A group of Cambridge high school students began organizing around the the achievement / opportunity gap after collecting stories from their peers about race in the public education system, tracking and culture, and the gap between who takes Honors and who take College Preparatory classes. They collected stories from white students and students of color about what made them feel confident in class, what classes they were counseled to take, and how they’re identities impacted the expectations they had for themselves and that others had for them. This story project grew into a youth participatory action project (YPAR) partnership with a variety of stakeholders including Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, the Superintendent of Cambridge Schools, the School Committee and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Tufts University led by Boston Mobilization.
In 2014, the YPAR Student Achievement Project (YSAP) was born. A 7 week youth participatory action research study led by 12 Cambridge high school students and team of experienced youth workers and educators, they addressed questions about what makes students feel smart in classrooms, what kinds of mentorship result in students feeling empowered and how teachers fit into the picture. They presented their findings this fall to the superintendent, and are building the project from here with the perspective that in order to move forward youth cannot be the objects of studies. Students themselves need to conduct the studying and those students will come up with the most effective strategies to address this justice issue.
Check out original research questions from the YSAP summer 2014 program below:
|Race and Feeling Empowered What is causing students to make certain decisions about taking CP or Honors classes? How do students feel about being in those classes (the ones who do cross boundaries and those who don’t)? What role to teachers and teacher/ student relationships play in the achievement gap? (empowering/ disempowering) How does internalized racism play a role in the achievement gap?||Teacher and Student Relationships Can you do better in classes when you connect to your teacher? What is your opinion on educational relationships with students and teachers? Do classes have to be interesting to do good and get good grades?||Importance of Mentorship: “How does mentorship affect a students’ achievement?” Do students who have support systems that know the school system do better than students who have support systems who don’t know and who don’t have support at all? How many teachers have you had that have made you feel empowered and believed in, and how has that affected your achievement? What mentorship programs have worked effectively in the past and how can we make them universal in Cambridge?||What empowers students to succeed? What happens to students who don’t feel empowered? Where does the racial segregation in class level come from? How do internalized stereotypes impact teacher student relationships? How do they impact what classes kids want to take?|
|Teacher training/ Teaching styles How can we train teachers for different types of students? How does a way a teacher taught you helped or hindered your learning?
Has a teacher ever changed or altered their teaching style to benefit you?
|Administration-Teacher Trust How does the level of trust between teacher and administrator affect their ability to do a good job?||Curriculum (relevance and interesting content) How can curriculum be more relevant to student lives? How can it be presented in a more interesting manner while still having the same effectiveness?Where is the money spent in terms of professional development and curriculum development?|
|Student and teacher relationships What does a good student-teacher relationships look like? Why is it important? Why don’t students trust some teachers?||How feeling dumb in school affects you? What motivates you to do good in school? How have your teachers made you feel dumb in school? What makes kids in Honors different from kids in CP?||Teaching Styles and learning styles Do you like the teaching style? Is it interesting? Does it make you want to learn? Do you add to your teaching style? Are you concerned that your kid isn’t understanding the course?|