Korematsu Principal’s Letter to Community

Dear Korematsu Community,

I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of an exciting new change that will take place at Korematsu Middle School in the 2017-2018 academic year. All classes in the core content areas of English, History and Science will be taught with the rigor of our courses that are currently labeled as “Advanced.” Because of this change, we will remove the familiar “Advanced” and “Regular” labels from our 7th grade core content area courses. The “Advanced” and “Regular” labels will remain on eighth grade classes for the 2017-18 school year, after which they will be removed permanently. In order to support this change and ensure the classes maintain, and even increase, the levels of rigor to which our teachers and students are accustomed, our professional development for the 2017-18 school year will focus on providing opportunities for teachers to plan for and support all learners. Teachers are encouraged to continue collaborating with each other and using their own curriculum in the way that best challenges and supports our students.

For as long as I have been the principal here, our school has operated with separate “Advanced” and “Regular” classes within the core content areas. Students have opted in to an “Advanced” track in English, History, and Science if they felt it would best suit their needs. What was once a 50% opt-in rate with half the classes “Advanced” and half “Regular,” has steadily increased over the last few years, with many more students opting for the rigor of the “Advanced” classes. Roughly 80% of our student body has enrolled in these classes for next year. The small number of students enrolled in the “Regular” track are being effectively separated out, sometimes resulting in a lack of the same opportunities given to the majority of our student body. We have determined it is time to equally challenge all our students academically, and we believe our students and staff are ready to tackle this challenge. We have successfully scaled up our program until 80% of students are in “advanced classes” and we are fully confident we can move to 100%.

The one exception to this change will be Math instruction, where students will continue to be placed into the appropriate level (including the continued offerings of Algebra and Geometry courses) based on tests and teacher recommendations given at the end of 6th and 7th grades.

Most of our faculty, myself included, have come to feel that these tracked classes are not conducive to creating a strong, academically-rigorous school culture, and have sometimes led to fewer opportunities for our highest-need students. A breadth of new research tells us that diverse classes benefit the school overall. It is our Korematsu vision that advanced, rigorous classes should be taken by all students. We believe that all of our students should have the opportunity to learn not only from their teachers, but also from each other.

I am very excited for these changes, and I strongly believe that we will see improved outcomes for all of our students. Korematsu was recently named the 6th most diverse middle school in the United States, and we have the unique and exciting opportunity to really make this a model school for all kids, no matter their race, gender, or socio-economic background.

If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to me.


Matt Burnham