The Universal 9th Grade (U9) program at Berkeley High School (BHS) is in its first year, and both students and teachers seem to be reaping the benefits of having a close knit community, even if they don’t necessarily like the program.
The purpose of the U9 program is to develop support for students, build community, and provide a smooth transition between eighth and ninth grade. It models the sixth grade program in Berkeley middle schools. The program is thought to be beneficial for both the students and teachers because of the communication it encourages between them.
The U9 program assigns all incoming freshmen to a house, or “hive.” There are seven hives, and they each relate to one of U9’s core values: growth, integrity, voice, justice, empathy, respect, and leadership. A hive is composed of roughly 120 students who share four teachers. The curriculum is the same throughout all seven hives, and the students still get two electives.
Dana Moran is a teacher in the U9 program, who previously taught in Communications, Arts, & Sciences (CAS). “I love working with a team of teachers who are all teaching the same kids, and getting to know those kids … [while] being able to work together,” said Moran.
Fiona Hass, a BHS freshman, agreed with Moran. “The people you [see] and have classes with you get pretty close with, which is nice … you do kind of build a community with some people in the hive … I think that it’s nice because we all have the same teachers [as] the kids in our hive,” said Hass. “[The program] benefits the teachers because they can work together to help teach the kids in their hive,” continues Hass.
Some students feel that the program has its downsides. While the U9 program is doing a good job of creating community within the hives, some feel that the hives themselves are too isolated. “The hives are really separate, [and] we will have less time with our [future] small schools,” said Hass.
Though she appreciates the community and the bonds that the program has created, she has noticed that “you don’t really get to know a lot of other people in [the] other hives.” Additionally, Hass said, “I think that it will be good for us to have friends outside of our small school. In the years to come, we are going to have less time to get close with people in our small schools, [who] we will be having most of our classes with.”
Another disadvantage about the hives is the amount of students. “[We] can’t take them on field trips, there are just way too many. A bunch of us just went to the Exploratorium, and it took three weeks,” said Moran.
Overall, the U9 program seems to be doing well as the first year progresses. Although it has its challenges, it is doing exactly what its purpose is: building a community and providing a smooth transition into high school. The next few years will reveal the program’s true success.