Cambridge School Committee Celebrates Improvement in Student Performance, Acknowledges ‘More Work To Be Done’
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The Cambridge School Committee celebrated a return to pre-pandemic achievement levels of student performance while acknowledging lingering gaps in a review of the district’s annual accountability report Tuesday.
Massachusetts has not released full district accountability data since 2019, making this year’s release the first comprehensive report showing the pandemic’s impact on educational achievement in the state. As CPS continues to celebrate improvement in student MCAS scores — which returned to pre-pandemic levels, defying statewide trends — the report found that the district is making “substantial progress toward targets.”
This positive news was tempered by persistent racial achievement gaps in the district. The report found that CPS is “meeting or exceeding targets” for white and Asian students, while the district is not meeting targets for Black and Latinx students. Superintendent Victoria L. Greer says that both the districts’ successes and shortcomings must be fully examined by the school committee.
“We do have a lot to celebrate,” she said. “But also I don’t want us to forget that there is still quite a bit of work for us to do in order to close the achievement gap for our most vulnerable students.”
Jennifer Amigone — director of research, assessment, and evaluation for CPS — said that the state report marks a “return to the fully accountable system” after its absence during the pandemic.
“We have been in kind of a period of ‘accountability-lite,’ where the state has not been able to release full accountability data since 2018,” she said.
Amignone added that she wants to highlight the district’s “culture of continuous improvement and learning” as the school committee examines the district’s overarching successes.
“When we look at every single one of our schools in our district, every school is either making substantial progress toward targets or meeting and exceeding targets — which actually only 20 percent of schools across the Commonwealth are doing right now,” she said. “I just want to lift that up.”
Despite indicators of recovery in the aggregated data, Amigone said, scores for Black, low-income, and English-language learner students in the district have declined since 2019 — while white and non-low-income students in the district have seen scores increase.
“What we see here is that some groups have not yet returned to 2019 achievement and a widening of the opportunity gap between groups,” she said. “We are seeing a widening of that performance difference.”
Greer said it is the School Committee’s “obligation” to work proactively to close these achievement gaps.
“I can’t be any more candid — if our data’s telling us that this group of students have the need, then we need to serve the students,” she said.
District leaders highlighted their planned systemic solutions to compensate for these achievement gaps.
Emily Bryan — the district-wide K-12 ELA and Literacy coordinator — said the report should prompt the alignment of pedagogy and assessments, high-quality curriculum, and research-based instructional practices.
“Goals may set the direction, but systems are needed to result in progress,” Bryan said, quoting writer James Clear. “The work of our department this year is to set up strong systems.”
Siobahn Mulligan – CPS director of mathematics — also stressed the importance of curricular consistency, professional development, and educator intervention in closing the district’s mathematics achievement gap.
“All of it has been a collaborative effort, and I am more than ecstatic and especially proud of our students in the work that they have done,” she said. “However, I will say that it does not escape me that there’s still work to be done.”
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