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Monday, May 23, 2005

Harvard does a good deed

In addition to my day job at Weston High School — and my Saturday job at The Saturday Course — I teach during the summer in an extraordinary program known as the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University. In its second year now, this program provides an intensive college-preparatory opportunity for public-school students from Boston and Cambridge. The students, known as Crimson Scholars, make a three-year commitment for the summers that precede their sophomore, junior, and senior years in high school, along with extensive continuity throughout the academic year after each summer. Each Crimson Scholar receives a significant stipend, free room and board, an iBook to keep, and a digital camera and graphing calculator for use during the summer. What’s even more important is that a large number of Harvard students are hired to act as mentors to the Crimson Scholars during the summer and continuing through the year. A typical classroom contains 15 kids, one master teacher, and two mentors — quite a ratio! My job is to develop the curriculum for the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) course and to serve as one of three QR teachers.

The Crimson Scholars take a wide range of courses, including not only QR but also Writing, Science, Photography, Public Speaking, etc. Everyone makes extensive use of their iBooks both inside and out of class. The QR, Science, and Photo classes incorporate a rich technological component; in addition to the obvious software such as Word, Safari, Excel, and Photoshop, students also learn Tinderbox, which Eastgate Systems generously donated to the CSA.

Yesterday I attended the CSA annual reception. which featured presentations in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Haitian Creole. (We have quite a diverse group.) We learned that the program has had an astonishing 100% yield and 100% retention rate: every student who was admitted a year ago accepted the offer, attended last summer, and is returning this summer! Our diverse community has come together as a family... or is it more like a team? That was the issue discussed recently on the CSA electronic bulletin board. It's pleasant to have such an issue!

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