School Committee approves neighborhood-based school choice plan
The Boston School Committee voted 6-1 Wednesday evening to approve a new Home-Based school choice plan, which delivers on Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s promise to help more students attend quality schools closer to home. The plan will take effect for the 2014-2015 school year and replaces the existing three-zone system, which was created in 1988.
“Tonight’s historic vote marks a new day for every child in the City of Boston,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “A more predictable and equitable student assignment system that emphasizes quality and keeps our children close to home has been a long time coming for our city. Boston Public Schools have never been stronger – and now is the time to ensure our student assignment process reflects the great progress we’ve made.”
“Graduation rates have never been higher, students are outperforming their peers in other urban districts, and more parents are choosing Boston Public Schools for their children each year,” the Mayor said. “There will always be more work to be done to push all of our schools to be better, and tonight’s vote sets a path forward to make all our schools quality schools of choice.”
The Home-Based plan:
- Does away with zones and puts a priority on helping students attend quality schools close to home.
- Uses addresses as a starting point and offers families all the choices closest to home (within a mile). Where we have concerns about the quality of schools nearby, it offers more choices a little further away. Everyone has a minimum of six schools from a list that accounts for quality, location and capacity.
- Increases the chances a family will get one of their top three choices from 72% (now) to 80% (home-based).
- Increases the chances a student will be in the same class as another child from their neighborhood by 30 percent.
- Cuts average distance a child travels by 40% (from 1.87 miles to 1.1 miles on average).
- Is self-correcting and adapts as quality improves. Every time a school gets better, predictability and equity increase and the distance students have to travel will decrease.
- Will roll out gradually due to grandfathering and sibling grandfathering. No child has to change schools.
- Helps English Language Learners and students with disabilities know that a school nearby will have a quality program for them.
This plan was developed through the work of a 27-member External Advisory Committee made up of parents, students and community members. The group held approximately 100 open meetings during the course of the last year and heard more than 5,000 voices during more than 50 community meetings and online surveys.
Superintendent Carol R. Johnson, who is in Memphis following the death of her husband, delivered a written statement to the School Committee in her recommendation to approve the plan. “This represents a major step forward for our city,” she said. “It is a bold plan that strengthens access to quality schools, builds predictability and improves our communities while ensuring our schools can serve them well. This approval will allow us to focus together on improving school quality and access to quality all across our city.” The District must now focus on implementing the plan, educating parents and the community about the changes, and ensuring quality improves for all schools and all students, she said.
School Committee chairman Michael O’Neill said the plan puts a priority on helping students attend schools close to home. “This plan represents the work of thousands of members of our community who dedicated their time to help us come up with something innovative, transparent, and much more predictable for families,” he said. “We hope this will encourage even more parents to consider the Boston Public Schools for their children.”
The Boston Public Schools serves approximately 57,000 students in 128 schools. This proposal would affect the way students choose and are assigned to schools in grades K through 8. It also includes an overlay for English Language Learners, which would help ensure these students have quality programs that will meet their needs in schools that are closer to where they live. The School Committee approved a similar overlay for students with disabilities.
The plan also creates middle school pathways to connect elementary schools with middle schools so families do not have to re-enter the choice lottery in later grades. Families could voluntarily choose different middle schools under the plan if they did not wish to be part of the pathway. All high schools would remain citywide just as today.
For more information and to use an interactive tool to see how the plan would work at an individual address, visit bostonschoolchoice.org.