_The Danger of a Single Story_*

One of the ways in which we can work toward all of our students having 
the opportunity to make connections to content, and to engage with 
learning in more than just formal or symbolic ways, is to ensure that 
the curriculum we choose does not promote a single story in terms of 
culture, ancestry, or experience.

The Danger of a Single Story, a compelling talk by author Chimamanda 
Ngozi at a recent TED event, notes that the "unintended consequence" of 
stories, literature, or in our case, curricula, that is homogenous in 
terms of culture and experience, is that kids can potentially become 
convinced that books, by their very nature, have to be about things with 
which they can not personally identify. The importance of inclusive and 
multicultural content has, in my opinion, rarely been articulated so 


This Spring the teacher leadership team is reviewing curriculum in all 
departments and communities to give us all a more holistic impression of 
what we are offering or conceiving of as inclusive curriculum. This work 
must help us train a critical eye on the areas where the cultural and 
experiential components of our curriculum can be broadened and improved.

*_Chicano Latino Studies_*

The reimagining and reconstituting of a vibrant Chicano Latino Studies 
Department is happening now with Vice Principal Jorge Melgoza taking the 
lead for BHS. These exciting conversations are examining the possibility 
of partnering with PUENTE, http://www.puente.net/, and the crafting of a 
certification pathway that would include literature and history courses, 
AP coursework, and advanced world language instruction.

A meeting will be held at BHS on April 25 at 6:00 p.m. For details 
please contact jorgemelgoza at berkeley.net <mailto:jorgemelgoza at berkeley.net>

*_Writing Matters (but you knew that, right?)_*

The ability to write proficiently in an academic context is essential to 
student success and factors in mightily where disparities in student 
achievement and outcomes are concerned. Struggling, developing, and even 
currently proficient writers need to further practice and develop this 
skill as it is the mode of communication and the channel of explanation 
through which almost all students will, to some degree, eventually have 
their work, their learning, and their thinking judged in a college or 
career setting.

More immediately, essays, term papers for social studies classes, lab 
reports for science, artist statements or art critiques, and numerous 
other tasks in various disciplines or subjects make the ability to 
write, more specifically, the ability to explain an idea or extend an 
argument, essential to success in subjects all across the curriculum.

The ability to express ideas in writing is certainly not the only way 
students can convey their learning or their ideas, but it is perhaps the 
most prominent, critical, and recurrent challenge placed on students 
when asked to make their reflective capabilities and their thinking 

In response to this, Berkeley High School, for the first time in many a 
person's memory, has begun a school-wide, universal writing initiative 
that this year that has asked /all/ students in grades 9 through 11 to 
write persuasive essays on regular intervals.

Teachers across subject areas have normed and scored this student work 
together giving all teachers in all subjects an opportunity to better 
calibrate around what our school's collective conception of proficient 
student writing looks like.

We are making a long term investment here and have taken very seriously 
the input and suggestions that will improve the program's effectiveness 
in future years.

We've refined our school-wide writing rubric, and believe the more 
detailed scoring will provide students with more actionable and precise 
feedback as the program grows.

Next year we are considering including data sets in each of the readings 
to better push students to synthesize and analyze information -one of 
the science articles this year will include data.

We'll also expand time for teachers to review the results of these 
essays with colleagues in order to adjust instruction in meaningful 
ways. This is especially critical as we as a school will no longer 
concede that academic literacy is the responsibility of English teachers 
alone. Supporting academic language development and academic writing 
development is now a shared responsibility across content areas; a 
sentiment formalized by the new Common Core State Standards' inclusion 
of literacy standards for science, social studies, and a host of 
technical subjects in the framework.

*_Student Course Surveys_*

Considering interest from student leadership and parents, and in 
consultation with teachers and programs who are already giving student 
surveys or course evaluations at the end of the semester or the end of 
the year, the administrative team has begun preliminary conversations 
around the development of a school-wide student course survey that could 
be given in each course or section on campus in the near future.

Obviously there are numerous details to be considered: who will have 
access to the data? How can the data be collected in a way that gives 
teachers and administrators an opportunity to truly grow and improve 
their practice from the responses?

These and many more questions need to be resolved before we move 
forward, but the interest is growing and the early discussions are 
underway. Special thanks to Mr. Campisi and Mr. Sanoff for providing 
models of this type of work to help begin the conversation, and to Mr. 
Villavicencio for connecting interested student leaders to the discussion.

A good primer on the topic can be found via the link below.

School Safety and Student Discipline_*

Through the terrific work of safety and intervention staff, the quality 
planning and classroom management of our teaching staff, and the 
frequent use of alternatives like mediation and counseling, suspension 
and discipline data is again trending downward.

