EAC Meeting Review - 10/23/12
Another day, another EAC meeting. Tonight's meeting focused on choosing one or more models to submit for evaluation to BPS or to the plan's author. Discussion was mostly about shared zone and shared school models.
The committee is very interested in a plan being developed by Peng Shi, an MIT PhD student. This plan would pair or group schools together to balance quality. Families could choose any of their four closest schools, plus any additional schools within one mile of their address. In addition, families could choose any school grouped with their nearby schools. So it incorporates the concept of pairing and the four closest schools concept of the Quality Choice Plan. One advantage of this plan is that because it doesn't use zones, it's more flexible. If BPS manages to create more quality schools, some of the school groupings could simply be dissolved as they would no longer be needed to balance quality. Peng wasn't there tonight, but we've discussed his plan so I did my best to answer the committee's questions.
There was lots of talk about the appeal of a plan without zones like Peng's plan. John Nucci even said he didn't see the point in having zones. Helen Dájer was particularly interested in this. She promises to bring whatever kind of donuts Peng likes to Saturday's meeting if he'll come.
Laura Perille said she wouldn't be comfortable signing on to any plan that assumed that the quality of certain schools would improve. There seemed to be a consensus that any plan would have to consider current quality and not what might happen if efforts to improve schools are successful.
Ian Deason urged BPS to continue to be transparent and release as much data as possible without compromising privacy, even after this process is over (can I get a Hell, yeah?).
There was also quite a bit of talk about how special ed (SPED) and English-language learner (ELL) students would be assigned. BPS's current plan for this is an "overlay" which would have several zones each for SPED and ELL that would be separate from the general ed. assignment zones. Advocates for these students want to make sure any plan has full consideration for matching these students to the programs they need which are not always available close to home.
In the end, the committee decided they wanted analyses of several plans. They'd like to see a paired zone plan based on the BPS 23 zone model, Peng's plan, and a couple of others. I'm honestly not sure what the others would be as it got a little confusing and I'm not sure all the committee members understood what all the plans under discussion really were. Mostly they would involve some kind of pairing.
Over all, I thought it was a good meeting. The EAC has shown a willingness to explore new ideas and not locked in to what was proposed by BPS initially. The timeline is still a problem. Peng is rushing to put together a proposal before Saturday's meeting. One parent asked about community feedback for these new plans. It's an excellent question. BPS held a bunch of meetings to get people's opinions on the five BPS plans, but now there are totally new plans.
I'll be at Saturday's meeting and I'm hoping the EAC will keep exploring these options and maybe even realize that the timeline is impractical.