State of the School Choice Reform Process

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I would like BPS Workshop to be a site about all matters related to improving the Boston Public Schools. For now, though, I am focused on the school choice reform process that is currently underway. So let’s dive right in and take a look at where the process stands.

Early this year the superintendent appointed an External Advisory Committee (EAC) to help the district select a new plan for student choice and assignment. The committee held several meetings over the spring and summer to solicit feedback from the community on what is currently working and not working and what factors the EAC should consider when creating a new plan.

Earlier this fall, BPS released five proposed plans. One of these plans would send each child to the school closest to his or her home where there was an available seat. The other four plans are essentially the same as the current plan but with six to twenty-three zones instead of the current three. All five plans would create a K-8 pathway for all students meaning that every child would either attend a K-8 school or would attend an elementary school that feeds into a designated middle school. This means that families would only need to go through the choice process for elementary school and high school. There would be no need to choose a middle school.

Several members of the community also submitted proposals. BPS has posted these on-line and asked their authors to present them at a meeting last week. I submitted the "Paired Zone Plan," but I find several of the proposals interesting.

My biggest concern right now is how the EAC can evaluate all of these plans before making a decision. I would like to see them seriously consider some of the plans that have been submitted by the community. Also, what else is out there? Are there other good ideas that could be generated through a more concerted effort to solicit proposals from experts and others? Right now, the EAC is expected to submit their recommendation to the Superintendent in time for her to present it to the School Committee in December. I do not believe that this will give the EAC enough time to fully evaluate and consider all the proposals already on the table, let alone any new ideas.

A group called QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student) has been formed to encourage the EAC to slow down the process and make sure that any new plan will address equality of access. If you agree, sign their petition.

Over the next several days and weeks I will post my thoughts on the various proposals. For now, let’s make sure that we take our time and get this right. The current system is twenty-five years old. I’d hate to see us rush into a plan that could be with us until 2037.

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