The City of Berkeley is a community rich in its diversity. This can be measured by the various racial, ethnic, economic, educational, and linguistic backgrounds of the population that inhabits the City. Therefore, it was not surprising that in 1968 the Berkeley Unified School District became the first major school system to voluntarily integrate its schools. The District initially implemented a school desegregation system by using “paired schools” and instituted a mandatory “two-way busing system.” Under this plan the District transported students from the predominately non-white West Berkeley to the predominately white East Berkeley for kindergarten to third grade and East Berkeley students to West Berkeley for fourth to sixth grade; thus, eliminating school segregation created by the de-facto residential segregation within the City.
In 1995, after six years of evaluation and community discussions, the schools were reconfigured using a K–5 Elementary and 6–8 Middle School model. To that end, the School Board adopted a “controlled choice” student assignment system. The goal of the controlled choice plan was to give families a choice of schools within one of three zones and requiring each school within the zone to meet the zone-wide racial proportions of three racial categories: black, white, and other ethnicities, at a ratio of plus or minus 5%.
Berkeley Unified School District believes that diversity in our student population:
- enriches the educational experiences of students
- advances educational and occupational aspirations
- enhances critical thinking skills; facilitates the equitable distribution of resources
- reduces, prevents or eliminates the effects of racial and social isolation
- encourages positive relationships across racial and economic lines by breaking the cycle of racial hostility to foster a community of tolerance and appreciation of students from varied and diverse backgrounds; and
- promotes participation in a pluralistic society.
In 2004, to further advance our community values, a new District’s Elementary Student Assignment Plan was developed to ensure that that each elementary school’s student population, within an identified zone, reflects the diversity of the student population attending District elementary schools within that zone. The plan’s goal is to expand the definition of diversity by integrating the elementary schools socio-economically and racially with a target range of plus or minus 5-10%.