Platform

Cambridge Schools for all

I’m running for School Committee because Cambridge needs to double down on its efforts to improve our schools. All schools should be places where every student is affirmed and recognized for who they are. Great learning outcomes for all students should result from engagement in learning activities that prepare them for living and working in the world of today. Our students must graduate with the ability to problem solve, value diversity, and serve the community. We need more out-of-school time opportunities and stronger partnerships between educators, families and the community.

Click each platform pillar below to read more.

Close Racial & Economic Opportunity Gaps

Cambridge students of color face substantial education disparities – in graduation rates, test scores, access to AP courses, and college readiness rates – when compared to  their white, middle-class peers. Black and brown students are disproportionately targeted with exclusionary discipline, increasing their chances of dropping out. The CPS teaching staff does not adequately represent the diversity of the student body, even though we know that students of color can benefit greatly from more educators of similar racial and economic backgrounds. Cambridge families of color have not been sufficiently included in key decision-making processes.

As a School Committee member, I will work to:

  • Expand support for racial equity initiatives developed by Building Equity Bridges and by the district Office of Equity, Inclusion & Belonging;
  • Increase recruitment and retention of educators and paraprofessionals of color by proactive efforts early in the hiring process, and by supporting better pay, working conditions, and housing subsidies, so that our educators can afford to live in Cambridge;
  • Ensure anti-racist and inclusive curricula at all grade levels that incorporate the diverse cultures and histories of all students;
  • Expand social and academic support for struggling students; include integrated, heterogeneous classes, and expand the Level Up program;
  • Promote “community schools”  – a holistic approach to address poverty-related barriers to learning by providing wrap-around services and supports; we must recognize not only the academic, but also the physical, social and emotional health needs of students and their families; 
  • Develop authentic family engagement programs with parents of color; treat them as equal partners in CPS decision-making and school governance; 
  • End the school-to-prison pipeline: oppose all forms of zero-tolerance discipline and pursue restorative justice approaches instead.

Support a Fair Contract for Cambridge Educators

Educator working conditions are student learning conditions! Our educators deserve respect now more than ever. They worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep our students and families safe and supported. Our teachers are the heart and soul of our education system. However, they’ve had a hard time in negotiations with the administration in their effort to secure a fair contract that includes both better pay that is adjusted for inflation, and also better working conditions. Recruiting and retaining excellent educators – and more educators of color – requires improving pay, benefits and working conditions. Yet, 80 percent of our educators can’t afford to live in Cambridge. If elected, I will do everything possible to support the Cambridge Education Association’s efforts to secure a fair contract. 

 

If elected to School Committee, I will: 

 

  • Support the efforts of the Cambridge Education Association to obtain excellent salaries and benefits, as well as optimal working conditions; 

 

  • Push the district to approach collective bargaining collaboratively with a “common good” framework that illuminates the connection between quality teacher compensation and its benefits for our students, families and communities; 

 

  • Implement structures and processes that give educators more voice, and treat them as equal partners in school decision-making.

Replace the MCAS High-Stakes Testing System

Despite the rosy promises of its proponents, for 20 years the MCAS testing system has perpetuated racial inequities in our schools and failed to close opportunity and achievement gaps. Research shows that MCAS scores most closely reflect family income and education level rather than student achievement or school quality. MCAS scores are a poor measure of student knowledge and progress. Since its inception, MCAS has prevented thousands of students from receiving a high school diploma. (Graduation rates rose substantially for marginalized students when the high-stakes provision was suspended during the pandemic). MCAS undermines all students by narrowing the curriculum, forcing teachers to prioritize drill-and-kill test prep at the expense of science, history, art and music, social-emotional health, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It takes the joy out of classroom inquiry and investigation. 

 

It’s an important step forward that the School Committee has supported the THRIVE Act that would eliminate the MCAS graduation requirement and establish a state commission for a next generation assessment system. But I will work to go further.

