April 4, 2013

Another View: Portland public schools already offer advanced science and math

A charter school proponent misstates the kind of offerings that exist in traditional schools.

By JEFF BORLAND

I am writing in response to Jonathan Amory's commentary about Baxter Academy ("Maine Voices: Baxter Academy will address what public high schools can't," March 29).

I attended a math and science high school in New York City, and I believe there are many valid points about the merits of these kinds of schools. I received an incredible education that was highly focused on enhancing my math and science skills. However, my education came at a cost in terms of exposure to the other disciplines; for example, I struggle with my writing abilities.

I also wanted to point out major inaccuracies in Mr. Amory's commentary. For example, Portland Public Schools do offer computer programming courses.

I teach at Deering High School, and for the last five years, Deering has offered two computer science classes. One class, "Introduction to Programming," is taught in Java and is a project-based class where students create applications and games. In the second class, Advanced Placement Computer Science, students take the equivalent of a college-level computer science class, also in the Java language. In both classes, we have worked on smartphone programming, processor programming and other cutting-edge technologies.  

We are the only school in the Portland area to offer a live (non-online) AP computer science class. These classes can be taken by any PPS student, and after taking them, students can take university computer science classes at the University of Southern Maine.

Deering students have also competed at state and national competitions such as the Maine Cyber Defense Challenge, and last month we won best in state at a national app creation contest.

By providing incorrect information in this commentary, the author has done a disservice to the community and especially to the students who are working hard in these classes. Please visit our class website, myonlinegrades.com, which has past projects, games and an informational video.

Jeff Borland of Portland is a teacher at Deering High School.

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