Cambridge Schools
(updated Wednesday, December 25, 2013 11:22 PM)


Mar 26, 2012 - Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) Budget and Enrollment History: FY2000 to FY2013
(by Cambridge Family Information Network (CFIN), http://cambridgefamilyinfonetwork.com.

Jan 17, 2012 - The Cambridge Public Schools Academic Challenge Plan for the new upper schools is now available. You can view it at http://rwinters.com/school/AcademicChallenge2012Jan16.pdf. You may also wish to read the Appendices at http://rwinters.com/school/AcademicChallengeAppendices.pdf.

Personally, I'm primarily interested in the plans for mathematics in the upper schools and the high school, and it's hard to discern from this plan what exactly will happen. There appears to be a rigidity of thought regarding sticking with "differentiated instruction" without any mention of what might happen if the difference in skills within a classroom turns out to be too great. There can be a breaking point where all the "professional development" in the world cannot yield appropriate instruction for all students. This report indicates only that "the Math Academic Honors option will offer students the choice of selecting honors on a unit-by-unit basis rather than enrolling students in a separate honors course." A quick read seems to suggest that the plan is to merely direct advanced mathematics learners to supplement their education with online options - something that advanced mathematics learners may well be doing regardless of the plans of the Cambridge Public Schools.

The plan will be presented at the January 17 School Committee meeting (starting at 6:00pm) and voted on in early February.

I am very interested to hear what others may have to say about this plan. - Robert Winters

Comments?

My Follow Up Comments & Questions (based on the Jan 17 presentation):

1) I would like to hear more details about the "Subject Acceleration Protocol". It sounds almost like an IEP (individualized education program) for advanced learners. What are the possible choices that could be proposed for such students who are several years above grade level?

2) What will happen if the plans for systemwide "differentiated instruction in heterogeneous classrooms" fails to deliver on its promises and the result is primarily chaos and mediocrity? The plan leans heavily on teachers to carry out this plan - and the teachers were barely consulted in the development of the plan. It's easy to claim that "professional development" can prepare all teachers to carry this out, but the reality may prove otherwise. Is there a backup plan?

3) The Scholars Challenge outlined in the proposal is terribly vague. Much of it sounds like things I thought any school system would already be doing routinely.

4) The Math Honors Option seems somewhat contrived - an acknowledgement that the Cambridge Public Schools must do something with accelerated students while remaining strapped to the mast of its ideology. One School Committee member noted that it's a very real possibility that there will be two kinds of students - one group who chooses the honors option for every unit where this is permitted and another group who never choose the honors option. The system abhors sorting students by ability, but the students will likely do it on their own (and have no problem doing so).

5) Might there be a conflict between the Math Honors Option and the Subject Acceleration Protocol? I can easily imagine students first choosing the (embedded) honors option and then deciding to seek a more appropriate solution via the Subject Acceleration Protocol. Will acceleration be denied by school staff in order to make the embedded honors option work?

6) How exactly will the Math Honors Option be engineered? Will the Honors students gather in a separate room for these selected units? One School Committee member seemed horrified at the thought - even though this may be the only practical and sensible way to engineer this option. What will happen if there's a great disparity in the number of students choosing the Honors option? Is there sufficient flexibility in the design to manage this?

7) What will be the protocol for dealing with noncooperative/disruptive students in heterogeneous classrooms? You can talk about beliefs and "habits of scholarship" and "creative environments conducive to learning", but you cannot wish away problematic behavior.

8) What exactly is meant by culturally competent teaching? How does this differ from what teachers do now?

9) Is there a transition plan for students who will be in the 7th or 8th Grade this coming fall? [The new upper schools will consist of Grades 6, 7, and 8.]

10) How does the new plan mesh with the high school curriculum and protocols?

11) Most people will agree that choice of electives and "leveling" of classes becomes appropriate at some point. What is this point? The underlying belief in this Academic Challenge Plan is that such choices are not appropriate at Grades 6, 7, and 8 (and earlier). Is Grade 9 and the beginning of high school the point where student choice becomes permissible?


Superintendent's Contract between Cambridge School Committee and Jeffrey M. Young, 2011-2015 (HTML)

Superintendent's Contract between Cambridge School Committee and Jeffrey M. Young, 2009-2012 (HTML)


A lesson in Advanced mis-Placement (Junia Yearwood, Boston Globe, Apr 25, 2011)


Mar 8, 2011 - 'Upper school' proposal goes on with minor changes (Marc Levy)

Here are the main changes:

1) The revised Agenda now proposes an upper school campus in the Cambridgeport/Riverside neighborhood rather than two campuses in East Cambridge.

2) The revised Innovation Agenda district configuration provides JK-­8 immersion opportunities for students in the Amigos two-­way immersion school and for students in the Ola program.

3) The King School JK-5 will remain at the Putnam Avenue building.

4) The Amigos School JK-8 will relocate to the Upton Street building.

5) King upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Rindge Avenue campus).

6) Morse upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Spring Street campus).

7) Kennedy-Longfellow upper school students will attend the Putnam Avenue campus (rather than the Spring Street campus).

8) The Ola Program JK-8 will remain at the Cambridge Street building.