 

As a School Committee member, I will advocate for Cambridge to:

 

  • Eliminate the MCAS graduation requirement by supporting passage of the Thrive Act; 

 

  • Oppose MCAS as a measure of evaluating student achievement;

 

  • Oppose the use of MCAS scores to evaluate educators;

 

  • Adopt authentic forms of assessment such as the holistic, community-driven assessment model used by the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) which focused on more meaningful indicators of school quality such as student work and portfolios, family engagement, and school environment; 

 

  • Promote evidence-based, equity-centered approaches to school improvement, such as the “community school” approach, which addresses the multiple needs of the whole child and family.

Adequate Staffing for Special Education Inclusion

If we want to ensure a high-quality and inclusive education for our scholars who receive special education services, we must provide the additional staffing necessary to ensure they reach their highest potential. That goal can best be realized in an inclusive setting, one in which they are empowered and valued, not stigmatized or excluded. While there are different models for how to achieve this goal, adequate staffing is crucial. There’s no way around that. (Our special ed teachers already feel overwhelmed by their workloads; we need to respect and solve that problem, not ignore it.) One excellent scenario for both educators and students is a co-taught classroom, in which a general ed teacher and a special ed teacher work together in a room that includes both “typically developing” kids and kids on IEPs. Inclusion classroom sizes must be small enough to make it work. Instead of pulling kids out to work with specialists, the specialist “pushes in” and works with small groups within the context of the classroom, in addition to some pulling out for one-on-one sessions. This level of staffing may be costly, but Cambridge can afford it!

 

My best wishes to the Cambridge Education Association, the School Committee and the Administration as they continue to work on this vital issue during contract talks.

8th Grade Algebra for All

Math literacy is a key 21st century civil right, as the late Bob Moses, founder of the Algebra Project, has asserted. I support the implementation of 8th grade algebra for all students — taught in integrated, heterogeneous classrooms. It’s important that the teaching be done in a way that ensures access and supports for struggling students and extra challenges for those that need them. The administration has put forward a plan to provide Algebra I to all 8th graders by 2025.  The School Committee will need to monitor the progress of preparations leading up to 2025 and to insist on adequate staffing, professional development, and other resources for teachers as they adopt this curriculum for heterogeneous classrooms. Algebra in the 8th grade, rather than 9th grade, will make it easier for students to take advanced math courses in high school, including Calculus in their senior year. 

 

“You’re all in the top group now!”

Years ago, I benefited personally from taking 8th grade Algebra with renowned math educator Steve Barkin at the Graham & Parks school.  In his early years, Steve taught different groups of students separated by “ability,” which was the norm at the time. Only one group of students, referred by their 6th grade teachers, was taught Algebra. But one year he opened up Algebra to the entire class and offered extra supports such as after-school and Saturday tutoring sessions. He told the students, “You’re all in the top group now.” The result was a revelation to him. With the extra motivation and support, the kids who would not formerly have been included ended up performing just as well as the pre-selected students. This heterogeneous class went on to achieve the highest scores on the citywide algebra exam. So, he learned that more than just the “top students” are capable of learning algebra successfully.

 

I applaud the School Committee’s plan to hold a Round Table of math experts and other stakeholders this fall, and I look forward to a rich discussion about how universal 8th grade algebra can be done right to ensure all our scholars receive the rigorous math instruction they deserve.

Rigorous, Culturally-Affirming Curriculum

Support policies to ensure a rigorous, culturally-affirming curriculum that includes–in addition to math and English–history, science, arts, music, and languages for every student.

Shared Decision-Making & Collaborative School Governance

Include family, student, and educator voices in education by promoting shared decision-making and collaborative school governance. 

Educate the Whole Child

Promote approaches to educate and nurture the whole child, providing ample play time and recess, social-emotional supports, physical and mental health services

Adult Champions & Wrap-Around Supports

Ensure each student has an adult champion with additional academic resources and wrap-around supports for struggling scholars.

After-School Programs

Provide free or affordable after-school programs, extracurricular activities, sports, and safe recreation spaces for all children.