Cambridge Parent Summit

May 2018 Parent Summit Recap

The Parent Summit happened on May 12th, 2018 and was a great success! Big thanks to everyone who came.

  • 150 parents came to talk about what's top of their mind for our Public Schools.
  • All the Cambridge Public Schools were represented, plus parents of kids in preschools and others.
  • The superintendent, the mayor, the school committee, and the state rep came to hear the discussion summary, which was covered by CCTV.
  • One of the highlights for many attendees was the Parents of Color chat.
    • Ethnicity/Race represented includes African American / Black, Latino, Chicana, Haitian, Multi-Racial, East Indian, South East Asian, Chinese, Filipina, Laotian, Native American, and Cape Verdean.
  • We have eight topical working groups on Achievement / Opportunity Gap to Upper Schools to Social Emotional Learning.
  • We now have over 200 parents on our mailing list, many subscribed to one of the working groups, e.g. Parents of Color with 55 parents.
  • About half of the parents who attended the summit expressed interest in joining a Parent Coalition to move this work forward.


Parents' Interest in Topics

The goal of the summit was to activate and connect people. It gave parents a taste of working together on voicing thoughts, and brainstorming actions.

If you find the summary notes below interesting, and would like to keep the conversation going and work on taking them from raw ideas to actionable recommendations (by working with stakeholders), come to the June 11th Next Steps Meeting and join the 9 Working Groups!

Summary Notes

Below is a summary of the discussions at the summit.

  • They come mostly from the independent facilitator’s notes, with some additional info from note takers or easel notes (when facilitator’s notes lack sufficient details). They’ve only been summarized for readability.
  • These should NOT be taken as final recommendations from the summit but as snapshots of parent voice (and as such, they may not agree. :)
  • Additional raw, unsummarized (easel board notes, volunteer notes, etc.) will be available separately.
  • Use them to get a sense of the conversations at the Parent Summit for those who missed the summit or couldn’t attend a session, and to stimulate your own ideas and discussions. And come join us June 11th to move to action!
Topics / Working Groups
  1. Achievement / Opportunity Gap & Meeting the Needs of All Learners
  2. Upper (Middle) Schools
  3. Recess, Free Play, Social Emotional Learning, & School Climate
  4. World Language / Immersion
  5. Kindergarten, JK & Lottery
  6. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) / Arts & Music
  7. Standardized Testing, MCAS, & Accountability
  8. High School

1) Achievement / Opportunity Gap & Meeting the Needs of All Learners

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION
How to meet everyone’s needs
How to help struggling students & close achievement /opportunity gap for students of color and low-income - but what works? 
Maintain diversity, address racism (especially high school, also district-wide), and reduce self & forced segregation
More teachers of color
Improve relationships and *student voice*
Making co-teaching more prominent
Connect with families about how we can do better
Systems for more transparent data sharing
Opportunities for school to school sharing (parents, staff, etc.)

WORKING WELL
Co-teaching
Social-Emotional learning, mindfulness, & part-time social worker at some schools
Adults starting to listen to youth voices, and strong teacher-student connecting
From different schools: Montessori approach, Social-justice at C-Port, Anti-racism curriculum at G&P
Diverse mentors (when present) &  flexible/responsive teachers
Well-resourced & small schools
Project based learning
No-tracking
Access to Specials (art, music, etc.)

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Challenging all students
How important are test scores? Lower scores for students of color & students with lower SES
Early ed for everyone
More multi-age learning opportunities
Finding/retaining teachers of color
District wide approach to anti-bias education/training
More equitable access to enrichment programs
Better assessment & planning of special ed programs

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
Share assessment data, and district’s plan for students performing above and below grade level.
More skilled adults in every classroom (co-teaching, after-school & youth center help?)
Collaborate with stakeholders to assess and implement anti-bias training and curriculum district-wide. 
More teachers of color.
Implement more active engagement of marginalized parents through paid, city-wide parent council positions.

2) Upper (Middle) Schools

WORKING WELL
Arts and music programs.
Diversity, Social Justice and focus on Equity.
Culturally relevant curriculum.
Power of teams of teachers who can complement each other.
Dedicated teachers.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Academic achievement/closing the gap — same gaps persist since before the Innovation Agenda.
Teaching to the average, complacency on good enough. 
Students not getting enough help on math; topics on MCAS were not covered in class.
At school council meetings, parent voice is extremely limited. The administration may feel pressure to defend their work and not recognize parents as a resource.
The general experience is that parents aren’t invited to help in the classroom.  Everyone agreed that parents could be more welcomed. 
Communication between parents is not effectively facilitated. The schools have all of the parent contact info, but cannot (or do not want to?) share the info with parents or parent orgs.
Parents would like teachers and the administration to reach out not only about problems with behavior but also problems with academics. 
More explosive developmental stage leads to more disruptive classroom climate.
More info on the schools, especialy for transition.  In particular, need to better attract parents who have other choices (charter, private).

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
Staff teaching based on needs, especially on math.  
Get teachers to reach out - phone, home visits, email, unstructured events (coffee hour/meetings).
More open & receptive of parent input, e.g. half the school council meeting let parents talk.
Involve parents more: let parents help define the new Family Liaison role & giving more time for parents to speak.
Strengthen interdisciplinary instruction.
Unified place to access information.

3) Recess, Free Play, Social Emotional Learning, & School Climate

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION
Social-emotional learning
Talk about school climate & parent involvement
Long school days - 20 minute recess
Hear more about the recess and free play topic in the district
How is free play continued in older grades?
Bring ideas to the school committee to enable change
Social emotional learning and school climate (how to promote a welcoming school climate?)
What is the reality in CPS
How can we do integrated learning that promote student learning?


