August 15th, 2014

Report on Advanced Learning in the Cambridge Public Schools

On July 29th 2014, the Cambridge Public Schools’ Academic Challenge and Enrichment Program Manager, Paula Feynman, presented to the School Committee and Administration on the state of advanced learning in CPS.  Slides from her presentation are here.

The presentation was covered by Jean Cummings in The Cambridge Day, in her article “Difficulties handling ‘advanced learners’ in new structure is test for school officials”  Here’s an excerpt:

Feynman has been working across kindergarten through eighth grades in all schools, including teaching some classes, to improve identification of accelerated learners and provide challenge for them either in their current classrooms, by moving them up a subject grade level or by creating special projects including an accelerated upper school math pathway. She is also working on improving differentiated learning in the classroom.

Who is an “advanced learner”?

There are many definitions of gifted learners, Feynman said, but “we are looking for the sweet spot” that is the intersection of “above average ability,” “creativity” and “task commitment.” She verifies a student for the advanced learner program through a variety of assessments, as a high IQ alone may not be enough if there is no appropriate program available.

In a few instances, students identify themselves as advanced learners, but at this point most are identified by family. Committee members expressed concern that this results in a pool that is disproportionately non-minority and of higher income, with those left out “probably not in families where people are advocating for them” for the program, as Nolan said. Feynman agreed that was a concern.

Also, “it is fairly well documented in research that teachers under-identify” accelerated learners, Feynman said. “We often have ideas of what a typical advanced learner looks like” and miss behavioral issues or even underachievement as tip-offs. She hopes better training will help teachers identify advanced learners.

Here’s the full article.

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