Trying to address a major ethnic and racial achievement gap, the school could divert funds from before- and after-school science labs filled mostly with white students. The plan has sparked debate.
Aaron Glimme’s Advanced Placement chemistry students straggle in, sleepy. It is 7:30 a.m. at Berkeley High School. The day doesn’t officially begin for another hour. They pull on safety goggles, measure out t-butyl alcohol and try to determine the molar mass of an unknown substance by measuring how much its freezing point decreases.
In the last school year, 82% of Berkeley’s AP chemistry students passed the rigorous exam, which gives college credit for high school work. The national passing rate is 55.2%. The school’s AP biology and physics students are even more successful.
Most districts would not argue with such a record, but Berkeley High’s science labs are embroiled in a debate over scarce resources with overtones of race, class and politics.
Campus leadership has proposed cutting before- and after-school labs — decreasing science instruction by 20% to 40% — and using that money to fund “equity” programs for struggling students in an effort to close one of the widest racial and ethnic achievement gaps in the state.
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