Policy Updates and Investigation - Rachel for Cambridge

Policy Updates and Investigation

Dear Friends,

True to the month itself, this March update brings a mix of sunny and stormy news.

Starting with some sunshine, this week the School Committee unanimously passed my motion to update CPS’s Basic Instructional Program policy to add “accessing, analyzing, and evaluating information in written and digital media” to the list of fundamental skills we teach.  In today’s world, students and graduates have access to facts, figures, and calculations at their fingertips.  What they need even more than content is the ability to discern reliable information.  Many of our educators teach these skills already, and district policy now reflects this priority.  (Side note: it was a constituent who brought this suggestion to me.  Please reach out with your ideas!)

What a treat to celebrate the Lunar New Year with the Chinese American Association of Cambridge, and many others!

As for the cloudier updates, some of you will remember my work with students and educators in 2021-22 which resulted in the then-Committee updating high school graduation requirements to include a second health course after ninth grade.  When we adopted this change, we specifically planned for the first students to be impacted to be the CRLS Class of 2026 (then in eighth grade), so that they could plan their four years accordingly.  However, as came to my attention this fall, the district did not adequately communicate this change to students when they were in eighth or ninth grade.  The  list of graduation requirements on the website was not updated.  I heard from families who were surprised and upset to learn that their children would have to revise their plans.  While I believe this class – collaboratively developed by students and educators – to be an important response to the troubling mental health conditions of our students (reflected in the Teen Health Survey, student walk outs, public comments, and anecdotally), I agree that it was unfair to learn about this mid-way through high school.  This week, the Committee decided to make the course optional for all students currently in high school, and directed the administration to communicate the new requirement to the class of 2028 (current eighth graders) multiple times.

What a pleasure to speak with Harvard Undergraduates in the Institute of Politics program of former Student School Committee Member Nuriel Vera-DeGraff!

On a different and troubling note, I’ve heard many concerns from the Graham and Parks community.  The district has engaged an independent law firm to review the concerns related to school climate and a toxic work environment, as well as the concerns raised regarding the hiring process for Dr. Smith.  The Committee is not privy to how the investigation is going nor when it is expected to wrap up.  The personnel aspects will remain confidential.  What I continue to do is ask questions about process, timeline, and communication with families and staff.

As always, I welcome your questions and ideas.

In collaboration,


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