School Committee Motion: Montessori, Bi-Lingual and Data-Driven Decision-Making

In my final months on School Committee, I have been hard at work for the wellbeing of students and parents and for our school system’s effectivness.  Please see the message below; it’s about the configuration of our schools so they will better meet student and family needs.  It’s also about using data to drive our decision-making so we make changes that reflect what will work in Cambridge when it comes to achievement by ALL students and reduction of the the achievement gap, and respond to parent and student preferences.

Happy December!

I have one more month serving you on School Committee. On January 6 I will be sworn in as a City Councillor. Look for an email soon about my plans for communicating with Cantabrigians in the future.

As one of my last acts on School Committee, I am looking forward to a discussion and vote at our meeting this Tuesday, December 3 [now rescheduled to December 10], on a motion Mayor McGovern, Laurance Kimbrough and I are sponsoring that I believe has the potential to positively impact our district. It seeks to address many of the frustrations and inequities in our current configuration of schools- by expanding successful programs. Read it in the agenda for the now-rescheduled meeting; it’s motion #19-290 in section 9.

If you agree, please let the School Committee know [at schoolcom@cpsd.us]. The motion acts on a long overdue proposal put forth many years ago to follow our controlled choice policy and expand opportunities for families by replicating successful programs. Notably, start another Montessori school (east of Harvard Square, to address the geographic inequity of the current situation a) and a second Spanish bilingual school, which would be K-5 and feed into Amigos for the upper grades.

And please feel free to spread the word about this motion. Now is the time for the district to take a clear stand and acknowledge that the district can and should fully support schools struggling to attract students, and to bring programmatic change when warranted to enable schools to be successful. And to increase stability within the district, since when families don’t get a school of choice, they often opt out of our wonderful public school district or transfer int and our of schools as spaces open up. None of that is healthy for our district.

The motion recognizes that part of the job of School Committee is to use the annual data of controlled choice and achievement data and provide the vision for the administration to implement. And this motion supports the Hispanic/Latinx population in Cambridge, who were the advocates for the Amigos School from the beginning and sometimes find they cannot get a seat in the school since there is no room.

Any comments or questions, please send.

Thanks,

Patty

Background:
The motion that will be discussed and voted is the result of years of study relating to our controlled choice policy. The School Committee had two separate lengthy public reviews which included recommendations for following the policy of using choice data to support equity by ensuring that school choices are equally available to all families.

After the last review, proposals for bringing more equity into the controlled choice policy were put off, to allow for other projects, notably the upper school restructuring was in process, and then a superintendent search was a priority and then the move of central administration which just concluded. So now seems to be an optimal time to address a longstanding need in the district. Personally I think this motion has the potential to improve the district by expanding successful programs, show that we listen to our community, that we understand the need to support programs that work, and the benefit of stabilizing our schools.

Please spread the word and let your opinion be known.

Motion that whereas the School Committee has sought, through studies and reviews and in policy, to use data to ensure that schools in the district are equally successful and to expand and replicate successful programs and bring programmatic change to struggling schools and
whereas the data consistently shows that the Tobin Montessori and Amigos Schools are consistently both high achieving for a range of demographic groups and highly chosen and
whereas it is desirable to stabilize our schools and have even choices across the district, that the School Committee commits to:

  • Starting a second Montessori school, east of Harvard Square,
  • Starting a second Spanish bilingual immersion school which would be K-5, and join the Amigos School for grades 6-8
  • Explore how to expand the MLK Chinese immersion program to enable more Cambridge students to have the opportunity to learn a language of world importance and economic benefit
  • Using choice and achievement data to support programmatic change at schools to implement the above changes
  • A goal of 95% of all families receiving their first or second or third choice school in the Kindergarten lottery, which would stabilize school enrollments and provide the community more certainty.