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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
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. . . Rindge and Latin High School has students of almost unimaginably differing academic abilities . . .
Students getting Ds
To anyone with any familiarity with Cambridge Public Schools, that Rindge and Latin High School has students of almost unimaginably differing academic abilities comes as no surprise. (One in 6 score Ds at CRLS, Cambridge Chronicle, 27 May, 2004). In any given class at the elementary school level, there are likely to be students from two-parent households, children being raised by their grandparent(s), kids whose parents are Harvard professors and still others whose parents might have trouble spelling 'Harvard.' Some students come from households loaded with books and where reading is a regular family activity, while others live in homes where video games dominate and books are a rarity. Some students are nurtured by loving families and other children haven't had a motherly hug in living memory. The list of social, educational and economic differences is almost endless, but everything points to the same result: without significant efforts from the school system, children from such disparate backgrounds are almost certainly going to have vastly different levels of academic success.
The best solution to this multi-tiered educational experience is for the Cambridge Public School system to put a higher priority on placing teaching professionals directly in contact with the students. With little more detailed an explanation than "Cambridge does things differently," Superintendent Fowler-Finn and the School Committee just pushed through a budget that actually took teaching positions away from the most poorly performing schools while still staffing vaguely defined administrative positions at per-student levels of up to four times the state norm.
These at-risk students don't need more administrators, they need math and literacy and study skill specialists working with them on a daily basis. Their families need assistance in developing a home environment where education is a priority. The rest of the students don't need such a high level of administration either- they need more teachers in their classes, or in auxiliary specialized classes, to help the teachers reach such a broad range of abilities.
A simple review of the School budget makes it clear that CPS has the resources to provide much, if not all, of this academic support. That it has chosen not to do so is a shame for everyone, especially the large number of students who are already headed for academic failure.