Dear Readers of Public School Notes:
Thank you for helping me get elected to a seat on the Cambridge School Committee. I am thrilled. If you didn’t follow my campaign, below are the issues I pledged to prioritize as a School Committee member. If you would like to subscribe directly to blog posts, please do so on the home page of this blog. If you would like to subscribe to other updates, please sign up on my Emily Dexter for Cambridge website:
Hello, I’m Emily Dexter. This is my blog, Public School Notes: Notes, Essays, and Community-Based Information about the Cambridge Public Schools. I started this blog in September 2014, after years of advocating for Cambridge schools by speaking at public meetings, writing columns for our local papers, serving on parent advisory groups, and writing extensive posts on our district-wide listserve, CPSparents@yahoogroups.com. (A parent listserve that’s not just for parents!) When my younger daughter graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School last year, I moved from the listserve to the blogosphere.
This year, I am trying a new form of public school advocacy: Serving on the Cambridge School Committee.
As an elected member of the School Committee, my priorities will be:
1. Provide more resources for grades JK-3: Every child deserves to learn how to read by the end of 3rd grade, but we’re not making fast enough progress toward that goal. Our JK-3rd grade classes are some of the largest in the system, and some schools have only one reading specialist. We need to put more resources into the early grades so that every child can become a lifelong reader, as well as mathematician, artist, scientist, athlete, traveler, entrepreneur, historian, naturalist, writer, friend, and civic leader.
2. Better high school staffing: Class sizes at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School have increased over the past decade, teachers are asking for smaller classes for 9th graders, and guidance counselors have caseloads of 220 students each. We need more teachers and counselors so that all of our students, when they graduate from our public school system, are ready for post-secondary education and civic life.
3. Support every learner Our current classrooms are designed for any learner but not every learner. There is no district-wide system of teaching to every student’s unique interests, strengths, and learning style, and no system of providing intensive tutoring to students working below grade level. Some parents still feel that CPS schools do not provide enough challenge to every student. The inadequate differentiation is not surprising: Many of our classrooms are staffed with a single teacher and up to 25 very diverse learners. Paraprofessionals are invaluable in hospitals, but scarce in our schools, leaving highly trained teachers trying to meet every student’s needs without any assistance. Parents in private schools would not tolerate these high student:adult ratios.
4. Pay more attention to anti-racism and diversity in our classrooms and curricula: Though Cambridge is a multiethnic, multiracial city, we can’t take anti-racism for granted. All students need to learn about racism and other forms of prejudice through well thought-out curricula such as Facing History and Ourselves; but not just at one grade level. In addition to needing more teachers and paraprofessionals of color, our curriculum needs to relate deeply to the lives and experiences of all of our students. It’s not about political correctness and taking time away from other subjects. It’s about critical thinking, asking questions, analyzing events and texts, and thinking about how to contribute to a better world; which is what all academic study is about.
5. Begin language instruction in the elementary grades in all schools: Though Cambridge is an international city, only 4 of our 12 elementary schools offer any World Language instruction; the other 8 schools are English-only. We need to ensure that all students have the chance to start learning Spanish, Mandarin, Portuguese, French, American Sign Language, or another World Language well before they get to 6th grade. When we include other languages in our JK-5 curriculum, we demonstrate how much we admire those students who come to school already knowing one or more non-English languages.
Those are my top priorities, but not my only priorities. We need, of course, a complex and challenging JK-12 curriculum, targeted professional development as requested by teachers, and appropriate student-teacher ratios so all children have opportunities to learn, whether they are fluent English speakers or still learning English, whether they have a disability or do not, and whether their academic skills are average, below average, or advanced.
We need to allow all parents and caregivers to become empowered through school and district decision-making, particularly those not familiar with the U.S. school system.
We also need to examine our testing and assessment practices to determine what is useful and what is not; support teacher-administrator collaboration instead of top-down decision-making; provide principals with the resources they need to make their schools vibrant learning communities for students, teachers, staff, and families; conduct ongoing research and evaluation so we can make decisions based on information and not assumptions; work with the Department of Human Services to ensure all children have enriched learning opportunities in the 0-4 years; and, most importantly, provide the staffing and learning materials all our schools need to support not just academic development, but the development of the whole child, the whole young person.
Here is the link to the Cambridge Election Commission, where you can register online to vote in future elections, check your registration status, and read the brochure explaining proportional representation.https://www.cambridgema.gov/election
Unfortunately, only U.S. citizens can vote, which means many international residents are ineligible. But non-U.S. citizens can support candidates in other ways.
To learn more about our School Committee and how it works, go to the Cambridge School Committee webpage. Better yet, attend or watch School Committee meetings this fall, the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. http://www.cpsd.us/school_committee
To follow news about the both the School Committee and City Council campaigns, including events, candidate forums, cable t.v. interviews, and candidate websites, read:
Cambridge Civic Journal (online): http://www.rwinters.com/
Cambridge Day (online): http://www.cambridgeday.com/
Cambridge Chronicle (online and print): http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/