Revised Upper School Campuses & Feeder Schools

Upper School Campus Location Elementary School Communities Assigned (Revised) Initial Proposal
Cambridge Street

Cambridgeport
Fletcher Maynard Academy
King Open

Cambrideport School
Fletcher-Maynard Academy
King Open
Putnam Avenue
(previously at Spring Street)
Kennedy-Longfellow
King
Morse
Amigos School
Kennedy-Longfellow
Morse School
Rindge Avenue Baldwin
Peabody
Baldwin School
King School
Peabody School
Vassal Lane Graham and Parks
Haggerty
Tobin
Graham & Parks
Haggerty
Tobin

March 8 revisions (PDF)


Feb 1 (schedule updated Mar 8) - Cambridge Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young presented the proposed Innovation Agenda to the School Committee on February 1, 2011. Among the many aspects to the plan, the core recommendation is that all 12 Cambridge elementary programs would become Kindergarten through Grade 5 schools grouped into 4 groups of 3 schools which would each feed a common upper school (Grades 6 through 8) that would share space in the largest school buildings in the system.

The Report    The Appendix File    The Powerpoint Presentation

The groups:

(1) Cambrideport School, Fletcher-Maynard Academy, and King Open would feed the Cambridge Street Upper School (shared with King Open)

(2) Baldwin School, King School, and Peabody School would feed the Rindge Avenue Upper School (shared with Peabody)

(3) Amigos School, Kennedy-Longfellow School, and Morse School would feed the Spring Street Upper School (shared with Kennedy-Longfellow)

(4) The Graham & Parks School, Haggerty School, and Tobin School would feed the Vassal Lane Upper School (shared with Tobin)

In addition, the Ola Program would be moved to the King/Amigos building - the home of the district's three language immersion choices. The Graham and Parks School and the Tobin Montessori School would switch buildings.

Numerous factors were involved in these choices, but geographic proximity and the location of the four largest buildings were major factors.

Every plan has its positive, negative, intended, and unintended consequences, but this is overall a solid and simple proposal. Already, staff and parents of some schools are expressing concern about possible displacement in order to accommodate the new configuration. One can also imagine parents making choices for elementary school programs based on what they perceive as preferred upper school choices down the line. The simple fact is that no matter what plan was proposed, there was guaranteed to be some who would seek to protect what they now have and others who would figure out how best to game the system to get what they perceive as the best deal for their children.

A series of meetings will now take place culminating in a School Committee vote anticipated to occur on Tues, March 1. Here's the amended schedule:

Thurs, Feb 3, 6:00pm - School Committee Roundtable Meeting - no public comment (City Hall, Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, Feb 9, 7:00-9:00pm - Public Town Hall Meeting (Frisoli Youth Center, 61 Willow Street)

Thurs, Feb 10, 6:00-8:00pm - Public Town Hall Meeting (West Cambridge Youth Center, 680 Huron Ave.)

Tues, Feb 15, 6:00pm - School Committee Public Hearing (City Hall, Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, Mar 1, 6:00pm - Roundtable School Committee meeting on Innovation Agenda (City Hall, Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, Mar 8

6:00pm   School Committee Roundtable meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Superintendent presents final Innovation Agenda proposal

Wed, Mar 9

6:00pm   School Committee Budget Presentation  (Sullivan Chamber)

Sat, Mar 12

9:00-11:30am   School Committee Public Comment on Innovation Agenda  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, Mar 14

5:30-8:00pm   School Committee Public Comment on Innovation Agenda  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, Mar 15

6:00pm   School Committee meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

- VOTE on Superintendent's Recommendations for "Innovation Agenda"


Feb 1, 2011 - Cambridge may reduce its middle schools to 4 (by Meghan Irons, Boston Globe, Feb 1)

If the School Committee meeting tonight goes on as planned in spite of the weather, School Superintendent Jeff Young will present his proposal to reconfigure the Cambridge Public Schools to provide better and more consistent educational opportunities for students in the middle school grades 6 through 8. The proposal is not expected to go without challenge as many elementary school parents remain skeptical of any changes to the familiar K-8 model.

Jan 17, 2011 - Current district model draws support in ongoing school forums (Mark Levy's blog)

Cambridge School Goals for 2010-2012   PDF version


Superintendent mulls changes that could transform Cambridge schools - Brock Parker, boston.com Cambridge, January 12, 2011

School restructuring to get five hearings - By Marc Levy's blog, January 10, 2011

HISTORY OF CAMBRIDGE SUPERINTENDENTS OF SCHOOLS: 1868 – PRESENT

Dates Superintendent Notes
1868 – 1873    EDWIN B. HALE  
1874 – 1905 FRANCIS COGSWELL  
1905 – 1909 WILLIAM C. BATES  
1909 JOSEPH H. BEALE (Acting Superintendent and School Committee Chair)
1909 – 1912 FRANK E. PARLIN  
1912 – 1944 MICHAEL E. FITZGERALD Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1945 – 1968 JOHN M. TOBIN Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1968 – 1970 EDWARD A. CONLEY Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1970 – 1972 FRANK J. FRISOLI Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1972 – 1975 ALFLORENCE CHEATHAM Prior position: District Superintendent, Chicago Public Schools
1975 JOSEPH G. SATERIALE (Acting Superintendent: 3/15/75 – 8/15/75) Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1975 – 1984 WILLIAM C. LANNON Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Pawtucket Rhode Island
1984 – 1988 ROBERT S. PETERKIN Prior position: Assistant Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
1988 - 1997 MARY LOU McGRATH Prior position: Acting Superintendent: 7/1/88 – 12/19/88; Assistant Superintendent, Cambridge
1997 PATRICK J. MURPHY (Interim Superintendent: 7/1/97 – 9/30/97) Prior position: Deputy Superintendent, Cambridge
1997 – 2003 BOBBIE J. D’ALESSANDRO     (10/1/97 – 2/28/03) Prior position: Superintendent, Fort Myers, Florida
2003 CAROLYN L. TURK (Interim Superintendent 3/1/03 – 8/20/03) Prior position: Deputy Superintendent, Cambridge
2003 – 2009 THOMAS FOWLER-FINN (8/21/03 – 2/4/09) Prior position: Superintendent, Fort Wayne, Indiana
2009 CAROLYN L. TURK (Interim Superintendent 2/5/09 – 7/5/09) Prior position: Deputy Superintendent, Cambridge
2009 – present JEFFREY M. YOUNG (7/6/09 – present) Prior position: Superintendent, Lexington, MA

This information was adapted from the Cambridge Public Schools website.


