Friday, January 16, 2015

CHS Students Hold 'Columbia 2025' Forum

Students at Columbia High School (CHS) in Maplewood held three forums called 'Columbia 2025' today during lunch periods in the school's Black Box Theater. The forums were part of the 'Conversations at Columbia' series, which started in December. Each forum discussed ways that current issues at CHS could be fixed within the next ten years.

Several school staff members, including Principal Elizabeth Aaron, attended the forums, which were moderated by six CHS 12th grade students. After a comment at one forum regarding how a student's performance in elementary school affected their placement in middle school, Aaron informed students that the curriculum in the South Orange Maplewood School District's elementary and middle schools has changed in the years since CHS students attended those schools. One of these changes was that pull-out Enrichment programs for students in fourth and fifth grades had ended so that "all students receive that kind of deeper and enriched learning". 

"These are the students who will graduate in 2025", Aaron said, referring to current elementary school students. 

Many students were divided over the current system of academic leveling at CHS and at South Orange and Maplewood Middle Schools. At the beginning of the forums, moderators asked students to raise their hands if they were in an Honors or Advanced Placement level course. The majority of students indicated that they were, including the moderators. One student pointed out that because of this, moderators "are not hearing enough from different groups". Some students spoke out in support of the leveling program, including one who said that "leveling is extremely important". However, others voiced opposition to the system. Comments ranged from calling leveling "an elitist way of learning" to recommending that higher levels be accessible to more students. 

Another issue discussed was the lack of diversity in some school sports teams. One student spoke about how the neighborhood that students come from often influences what sports they will play. The student pointed out that many players on the school football team live in one Maplewood neighborhood, while most of the lacrosse players live in a different part of town. The student continued by suggesting that students may only want to play a sport with people that they are friends with from their neighborhood.

Other issues discussed at the forums included special education programs in elementary schools, and the apparent differences in motivation demonstrated by teachers to students in upper and lower level courses.

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