There were 164 suspensions the first semester of the 12-13 school year; 
the first semester suspension totals for 13-14 were 94, */a reduction of 

/For more longitudinal context note that BHS issued 606 school 
suspensions during the 2008-2009 school year./

Total Incidents, which include teacher referrals, walk in or student 
self-referrals, and a host of other general issues requiring On Campus 
Intervention services, dropped from 880 in semester 1 of 12-13 to 768 
through semester 1 this year, a roughly 13% drop. There are admittedly 
lots of variables in this total incident data, but generally declines in 
this area can be interpreted as fewer problems and classroom referrals 
across the school.

Lots of credit to teachers, as well as the Intervention staff led by 
Ardarius McDonald, Dean of Students, David Luu, Student Welfare and 
Attendance Coordinator, and Ms. Jasdeep Mahli, Intervention Counselor.


Our best programs and most effective people stand little chance of 
having an impact on students if students are not here to be impacted or 
influenced by them. We are again pleased to report improvements in 
attendance through the end of February. Credit goes to increased 
consistency of teacher record keeping, full participation of counselors 
and administrators in making phone calls home, and most of all the 
diligence and hard work of our Dean, Mr. Roose, and the attendance team 
of Ms. Jessica Lopez, Ms. Sakuntala Yaramala, and Ms. Wanda Kelly.

Attendance is up .62% through February and our three-year change of 
+2.32% is extremely positive. At a school our size, a 1% annual gain in 
attendance is very positive so our progressive and continuing gains over 
the past few years are very respectable.

*_College and Career Center Updates_*

The College and Career Center has been active with celebrating students 
in each of our learning communities as they are receiving acceptances to 
colleges around the country!  We had our first ever Community College 
Fair with over 150 BHS Seniors (and five local community colleges) in 
attendance.  We are looking forward to our College Fair on May 4th, 
2014, with over 40 colleges coming to represent their sites and meet our 
Junior students.

*_New Facilities Open at BHS_*

The generosity of our community through the BHS South of Bancroft 
development has resulted in the opening of the "M" Building, a beautiful 
new facility that replaces the portable classrooms at the southeast 
corner of campus and provides us with 15 new state of the art 
classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a fitness facility, and a pristine new 

The classrooms provide new learning spaces with lots of natural light, 
and the gym and multi-purpose room add not only great new facilities for 
the athletic and physical education programs, but also provide 
much-needed flexibility in terms of space on campus. Springtime has been 
a particular challenge for large spaces at BHS as AP and IB exams, art 
shows, performances, and state testing all converge to create a 
challenging scheduling situation for facilities.

This spring, the new spaces will relieve some of the historical impact 
on programs and events during that time frame and also provide terrific 
new learning spaces for students and teachers alike.

The portable classrooms have been disassembled, removed, and work on a 
new softball facility is now underway at the southeast corner of campus 
(Channing and Milvia) with a preliminary completion date of next 
November. This new field will benefit physical education, the softball 
program, and other athletic programs by adding an additional outdoor space.

Again, a heartfelt thanks on behalf of our staff and students to the 
community, district facilities staff, and the project managers for an 
investment and work that will benefit kids for many years to come.
New State Assessments: SBA_*

9th and 11th GRADE STUDENTS -- SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment)

All 9th grade and 11th grade students will be taking the field test of 
the new Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA).  9th grade students will take 
the test in their history class, and 11th grade students will take the 
test in their English class. Testing will take four class days between 
April 15 and May 2.

The assessments are completely new, and were developed in response to 
the new Common Core State Standards. The SBA will have both an English 
Language Arts and a Mathematics component. This year is a field test 
only -- no results will be sent to school sites or families regarding 
student performance.

Why do we feel like this is not only an important test, but also a good 
investment of instructional time at Berkeley High School?

SBA test questions are more holistic and varied than the previous CST 
test.  Question types include short answer, essay, multiple choice, 
fill-in, as well as drag and drop.  The range of question types honor 
different ways of thinking and give students multiple ways to show what 
they know and can do.

In keeping with our increasingly technology-based culture, the SBA is 
taken completely on the computer.  We will use the field test year to 
get students familiar and comfortable with the format of this new 
assessment.  Next year, when results will be reported for the first 
time, we want to be adequately prepared.

Because the SBA is computer-based, there are many accommodations easily 
available for students, including students with special needs.  Where 
appropriate, students can take advantage of online dictionaries, 
calculators, and have text-to-speech options built seamlessly into the 
test environment.

Previous paper and pencil tests required countless hours spent by our 
counseling staff to complete accounting and packaging of testing 
materials.  By nature, the SBA is more environmentally friendly, and 
frees up our school staff to be more available for direct student support.

We are excited about the ways we have been working as a school community 
to help students think and write critically.  Specifically, the 
Constructing Meaning trainings have taken an incredible amount of 
school-wide effort, and the SBA assessment is an opportunity for the 
ways students are assessed to match the kind of teaching and learning 
happening in our classrooms.


Marguerite Fa-Kaji and Catherine Ference are the parent-volunteer 
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