Middle Grades Program - Recommendations of Jeffrey M. Young, Cambridge Superintendent of Schools, February 2, 2010

Cautious committee asks superintendent to flesh out middle school recommendation - By Marc Levy's blog, Feb 2, 2010


Cambridge School Committee Elections Near (by Sofia E. Groopman and Rediet T. Abebe, Harvard Crimson, Oct 27, 2009 )


Superintendent's Contract between Cambridge School Committee and Jeffrey M. Young (HTML)

2008-2009 Goals of the Cambridge School Committee and Administration

April 14, 2009: NOTICE - The Cambridge School Committee has been CANCELLED

OK, perhaps not. However, right now I'm wondering whether or not it should be. I have occasionally attended School Committee meetings over the years and have been known to opine that their primary focus is more about creating and maintaining School Department jobs than educating young people. So, when it was announced that they were having a Roundtable meeting on trends in mathematics education, I was thrilled. Just once, perhaps, the Cambridge School Committee would have a meeting that focused on educational specifics.

Alas, no. With virtually no notice, the meeting was cancelled - not postponed, just cancelled. Just a little notice buried deep in the School Department website. Granted, this meeting was not going to draw the crowds of the previous week when the race of the School Superintendent candidates was used to get people all riled up. This was just about mathematics - not race or class or gender or compact fluorescent light bulbs or Salvadoran elections - just something that young people might actually need to know something about if they ever want to get a job in Cambridge some day (other than a job in politics or the School Department).

I showed up for the meeting and was informed by one of the more helpful members of the School Committee that the meeting had been cancelled "because we have to pass a budget." It's not that I'm completely uninformed about what goes on around town - I even try in my own way to let people know what's going on. I don't mind wasting some time, but I really don't like it when others waste my time. Inserting a cancellation notice in an obscure location just doesn't cut it.

So, to the Cambridge School Committee, you can now go back to talking about all of your nonacademic issues. Let me know when I should next walk to CRLS for something other than a letdown. Maybe, just maybe, you'll grace us again with a meeting that focuses on educational specifics. I won't hold my breath. - Robert Winters

April 7, 2009 - The Cambridge School Committee tonight voted 5-2 to select Dr. Jeffrey Young as its next Superintendent of Schools. The next step is to negotiate a contract. Voting for Jeffrey Young were Joe Grassi, Marc McGovern, Patty Nolan, Luc Schuster, and Nancy Tauber. Voting for Carolyn Turk were Fred Fantini and Denise Simmons.

This was one of the most intense meetings I've witnessed in a long time. Most of the people in the audience were very partisan supporters of either Jeffrey Young or Carolyn Turk, and there is no question that this partisanship was highly correlated with race. Indeed, once the vote was taken many supporters of Carolyn Turk marched out of the room shouting "status quo" even though the School Committee had, in fact, just voted to make a change from Interim Superintendent Turk to Superintendent Young.

Without a doubt the most devastated of all the School Committee members was Mayor Simmons. To this observer, it seemed she was doing everything she could just to keep herself together. Even though all members had pledged to work together regardless who was chosen, when Fred Fantini (who had also voted for Turk) made such a motion, Mayor Simmons voted "present".

From my vantage point (and the luxury of not having to take sides on this matter) I will state that this was a very adult decision from this School Committee. This is not a comment on who they chose, but rather about the courage they showed in making their decisions based on what they really believed, regardless of political consequences. There will be some political and personal fallout as a result of this vote, but I can honestly say that my respect for all seven of them went up a notch or two based on their courage and convictions - regardless of who received their vote. - Robert Winters

Superintendent Search Update:

Cambridge School Committee announces Cambridge Superintendent Finalists

The Cambridge School Committee today announced three finalists for the next Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools. They are: Dr. Mary C. Nash, currently the Academic Superintendent for the Boston Public Schools, Dr. Carolyn L. Turk, currently Deputy Superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools, and Dr. Jeffrey M. Young, currently Superintendent of the Newton Public Schools.

Dr. Nash holds a PhD in Curriculum, Instruction, and Administration from Boston College, a Master’s degree in Child Development, also from Boston College, and a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Dr. Nash has spent her entire career in the Boston Public Schools, and served in a variety of roles, including teacher, program specialist, senior advisor, principal, cluster leader, assistant superintendent, and academic superintendent.

Dr. Turk holds an Ed. D. in Educational Administration from Seton Hall University, a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Fitchburg State College, and a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Boston State College. Dr. Turk has spent her whole career in the Cambridge Public Schools, and served in a variety of roles, including teacher, assistant principal, acting assistant superintendent, interim superintendent, and deputy superintendent.

Dr. Young holds an Ed. D. in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Education, a Master’s degree in Education from Tufts University, and a Bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis University. Prior to his time in Newton, he has served as superintendent in Lexington, and Lynnfield. He also has served as a teacher, English department chair, and curriculum coordinator in the Brookline Public Schools.


