First, though, in order to put this unit in perspective, we need to examine both the purpose and the form of the CAPTAIN (C[onnecticut] A[cademic] P[erformance] T[est] A[chievement] I[n] N[ew] H[aven]) program, of which this curriculum unit is a part. The funding for CAPTAIN comes from the State Interdistrict Cooperative Grants Program (1). Mirroring the desire of the state program “to attempt to reduce racial and economic isolation by giving urban and suburban students legal permission to attend schools outside of the districts in which they reside” and to “further diversity in a balanced and managed manner,” (2) the purpose of CAPTAIN is threefold:
1. scholastic preparation:
to prepare students in critical thinking skills, math, science, language arts, and the kinds of testing techniques used on the CAPT, and teachers in the instructional techniques that are most effective in promoting the acquisition of those skills
to bring together students, staff, community leaders, businesspersons, university fellows, and parents, from both urban and suburban communities who might not otherwise work or study together
: to demonstrate efficient delivery of educational services by using an otherwise dormant school on Saturday
The emphasis on the diversity component of CAPTAIN acknowledges the current inequities in Connecticut’s public educational system. Community leaders throughout the state, and all who care about the future of public education, have become increasingly outspoken regarding these inequities, among urban parents, and the relative isolation of non-minority students, among suburban parents. The Sheff v. O’Neill Case is one outcome of the urban parents’ frustration and desire for their children’s equal educational opportunity (3).
In addition, the report of Regional Forum #2, which includes most of the districts involved in CAPTAIN (from Milford east to Clinton and New Haven north to Cheshire/Wallingford) called for increased opportunities for students to interact across district lines.
The student demographics for three districts represented in the CAPTAIN program clearly show the level of racial isolation: In 1996-97 the New Haven Public Schools’ 19,303 students were 58% (11,319) African American, 27% Hispanic (5,103), 13% white (2,449), and 2% Asian (389). Over 64% of the system’s students received reduced or free lunch. Again, local districts provide comparison: Amity Regional School District No. 5 was 92% white, 5% Asian, 1% African American, and 2% Hispanic. One percent of Amity students received reduced or free lunch. The North Haven Public Schools were 92% white, 4% Asian, 3% African American, 0.9% Hispanic and 1% Native American. In North Haven 6% of the students received reduced or free lunch.
Second, what are the student goals for the program? Based on its desire to balance the present ethnic/racial isolation of public school students, CAPTAIN has three goals for its students:
1. The successful student will be able to evaluate the results of close collaboration with university and community leaders.
2. The successful student will be able to evaluate the results of working with students from other racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
3. The successful student will be able to apply the skills he/she learned in CAPTAIN in his/her regular school program.