Vision Analysis Action
Currently a 2nd term School Committee member, I believe that our public schools should be the foundational institution of our city. They should prepare every student to be a successful adult and active citizen, broadly defined. I also believe in policy-making that is informed by the experience of individuals and by formal data. With research training from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I know how to ask good questions and interpret data, two key functions of those serving on the School Committee.
Prior to being on the committee, I was a member of the Cambridge STEM/STEAM Working Group, a citizens’ group that successfully advocated for a citywide office to coordinate afterschool and summer STEM/STEAM programming. (STEAM=Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.) I also served on the board of Enroot, a program that supports immigrant high school students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Prior to being elected to the School Committee, I worked as a literacy specialist at a school for Deaf students in Framingham, and as a researcher at Harvard and Lesley University. My blog, “Commentary and Grassroots Information about the Cambridge Public Schools,” is widely read by parents and community members (www.publicschoolnotes.wordpress.com). My two children attended Cambridge Public Schools, K-12.
As a committee member, I know the issues, understand data, and have a record of moving issues forward.
If elected to a third term, my priorities will be to:
1) work with the administration to continue to improve instruction, particularly in math;
2) further reduce student-adult ratios through smaller class sizes and more co-teaching;
3) expand affordable preschool, afterschool, and summer programs;
4) create a comprehensive STEM/STEAM internship program for all CRLS students in order to have a truly 21st century high school.
A PROVEN RECORD OF SUCCESS
For the past two terms, my biggest emphasis has been on providing adequate staffing in our schools. Our current student-teacher ratio, unfortunately, is equivalent to that found in far less resourced districts. I have pushed successfully for smaller class sizes for 9th graders and more guidance counselors, social workers, and paraprofessionals. If elected to a third term, I will continue to push for lower adult-student ratios, particularly in the younger grades.
Having worked at a school for Deaf students, I’m particularly attuned to the needs of students receiving Special Education services. After hearing from parents with transportation concerns, I asked for a review of our transportation services for students with severe disabilities. I also asked for data about disproportionality in Special Education by income, race, gender, and English Language Learner status. The administration is now carefully examining our referral practices through an equity lens.
As an educational researcher, I am aware of the many studies showing positive effects of early childhood education and out-of-school programs. I have advocated relentlessly for affordable preschool, afterschool, and summer programs. Last year the city hired a consulting group to design a universal program for Cambridge 4-year-olds. Their recommendations should be completed soon.
As a School Committee member, I often ask for data in order to raise consciousness about key issues. For example, by asking for CPS attendance data disaggregated by income, I raised awareness about our disproportionate absence rate. As a result, the district has created more supports to help parents get their kids to school every day. At the high school level, also in response to disproportionality data, I led a successful effort to reform the Attendance Violation Policy to make it more supportive and less punitive.
Our most important policy document is the budget. Largely due to our small schools, high transportation costs, and Cambridge’s high cost of living, we spend much more on infrastructure than other districts. Per school, however, we spend about the same as Brookline. As a committee member, I analyze our budget meticulously every year, particularly in order to advocate for classroom resources that match our students’ needs and the resources of our increasingly affluent city.
"For many years now, Emily Dexter is the only, I repeat, the only member of the School Committee who has sought me out at public meetings concerning education, seeking solutions to the CPS system of Sharecropper Education."
- Bob Moses, educator, founder of the Algebra Project
"Emily gets the big picture and the details. She's already changed the conversation about CPS for the better, concentrating both on the positives and where we can do better. With Emily on the Committee, we can cut through the fog and get kids more of what they need to succeed as CPS students and after they graduate.”
-Leslie Brunetta, former CRLS parent
"Emily is steadfast in her efforts to provide our educators and schools with the tools and resources needed to help every Cambridge student succeed in their educational journeys. Her voice, with its command of what the data and experiences of students tell us, is essential to the School Committee’s mandate to narrow the achievement gap in our schools and enrich the educational experience available to all of Cambridge’s children."
Melissa Ludtke, former King Open and CRLS parent
"Emily Dexter is a serious, substantive candidate. She combines expertise in the field with in-depth experience of the details of the inner-workings of Cambridge Public Schools. Emily has excellent judgment and a vision for how our schools can do better. She is a strong advocate for more resources in the classroom as opposed to the creeping expansion of resources at the Central Office level. Emily gets what is needed practically to improve student achievement which is often at odds w/the political discourse and rhetoric we usually hear. She has the courage to ask difficult questions and demand answers, as well as the analytical ability to understand the complexities of data put in front of her. Emily is a creative, practical problem-solver. We need Emily and more candidates like her!"
- Debbie & Abram Klein, former CRLS parents