Catalyzing Ongoing Equity Work in CPS

In December of 2019 the Building Equity Bridges Movement Support Team put forth a call to action for Cambridge Public Schools to become an Antiracist school district. We called on Cambridge Public Schools, the Cambridge Education Association, School Committee and the City of Cambridge to invest immediately in the following 12 commitments:

  • A clear, written, public, and transparent course of action for investigating and responding to reports of racist behavior, including clear steps for: communication; restorative practices; professional learning; and accountability, up to and including termination.
  • Immediate creation and ongoing investment in healing spaces and mental health supports for community members harmed by racism.
  • Mandatory professional learning for Cambridge Public Schools staff and School Committee members in: anti-racism; histories and perspectives of people of color; systems of oppression; culturally responsive practices; and relationship-building; along with anti-racist criteria and measurable anti-racist evaluation goals for all district educators, administrators, and staff.
  • Comprehensive review of all school-based discipline policies and practices, including heavy investment in restorative practices.
  • Elevating and supporting direct youth power. This will include direct youth input and feedback in hiring, educator accountability and school/district accountability. It will also include sharing and building power with youth and youth organizations – including adults yielding power to center youth agency, particularly among black and brown youth.
  • Creation and ongoing investment in councils of youth, families and educators from traditionally marginalized groups (including our American-born black, Latinx, indigenous and immigrant communities). This includes a direct role in district planning and accountability, as well as explicit power to develop additional commitments.
  • A new districtwide anti-racism statement with common language and expectations for all district community members, including concrete criteria for what anti-racism looks like in practice. All schools and departments will develop plans to become anti-racist.
  • Creation of an Office of Anti-Racism and Equity to provide coordination, accountability, and support for all CPS stakeholders to act on the anti-racism statement.
  • Comprehensive and ongoing review of all School Committee, district, Cambridge Education Association, and school-based policies and practices using the Anti-Racism Statement and criteria.
  • Comprehensive and ongoing review of all K-12 curriculum and assessments (including high-stakes testing) for anti-racism and cultural responsiveness.
  • Trainings, workshops and other opportunities for families to learn, reflect, act, and build community toward anti-racism and equity.
  • A community accountability plan for these commitments, including: timelines; visible action steps; monthly community updates from the superintendent and Cambridge Education Association; and monthly meetings for direct community feedback about commitment implementation.

The 12 Commitments outline the actions needed to disrupt the Barriers to Equity.

Anti-racist Action Steps to Disrupt Barriers to Equity

These Commitments are grounded in the work of the first phase of the Building Equity Bridges project. Throughout the initial two years of work CPS youth, families, educators, and community members have been generating demands to address the Barriers to Equity. On June 12th at our member check event the Movement Support Team shared a list of 150 demands with the Building Equity Bridges movement for feedback. A group of youth then met over the summer of 2019 to develop organizing plans grounded in the Barriers and Demands. The 12 Commitments represent a condensed list of the initial 150 demands generated directly by Movement members. 200 youth, educators, and family members gave feedback on list of commitments shared here. The Building Equity Bridges Movement Support Team also recognizes that this list could never be final, and will continue to gather feedback on the commitments and input into how they will be implemented to become a reality.

Arc of the Building Equity Bridges Work

Arc Equity Work

Building Equity Bridges puts forth the framework of Anti-racism
“Even inaction (simply being ‘not racist’) in the face of racism is, in fact, a form of racism.” -Ibram X. Kendi

There is no neutral: we must take an active stance to eradicate racism in our schools. This requires deep personal work from each of us and a relentless commitment to making all decisions through the lens of anti-racism.

Cambridge Public Schools Commits to Anti-Racism
Superintendent Salim is immediately prioritizing the following actions based on the Building Equity Bridges recommended commitments.

Building Equity Bridges is working closely with Superintendent Salim and CPS leadership to develop an action plan for all 12 Recommended Commitments to be shared publicly on January 30th. Join the Building Equity Bridges mailing list to get updates about CPS’ journey towards becoming an antiracist school district.

On January 21st the Cambridge School Committee will be voting on a motion to center the Building Equity Bridges to prioritize anti-racist and racial equity work throughout the Committee’s 2020-21 term and endorse the 12 BEB commitments. We invite members of the community to attend the School Committee meeting on 1/21 at 6PM at the School Committee room at CRLS and to email or call their school committee members to voice support for this motion and hold our leaders accountable to following through on the professed commitment to racial equity. Building Equity Bridges will provide child care at the 1/21 school committee meeting. Please email if you would like to take advantage of childcare.
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