Education Officials Discuss Enrollment, Tests with Parents

School district administrators met last night with parents to address concerns of declining enrollment and standardized tests.

For the first time this school year, the behind-the-scenes players in the Cambridge education department fielded open-ended questions in a panel discussion, sponsored by Cambridge United for Education, a local parent group. Superintendent of Schools Bobbie J. D'Alessandro and seven of her top deputies comprised the panel.

Lenore Prueser, one of the deputies and director of the district's Family Resource Center, addressed concerns about declining enrollment. Her office manages the registration process for families who are new to the district or who have children entering kindergarten.

Yesterday the district mailed notices to parents with children entering kindergarten telling them which elementary school their children will attend. This spring, 460 parents applied for kindergarten slots for next fall ranking their choices.

The district uses quotas to ensure racial balance.

Prueser said 85 percent of the 460 families received their first choice among the district's 15 elementary schools.

According to district statistics and exit interviews with families who withdraw their children from the district, she said, the parents who choose to send their children to private school do not do so out of anger over getting their second or third choice school.

"We acknowledge that [middle school] is where we are losing students in the city," said Lenora M. Jennings, the district's executive director for student achievement and accountability.