WORKING WELL
Mindfulness curriculum
Some anti-bullying curriculum
Recognize school climate as an issue
Responsive classroom

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Start at JK “empathy problems”
Lack of accessibility for parents (transparency from the district down to the parents)
Boys & kids of color not getting what they need
Short recess -> not eating lunch to talk to friends
Social emotional wellbeing < academics

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
Find a way to incorporate more frequent breaks
Enforcing policy of not taking away recess for disciplinary reasons
Boys & kids of color not getting what they need (more PD for teachers, cultural competency; more inclusive school climate)
More SEL coach/personnel across schools
Questions parents can ask at parent-teacher conferences
Proximity events for parents across schools (informal and formal communications)
More accessible website open to all parents - transparency in communication

4) World Language / Immersion

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION
Why aren’t more immersion programs being offered?
More information how to help kids achieve language proficiency

WORKING WELL
Programs are available and high quality!
Programs exist!

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
SPED / behavior problem kids get pushed out
Bilingual preschool offerings
Transparency about lottery
Languages offered in after school

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
More immersion programs, advocate for them in district (will also combat catiness)
E.g. Pilot Bengali, Amharic, Haitian Creole immersion programs
All kids learn world language & then additional immersion option in 3rd grade
Pair up JK families with families in 3,4,5 etc., weekly event with food, music
Expand school day to accommodate language learning
Expand school building for JK and eventual
Language afterschool programs
Partner w/community leaders who are not present. Outreach to populations 
More funding for bilingual teachers to support students
Bilingual books in every library
Inclusivity

5) Kindergarten, JK & Lottery

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION
Mostly be heard and voice concerns/frustrations.
Know that their feedback would reach the CPS dept heads
Understand how things are working
Voice concerns

WORKING WELL
Concept of controlled choice
School options
Ability to switch schools
Immersion is innovative
JK is a good draw for families to invest in Cambridge
Information is readily available
Options for good schools
Full day (after school) option
Inclusive classrooms

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Not enough spots in popular schools
Better allocation of funds to teachers & caregivers.
Not enough Spanish immersion
Lack of communication on JK/K lottery
Transparency of how lottery work (points) work
DHSP is separate from CPS
Facilities/accomodations for bodies in a space
Expand (immersion for example) for the needs of the kids
SES balance
Paid lunch is limiting
Kennedy/Longfellow lost Italian in the Innovation Agenda

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
More JK slots/universal JK. Then add more staff to manage age appropriate needs
Add immersion and/or Montessori option to make every school equitable and attractive
Place free & reduced lunch families in schools with open slots for immersion programs to balance it out. Provide support services to supplement language needs
Balance sibling preference with language points
More affordable preschool, quality preschool options

6) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) / Arts & Music

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION 
How can STEM/arts be integrated in the school day
How can STEM & Arts be throughout the day?

WORKING WELL
STEM clubs
Music showcase
Kodaly
Art classes
Full-time art teachers
Math clubs
Art & music shows

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
More arts/STEM integrated throughout school day
More project based learning
Different perspective of role of STEAM

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
Share best practices between schools and all call for artists/scientists/musicians from parents/community to help develop curriculum in a STEAM integrated way.
Shifting from worksheet homework to projects/inquiry based creations.
Field trips that facilitate students being active participants through art & science
Reinforce learning through being outside/kinesthetic learning. 
Make learning opportunity for teachers accessible.
Develop database of resources for teachers to integrate arts/STEAM/project based learning. 
More specialized staff in STEAM/Arts

7) Standardized Testing, MCAS, & Accountability

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION
Discussing with other parents, finding support
Finding common ground
Feel like people are either strongly for or against the MCAS and conversation is impossible

WORKING WELL
Morning session: they hate MCAS (nothing working well)
Afternoon session:
Ranking and standardization with MCAS
Students of color more represented by test
MCAS Scores tell which schools are good

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Students need to be assessed differently, less high-stakes testing
Schools focusing more on other subjects and limiting subjects to what’s on test

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
More well-rounded curriculum/not teaching to the test
Less pressure on students
Clearer narrative of what test measures and how parents should read results
Research places that have had success with opting out (NY State and NYC)
Research alternatives to MCAS where goal is lifetime learning & non-punitive
Build better modes of communications to fortify partnerships between parents and between parents and teachers

8) High School

PARENTS HOPE AT START OF SESSION 
Preparing for the transition of their child to highschool
Supporting students already in the system
Cultural competency of staff and teachers
Concerns about equity and access

WORKING WELL
Guidance counselor resources
Communications with staff
Block schedule
Placement of CP, AP, [honor] (do away with systems bias)
Special ed needs are being met better
Diverse school

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT/CHANGE
Schedule
Parent  involvement - (marginalized communities absent)
Teachers of Color—not enough; not retaining them enough
Advocacy for trans, parents of color, 1st generation immigrant
Relative lack of diversity in many classes
RSTA seems to collect/be used more by underprivileged kids
Attendance Violation policy

ACTION STEPS (NOT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS)
Parent advisory / communications / groups for both parents & staff - SES marganlized community  /  Anti racist curriculum implementation
Teachers of Color teacher hiring / representatives
Research transition process - middle school -> high school -> college
Using community meetings to learn more about students
Later start time, more time between classes
Photos from Summit


Questions? Feedback? We'd love to hear from you. Please email us at psummit@mg.yana.com