Elechi Kadete for School Committee, 2019
Challenger running for committee for the fourth time
The candidate’s Twitter
Endorsed by Our Revolution
Background: Finance | Focuses: Early education, higher expectations, tutoring, world language
School Committee candidates were asked by parent Piotr Mitros if they would be interviewed. Of the 11, three did not respond to emails; one declined; and one declined to have their interview recorded. We provided interview questions to the candidates a week before the interview to give time to prepare. Due to the length of the interviews, we have summarized answers, with links to audio for more depth.
Why run? Now a financial analyst for the Harvard Office of Technology Development, Kadete grew up in Cambridge and went through the school system and wants to use his skills to improve the lives of students. As a student, he saw the challenges of the system, many of which have not been addressed: the preschool waiting list, math and literacy numbers and the significant difference in outcomes across the achievement gap.
One thing. Cambridge has three preschool programs with the capacity for 90 students. There are more than 500 students on a waiting list not being served. This is especially detrimental to families who can’t afford preschool, which translates to a visible gap between kids getting pre-K education and those at home watching cartoons. [Note: All candidates seem to support universal pre-K, which needs funding by the City Council.]
Vision and direction. Cambridge should have a strong school system with strong prekindergarten, K-5, upper schools and high school – and should track student outcomes after they finish school.
How much time could you devote? Kadete spends most of his time crunching numbers for Harvard. If elected, he would spend most of his time crunching numbers for the district.
Cultural expectations at schools. All students should perform well on the MCAS – now less than half of African and Hispanic students can read by third grade (versus more than 70 percent for white and Asian students). And all parents – not just those with time to come to committee meetings – should be included in decision-making. In the pre-Innovation Agenda model, schools had different personalities and some schools were better than others; all students should have access to a common, high-quality standard of education.
Academic diversity. Kadete believes we need to allocate more resources to educators in the classroom. If a group of students is struggling, a second teacher or paraprofessional should work with that group without holding the rest of the students back. Kadete opposes tracking, since lower-income students end up on lower tracks. The key priority is to provide enough support to make sure all students have the help they need to understand what’s being taught. Students performing below grade level should have free tutoring. Kadete does believe advanced learners should be challenged – such as by taking college-level classes. Special programs such as Montessori and language immersions should be expanded. In particular, we should follow the Amigos model, where students have very high academic achievement while mastering Spanish.
Upper schools and math. The upper schools are new and need proper resources. The math program needs analysis and improvement, and we should partner with universities in this area to avoid issues such as having 2020 targets for math proficiency that are lower than those achieved in 2018.
Family engagement and family rights. Committee members represent parents, and the district needs to be as transparent to parents as possible and involved them in decision-making. He supports a parents’ bill of rights, with access to children’s information and curricular materials, inclusion in discussions about children and collaborative school councils.
Outcomes and testing. Kadete believed standardized tests add to the achievement gap and there is too much teaching to the test. He wants to see a portfolio-based system used to create a common baseline plan for all students and individualized learning plans for students deviating from that baseline.
Closing thoughts? Cambridge has the best universities in the world, and they should be used more to give us the best K-12 system in the world. Since the district’s operating budget exceeds $200 million, it needs someone on the committee with the background to manage that budget in a way that maximizes the educational outcomes for each student.