As a community response to school funding shortages in the wake of Proposition 13, the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) has made a significant difference in the quality of our children’s education since 1986, restoring to the Berkeley schools the capacity to support an instructional program that has integrated the pursuit of strong foundational skills with essential opportunities for all kids to innovate, create, and collaborate with one another, and to ensure a more equitable access to such opportunities for all.
In preparation for an election to reauthorize the BSEP Measure in November of 2016, a series of three papers on the BSEP-BUSD partnership were presented to the School Board this past fall. The papers reviewed the accomplishments of existing BSEP-funded programs, and explored opportunities for innovations in the way BSEP supports and enhances the overall educational experience of students in the Berkeley Public Schools.
BSEP Paper #1 looks at the importance of a sustained community commitment to creating the pathways and experiences for kids that balance foundational skill-building and creative learning, and the recognition that our schools and our communities must direct and manage resources in a way that supports that premise. Our district believes that the arts, technology, school libraries and the numerous other endeavors often labeled as “extras” or “extracurricular” are not in fact extras but rather essentials for excellence, and warrant a prominent place in the daily educational experiences of our students. In this first paper, the essential elements that depend on significant BSEP funding are addressed, and include Class Size Reduction, Libraries, Technology, Music, Expanded Course Offerings and Site Discretionary Funds.
BSEP Paper #2 focuses on support for students and families made possible by the generous investment and continued commitment of our community to our schools through BSEP. Parent Outreach, Public Information, and Middle School Counseling are funded by BSEP to provide opportunities for engagement and support of families as well as students. Those resources are also ensuring that our District communicates openly and accessibly with the community that it serves, and that the social and emotional barriers that often interfere with student progress in the academic environment are being addressed. Recent increases in state funding have allowed for the expansion of Parent Outreach and Family Engagement services as well as social-emotional supports for students.
BSEP Paper #3 looks at the importance of providing our teaching staff with opportunities and resources that match the dynamic skill set required of teachers in their work with students, and how the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) has contributed to significant improvements in support for teaching and learning. The goal of investments in professional development and in Professional Learning Communities in every school is to support and sustain teachers in genuine, results-oriented teams that create a focus on learning settings designed to meet the needs of the students being served.