Education crisis can hurt Cambridge
The trend is as clear as it is alarming. Despite an impressive array of strengths, from talented staff to a large budget to a variety of after-school programs, the Cambridge Public School System is in serious trouble. Since 1994, our public school system enrollment has dropped to 6,022 from 8,291, a loss of more than 25 percent. Just this past school year, we lost 428 students, almost 7 percent of the student body. Despite the fact that the most recent census data show Cambridge’s school-aged population has actually increased significantly even as cps enrollments have declined, school officials continue to state housing costs are the biggest reason for people leaving the system and that solutions are “beyond” them.
The enrollment decline isn’t the only bad news about CPS. Our recent Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System results indicated that more than half of our high school 10th graders are not proficient in either English or math and that elementary school proficiency ranges from a high of 70 percent all the way down to just 4 percent depending on grade, school and subject. On top of that, we’re spending roughly $20,000 per student, the highest per-student expenditure in the state and close to twice the state average.
And in a city famed for its liberal reputation, it’s especially disturbing that our poorer, minority students are doing disproportionately poorly on the MCAS while our wealthier white kids are leaving the system.
As goes Cambridge Public Schools, so goes the city. Boston has already gone this route, with middle-class parents moving to the suburbs during their children’s school years, then moving back in once they become empty nesters.
If we don’t sort out our schools, and sort them out soon, we’ll follow suit.
My wife and I send our kids to Cambridge’s public schools and we see firsthand not only how wonderful our schools can be but the severity of the challenges our schools face. What is clear to us and to so many of our peers seems astonishingly opaque to CPS officials. We have too much overhead and not enough classroom resources. CPS should replace its excess supervisory and administrative positions with professionals who are actually helping our kids learn.
If CPS officials can’t bring themselves to admit that the quality of the CPS educational experience is helping to drive many middle-class residents from Cambridge and that, in fact, cps can do something about it, we’ll find our city has become a stratified place where the very wealthy send their kids to private schools, the poor use public schools and almost no one else has kids.
That would be a shame for all of us.
St. Gerard Terrace
The writer is a candidate for City Council.