The recent redistricting dilemma prompted us to seize the opportunity to offer a NEW alternative to redistricting. Our Advanced Learning Opportunities program (ALO) is a voluntary and flexible school assignment model, which addresses current and future capacity issues, AND provides equal access to a challenging curriculum.
An ALO program solves the problem by getting critical masses of children to the identified schools, without the need for redrawing district borders. The program ALSO addresses another issue, which is providing equity of opportunities for challenge for children who demonstrate readiness. A recent NY Times Op-Ed piece written by Chester Finn, a former US Assistant Secretary of Education, states:
”Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity. But the majority of very smart kids lack the wherewithal to enroll in rigorous private schools. They depend on public education to prepare them for life. Yet that system is failing to create enough opportunities for hundreds of thousands of these high-potential girls and boys.
Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor.”
According to 2012 MCAS scores, more than 55% of Winchester children achieved a score of “Advanced,” and “demonstrate a comprehensive and rigorous understanding of in-depth subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems.” An ALO program for those children who test sufficiently and demonstrate readiness, will allow the district to provide this population with the opportunity to excel.
The program has built-in flexibility, allowing the district to adapt the qualification criteria on a year-by-year, and school-by-school basis, thus responding to the current need for redistricting problem, now, and in the future.
We will expand the application of block scheduling (scheduling several grade levels for math and English at the same time), and multi-age classrooms more equitably in the Town. For example, Lincoln has a successful and sought after multi-age classroom, and Ambrose’ offers block scheduling for some math. The ALO program will utilize the same curriculum that is currently used throughout the district, and children will all participate in the same field trip, access the same specialists, etc.
Further, while simply redrawing borders in the town may solve a current enrollment problem, it will not create a more diverse culture equitably across all elementary schools. An ALO program is need-blind and race-blind, which will lead to a more equitable distribution of resources, and allow for our elementary school children to grow in an environment more representative of the global cultures we are preparing them for.
In conclusion, we believe that an ALO turns a PROBLEM into a 21st Century Educational OPPORTUNITY.
-Catherine Valega, parent
Carrie Boyd, parent
Gang Xing, parent
Gerry Mroz, educational consultant