“At the Boston Public Schools (BPS), we believe that every student, in every classroom, in every school must have the same opportunity to achieve the greatness within them. In order for that to happen, we must close opportunity and achievement gaps. This is a fundamental priority for our district. It drives our work and guides our budget decisions. To reach that goal, BPS this year is launching an innovative tool, called the Opportunity Index, that we developed to create a more nuanced method for distributing some resources — one that uses data in new ways to account for the differing experiences, opportunities, and needs of our students and the diverse backgrounds from which they come.
“This groundbreaking approach will help us better measure these differences — factors proven to significantly impact a young person’s academic outcomes — as a way to identify schools with higher concentrations of students in need. This in turn will enable us to allocate resources more equitably, and provide additional supports where they are needed most. The Opportunity Index will help us lessen the inequities that impact our students’ lives — often before they even walk through our doors — and advance our mission of ensuring all BPS students receive the resources they need to prepare them to succeed in college, career, and life.”
— Tommy Chang, Superintendent
What is the Opportunity Index?
The Opportunity Index is a pioneering tool designed and developed by the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) to measure and quantify schools that serve the highest concentrations of students in need. It incorporates a range of data representing factors that are outside of the schools’ control but are also predictive of students’ academic outcomes. These factors include data related to a student’s home neighborhood, such as safety; income and education levels; and physical environment. It also calculates factors specific to individual students and their families, such as the socioeconomic status of the family, and student attendance rates and academic achievement. These multiple measures are used to create an Opportunity Index score for each school that is based upon the concentration of students in greater need compared to to their peers across the district. Opportunity Index scores range from 0.01 to 0.99, with higher numbers indicating a higher average level of student need.
- For a detailed overview of the Opportunity Index, please click here.
- To review a list of all schools’ Opportunity Index scores, please click here.
How is the Opportunity Index being applied?
For the 2018-2019 school year (fiscal year 2019), BPS will apply the Opportunity Index to two allocations:
- The Partnership Fund: money provided to schools with the intent of funding school-based opportunities provided by external, community-based organizations, known as partners.
- School Support Funds: discretionary funding provided to schools to support academic goals and priorities.
Please click here for a detailed overview of these two applications: The Partnership Fund & School Support Funds.
The Partnership Fund
Historically, BPS has earmarked a pool of central office partnership funds for nonprofit organizations to partner with schools across the district. In FY18, BPS allocates a total of $5.8 million in partnership funds to 13 different partner organizations to provide school-based services such as after-school programming, tutoring, and mentoring. Although BPS deeply values its partnership funding as a strategic investment in our collective efforts to close opportunity and achievement gaps, there has never been a coherent, equitable, and transparent strategy for how this funding was allocated.
Beginning with the FY19 budget cycle, BPS will use the Opportunity Index to allocate $6 million in Partnership Funds to 60 schools. Schools with an Opportunity Index score greater than or equal to 0.57 (60 schools) will receive a per-pupil allocation based upon their Opportunity Index score. Using their Partnership Fund dollars, schools will be empowered to choose and fund one or more partners to provide services that best meet the needs and priorities of their school communities.
It is important to note that hundreds of partners work in our schools every day. Most of these partners do not receive BPS funding to operate, and there are many other partners that receive BPS funding through a variety of school- and district-based resources; this change in funding directly applies only to the 13 aforementioned partners that have historically been funded by a pool of BPS central office partnership funds.
- To review a list of all schools receiving Partnerships Funds and their proposed FY19 allocations, please click here.
School Support Funds
In addition to Partnership Funds, BPS will also utilize the Opportunity Index to allocate a total of $3 million in discretionary funds to over 100 schools. These funds, called School Support Funds, will be distributed to schools for them to use in ways that support their academic goals and priorities. This could include, for example, hiring additional staff, expanding technology, providing professional development, and engaging families. Schools with an Opportunity Index score greater than or equal to 0.35 (102 schools) and will receive a per-pupil allocation based upon their score.
- To review a list of all schools receiving School Support Funds and their proposed FY19 School Support Fund allocations, please click here.