Who is CALA?

Cambridge Advanced Learning Association is a parent group that works to support students of every race, ethnicity and backround who are in need of advanced learning.

Mission

Cambridge Advanced Learning Association is a parent group in Cambridge, MA working to support students of every race, ethnicity and socio-economic background who are in need of advanced learning, at the same time as we support the needs of all students. We do this by by offering resources, advocacy, and community to parents of students in need of advanced learning, and by working with and supporting our teachers, specialists, and administrators.

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We define students in need of advanced learning as students who are learning beyond grade level in one or more subjects at any given time, and whose academic needs in those subjects fall outside the needs of most of the students in their classroom.  Shorthand for this is “advanced learner”, but this is not to suggest that a student is advanced in all of their learning all the time. We acknowledge and respect the flexible nature of learning, and understand that students may shift in and out of being advanced in their learning of one or more subjects over time. We value every student, no matter where they are academically.

Here are some traits of students with advanced learning needs that have been observed and documented by parents, teachers, students, and researchers —

  • Students with advanced learning needs are not necessarily pushed by their parents or teachers, their learning is advanced in certain subjects because of who they are at that time in their lives.

  • Some students with advanced learning needs develop asynchronously — their intellect develops much faster than their social and emotional skills. They consume complex information very rapidly, and need special support understanding and processing it.

  • Some students with advanced learning needs are capable of making great leaps in the way they understand and use new information.

  • Students with advanced learning needs often have those needs set aside. In a classroom where the emphasis is on helping students reach or stay at proficiency, teachers may be working to capacity, and, may not have the support, programs or resources to meet the needs of students who are learning beyond proficiency.

  • Students with advanced learning needs may crave challenge. When the material being covered in a subject is too easy for a student — any student — they get bored and frustrated. When the student also gets the message that their academic needs are not valued, they get angry. That’s when you start to see serious behavior problems and risk-taking from some students.

  • Students with advanced learning needs may not have the bar for academic excellence set high enough. They may repeatedly get the highest scores on state-wide exams or other standard measures, which shows that their actual level of ability is not being tested. These students need a high bar to strive for, just as all students do. It’s a fundamental academic need.

  • Students with advanced learning needs from disadvantaged families may be harder to identify, because of language, cultural, or other barriers. Although one student who’s getting Cs may be well challenged in school, another student who’s getting Cs may be coasting. Students with advanced learning needs from disadvantaged families are at higher risk than their advantaged peers of dropping out of high school or college.

  • Students with advanced learning needs are at risk for isolation, alienation and depression. They may struggle to find peers and forge friendships, may be subject to bullying, and may be at risk for mental health issues or substance abuse.

  • Students with advanced learning needs may not always learn “how to learn”. Some of these students learn certain subjects so fast that they don’t acquire good habits of scholarship. They don’t know how to push through something difficult. Giving these students academic challenges from the early grades on helps them “learn how to learn” and remain lifelong learners.

Traits of Advanced Learners

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