Thursday, July 18, 2024

Challenger running for committee for the first time after seven previous terms ending in 2017

The candidate’s website | Email | (857) 383-0879


Background: Health, civil rights | Focuses: Closing the academic achievement gap, access to Algebra in all upper schools and increasing parental involvement in all aspects of school planning


Q&A

Compiled by Alex Bowers

What are the top three issues you would like to address if elected?

The top three issues I would like to address if elected are as follows: 

  • Closing the academic achievement gap. This is far and away the most important issue that the Cambridge Public Schools face. The persistent lack of educational success for many of our students is unconscionable in a school district with the talent and resources that we have. This must be a priority for the school committee, superintendent, and the Cambridge Educators Association collectively.
  • Excellence instruction in every classroom is measured by student achievement. To close the academic achievement gap, we must ensure we change the way we deliver professional development to our teachers as well as being strategic on how we support students and families in the classroom. We must have higher standards to enhance student achievement for all and we must continue to align the curriculum so that teachers and students can meet those standards. The next school committee must ensure that resources for student learning year around is strategically focused on adding academic interventions that support students learning during the school year as well as during the summer months. 
  • Access to Algebra by or before 8th grade for all students. I was shocked to find out that the School Committee and the district were still struggling with the issue of Algebra since the conversation began around 2010 on which direction CPS would embark on this subject. It was clear to me then and now that any high performing school district offers Algebra before or by eighth grade to prepare our students to go to college. This is an issue of equity and creating high standards that would ensure all our students have the academic success they deserve. This will not be easy, but this is something the district must deliver to our students. The current school committee’s timeline for 2025 is unfortunately 20 years too late. 

2. Using the Excel tutoring initiative as an example, explain how you would identify goals, monitor progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of a district program.

Utilizing the Excel tutoring initiative, I would identify goals and evaluate effectiveness of the program utilizing a variety of tools. In my previous tenure on the school committee, I sponsored a motion that was adopted by the committee that required students who failed three (3) or more major subjects to attend summer school. This was a mandatory requirement that created an intervention to help those students who are failing in schools to not fall further behind or risk not graduating. 

I would monitor progress by utilizing data that would include demographics of participants including grade, school, socioeconomic  status, report cards and test scores. I would also survey the tutors facilitating the program to see if this is the best way to support students. I would allow the program to be piloted for two academic school years and convene focus groups of students to find out what their experiences were in the program. I also recognize that we may not have enough tutors to roll out the program. However, I would be fine with incentivizing the program to recruit talent and success for this academic intervention. While I think this is a good idea as a school committee member, I would actively monitor the program closely and work with the Superintendent to identify concerns and support policy for the program. 

3. What processes would you put into place to encourage parents and caregivers to have a voice in shaping the district’s priorities?

While I understand there is an existing public process for parents and caregivers to participate through the budget and some aspects of strategic planning, I would advocate for multiple listening sessions throughout the district from primary grades through high school. I would like to seek feedback on what students’ needs are and what CPS priorities should be.

I would also direct the superintendent, through the principals, to solicit input within school communities so that we can obtain broader options among all our stakeholders. I would ensure that I lead by modeling policy to support these efforts while encouraging and supporting our Special Education Parent Advisory Council, families of color coalition as well as other community stakeholders to give their input on the district priorities. If elected, I will advocate for school committee meetings to be held four to six times per year in various neighborhoods to make them more accessible for all. 

I also would look at how we can better utilize our parent liaisons and school councils to hear the authentic voices of our families and students. I will then utilize this information to inform programming as best I can. 

4. How can the district improve its efforts to provide culturally sensitive instruction tailored to student interests, skill sets, and ambitions in light of the diversity of student experiences? 

I truly believe that this district is better positioned and can be the model and leader in the country to provide a culturally sensitive and relevant curriculum for CPS. I think it is time that we take a serious look at all curriculums in major subject areas and create a curriculum that not only is culturally sensitive and culturally relevant, but also prepares our students for the 21st century.

I believe that our students will be more prepared for future challenges if they understand and embrace our cultural differences and consider our diversity in our schools as one of our many strengths in our community. The district must have a measured and accountable commitment to changing the way we think about diversity and how we implement it into our classrooms, our culture, and our hiring process. 

5. How do you propose to improve educators’ experiences (for instance, professional development, workload, and evaluations) in the district?

I propose to improve educators’ experiences in the district with meaningful professional development. It is very important that our educators have appropriate professional development, and this is a critical need in the district currently to close achievement gap. 

For all our students to benefit from rigorous and challenging academic experiences, it is essential that our teachers are the best prepared educators in the state. The administration must be strategic in planning and providing for our educators. We should use the best available data on school achievement and solicit from educators what they believe is best for their own professional development so that they can improve instructional practices. This will benefit all students and we have the resources to support all meaningful professional development and I would support that at every turn. 

I believe that it is time for us to develop a credible assessment/evaluation tool for teaching and learning that includes student achievement in CPS. The conversation has been in the making for the past twenty-five years. This is critical for our students and families as we must ensure that we prioritize student achievement for all students in CPS. Whenever we assess students, we must include student achievement as a major factor in that assessment. While I am no fan of MCAS, I want to point out that approximately four (4) kids in the last graduating class did not pass MCAS. MCAS is not the only issue we need to focus on with student achievement as we must include curriculum and teacher instruction. I intend to have a laser focus on this issue if I have the privilege to being elected to the school committee.


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Rachel Weinstein for School Committee, 2019