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About Controlled Choice

The Controlled Choice Policy is designed to create diverse, academically rigorous schools with equal access to educational resources. Controlled Choice began in 1980 when the Cambridge School Committee voted to desegregate the schools by moving away from a neighborhood schools model. 

The original Controlled Choice Plan followed a formula that emphasized socioeconomic integration. In 2001, the assignment process was changed to emphasize socioeconomic status (SES) as measured by the percentage of students who do and do not qualify for the Federal Free & Reduced Lunch Program. When the percentage of students at a school who do and do not qualify for this benefit reflects the School District's averages, the school is considered to be “balanced.” 

When families register for school, they are asked to voluntarily disclose whether or not they qualify for the Free & Reduced Lunch program. This question establishes the family’s assignment category. If a family discloses that they qualify for this benefit, their child’s application is categorized as “Free/Reduced Lunch.” If they do not qualify, or choose not to share this information, their application is assigned as “Paid Lunch.” By voluntarily disclosing whether or not they qualify for this program, families help our system be more equitable.

School assignments first aim to match families to their choices of school; however family choice is balanced against the district’s interest in creating equitable schools, as well as programmatic factors such as gender balance, balancing enrollment sizes at the elementary and Upper Schools, and the language requirements of dual immersion schools.

Although Controlled Choice requires time and patience, there are many benefits to this system.

  • Choice promotes academic excellence in all schools.
  • Choice offers parents and students an assurance that if they move to another residence within the city, they won’t need to switch schools.
  • Choice eliminates the need to redraw boundaries due to changes in housing and demographic patterns throughout the district.
  • Choice allows the district to monitor class size at each building.
  • Parents are not limited to their neighborhood school, and have the ability to seek out a location, structure, schedule, and teaching approach that fits their children’s needs.
  • Students have the opportunity to get outside of their neighborhood and experience the rich diversity of our community.