Meet the Superintendent Finalist Candidates!
TOWN HALL MEETING & FINALIST INTERVIEWS
Dates: Monday, March 30 and Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Town Hall Forum
Date: Monday, March 30, 2009, 6pm
Place: Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Henrietta Attles Meeting Room/Media Cafeteria

The Cambridge School Committee invites all community members to attend a Town Hall Forum on Monday, March 30, 2009 beginning at 6:00pm featuring the finalists for the position of Superintendent of Schools. This Town Hall meeting precedes finalist candidate interviews by the School Committee on Tuesday, March 31. This forum provides the opportunity to meet and pose questions to each of three finalist candidates and learn more about what candidate would bring to Cambridge as the next leader of the Cambridge Public Schools. Candidates will be presented individually to take and respond to community questions. This Town Hall Forum will be moderated by search consultant Dr. Dave Gee of Ray & Associates, and will be televised live on Community Access Channel 99. The School Committee values community input and all interested CPS members and partners are encouraged to participate in this very important forum! For more information, visit www.cpsd.us/supersearch or call 617-349-6620.


Finalist Superintendent Candidate Interviews!

School Committee Interviews

Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 6pm

Place: Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Henrietta Attles Meeting Room/Media Cafeteria

The Cambridge School Committee invites all community members to attend the finalist interviews on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, beginning at 6:00pm, featuring the finalists for the position of Superintendent of Schools. This meeting allows School Committee members to pose questions to each of the three finalist candidates as they, with community input choose the next leader of the Cambridge Public Schools. This meeting be televised live on Community Access Channel 99. The School Committee values community input and all interested CPS members and partners are encouraged to attend this very important meeting! For more information, visit www.cpsd.us/supersearch or call 617-349-6620.

Nov 10, 2008 - Announcement from the Cambridge School Committee and Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn:

Per his public announcement in September, Superintendent Thomas Fowler Finn will be retiring as superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools on February 4, 2009. The Superintendent thanks the School Committee for accommodating his schedule and the School Committee thanks the superintendent for agreeing to be available if needed during his leave beginning November 14, 2008 extending through the February 4, 2009 retirement date. Both parties are pleased to announce that Deputy Superintendent Carolyn Turk will serve as acting superintendent until Feb. 4, 2009.

The School Committee would like to thank Dr. Fowler Finn for his five years of service to the district. He and his talented staff had many accomplishments, including increasing the graduation rate at CRLS and implementing the block scheduling model, creating a public Montessori school, increasing enrollment, developing a new teacher evaluation system and creating the Cambridge Leadership Network. The School Committee has begun the search for a new superintendent of schools and will soon be announcing a process that will include meetings with stakeholders including parents, staff, administrators, as well as business and community leaders.

A Message from the Superintendent of Schools:

Dear Cambridge Public Schools community members,

This early exit allows for a smoother transition for all parties involved ­ the School Committee can begin work with the capable Dr. Carolyn Turk on the budget and impending matters, and I can get an early start on the next phase of my career while making myself available to Dr. Turk and the School Committee as needed. I have an exciting opportunity to pursue, and the timing of my departure could not be better.

I’ve spent nearly 38 years in public education as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent in numerous locales, including Vermont, New York, and Indiana, and I would be remiss if I didn’t stress to you my firm belief that the Cambridge Public Schools faculty and staff is the most talented and dedicated I have ever worked with. Nowhere else have I seen custodians, cafeteria workers, clerks, technicians, teachers, and administrators who care as much as you do about the students we serve.

I have truly enjoyed working here, in a city that values education like no other, and supports its school system in ways not seen anywhere else in this country or perhaps the world, and will always value the many professional relationships and friendships I’ve made during my time here.

Finally, I’d like to publicly thank the two people who have helped me the most during my tenure, my two assistants Marylou Wright and Elaine Carrieri. They have done a tremendous job.

I wish you all the very best,

Thomas Fowler-Finn


Comment: The fact that Tom Fowler-Finn was able to put up with these School Committee members for as long as he has should qualify him for some kind of endurance record. God help the next poor bastard who will have to suffer through their pointless BS and "policies" leading around in circles. As someone who has taught mathematics for several decades, I would advise any potential candidate for the CPS top job to just keep looking. -- Robert Winters

April 18, 2008 - Minding the Achievement Gap (by Vidya Viswanathan, Harvard Crimson)
Cambridge Public Schools focus on improving performance despite achievement discrepancy

April 4, 2008 - The Boston Globe yesterday reported that the current per pupil cost for the Cambridge Public Schools is $15,175 (compared to Waltham at $12,900; Somerville at $11,593; Watertown at $11,290; Boston at $10,872; Brookline at $10,546; Newton at $9,135; Lexington at $8,988; Belmont at $8,243; and Arlington at $8,225). However, in the 2007 municipal election campaign, several candidates said it was $23,000 per pupil. The greatschools website give the obviously wrong figure of $8,641. I found a 2003 chart from Alan Price on the cambridgepublic.us website that gives a range between $5,500 and $11,000 for various elementary schools. Metroprofiles.com puts the Cambridge figure at $17,551 in 2005. The Harvard Crimson in 2005 put the figure at about $15,000. For FY2004, the Crimson put the cost per pupil for regular education at $13,363. The Area 4 Newsletter said in 2002 that the projected cost per pupil was estimated to rise from $17,221 in 2002 to $21,419 in 2006. Councillors Toomey and Sullivan and City Manager Healy put the figure at $16,000 in 2000.

