your connection to The Boston Globe

City's schools fail middle class

The problem with Cambridge public schools isn't lack of information (''Pssst, we have schools here, too," City Weekly, April 16). Parents in Cambridge have lots of information, and most of it is depressing. The Cambridge Public School District wastes thousands of dollars on slick public relations, but we aren't fooled.

Cambridge's public schools have three problems. First, they value equality over excellence. Accordingly, schools teach to the lowest common denominator. In February, we began home-schooling our third-grader. She enjoyed math (or do I mean arts and crafts?), but she couldn't actually do much of it. (There is a reason Cambridge ranks in the bottom quintile of Massachusetts schools, despite its jaw-dropping budget of $23,000 per student.)

Second, the Cambridge public schools have a bloated central administration, spending twice as much as other school districts.

The school district's final problem is its insane system of ''controlled choice." If you are middle class, you have no choice. You can't afford private school, and you won't be assigned to one of the three or four acceptable schools, because all schools must be socio-economically balanced.

When Cambridge implemented this misguided policy in 2002, no one realized that there aren't enough middle-class families to go around. We can't create the critical mass that will save the Cambridge public schools, so we are leaving instead, moving to neighboring (and even more expensive) suburbs. Last year, 13 families at my daughter's school pulled their children after fifth grade. Due to the third-grade disaster, at least five more families plan to leave Cambridge this summer.

We like Cambridge and its diversity. We believe in public schools and want to send our daughter back. However, we also have a responsibility to provide our four children with an adequate education. The Cambridge Public School District is giving us no choice but to join the middle-class exodus to the suburbs.

Elizabeth Harmer-Dionne

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives