CPS Pre-K/K Lottery: The 13 factors to use in ranking your elementary school choices in Cambridge [Table Included]
I'm writing this post because I put in so many hours figuring this stuff out for myself last year (January 2022). And I know many other parents were duplicating the same efforts. Well, if this post has any say in the matter: no more!
If you read (skim) through this, I promise you'll save much valuable time. Here's what I wish I'd known about 1 year ago (when I realized, belatedly, our proximity schools didn't thrill me).
Update: A parent emailed me about a comprehensive, parent-created CPS Lottery resource from 2018, but still has a lot of helpful info.
To-dos for making your CPS ranking:
LAST STEP: before submitting, make sure you (and your partner) can articulate why you've put each school on your list. This is important as it will:
Caveat - I'm new & still learning: I have little CPS experience (my 5yo just started in September). And he is healthy with no learning disabilities or other issues so far. FWIW, our son ended up at Baldwin and goes by bus.
Please email me with corrections/suggestions/questions: email@example.com. I'd love to add your insights to this post.
And now --
THE RULES & FACTORS you should know before choosing your ranking
FACTOR #1: PROXIMITY SCHOOLS
7 takeaways from DHSP’s “public records” response. (Includes a breakdown of your chances of getting into any Afterschool.)
[This post is our analysis of the data from the response to our FOIA request on afterschool. To join our advocacy mailing list, leave your email in our petition or email firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Background: Last time we heard from DHSP was just so frustrating — that was on June 16, when, at City Council behest, DHSP presented on the status of its “Community Schools” afterschool program.
The presentation made clear that DHSP isn't actively working on expanding afterschool to meet demand. (DHSP notably cited the need for a year-long, consultant-led study before even starting the work.)
If you're curious, we summarized our takeaways after that meeting in this slide from our presentation to incoming City Manager Yi-An Huang on July 19, 2022.
As you can see from our June takeaways, one of our main frustrations is DHSP's lack of transparency. This is problematic for many reasons:
(Our table of the likelihoods of getting into any afterschool is in #2 below.)
Here are our main takeaways (again, you can look at their full data here):
We're excited to share the City's 7/29/22 response to our FOIA request for information.
Unfortunately, the City has not made this information available online, so we're putting the info up here.
The response was in four parts:
In addition, here is DHSP's October 2021 Report, which they didn't make available online. Link to PDF.
Our analysis includes 7 main takeaways.
Your thoughts/analysis/pushback on our findings are extremely welcome.
Please email Eugenia (email@example.com) and Amanda (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your takes.
[This is my analysis of the 4 candidates on education and family issues. I sent this email to City Council and School Committee ahead of the Council's vote on Monday 6/6/22 for the new City Manager.]
to: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not pushing one candidate, but do want to share what candidates have said on one issue: Children.
I feel that few people are spotlighting this issue — though education/childcare policy is one of the most powerful engines the City has for lifting people out of poverty and reducing inequality.
Problematic — Mr. Khumalo on closing education gaps
On Wednesday [6/1/22], Councilor Azeem asked Mr. Khumalo about closing racial gaps in the city. (Note: other candidates didn't get this question, so we can't compare answers.)
Mr. Khumalo answered, "Any attempts to close an education gap that doesn't affect workforce development, housing, etc. will not work."
This answer is dismaying. It gives public schools cover for not being able to close these education gaps. When I was a public school teacher in the Bronx, people constantly blamed poverty for not getting better outcomes for our students. That is wrong — in fact, CSCC is one local school that has closed the racial education gap, though its Black students share the same demographics as those at CPS.
City Budget implies "Not Enough Community After-School Spots" Saga will continue next academic year
This post is an update on my earlier post concerning DHSP's inability to provide ~500 afterschool spots to the families that need them, including 42 low-income students.
I have 3 updates on this question. None of them is an answer. But they're what I've got, so I thought I'd share. They are:
PART I: The ordinances I should have written about before show it's all about a City Manager who cares. (This one doesn't.)
Thank you to one mom who called me to walk me through important history I left out of my Advocacy post. In that post, I discussed:
From DHSP head Ellen Semonoff herself this morning (Friday 4/22):
DHSP has "begun working" on the 2022-2023 Community Schools Afterschool Lottery. Good to know!
The "anticipated timeline" includes
Big thanks to the mom who forwarded this to me. And to Councilor Quinton Zondervan for forwarding it to her!
As of right now [Monday, June 9], this is still not up on DHSP's Community Schools website, so you're in on a secret.
For context, a Cambridge parent told me that, "Somervillle ran its lottery in March and they notify families by June so that they have enough time to hire staff and so families can plan." (See Somerville afterschool.)
In the spirit of complete transparency, below is the entire email from Ellen (It's mostly about their Summer Camp program). I looked up and added the titles of the people on the email. The info on After-Schools is the very last paragraph, bolded below.
(There's also some fascinating stuff on why everyone missed the Summer Camp announcement because it seemed like spam.)
Umm ... Obvious alert: Cambridge parents are angry because there aren't nearly enough after-school spots in this town.
You'd think I'd know this, since I just wrote a post to expiate my own anger over how confusing figuring out how to get a spot is. But I didn't. As a new mom in the system, there's so much to get angry about, that it takes you a little while to catch up.
(All said with love to the hard-working administrators and teachers in the system. I know it's all been tough these last years.)
That being said, multiple people have asked me to help with advocacy. So, this post is my attempt to sort through why parents do need to advocate and what they can do.
As usual, please email me with corrections/additions/suggestions at email@example.com, as I don't really know what I'm doing.
Step 1: A few parents (4-5) meet with Marc McGovern.
I lay out what I know about the problem below. But there are many unanswered questions. City Councilor Marc McGovern chairs the committee that oversees DHSP, so he's a natural first place to go + move on from there. Therefore, please email me if you'd like to join a small meeting to talk with Marc (firstname.lastname@example.org) before the end of April.
Step 2: I don't have a step 2 yet, so ITM, here's what I know about the after-school problem
Note: I've added updates on TIMING throughout.
This is the info I wish was readily available online. It’s not, so I had to do the research myself. It would be a waste to hoard it for myself.
First, thank you, Cambridge for putting together this comprehensive list of after-school options (hereafter, the Overwhelming List, or OL for short).
Small problem — whoever put this together does not actually have kids they’re trying to get coverage for. I know this because so much crucial info is missing (from the list or anywhere on the web).
So here’s what I’ve learned emailing, calling, and visiting various programs so that you can get through it all faster. If I’ve made errors or you have new info, please share — email me email@example.com. [Many edits made 4/1 — thank you!]
BASICS: Cambridge has 3 types of after-school programs. All are 10-month programs (September — June). (All separately offer summer programming.) They are:
This calls for a table, so here’s one with the basics (many of which I only learned via lengthy email correspondence, as it’s not up online). Get your bearings, then meet me below for deeper dives.
Eugenia Schraa & Amanda Beatty
Cambridge moms of young kids, going slowly nuts trying to wrangle basic info from the City about schools, after schools, preschools, and probably much more.