So, what's the accurate figure right now? Let me know I'm sure others would also like to know. - Robert Winters

March 19, 2008 - Who's Zoomin' Who? (Harvard Crimson story "School Super Urged to Stay")

The Cambridge School Committee, really three members and a mayor, appear to be crafting their own new brand of dishonesty. In January, the School Committee voted 4-3 to extend the contract of Superintendent of Schools Thomas Fowler-Finn, though they did not at that time specify a term for the contract extension. The devil may be in the lack of details. In the initial vote on contract extension, members Fred Fantini, Joe Grassi, Nancy Tauber, and newly elected mayor Denise Simmons voted for the contract extension. The opposing votes were Marc McGovern, Patricia Nolan, and Luc Schuster. Some (and this includes me) felt that Simmons' vote was tied to her getting the votes of her Council colleagues to become mayor. It's not unusual that the mayoral selection hinges on some understanding about how the selected mayor will act in his or her role as Chair of the School Committee.

There was some cause for concern at the time of the January contract vote that no term was specified. Cynics (and this includes me) worried that Simmons' deciding vote might have been just the formal conclusion of a deal with her City Council colleagues and that what followed might be a negotiation in which the proposed terms might be so minimal or unacceptable that it would amount to a de facto rejection. The fact that there has been no resolution after two months in what is absolutely a cut-and-dried question is an indication that this School Committee may not have any understanding of what constitutes an understanding. Simmons statement that “you don’t want to rush something that’s so important” is bewildering at best.

Though I have personally only gone to a couple of School Committee meetings this year, I have watched portions of several other meetings on TV. My impression is that this is one of the most dysfunctional groups to have ever occupied the seats in the Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room. With two petulant children serving on the School Committee, I suppose this was to be expected. What we could use is some leadership from the mayor, but for that we may just have to wait and see. -- Robert Winters


June 22, 2007 - Survey of Parents Reveals School Shortcomings (by Paras Bhayani and Jamison Hill, Harvard Crimson, June 22, 2007)
Results point to school quality as explanation for declining enrollment

June 20, 2007 - MCAS Aces Fare Better in College, Study Finds - Low scorers are said to struggle (by Peter Schworm, Boston Globe, June 20, 2007)
Warning: Opinion follows, read at your own risk -- Say what you will about the pros and cons of MCAS and the negative aspects of “teaching to the test,” but these results do appear to speak for themselves. [It should, however, be pointed out that this “study” may simply be confirming the rather obvious fact that students who “apply themselves,” as my teachers used to say, will generally do well on standardized exams and in college, and it is not the case that exams cause better college performance. Again, correlation does not imply causation.] My personal feeling is that “teaching to the test” is not necessary to achieve good MCAS results and is, in fact, a sign of laziness on the part of teachers and administrators. If you set high standards for students, most students will be able to achieve those standards. Conversely, if you set low standards or offer primarily touchy-feely crap and tell students how wonderful they are, you'll likely produce a high percentage of self-congratulating dolts. A primary problem with MCAS and public education, in my humble opinion, is that they must do a better job of shepherding underachieving students through school without penalizing high-achieving students. Not long ago, CRLS did exactly the opposite when they placed high-achieving students in classes that were far below their capabilities - all in the name of “equity.” Fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, the Cambridge Public Schools have stepped back from that precipice. - Robert Winters, June 20, 2007


After Nationwide Search, Local High School Picks One of Its Own
Acting chief Christopher Saheed is named Cambridge Rindge's permanent principal
(Harvard Crimson, Dec 22, 2006)

617 Massachusetts Schools identified for improvement (Sept 13, 2006 Boston Globe) - The list includes several Cambridge schools, most notably the Tobin School which is listed as "restructuring" for mathematics. The Benjamin Bannekker Charter School is listed, though not with the rest of the Cambridge public schools, and is also facing restructuring. [I'm not really sure what all this means, by the way.] The Baldwin School had been on the list for "subgroups in math" but has been removed from the current list. Read more in the Globe article: More Schools Falling Short

Sept 5, 2006 - The Cambridge School Committee tonight voted 4-3 to extend Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn's contract for an additional year (through mid-2008). Voting in favor of the extension were Fred Fantini, Joe Grassi, Luc Schuster, and Nancy Walser. There was a lot of tension in the air as the committee members made statements pro and con prior to the vote. Perhaps the greatest attention was paid to Luc Schuster's remarks since he was expected to cast the deciding vote.

Having followed this story for the last several months and wanting very much to see the contract extended, I was not immune to the tension. Though the vote did end up as I expected, the outcome was unclear right up to the point when Luc cast his vote. This was not an easy vote for any of the members of the School Committee. My hat's off to the members who made it happen - not just Luc for casting the deciding vote but to Joe and Fred for their efforts in crafting the extension and, of course, to Nancy Walser for understanding all along exactly what was at stake.

Congratulations to Tom Fowler-Finn on the contract extension, and now let's all do what it takes to make the most of the Cambridge Public Schools. - Robert Winters

 
Luc Schuster

Nancy Walser
 
Fred Fantini

Joe Grassi

Sept 6, 2006 Boston Globe article: School chief is given contract in Cambridge (by Tracy Jan)

Luc Schuster's statement on cambridgepublic.us (Sept 6, 2006, link expired)

Sept 7, 2006 Cambridge Chronicle story: New school contract cuts Super powers (by Dawn Witlin)


Wed, Aug 30, 2006
6:00pm   Special School Committee meeting  (CRLS, Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room)
By order of his honor(?), Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves, acting in accordance with chapter I, section 3 of the rules of the school committee, there will be a special meeting at 6:00pm Wednesday, August 30, 2006, in the Henrietta S. Attles meeting room, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway. The committee may convene in executive session for the purpose of discussing strategy preparation for contract negotiations with non-union personnel as an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining and/or litigation position of the school committee.

