King Open FAQs

King Open is called an open or alternative school. What does that mean?
King Open, is open to different learning styles, different personalities, different cultures and family backgrounds, and varied teaching methods, and the front door and the classroom doors are always open to parents and other family members. In practice, this means that the teachers engage in active conversation with the students rather than simply deliver instruction. They focus on helping every child develop his or her skills. And they keep working on a curriculum that allows students to grapple with new material in a number of different ways and that encourages them to ask probing questions.This way of teaching is no longer really alternative. Most good schools, even those called traditional schools, have adopted many of these once-alternative methods. And King Open and many other alternative schools have readopted some traditional methods of teaching. Still, King Open maintains a remarkable degree of openness to parent involvement and especially to the individuality of every child.

King Open materials say the school has a social justice curriculum. What does that mean?
There is no one way to answer that question. At the most basic level, it means that King Open has always committed to treating each child as a valued individual within the school community. The teachers and administrators take each childs personal and academic development very seriously. At another level, it means that the children are taught from kindergarten to respect differences among themselves and more than that to find these differences interesting. They are encouraged to take pride in their own cultural backgrounds and to understand why other people are also rightfully proud. From the earliest days of kindergarten, they are helped to recognize sources of conflict between each other and how to talk about such conflicts and to resolve them fairly. As they grow older, they are encouraged to use this knowledge when thinking about history, politics, and current events.

At the intellectual level, students are introduced early to the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout our curriculum, we ask students to consider the stories of people from many different backgrounds who have worked and taken risks to improve society.

Will my child fit into King Open? I am not sure there are many other people from my background at the school.
King Open seeks to enroll students and families representing all the diversity of Cambridge. Our experience tells us that the best learning environment for students is one that is made up of students from different neighborhoods, races, cultures, economic situations, and educational experiences. We learn from each other, and the more diverse our community, the more successful our children. Please talk to Neusa DaCosta, our Family Coordinator, at 617.349.6540 x101. She can answer your questions and put you in touch with families who share your background. 

I've heard that King Open is not as structured as other schools. How can my child learn in such an unstructured environment? 
Actually, the King Open classrooms are probably more structured than many traditional classrooms. In an open classroom, there are often many different projects going on at once and students are working at many different levels. King Open classrooms operate successfully because there are very clear rules for behavior and teachers are exceptionally organized. Our teachers put in many hours of work outside the school day to make sure that their lessons and projects are rich and interesting and that their students are always working and learning. When you see the amount and depth of work produced by King Open students, you know there has to be a lot of structure!

The children call the teachers by their first names. How can they respect them?
The tradition of calling teachers by their first names dates back to the founding of King Open, when teachers and parents wanted to emphasize that they were partners with the children in the children's education. The school has kept this informality because teachers, students, and parents like it, but respect has always been a cornerstone of the King Open philosophy.

Teachers are partners in learning, but they are clearly in charge of their classrooms. Disrespect directed toward teachers, students, administrators, parents, or other school helpers such as cafeteria personnel or custodians is not permitted. Learning ways of earning and showing respect is part of the curriculum in every grade.

How can I judge how my child is doing if KO does not give grades or have an honor roll?
King Open does not give traditional report cards, but instead highly detailed progress reports. These reports break curriculum areas down into a large number of specific skills, and teachers indicate how your child is progressing with each of these skills. Please ask to see a sample report card: you'll easily see that any teacher able to fill out such a report accurately must be paying close attention to your child's individual development. In addition, older children prepare portfolios (work samples) and have individual meetings with their families and teachers to discuss their work and progress. If you want to know how your child is doing compared to other children, you can ask your teacher. In addition, King Open administers all the standardized tests all other Cambridge public schools are required to administer, and you can ask to look at your child's results.

King Open makes a big deal about parent involvement. My work schedule will not allow me to come into school very often. Will my child suffer?
No. Most parents stay involved by supporting their child's work however they can (monitoring homework, discussing questions children have, etc.), coming to parent teacher conferences and curriculum meetings, and communicating any concerns they may have to their child's teacher. Or they come to our great all school social events. When King Open teachers assign homework, they believe the child can do it alone; they don't assume that parents will do the project with the child. We're lucky that a relatively large number of parents are able to go on field trips and help with classroom projects and school committees. If you can take part, you will have a great time, but teachers respect the fact that most people's schedules do not make room for this kind of involvement.

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