BPS receives feedback on school choice plans from more than 1,850 people
A new report released Monday by Boston Public Schools shows Boston families value walk zone priorities and believe the school choice system can be improved to create a student assignment system that’s more predictable, more fair, and continues to offer more quality schools throughout the city. Independent reports have also determined the current three-zone system does not balance quality and diversity across the city and has room for improvement.
Through 14 community meetings, an online survey and a dedicated website, BPS has engaged more than 1,850 people to provide feedback on five models the district presented to the External Advisory Committee (EAC) on School Choice in late September. The EAC is a citywide group of individuals, appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Superintendent Carol R. Johnson to support the integrity of the community engagement process and to provide feedback to the district on proposed school choice plans as they are developed. Monday, BPS presented the EAC with a 164-page “what we are hearing” report to summarize the feedback so far. Among the highlights:
- 77% of participants who attended a community meeting currently have a child in BPS, while 59% of on-line respondents do.
- About 70% of participants in community meetings and almost 80% of online respondents indicate they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the school their child attends.
- Respondents tended to see more quality choices for their own families under the various models than they perceived families in other neighborhoods would have under a new system.
- Participants urged BPS to allow current students to remain in their schools even if they are no longer in their home zone under a new plan. In response to this feedback, Superintendent Johnson has announced current students would be not be asked to change schools under any new plan.
- Participants strongly value walk zones and prefer to keep the existing policy that allows students to cross a zone boundary line to enroll in a school that is one mile or less from their home. This policy is already included in all the zone-based BPS proposals.
- Families of English Language Learners (ELL) tend to support the ELL overlay proposal, especially after learning BPS proposes to add at least four dual language programs throughout the city and supports an expansion of heritage programs.
- Families of students with disabilities tend to support the SPED overlay proposal, especially after learning that BPS proposes 11 new inclusive schools for the 2014-15 school year and another 12-15 in the following year.
BPS has posted source data on the bostonschoolchoice.org website to allow individuals and organizations to evaluate the models on their own. Two independent analyses have found the current three-zone system does not balance quality or diversity.
One report, from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), finds that “under all four of the [BPS] zone-based assignment alternatives, access to ‘high’ or ‘medium’ quality schools would improve -- albeit modestly -- for Black students relative to current attendance patterns.” The report further determined that “Access would improve for Hispanic students under all but the 11-zone plan,” provided students have equitable attendance at the higher-quality schools in their new zone.
The MAPC report, other analyses and school choice proposals received from groups and individuals are all available at bostonschoolchoice.org.