Translation: They still have not settled on a contract with Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn, though supposedly a new short-term contract extension is in the works and could be settled (in Executive Session) at this meeting. The speculation is that Mr. Reeves (as Chair of the committee) has been the main cause of the secrecy in this matter. It has been suggested that he has tried to buy time to either swing another vote against Fowler-Finn or make the contract terms so miserable that Fowler-Finn will choose a negotiated exit. There is also some evidence that staff in the Mayor's Office have been soliciting letters and e-mail from students and others in opposition to Fowler-Finn as part of Reeves' campaign to oust him.


Aug 18, 2006 -- School Committee Goes Private on Superintendent's Contract  (Harvard Crimson story by Paras Bhayani)

Aug 17, 2006 -- Chronicle contests secrecy  (Cambridge Chronicle story by Dawn Witlin)

Aug 16, 2006 -- New contract talks underway with Cambridge schools chief  (Boston Globe story by Tracy Jan - link expired)

Aug 10, 2006 - Perhaps next time I should just bust the door down. I showed up at the Henrietta Attles Meeting Room at CRLS on July 25 for a meeting of the Cambridge School Committee. I knew this was to be an Executive Session meeting, i.e. the public was not invited, but I figured I'd give it a shot anyway since the topic under discussion was the extension of the contract of School Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn and this is obviously a matter that should be discussed in public session. What I didn't know for sure on July 25 was that Mayor Reeves and company were about to trash the Open Meeting Law.

I suppose this shouldn't surprise anyone since Mr. Reeves has a history of ignoring laws that don't suit him. (For example, there is no campaign finance record of the very sizable donation of his 2005 campaign office, well in excess of annual donation limits.) Now you can add names like Patty Nolan, Richard Harding, and, quite frankly, all the members of the School Committee, for ignoring the Open Meeting Law. Any one of them could have and should have challenged the propriety of going into Executive Session during which a significant vote apparently was taken -- easily the most important vote any school committee takes and the one that should be done in the most public way possible -- the decision to not renew the contract of a very able school superintendent, Thomas Fowler-Finn.

There are many people with strong opinions on either side of this matter. I've been checking the City web site daily for an announcement of the next public meeting of the School Committee in light of an August 20 deadline for notifying Fowler-Finn on the decision of the School Committee. Each day there was no notice and the law requires a 48 hour notice. That is, of course, if laws mean anything to Reeves and company.

Little did I know that the matter was already decided behind closed doors. A July 27 letter from Reeves to Fowler-Finn is the smoking gun. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Cambridge Chronicle for reporting this. It's also time to start recruiting new candidates for next year's municipal elections. - RW

Chronicle article on the School Committee's questionable and unethical action

Aug 10, 2006 Chronicle editorial


July 28, 2006 - There's a well-written article by Paras Bhayani in today's Harvard Crimson on use (abuse?) of statistics in the debate over the renewal of the contract of Superintendent of Schools Thomas Fowler-Finn. This follows a Boston Globe letter by School Committee member Patty Nolan (July 25) and a Cambridge Chronicle letter (July 27) in Nolan's statistical crusade to banish Fowler-Finn from Cambridge. Perhaps the best summary of the situation is Paras Bhayani's closing paragraph:

THE REAL DEBATE

There is no doubt that during Fowler-Finn’s tenure, test scores have risen – by three points in ELA and by five points in math. There is also no doubt that they are still below the state average. And finally, there is no doubt that the administrative marks have improved substantially.

The true debate – the one for the School Committee and the public – is whether the speed of the improvements is adequate.

Fowler-Finn has compared the Cambridge Public Schools to an “ocean liner” in trying to highlight the difficulties in changing the system’s course. Nolan has argued that the system is small – with only one high school – and that it can be “turned around on a dime.”

Both sides have even cited influential educational research supporting their positions.

But unlike the debate over the EQA report, this debate cannot be settled by simply trying to make sense of statistics.

Boston Globe reports that Cambridge School Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn's contract renewal is in jeopardy - article by Christine Silva - link expired.

[July 1, modified July 23, 2006] We finally manage to get a superintendent who's not afraid to take action to improve the schools, and these fools are now talking about throwing him out? I am flabbergasted. All indications are that the extraordinarily inflated egos of some elected officials cannot coexist with anyone who exhibits any actual leadership. It's no surprise that the biggest fool of all, our patronage-intensive and egocentric royal mayor, is leading the charge.

I am a teacher first and foremost. Civic involvement is just a hobby in comparison. As a teacher, I simply cannot understand what motivates this group of politicians masquerading as education policy-makers. The vote on contract renewal must take place before August 20. An Executive Session meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for Tues, July 25, but no votes will be taken at that meeting.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“Fowler-Finn, who came to Cambridge after eight years as superintendent of schools in Fort Wayne, Ind., was picked because he had improved graduation rates and test scores. But he came with a reputation for a top-down leadership style. In 2000, the teachers' union there took a vote of no confidence in him, citing his cold demeanor and his plan to base their evaluations on test scores.”

