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B. Improve Academic Achievement
C. Controlled Choice
School Department Administration and Superintendent:
The current administration is experienced and capable of doing excellent work and I support them. They have done amazing work in the last several years in making the restructuring of our elementary schools work and in reshaping the high school into one of the best in the State. This achievement demonstrates more insight and courage than we have seen in over two decades.
This year and next they have the challenge of successfully implementing our Innovation Agenda and the new Common Core Standards, both monumental tasks. School department leadership is up for the challenge and recognizes this is a major piece of work that can significantly improve the outcomes for students.
School Department Budget and Capital Needs:
Our surplus schools made it possible for us to minimize the impact of renovating CRLS by using the Longfellow school to house our incoming freshman-Freshman Academy, for three years. We were able to use our Upton Street building and house many administrative functions as well as our High School Extension Program.
The Longfellow school will remain a swing space as we shift to supporting the renovation or replacement of the King, King Open and Tobin Schools where our middle schools are housed. The Upton street building will house the Amigos School.
We still need a location to move our Central Administration Building out of rental space, and, perhaps the Longfellow School will be a very likely site when the capital improvements are done. It is close to the civic center of the city and has room for community use and civic activities.
Our Budget for FY13 will be challenging from the standpoint of how we will allocate resources given the shift to K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools.
The Innovation Agenda
There were strong opinions of both sides of this issue and I want to thank all of our parents and teachers who are now engaged in making the IA work.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
Controlled choice works best when "all" schools are schools of excellence and where every educator has high expectations for children. Accountability standards need to be worked out and schools not meeting those standards, after a fair amount of time and intervention, need to be closed or reinvented.
Key issues to discuss are (a) immersion programs, (b) proximity preference, (c) not filling all seats in the first round for highly chosen schools, (d) transfer policy, and most importantly how will the Innovation Agenda impact our assignment policy.
Here are a few:
One major challenge is to work with these partners so that our efforts are aligned to support our children.
Enrollment and the marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
It's unfortunate that the financial rules established by the state impacts our budget negatively. Cambridge in FY12 will pay an estimated $7,000,000 to Charter Schools where citizens have little say in how the schools are run. Moreover, these charters send the kids they can't handle or don't want back to us; and they don't enroll many English Language Learners or kids with intensive special needs, so the funding system really works against us in two ways.
Most folks are aware that we recently launched our newly designed web site, and have launched our Facebook and Tweeter accounts all packed with information for our parents and citizens. We also produce a lot of publications like Schools at a Glance and mail a budget update pamphlet to citizens each year.
Topics like the Innovation Agenda require special efforts to reach stakeholders.
I would like the school system to be represented at public functions at booths to share information with the public.
Our kindergarten enrollment has been on a steady increase for the last several years.
Elementary Schools and Curriculum
Each year the Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) is beginning Curriculum Review of each of our disciplines, the first being Math. The review will be done mostly in-house and the purpose is to determine if we are teaching all the content areas that are required of us. Our curriculum practices are supported at each school with full time Math and English coaches, district coaches and our curriculum coordinators.
High School Programs and Curriculum
Our former high school principal Chris Saheed retired after several years and we are grateful for the leadership and stewardship he has provided. Our high school continues to be talked about as one of the best in the Commonwealth. It offers students the best any high school in Massachusetts has to offer, and our college acceptances prove that. We need to continue to make sure the school serves kids at risk and kids with special needs and inspires them, too.
Students are assigned to each small learning community randomly allowing each student to enjoy a rich academic experience. Our honors and advanced placement courses and our block scheduling are working well. Our relationships with local universities grow and get richer each year. And we are making progress to implementing a program where our children can graduate with distinction.
Our sophomores are passing MCAS at high rates with increased percentages in the proficient and advanced categories. This allows for more creative offerings in their junior and senior years.
High School curriculum is now done by the Deans of Curriculum at each house that is supported by system Curriculum Coordinators.
MCAS and measuring Student Achievement
We now have instructional coaches in every school that work with teachers and school leaders. We have developed an in-house software program that teachers can access on line that help crunch the data and can show how each student did on every question thus providing opportunities to change instruction to reach every child.
The Morse school did so well this year it received a Commendation from the governor for its improvements. They used a host of strategies to succeed including assigning an adult to every child and holding Saturday classes for children in need. A great story that I think we will be an incentive for other schools to learn from.
Science scores still need much improvement, which raises the question about how much science is being taught in our schools, and do we need outside intervention. In the science capital of the word this is truly unacceptable.
Another disappointment is the results of our special needs population and English Language Learners, both groups performed below state averages and this needs to be a major focus of our efforts going forward.
Closing the persistent achievement gaps has had some improvement but still needs addressing. For me, our achievement gap issue is one reason why I supported the passage of the Innovation Agenda. Our major goal is student achievement.
We still remain one of the best performing urban school system and I think overall we are making progress.
Still, we and other districts that serve kids from distressed families and kids who are the victims of poverty and social circumstances need more than the schools to improve. For that reason, we need to build very strong bridges to the social and economic agencies that help families and get them into every school. In the same way, we need to make better use of the health care system for children who don't see a medical professional, dentist, optometrist, mental health professional or vision care specialist, because more than 1/3 of our kids have an undiagnosed problem in these categories and this gets in the way of learning and there's nothing the teacher can do to treat that.
Teacher Evaluations, Performance Measures, Contract Negotiations
We currently have a strong evaluation system that works to ensure that Cambridge keeps only place the best teachers in front of your children. Annual training by the personnel department is provided to administrators that will conduct evaluations so they are done fairly, consistently and well. The new rules and forthcoming contract will have to step that up even higher.
School Safety and Student Behavior
Cambridge designed curricula at the district level, the school level and the classroom level. Two parts of our curricula, Responsive Classroom for grades K-5, and Development Design for grades 6-8 exist. These programs provide the teachers with the tools to recognize and address bullying. It also provides the kids tools to respond to each other when circumstances arise. Respect for yourself and others are an important lesson provided. There is also peer mediation teams comprised of students who have 35 hours of training at CRLS.
Parent Involvement and School Councils
I believe that Parent Involvement is an important ingredient for successful schools. Cambridge is lucky to have many talented parents who can offer and do some much for schools. I've seen parents put up web sites for schools, do incredible data analysis for schools, raise significant funds to support activities, do volunteering at schools when they are needed, and so much more.
CCTV candidate video (2011)
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