Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

A note from the Editor in Chief
The Jacket would like to apologize for the lack of context provided in the original article, as well as the unnecessary harm caused, in particular to the AMPS community. We are working to review our editorial policies and practices as related to opinion articles in order to ensure proper balance and context going forward.

I am writing in response to the May 21 opinion column, “SLCs Require More Accessible AP Classes.” This column unfortunately portrayed a false narrative about one of Berkeley High’s Small Learning Communities (SLCs) to make a point that has caused more harm to our student body than inform. As a former journalist who spent many years working in print media prior to becoming a teacher, I am deeply troubled by the inaccurate reporting that was published. In fact, I believe this article has breached all of the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics – Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently and Be Accountable and Transparent. 

The Academy of Medicine and Public Service is one of three SLCs at BHS. Along with the Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA) and Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), these three SLCs are part of a state-funded program that serves students from 10th through 12th grade. There are approximately 400 CPA academies across the state of California. (California Department of Education website) These SLCs are “structured as a school-within-a-school and incorporate integrated academic and career technical education, business partnerships, mentoring and internships” (California Department of Education website). 

AMPS is a public health and service academy and we use state funding (just like AHA and CAS) and are required to follow a specific learning academy model. Each SLC has different state requirements to meet, per its career pathway, so classes and curriculum look different. Each academy receives special funding from the State of California to ensure our kids have the appropriate programs for their specific career pathway.

The article makes a point that because AMPS does not offer certain AP English classes like AHA and CAS for 11th and 12th graders, AMPS should make the change to align with the other two academies. It states “juniors have been required for the past several years to take AP English Language. In their senior year, both progress towards AP Literature.” This is true, but it is unfair to compare CAS and AHA’s curriculum to that of AMPS as our state requirements differ due to AMPS not being an arts academy. Instead, to meet our state requirement for English, juniors are required to take Advanced English Public Service and seniors take Advanced English Public Health as well as Applied Medical English. Our requirements specify that we must have a health pathway, and all three English courses mentioned are honors classes. Furthermore, the College Board does not offer these three courses in AP; therefore, we cannot offer them in AP. And it’s clear by the name of these honors courses that they are related to health and medicine, and thus align with our career pathway. To remove these three classes from AMPS, and make the switch to AP English, would result in losing our CPA accreditation from the state. 

Our small school lottery selection at BHS is a very democratic process that gives all students the opportunity to create the educational pathway of their choice. If students want to take several AP classes, they have an opportunity to do that by joining the community that gives them that option. AMPS simply cannot make a change and bring AP classes to our program. Yes, 2022-23 was the first year that AP U.S. History and AP Government was incorporated in AMPS, but this has been a process in the making since 2015. For AMPS to bring AP to the community, we must make sure we meet the CPA requirements, ensure that AMPS teachers are College Board certified, have the appropriate curriculum and can offer the augmentation course. What editors omitted in reporting that AMPS offers AP U.S. History and AP Gov is that these are the only AP classes that fit into our CPA course progression and meet our academy’s learning goals and requirements.  

Perhaps the article’s least credible assertion was that AMPS is the “the only SLC to not have any AP offerings which is detrimental to college applications.” Outside of our SLC, current AMPS students are enrolled in AP classes like AP Statistics, AP Calculus, AP Biology and AP Computer Science. AMPS teachers, counselors and staff have worked tirelessly for our community to make sure our students are college and career ready. In fact we provide many opportunities outside of classes that strengthen our students’ applications. A few examples are:

  • We have a partnership with Berkeley City College and enroll our students to take college level classes so they can complete college courses early for free while receiving a GPA boost
  • We offer a prestigious 3-year internship with UCSF that 23 students currently participate in to gain clinical and observational experience in the medical field
  • We run the BHS Food Pantry, a paid job opportunity with students serving our Berkeley community and fighting toward eliminating food insecurity

I am proud to say that our current AMPS Class of 2023 have had a successful and rewarding college application process, which is the opposite of “detrimental.” In AMPS Class of 2023, students will be attending 8 out of 9 UC schools, Stanford and distinct out-of-state schools and HBCUs. We have alumni at Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Wesleyan University. It is noteworthy to mention that AMPS alumni who have graduated from college are currently working as lawyers, doctors, nurses and teachers to name a few public service careers. 

Besides perpetuating a false narrative about our AMPS community, I must reiterate how much this article has harmed our students and our staff. To learn that this is what The Jacket has chosen to portray about one of its own BHS academies without doing the proper investigating leads me to believe that this narrative is what the publication wanted to print. As the co-teacher leader of this academy, I would expect editors to reach out and learn how our CPA works with the Department of Education. Or perhaps, interview other SLCs and ask why they have certain AP course offerings. I would suggest talking to BHS administrators or academic counselors to understand the process it takes to be College Board certified. And most importantly, I would interview multiple students who are currently in the program, especially our seniors who have worked so hard to get to the strong and victorious position they are in today…community minded, career ready and college bound. 

Tasha Jackson

AMPS Teacher: AP Government, Economics and World History

AMPS Co-Teacher Lead