Advanced Learners at CRLS

This is a compilation of advice from parents of CRLS students in need of advanced learning. Thank you to all the parents who took the time to offer advice and recommendations!   If you have information to add, please send it in to cambridgeCALA@gmail.com.

General Notes on Advanced Learners at CRLS

Some parents feel that once the kids get to the high school, the advanced learning issues are more manageable, since age and grade no longer constrain students from taking classes that meet their academic needs.  Some wish for a specific program for advanced learners at CRLS.

Some students find the homework to be more intense at CRLS, partly due to the block schedule, which entails covering material in some subjects in a more accelerated timeframe.

A general guide to class selection, written by a parent of a 9th grader, is here.

Honors and AP Classes

Advanced learners can benefit greatly from taking Honors and AP classes.  A major benefit is that they’ll have academic peers and develop strong friendships, sometimes after having been loners at their elementary and middle schools. Also the block schedule at CRLS allows for more in-depth study.

Parents of some advanced learners found that Honors classes did not offer enough challenge, but AP classes did.  They felt that AP classes offered engaging, upper-level content.

Some parents recommend having advanced learners take all Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Other parents of advanced learners feel — what’s the rush? — these students will be well challenged once they get to college.

Course selection, clearly, depends on the student and her or his individual learning needs.  For any given student who needs advanced learning, being able to take a class that is a good match to her academic level in a given content area can be a key part of her identity. If it ends up being a class in which the student excels, this can help her through times when she is struggling in other areas of life.

AVID

The AVID program — Advancedment Via Individual Determination — is for academically strong CRLS students with potential to succeed in Honors and AP classes.  It provides mentoring, tutoring, and also training in academic skills like time-management, organizational skills, notetaking, etc. A full description is here.

Scheduling

Scheduling can be difficult. Some parents have found that scheduling conflicts prevented students in need of advanced learning from taking Honors or AP classes that would have provided adequate academic challenge.  Some students have had to lump their most challenging classes together in one semester, in order to be able to take them at all.  Contact your child’s guidance couselor as soon as you become aware of a scheduling conflict, to sort it out before the semester starts.

A parent of a 9th-grader wrote this general guide on choosing CRLS classes.

Math

The sequence of math classes is described in this general guide to choosing CRLS classes. Last in the sequence is AP Calculus.  Starting 2012-2013 AP Statistics course will be reinstated, and a beginner computer programming class will be offered.

Many students in need of advanced math instruction double up on math classes, and end up finishing calculus as juniors, sophomores, or occasionally freshman.

This year the only option for additional math, beyond the sequence offered at CRLS, is college: Harvard Extension, UMass, MIT.  Those college extension options work well for some students, and are problematic for others.

If there’s demand, a multi-variable calculus class might be offered at CRLS in the future.

Science

Science sequences are important to consider.  For all introductory science courses, a strong science student can place out of the introductory level class. That gives students more flexibility for electives.  You can explore that option with your child’s guidance counselor.  The reason you might want to place out is if your child will be taking sciences at the AP level.  Think ahead of time about electives, since three of the four AP Science courses are full year/double block courses. That means if a student takes an AP Science class and an AP Calculus the same year, that will fill half of their schedule – leaving less time for electives.

A special note on the Honors physics option at CRLS:  Physics is the only core science class that offers Honors as “Embedded Honors”.  This means all CRLS students take the same Physics class, and any student can opt for the “Honors” feature, which involves additional work. Parents and students have very mixed reviews on this format.  Many students have said the class does not work well.  Some parents were concerned about the branding of Honors as meaning: “more homework.”  Also, some parents are concerned that students who have not chosen the honors option might get the message they don’t have to work as hard.

Harvard Extension Math Classes

In 10th grade and beyond, some CRLS students in need of advanced math instruction take classes through the Harvard Extension School.  Students from nearby towns take these classes as well.  Some parents were happy with this opportunity for their students. Some parents found that, while this met students’ math needs, it interfered with their participation in other school activities. Some parents noted that these courses are very rigorous.

Rindge School of Technical Arts – RSTA

RSTA  is a great asset for CRLS students.  It has classes for students interested in culinary arts, carpentry, auto mechanics, etc.  These are great are hands-on classes, a welcome change from so much learning in front of a computer.  RSTA also offers classes in biotech, engineering, and information technology, robotics, and other technical fields. Students must take an RSTA Exploratory class in the fall of 9th grade, before taking other RSTA classes.  Make sure the type of Exploratory class (two types are offered) matches your child’s interests.

After School

Parents have described the wonderful array of extracurricular programs at CRLS, as well as the very large list of varsity sports.  Some standouts include: the drama group, the robotics team, film and media arts programs, and many more.

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Thank you to all the parents who contributed to this guide! If you have information to add, please contact us at cambridgeCALA@gmail.com.