September 16, 2009 School Committee Members Jeffrey M. Young Superintendent of Schools Outline of Proposed Process/Timeline for Middle Grade Decisionmaking

This memo outlines a proposed process/timeline for decision-making regarding middle grades education in Cambridge. I understand that this subject has been a topic for discussion for a very long time and I am hopeful that through this process (or some version of it) the School Committee will be able to feel comfortable making an important policy decision about the future of grades 6-8 education in the city. The dates listed below correspond to regular School Committee meetings. The plan calls for presentation/School Committee discussion at one of the two meetings each month (dates to be determined). I look forward to our meeting on September 22, 2009 when I will make a brief presentation of this proposal and invite School Committee feedback as to whether or how it should be adjusted. September 22, 2009—At this meeting, as noted above, we will have some initial discussion about the process and timeline for the decision. October 6/20, 2009—To help ground the discussion in the work that has already been done, we should use this meeting to provide the school committee with a recap of the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Middle Schools. In addition, we will summarize the feedback from the staff and parent forums on this subject. I am hopeful that Mr. Grassi will be able to join me in providing a brief overview/reminder of the Committee’s work to help the School Committee get this discussion started in a positive manner. November 17, 2009—At this meeting the administration will present data we believe will be important for the School Committee to understand in order to make the best possible informed decision at the end of this process. Right now we are working on enrollment projections, building capacity analysis, controlled choice implications and other projects. If the School Committee believes that additional data are needed for you to make a sound decision, please let us receive your data requests by the middle of October.

December 1/15, 2009—Cambridge is not the only community working to address the learning needs of students aged 11-14. We do not need to be working in a vacuum or reinventing the wheel. Thus, we would like to acquaint the School Committee with current research on best practices for educating children in this age group. On this evening we will present a summary of excellent approaches we have studied, locally, nationally, and internationally. In this meeting, we would value your thoughts and feedback on further information that will help you down the road. January 5/19, 2010—This would be a good time to involve the public in our discussion. Therefore, I would suggest dedicating a certain portion of one of our meetings to a more formal public hearing where parents, staff and others could comment on the Blue Ribbon Report, the data analysis, and the current research to help us point a way toward defining the best possible program for our middle grades students. February 2, 2010—At this meeting, having developed the presentation material and after hearing from the public, I would be prepared to deliver the superintendent’s recommendation for middle grades education. I would expect this to be an approximately 30 minute presentation followed by some initial Q & A with the School Committee. This is just the right time for School Committee members to ask the administration to consider certain factors or provide more information relative to the decision at hand. March 2/16, 2010—On the regular agenda there should be an item devoted to School Committee discussion about the middle grades recommendation. Presumably we will have heard from many people since the night of the presentation on February 2, 2009 and we would value gaining some insight into the public debate. April 6, 2010—This is the date that should be set for the School Committee vote. This vote would be to adopt or amend the superintendent’s recommendation so that planning can begin, regardless of the outcome of the vote. The goal of this process is to empower the School Committee to make a wise educational policy decision having had the opportunity to study the important background information and to receive significant input from staff and parents. Although I do not yet know what recommendation I will produce in February, I can tell you that it will be our best effort to meeting the twin over-aching goals I discussed with the faculty/staff at our opening day meeting. These big goals—academic excellence and social justice, which are often seen as competing in fact must work together if we are going to do something special here.