Berkeley Technology Academy (BTA) is one of Berkeley’s lesser-known options for high school education. It offers public school students a curriculum in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM), Career and Technical Education, Project Based Learning, and the opportunity to recover credit. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness surrounding BTA is costing the school’s students the education they deserve.
In 2018, large-scale cuts were made to staff and security at BTA. Former Berkeley Unified School District vice-president Judy Appel told the Daily Californian that against the efforts of BUSD, enrollment at BTA was too low for the school board to justify BTA’s level of funding when the district was spending as much on schools like BHS.
Most can agree that BTA was in need of any funding it could get, with the state having recognized that the school’s students were struggling. In September of 2014, BTA’s principal at the time, Sheila Quintana, announced to students and teachers that BTA was again labeled a Program Improvement school under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Due to BTA’s low graduation rates, the percentage of students taking standardized tests, and the percentage of students doing well on those tests, the school was not meeting California’s standards for education. Still, the amount of funding BTA received before the budget cuts clearly benefited its students.
For example, current Universal Ninth Grade Ethnic Studies teacher, Rafael Piedra, attended BTA from 2010 to 2012, and was extremely grateful for his experience there. “The teachers there were really great and they really cared about their students. And for a lot of us who ended up at B-Tech we kind of needed that from a teacher, someone who really cared about us and really wanted us to succeed. So personally, that really helped me right the ship a little bit and kind of end up graduating,” he said. This shows how the correct teachers and right amount of resources can completely transform a student’s view on their education; BTA has that power.
While stories like Piedra’s show that BTA can be perfect for the right students, the right students are having trouble finding the school. As of right now, it is impossible to find BTA’s official website on the BUSD website. A lot of students and parents may not know where it is or even that it exists. If BUSD has a goal to increase enrollment, like Appel said, they must be willing to advertise it.
“I think a lot of students don’t know much about it, other than ‘Oh, that’s where all the quote unquote bad kids go,’” Piedra said. According to the Daily Californian, BTA’s enrollment has been decreasing vastly, from 136 students in 2012, to 62 in 2017. This negative stigma surrounding the program encourages bullying and normalizes stereotypes on what type of kid is a “bad” one, with 77 percent of BTA’s students being Black. BTA’s lack of positive advertisement only furthers these stereotypes.
While 62 students may seem insignificant when compared to BHS’s large student body, BUSD chose to implement BTA as an option, intending to help students learn in the ways that work best for them. Now, they must stand by that decision.