Berkeley Unified School District recently ramped up work to understand and resolve the “uneven and unacceptable” outcomes of its Black students via its African American Success Framework (AASF), a three-year plan “to disrupt the equity gaps with a systematic process and approach of assessment, planning and execution to rigorously remediate and prevent educational, social and developmental disparities for the district’s African American students,” which was approved by the board of education in June 2022.
“Addressing and resolving this inequitable reality, however, will require extensive research, deep institutional tracking and monitoring, sustained leadership commitment, and a complete transformation and redefinition of the status quo,” according to a report on the framework. “The intervention is a systemic interruption intended to disrupt the equity gaps with a systematic process and approach of assessment, planning, and execution to rigorously remediate and prevent educational, social and developmental disparities for the district’s African American students.”
The framework is part of the district’s overall efforts to support African American students and their families. This includes the AASF and the collection of professional development, curricula and programs to be enacted over multiple years.
The AASF is a tiered support system that is initiated when students are not meeting thresholds set by the district, as defined in the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, School Plan for Student Achievement and the superintendent’s defined academic expectations. Thresholds include academic benchmarks, attendance, behavior and readiness for college. The goal of the AASF is to fully understand the academic, social-emotional, behavioral and belonging measures for each student.
As the initiative is in its early stages, staff is currently researching best practices; conducting surveys, focus groups and listening sessions for a needs assessment; and integrating the AASF interventions into the districtwide Multi-Tiered System of Support. “The AASF operates as an additional supplemental intervention with the broader context of the BUSD MTSS. Specifically, the AASF provides additional strategies and resources to support the student, teacher and family relationship(s) to ensure that students are receiving what they need, and when they need it,” the report states.
While building the tiered supports of the program, staff is also working to develop impact-oriented metrics. “As the implementation takes shape, the ability to gather and use data plays a critical role in pressure testing the infrastructure and determining its impact,” according to the report. “The emerging data becomes the basis for seamlessly integrating the practice with fidelity.”
While Berkeley USD states it has long sought to address achievement gaps experienced by its African American students, the efforts have not been successful. According to the district’s LCAP, disparities in performance in markers such as graduation, English language arts and math, A-G completion and suspensions are persistent among historically underperforming student groups, including students with disabilities, English learners, foster youth and students who are homeless and from low-income households.
“Despite comprising just about 12.5 percent of the total BUSD student population, Black/African American students represent the highest percentage of students receiving special needs services; receiving academic suspensions; and falling under academic proficiency levels, graduation rates, and A-G college eligibility rates,” according to district data.
The AASF is setting goals with measurable outcomes around improving academic performance, providing high-quality differentiated professional learning for staff, creating a safe and inclusive school climate and culture and engaging with families and communities.
To reach these goals, the AASF is integrated with all other district planning documents and will require organizational alignment, from the board and superintendent to the African American Success Manager to the teachers and service providers. The district’s AASF webpage already offers a plethora of information on events and supports available to African American students, with more to come in the future: www.berkeleyschools.net/african-american-resources.