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Understanding The Cambridge School System

04/8/22  |  Emma Guardia

Choose Your Home, Then Choose Your School

There are so many reasons why people want to live in Cambridge and, for prospective homeowners with school-age children, its excellent public school system is definitely one of them. It certainly was a factor in my decision to live in Cambridge. I think the Cambridge school system is amazing, but there’s a lot to learn and sort out before you move into your new home and begin the registration process in earnest.

 

If you’re new to Cambridge, or at least to the city’s schools, you need to understand controlled choice in Cambridge, MA.  “Controlled choice” is the system by which children are assigned to schools. But first, let me give you a taste of why Cambridge schools are so highly regarded. Diversity is the name of the game, not only in the many nationalities represented (83 countries at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, the city’s high school) but also in the courses available, languages spoken, and methodologies offered. Here are just a few examples:

 

  • Immersion Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Sheltered English options beginning in kindergarten
  • Multiple early childcare and education programs, including home-based support
  • A fully-accredited Montessori school
  • Kodaly music program
  • Early start and extended day options
  • Family Liaison in every school
  • And more!

So how do you access some of this educational abundance for your child?  School selection is by controlled choice in Cambridge, MA. Under this system, you submit a request for three schools in your order of preference. Admission is by lottery, with consideration given to available seats, siblings, language needs, and balancing classrooms in terms of gender, and socioeconomic background. If you don’t receive your first choice, you’re automatically put on the waitlist for that school.

 

You’ll want to check out the Cambridge Public School Department’s website, cpsd.us. to get the detailed specifics about controlled choice and registering your child. Cpsd.us is an incredibly robust site, packed with information on virtually every school-related topic you can think of, from detailed descriptions and comparisons of individual schools to breakfast, busing, and the Birth to Third Grade Partnership.  In the meantime, here are some quick answers to questions our clients often ask.

 

  • Cambridge does not have neighborhood schools; all schools are open to all residents.
  • You must first be a Cambridge resident before you can register.
  • Lotteries are held in January and October.
  • Waitlists are maintained generally by the date of application and, yes, you can request transfers.
  • You can register online or in-person at the Student Registration Center.

This is just a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to the Cambridge public schools. Spend time on cpds.us—the “Schools at a Glance” pdf is a good place to start. Talk to friends or colleagues who live in Cambridge, perhaps visit a few schools. Even though you are still house-hunting, it’s not too early to begin thinking about how you will navigate the educational wonderland of the Cambridge Public Schools. They say no one school is right for every child, but there is sure to be one for you through controlled choice in Cambridge, MA!

 

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