“Before Fort Wayne, he led Haverhill schools for seven years. Robert Gilman, the current president of the Haverhill School Committee, said Fowler-Finn was its best superintendent and the most difficult one he has ever known. Fowler-Finn established academic standards for Haverhill, increased enrollment, and hired a number of women for top positions.”

“We are moving backward quickly,” said Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves, chairman of the School Committee and one of the superintendent's biggest opponents. - RW


The Vote on the School Superintendent's Contract

July 10 (modified July 23, 2006) - Fowler-Finn's current contract expires in August 2007, but the School Committee has until August 20 to decide whether to extend it. If they take no action, it will automatically be extended one year to August 2008. Based on quotes in the newspapers and e-mail responses from the members of the School Committee whose positions were not known, here's where we apparently stand right now:

Fred Fantini, Joe Grassi - favor a one year extension to allow more time. Presumably, this would simply push all dates back one year. A July 13 Cambridge Chronicle statement by them provided more detail.

Nancy Walser - favors a complete extension, presumably for another 3 or 4 year term.

Kenneth Reeves - “We are moving backward quickly,” said Reeves in a Globe interview. The obvious interpretation is that Reeves intends to vote against any contract extension.

Patty Nolan - apparently does not intend to vote in favor of an extension, based on numerous quotes and a rambling e-mail response. She has chosen to use cherry-picked statistics as the core of her evaluation of Fowler-Finn (rather than focusing on his specific actions taken). [Of course, she's not the only cherry-picker in this debate.]

Luc Schuster - It is not yet known how he intends to vote.

Richard Harding - no response, as always, and it remains unknown how he intends to vote.


July 23, 2006 addendum - In response to inquiries I made about the School Superintendent, I received a number of messages from people who had a lot to say. Consequently, my point of view has changed somewhat. It still seems clear that extending the Superintendent's contract is the wise course of action at this time, but the School Committee should make much clearer in the next contract any understandings about the jurisdiction, prerogatives, responsibilities, and limitations of each party to the contract. If Fowler-Finn can't abide by such a contract, then let him go. If he can, keep him for at least a while longer but keep him on a shorter leash.

In plain English, Tom Fowler-Finn can be a first-rate asshole. I have no doubt that his actions are all motivated by a sincere desire to benefit the children in the Cambridge Public Schools, and for that he should be commended. I also believe that the Cambridge Public School system has been one of the greatest entrenched bureaucracies in the City and that someone like Tom Fowler-Finn is exactly who was needed to change the culture in the system. It also appears to be the case that a “culture of fear” has developed in some quarters of the system, and that's not good in the long term. If Fowler-Finn can amend some of these negatives, and I believe he can, then continued progress is both possible and likely. He can start by respecting some of the prerogatives of the people who hire him.

It would be a great mistake for members of the School Committee to revert back to their micromanaging ways of the not-so-distant past. However, as the current representatives of the people (even if we may feel we could do better), the School Committee members are entitled to talk to school principals, teachers, staff, and students without asking for permission from the Superintendent. They should also be able to form subcommittees - for the purpose of discussion - even if these subcommittees are forbidden to micromanage any facets of the school system.

I also feel very strongly that it is very inappropriate to use (cherry-picked) enrollment statistics, achievement statistics, or any other statistics to evaluate the superintendent's relatively short tenure here. Fowler-Finn and his supporters are equally misguided in using (cherry-picked) statistics to support their man. The statistics might have some value over the long term, but I would prefer that any evaluation be based on a point-by-point review of specific actions he has taken and whether one agrees with those actions. It may well be the case that most of the School Committee members will find that they support most of his actions, even if they are disappointed with some of the outcomes. Furthermore, the considerable effects of elementary school consolidation, high school restructuring, rising housing costs, and demographic shifts (and more) must be considered into any evaluation of the schools over the last several years. - RW

Jan 15, 2006 - Glenn Koocher's remarks at the Jan 2, 2006 School Committee Inauguration


Old news (before 2006)

Jan 11, 2004 - Fight the Charter - Information about what you can do to oppose the charter high school proposal of Paula Evans, et al.

For reference:
Feb 12, 2003
- In the February 2003 issue of the Phi Delta Kappan, the national education professionals journal, former CRLS Principal Paula Evans gives her take on her tenure at CRLS --- A Principal's Dilemmas: Theory and Reality of School Redesign by Paula M. Evans
The text was scanned from the magazine and reformatted.

May 13, 2003 - The Cambridge School Committee voted unanimously tonight (at midnight) to appoint: Dr. Thomas Fowler-Finn, Superintendent of the Fort Wayne Community Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the new Superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools effective August 1, 2003.

The school committee also voted to thank Carolyn Turk for her service as Acting Superintendent.


Apr 29, 2003 - The Cambridge School Committee tonight announced the 3 finalists for the new Superintendent of Schools. The finalists are:
Dr. Claudia L. Bach, current superintendent of schools in Andover, Massachusetts.
Dr. Thomas Fowler-Finn, Superintendent of the Fort Wayne Community Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Dr. Mak Mitchell, Director of Community Learning for the Seattle Washington Public Schools

All finalists have LOCAL ties - Bach and Mitchell earned their Ed.D degrees from Harvard; and Fowler-Finn, formerly Superintendent of Schools in Haverhill, earned his doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

[The candidates were interviewed by designated Education Panel and Community Panel members on Fri, May 2, with public session interviews conducted by the Cambridge School Committee that same evening.]

