Student Assignment Policy

Update - Changes to Registration & Assignment for SY2017-2018:

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BPS has adopted a Home-Based student assignment policy to assign students to kindergarten through grade 8. All of our high schools remain citywide options for our students.


The Home-Based plan uses a student’s home as the starting point.

  • BPS will offer a customized list of school choices for every family based on their home address. It includes every school within a one-mile radius of their home plus, as needed, nearby schools that have the highest levels of MCAS performance and growth. This ensures that every family has access to high-quality schools, no matter where they live.
  • The list may also grow, as needed, to include schools offering K0, Advanced Work Class (AWC) and more, and to ensure we can offer every child a seat in a school on his or her list. These are called “Option Schools.”
  • Families may also select any citywide school. And some families may have regional options, as well.
  • Every family will have a choice of at least six schools; most will have between 10 and 14 choices.
  • The Home-Based plan uses an algorithm, similar to a lottery; therefore we can’t guarantee an applicant will be assigned to one of his or her top choices
  • Just as in the past, due to limited seating we cannot guarantee an assignment to K0 or K1.
  • Students who apply for kindergarten, grade 6 and 9 in January have the best chance of assignment to their top choice schools.
  • For students applying for a non-transition grade (1-5, 7 and 8), BPS will make every effort to assign to a school on the Home Based list; however, due to grandfathering, an assignment from the list cannot be guaranteed. In such instances, a student may be administratively assigned to a school within the former zone structure.

Ensuring Quality

The Home-Based plan is designed to make sure every family has high-quality schools on their customized lists. We have grouped our schools into four MCAS Tiers according to how students performed on MCAS tests for a recent two-year period.

Every family has at least two of the highest scoring schools (Tier I – the top 25%) and at least four schools that are in the top half of MCAS performance (Tier I and Tier II) on their customized lists. Finally, at least six of the schools will be MCAS Tier I, II, or III.

We know that families look at many factors beyond MCAS to decide whether to choose a school, and we are working with the community this year to develop a better long-term measure of quality.

Valuing Family

The Home-Based plan continues to work to keep families together. As such, the plan includes sibling priority. While BPS cannot guarantee siblings seats in a particular school, the sibling priority is the highest priority we offer to ensure that we make every effort within our policies to keep families together.

Supporting English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities

The Home-Based plan creates community clusters of school options to ensure that students can enroll in schools that offer quality programs closer to home.
English Language Learning students have access to schools on their home based list as well as program options in their wider cluster.
Depending on their needs, students with disabilities may be able to choose seats from the home-based list, or they may be assigned to a program within the cluster in which they reside if their Individualized Education Program calls for specific services or level of services.
A few programs still remain citywide, as well.
You can read about the plan in more detail and learn about school options here:


An in-depth look at our elementary and middle school options


An in-depth look at our high school options
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Understanding the Home-Based school choice plan

What are "priorities?"

Sometimes a school doesn’t have room for every student who lists it as a choice. When this happens, the computer assigns students based on choice and priorities. Sibling priority is our highest priority, and other priorities include EEC/ELC priority, present school priority, and East Boston/Non East Boston priority.

Sibling Priority

We try to assign children in the same family to the same school if the parent requests it. If you want your children to go to the same school, ask the Welcome Center staff how to apply for sibling priority. However, sometimes a school doesn’t have room for all the siblings who apply for it; so we can’t guarantee sibling assignments. Be sure to list sibling preference the first time you apply.

Present School Priority

Present school priority gives a student priority to a program in his/her school over another student attending a different school. For example, a student currently enrolled in grade 3 at the Hennigan School will receive a priority to a grade 4 AWC (Advanced Work Course) seat at the Hennigan over a grade 3 student attending the Mendell School who has selected the Hennigan AWC program.

Priority for EEC and ELC students applying for Grade 2

Students completing grade 1 at an Early Learning Center (ELC) or Early Education Center (EEC) that does not have a Pathway school will be assigned to available grade 2 seats before students new to the BPS or those applying for transfers from other elementary schools.

When assigning these students to grade 2 seats, including assignments from wait lists, the usual factors will be considered, including the registration period when the students applied, priorities, and their random number. Exceptions may include program seats for English Language Learners, services for some students with disabilities, and middle school-age students because some East Boston elementary schools have pathways to middle schools in Charlestown.

East Boston/Non-East Boston priority

Due to its unique location, East Boston general education students beginning in K2 have a guarantee to an assignment in East Boston, if they so choose.

  • Customized lists for East Boston students will include all schools in East Boston. East Boston residents are given a priority over non East Boston applicants to those seats. These customized lists will also include some schools outside of East Boston, but the priority would not apply for these schools.
  • Since this limits access for non-East Boston residents who may have East Boston Schools on their lists as well, these students will have priority to the remaining schools on their lists over East Boston students.

Random numbers

The computer gives each application a random number. Random numbers are used to break “ties” between students who have the same priorities for the school.

How does this work? Let’s say there is one seat left for K2 at the Kenny School. All applicants with sibling have been assigned. Three additional students, all without sibling priority, listed the Kenny as their first choice. The student with the lowest (“best”) random number will be assigned.