The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Letter to the Editors: Re “Brookline moves to delevel 9th grade”

To the Editors:

Re “Brookline moves to delevel 9th grade” (March 24, 2023):

30 years ago, I had the privilege of coming to Brookline as an immigrant and studying at the high school. The school I came from, overseas, was very much like the school envisioned by the strategic plan. It had a “deleveled” curriculum. Students were divided into classes randomly, and went through a systematic review of the materials in the subjects. Everyone took the same classes with the same level of difficulty. There was no exception. Indeed, in that overseas school, a student needed to master a certain level in each core subject, and teachers were focused on the school’s performance on the state’s tests. Studying literature meant reciting the analysis provided by the teacher for certain pre-chosen books. Studying math and physics was repetitive and tedious problem solving using technical skills. Studying history meant memorizing facts provided to everyone. In this grade factory, all students were assigned the same level, regardless of their backgrounds, skills, interests or talents. Equity was at its best.

Then I came to Brookline High School. On my first day in its castle-like building, I was given a hefty course catalog. Browsing through its pages, I felt like a kid on their first visit to an amusement park: I could actually take Italian cooking, French cooking, country-style French cooking or Chinese baking. I could take math in any of the four different levels that were offered then, and in each level, the creativity and analytical skills would be different. I could take numerous types of art and sports. I could take perhaps 20 different English classes with four different levels each, focusing on poetry, 19th-century novels, postmodern novels or medieval stories. I could take lower-level classes in subjects I struggled with and higher-level classes in my areas of strength. And in the classes I chose, I had teachers who saw me. The classes were small enough for teachers to give individual attention and feedback. I could choose who I was and who I wanted to be.

When classes are small and leveled, students can choose what subjects they seek to accelerate at and what subjects they want to take more slowly. They can get more support in a standard class in a subject they struggle with, and race to the moon and get college credit and beyond in subjects that they are passionate about. When we give students an opportunity to tailor their school agenda and effort level to their skills, their passions, and their interests, we support their freedom and their self-expression. We also give them an opportunity to study at a pace that matches their needs and allow them to build their schedules with an emphasis on what truly matters to them. At the same time, we can get better school performance results, because students tend to do better when they are studying at the level that they chose for themselves. So we also improve their college placement prospects. And we enhance the long term welfare of our residents overall.

Deleveling should also be rejected on philosophical grounds. It conflicts with the core notion of diversity and inclusion. Diversity means celebrating our differences, not uniforming our personalities, interests, and talents into a one-size-fits-all class. Our society flourishes because we celebrate our differences and manage to create a common space that lets every student be themself. Brookline High School can give student A a schedule that includes Advanced Placement (AP) math and standard physics and allow student B to pursue standard math and AP English. By trying to impose a one-size-fits-all, we deprive our students of the greatest gift Brookline High School could offer. The gift of choosing for themselves and pursuing their own goals from a shared common space.

After Brookline High School, I studied at some of the world’s top universities, including Harvard, Berkeley, and Columbia. But I have never learned in a class as much as I learned at BHS. The vision of BHS was always on my mind as a compass. There is this school in Brookline, MA, that has this hefty catalog, I told my friends, and in it, students could do anything and go anywhere and do so in four different levels of difficulty. No two students are the same. And it is this school I am privileged to be a parent at.

Please reconsider the plan to delevel classes and let students enjoy the breadth and the depth of what this school can offer. Please do not delevel classes. Students are not one size. There is not a class that fits all. Please celebrate their differences and our diversity by letting everyone pursue their own self-perceived notion of their idea of a good education.

Shlomit Azgad-Tromer

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All comments are reviewed by Cypress staff before being published. To read our complete policy, see our policies underneath the About tab.
All The Cypress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *