Our Essential Challenge
We Must Address Root Causes, With Urgency
Cambridge is a city with abundant resources and opportunities, yet too many students are unable to thrive in our schools. Year after year, despite incremental gains, a gap persists between those students who succeed and those who struggle.
The demographics of our schools tell an urgent story: almost 47%, or over 3000, of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, 1100 live in public housing, and every Friday 500 students leave school with a backpack of nutritional food to eat over the weekend. There are food pantries in four of our elementary schools and one in the high school.
Challenges at home – such as food insecurity, language barriers, and learning disabilities – become challenges at school, and make learning hard for our most vulnerable students. I have identified four key areas that will allow us to build bridges to excellence and ensure that all our students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in the 21 st century:
My Priorities to Build Bridges to Excellence in our Schools
Accelerate Access to Early Childhood Education (ECE)
Research makes clear: the most effective way to close the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps is access to high quality preschool education. But despite the urgency, especially for our low-income students, developing a system-wide ECE program has been slow. An ECE program will not only better prepare our early learners for school, but it will also create opportunity for families to build the habit of engagement with teachers and schools.
Improve Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in all Schools
Research shows that students learn best when they feel safe and valued for who they are. To cultivate resilience in our students takes professional skill building, use of best practices to mitigate anxiety, and teacher empathy. Some schools have embraced more nurturing cultures, but this is not true district-wide. As a member of the SEL Advisory Board, I will continue to advocate for all principals to adopt best practices in their schools.
Create a Partnership in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Education
The greatest opportunity for our graduates is in the rapidly growing tech sector, both locally and globally. A recent Massachusetts report identified 120,000 jobs that go unfilled because applicants lack necessary high-tech skills and training. Building synergy between our high school, local business community, and institutions of higher learning allows us to create a STEAM Partnership, offering pathways to 21st century careers.
Recruit and Retain a Diverse Teaching Force
Research substantiates what our students tell us: they feel most affirmed and able to learn when the teachers in front of them look like them or share their cultural experiences. But despite being a majority-minority school district, less than 20% of our teachers are from under-represented populations. Our School Committee has set a goal of 30%, but does not have a plan. I began this work when I served on the School Committee and will continue to conduct the outreach necessary to build the pipeline of diverse talent our students deserve.