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UC Berkeley's Berkeley Pledge outreach program posts significant gains in K-12 math and literacy
07 Feb 2000

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- New data from the 1998-1999 school year reveals that students participating in the Berkeley Pledge, a University of California, Berkeley, K-12 outreach program, have posted impressive gains in math, reading and writing.

For example, third graders in a Washington Elementary School class in Richmond who participated in a Pledge program called Break the Cycle performed so well on a standardized math exam that the class's ranking within the district rose from 30th to 9th.

Such successes continue to raise the program's stature as a national model, and the Berkeley Pledge could guide anyone seeking to turn around troubled schools.

"We're helping children excel. These are children whom many in society would have callously written off as not meriting a college education," said Anita Madrid, director of the Berkeley Pledge. "We see some little ones whose lives are turned around in six months to a year because they have hope and new skills."

The Pledge, launched in 1995 as a partnership with Bay Area schools, is guided by research, continual assessment and the in-the-trenches work of undergraduate students, campus educators and K-12 teachers and administrators.

During the 1996-1997 school year, Pledge students made significant improvements in math. In the 1997-1998 school year, they continued their math achievements and also were offered Pledge programs in literacy. In the 1998-1999 school year, students made marked improvements in three areas - math, reading and writing.

In addition to the third graders in Richmond, there are many success stories connected with the Berkeley Pledge.

They include the Cal Reads literacy program at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, where every young participant saw his or her reading scores climb; and a writing program at San Francisco's Burton High School that helped 20 percent more ninth graders pass the school district test. That writing program was designed by teachers and the Pledge-funded Bay Area Writing Project.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has hailed the Pledge as a national model. And, the National Center for Urban Partnerships recently selected Pledge Director Madrid to join an elite team of education leaders who hold national training sessions to help colleges and schools build partnerships.

Under the Berkeley Pledge, UC Berkeley educators and students offer K-12 schools help with curriculum development, teacher training, mentorships, summer school, in-class support and tutoring.

But the first step that must take place before bringing any Pledge program to a school is assessment. Campus educators meet with the school's teachers and administrators to gauge their commitment to improving education for all students.

Pledge officials also evaluate the school staff's willingness to redistribute school finances toward that goal and their interest in changing the structure and culture of their school so that, for example, all remedial classes are dropped and every student is placed in basic college-preparation classes.

The Pledge requires continual evaluation of what is working, what is not working and what needs to be changed before a particular Pledge program will be expanded to another class or another school.

According to Madrid, attempting to spread a successful program from one school to another school in that same district is the real test of a successful outreach program. That process is fraught with challenges because a new school will entail a different group of teachers, site administrators, students and resources.

The foundation of the program is research, assessment and a commitment by UC Berkeley educators to strengthen the academic performance of all students by providing them with quality teachers and the educational support they need.

"I think people default into thinking that children who aren't performing aren't trying hard enough," said Madrid. "That is such a myth. The truth is that some students have no role models and no road maps to college. We give them both."


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