Apr 8, 2003, 11:45pm - The Cambridge School Committee voted tonight to approve the proposed Elementary School Consolidation Plan (details below) on a 5-2 vote. Nancy Walser, Joe Grassi, Alice Turkel, Fred Fantini, and Michael Sullivan voted to approve the plan. Alan Price and Richard Harding voted against the plan. The plan goes goes into effect in September 2003.

A number of interesting reports are available from the Cambridge School Department website. Unfortunately, those responsible for making this information available to the public do not seem to have much expertise in doing this in an efficient manner. I have taken the liberty of creating PDF files for some of these reports (good thing as the original links have now expired).
Reports from the School Department PDF versions (created from the School Dept. documents)
Elementary School Profiles 2002 ElemSchoolProfiles02.pdf (160KB)
Elementary School Report 2002 ElemSchoolReport02.pdf (192KB)
Middle Grades Profiles 2002 MiddleGradesProfiles02.pdf (64KB)
Middle Grades Report 2002 MiddleGradesReport02.pdf (96KB)
High School Profiles 2002 HighSchoolProfiles02.pdf (64KB)
High School Report 2002 HighSchoolReport02.pdf (160KB)

School Committee votes to do nothing
Dec 17, 2002 - In a move that surprised no one, the Cambridge School Committee tonight voted to delay any decision on elementary school consolidation until at least next June and to delay any implementation until 2004. To their credit, School Committee members Alice Turkel and Nancy Walser did propose a partial action plan that would have closed the Harrington School next year and moved the King Open school into the Harrington building (as specified in the Superintendent's plan) with minimal disruption to the Harrington students. Ms. Turkel's motion also called for the closure of the Fitzgerald School a year later with a five-month process to determine the future of that school. (The Superintendent's plan calls for moving the Graham and Parks program into that building.)

However, Richard Harding's "moratorium" amendment, with friendly amendments from Mayor Sullivan prevailed. Once again, the Cambridge School Committee succeeded in doing the one thing it does best - Nothing.

Perhaps even more troubling than the School Committee's collective inability to alter the status quo is the contradictory message delivered by some members of the Cambridge City Council. On the one hand, the Council has unanimously endorsed a $2.6 million budget cut for the School Department and has called for the establishment of an independent advisory committee on public education, possibly the single most damning statement from the City Council to the School Committee in the last sixty years. Yet on the night of the vote to take action on school closures that would save money, four city councillors asked the School Committee to delay action.

Nancy Walser said this gave her "whiplash." She also noted that most of the members of the current City Council have served on the School Committee at some point and that they took no action when they were in a position to do so. To their credit, city councillors Ken Reeves and Henrietta Davis delivered a consistent message calling upon the School Committee to act without delay.

As a taxpaying citizen, all I see is another one-year extension of what has effectively been a ten-year moratorium on any meaningful action to make the elementary schools operate in a cost-effective way. Each time a plan or piece of a plan is presented, a reactionary lobby from one of the affected schools develops and the School Committee runs away at full speed. No wonder some people are calling for the replacement of this elected School Committee by an appointed one. For what it's worth, I think the problem lies more with the individuals who are elected than with the fact that they are elected rather than appointed.

Frankly, I'm disgusted. I see elected officials voting to dump taxpayer money down the toilet rather than make a difficult decision. This is not rocket science. Even more pathetic is the attitude of many of the parents who paraded to the microphone expressing their lack of faith in their own children's ability to adapt. To listen to these believers in a falling sky, one would think that the young people of Cambridge are incapable of adapting and thriving in any environment other than the status quo. The end result - do nothing. After all, "Cambridge has the money." - Robert Winters

Letter from CRLS School Committee member Curt Perry to the Cambridge School Committee


The following proposals were submitted to the Department of Education in September 2002.
(Both were not approved in this round of charter school applications but may be resubmitted at a later date.)
Prospectus for Cambridge Charter High School (submitted to the Dept. of Education, September 2002) [296KB PDF]
Prospectus for Amigos International Charter School (submitted to the Dept. of Education, September 2002) [963KB PDF]


Sept 19, 2002 - A class action complaint was filed on September 19 by 6 Holyoke students against the MCAS high stakes graduation requirement. The legal document is provided here (PDF, 65 pages) and is recommended reading for anyone concerned about the MCAS graduation requirement. It outlines the arguments (federal) against the high stakes portion of the law and provides some valuable research and analysis.    Class Action Complaint vs. MCAS


MCAS RESULTS (from the Boston Globe)

Spring 2002 CUE newsletter  [CUE = Cambridge United for Education]

May 21, 2002 - The Cambridge School Committee tonight voted 6-0-1 to change the name of the Agassiz School to the Maria Baldwin School. School Committee member Fred Fantini was absent for the vote.

April 23, 2002 - CAMBRIDGE SCHOOL COMMITTEE RESOLUTION ON MCAS

Cambridge School Volunteers

January 2002 Rappaport Institute Advisory Report to Cambridge Public Schools - a strategic analysis of the staffing and organizational structures encompassing all Central Office, Support Service, and Curriculum Leadership/Supervision programs in the Cambridge public school system.
Rappaport Appendix 1         Rappaport Appendix 2         Rappaport Appendix 3

The Inaugural Meeting of the 2002-2003 Cambridge School Committee took place on January 7 at 6pm in the Henrietta Attles Meeting Room at CRLS. The new School Committee voted unanimously to elect Alice Turkel as Vice Chair of the School Committee who will be responsible for all subcommittee assignments.


The 2002-2003 School Committee: Alan Price, Fred Fantini, Joe Grassi, Nancy Walser,
Mayor Michael Sullivan, Alice Turkel, and Richard Harding.

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