Send contributions to:
Laurance Kimbrough is a new candidate this year.
Statement for 2017 Election
A New Direction for Boys
In the Cambridge Public Schools, boys are three times more likely to be disciplined than girls (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, “2015-16 Student Discipline Data Report”). Coupled with the fact that boys and men are far less likely to seek help or counseling, I believe we have a boys’/men’s health crisis that is impacting us all.
The Cambridge Public Schools need to think differently about supporting the emotional health and development of the boys who will one day grow up to be men. And while these numbers are not unique to Cambridge, the Cambridge Public Schools should be at the forefront in addressing this national health crisis.
Improving Achievement for All Students Through Engagement
I believe the Cambridge Public Schools have an engagement gap. Not enough of our scholars are fully engaged in learning within our schools because it is challenging, rewarding, and personally meaningful. During my time as a special education teacher, guidance counselor, and tennis coach at CRLS, many of my highest achieving students were simply “doing school,” while others felt little motivation and interest to take full advantage of the education afforded them.
I recall a time in 2013 when I complimented a pair of my students who were hard at work on an AP AB calculus problem. I praised their love of math and told them we needed more students engaged and loving math because it is a language tool we can use to solve so many of the world’s problems. One was quick to correct me however, stating that she hated math and was only taking AP AB Calculus so she could get into a good college. Improving the type of achievement that looks good on a transcript or increases test scores is NOT the type of achievement I want to improve. Interestingly, high achievement is a byproduct of true educational engagement.
The kind of achievement I am interested in improving for all students is more value-driven and individual than anything that is measured by thick admissions envelopes, AP or honors classes, MCAS scores, or grades earned. Can we measure achievement by how effectively schools and educators help students and families meet their own personal goals for academic success, improvement, engagement, character growth, moral development, and community activism? I believe that we can.
We must allocate resources and enact policies to eliminate the achievement gap in the Cambridge Public Schools. And yet, we must resist the temptation as educators, policymakers, parents, and community members to only measure outcomes that can be counted easily. What good is an acceptance letter from Harvard if the boy receiving it is catcalling girls in the hallway? Is it more valuable for students to take AP Environmental Science, or to understand the importance of recycling and energy conservation in relation to climate change? Should we prioritize students passing the MCAS at the expense of creating lifelong learners? If a student earns an “A” in US History, but chooses not to vote upon turning 18, did the individual truly learn anything?
I see engagement in school as a prerequisite for a different type of achievement that I believe, we as Cantabrigians, want to measure. Fulfilling our district’s stated goal of “educating all students well” starts with instilling a love of learning in them. It continues when curricula are meaningful, challenging, and force students to think critically about and participate in the world around them. If elected, I will never lose sight of “what really counts,” as closing the engagement gap will be part of my core values when evaluating the growth of our school district.
Black Lives Matter!
Lift Every Voice – Especially Those of Our Most Vulnerable
The Race to Nowhere
And yet as a parent, I believe that what we want most for our children is not only for them to be happy, but also for them to be engaged in their own academic growth. As adults, we should be more interested in our kids' "eulogy virtues" than "character virtues." (David Brooks’ 2015 The Road to Character). The desire for our students to do well in school for the sake of college admissions puts us on a "race to nowhere," making learning a competitive battle with others rather than an engaging, fulfilling journey to figure out who we are, what our values are, and what type of person we want to become. If we believe in social justice in Cambridge, then education cannot be a competition where we compare our kid's success to that of our neighbors. We must put into practice the belief that all kids in our community and our school system deserve the best schools, the best educators, and the best opportunity for personal fulfillment and success. I believe this is at the heart of a social justice education.
Addressing the Lack of Educational Equity
The most recent data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website shows that after finishing CRLS, Black, white, Latino, and Asian students attend higher education in high numbers. However, Blacks and Latinos are 3.9 and 4.5 times more likely to attend community college than white students. Additionally, in the 2015-16 school year, white students were 5.7 times more likely than Black students to take an AP exam (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, “2015-16 Advanced Placement Participation Report”). During my time working within the Cambridge Public Schools, both at the middle and high school level, some Black students believed that taking honors and AP classes was "acting white." I support the "Leveling Up" initiative at CRLS because it requires all students to take honors classes upon entering high school. This will hopefully decrease self-segregation in AP courses during junior and senior years and prepare more students of color to enter four-year public and private colleges and universities upon graduation from the Cambridge Public Schools.
Straight to Working for the City
The Cambridge School Department should be working with the Cambridge Fire and Police Departments, Cambridge Housing Authority, Cambridge Public Works, Department of Human Services, Information Technology, and Traffic/Parking/Transportation to provide career pathways for students. This should include job shadowing opportunities and internships, and ensure that there are job openings in the city for CRLS graduates who want them. This would not only begin to address the employment and income gaps between racial cohorts within the city, but put CPS graduates on a path towards financial independence. I believe this will make our graduates more likely to be fully engaged in Cambridge civic life and our national democracy.
Carrying the Torch
The last conversation I had with my father before he passed was about educational equity, academically engaging and socially relevant curriculum, and the need to continue to hire more men of color within our public schools. I will never forget that conversation. All Cantabrigians who knew Leslie Kimbrough should know that the torch has indeed been passed. If elected to the Cambridge School Committee, I will carry on my father's legacy and strive to make our schools better for all students.
|Page last updated Thursday, July 20, 2017 9:41 PM||Cambridge Candidates|