January 25th, 2012

CALA Members Respond to Academic Challenge Plan

Last week Cambridge Superintendent Jeffrey Young published his administration’s Academic Challenge Plan, which will be voted on by the School Committee on February 7th.  Last night the Committee hosted a hearing for public comment on the Plan. More than 70 people attended, including several CALA members, many parents and students from the ISP community, and three City Councilors. Public comment lasted two hours.

At the hearing, CALA members presented a statement, signed by 12 members, and prepared with input from 31 parents, reflecting the concerns of many in the wider CALA community.  The complete statement is here, and includes this excerpt:

When we talk about gaps in student performance, we’re talking about two types of difference.  One type of difference has to do with the circumstances of a student’s life, including prenatal care, childhood nutrition, socioeconomic status, racial or other biases, stability of home life, etc.  These factors all contribute to the sub-group achievement gaps that – as a community that values social justice –  we take on as our collective responsibility to close. The other type of difference has to do with who a child is.  Their learning style, their passions, their innate disability and ability. It is about the essence of who a student is as a learner.

The idea of difference caused by social inequity is so abhorrent to us, that, in conversations, policy, and practices in the Cambridge Public Schools, as a community, we have, over the course of many years, allowed that conversation to eclipse the conversation about the needs of advanced learners. So, it is a dramatic improvement to see, in the Academic Challenge Plan, that Dr. Young and his administration are willing to acknowledge that there is such a thing as an advanced learner, and that there is tangible need for these students to be identified and appropriately educated.  It’s a significant change in our school leadership’s stance toward these students.  We thank you for your willingness to see and validate the truth of these students’ experience and their needs.

The complete statement presented by CALA members is here.


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