EAC Chooses Plans to Submit to BPS for Evaluation
The EAC met today and decided on which plans they would like BPS to evaluate for further consideration by the committee. At this point, I think that one of these plans, possibly with some modifications, is highly likely to be recommended to the Superintendent by BPS.
The four plans submitted to BPS are:
This plan is from Peng Shi, a PhD candidate at MIT's Operations Research Center. In short, the plan calls for each student to have access to his or her four closest schools, any walk zone schools, plus any schools that are grouped with their nearby schools. These groupings would be designed to make sure that all children have a reasonably equal access to quality schools.
23 Zone Plan with Pairing
This plan would take the 23 zone plan proposed by BPS and add the zone pairing concept that I proposed to the EAC.
Six Zone Plan with Equity Interventions
This would take the six zone plan proposed by BPS and add some kind of intervention to improve equity of access. This could include giving students with no quality schools in their walk zone priority in other schools or some other intervention.
Closest School Plan with School Pairing
This would take the BPS plan where students go to the closest school with an available seat and add paired schools. It is essentially the same as the grouped schools plan, except that instead of choosing from four nearby schools, students would only choose from their closest school and any paired schools.
In addition to these plans, the EAC asked for BPS to look into several other strategies. These include:
- Parent compacting – the idea that parents who want to get together and send their kids to an under-chosen school could apply to the school as a group.
- Citywide/Magnet Schools – Schools with special programs that could either be citywide or could be available to some part of the city.
- SPED/ELL assignment – The EAC needs more information about how special education and English language learners would be assigned and how that would impact any plan
It was clear to me that the committee really likes the Grouped Schools plan right now. Carleton Jones, head of facilities and capital management for BPS, was generally positive about the ability to implement it. He thought there would be some problems they would need to solve but felt that they could do it. I was pleasantly surprised that BPS seems open to these plans.
There was also talk about doing some better evaluations of all the possible plans by simulating where children would actually be assigned under them. This is a very complicated problem to solve and requires analysis of prior years choice data (what did various families list as their 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice schools). BPS has not released that data yet, but is working with their attorney to clear any concerns about privacy. I feel that this is key as what we see in the current system is that everyone has access to quality schools when they apply, but children in certain parts of the city are much less likely to go to quality schools than children in other parts.
There was a very interesting idea proposed by Ann Walsh from John Connolly's office. This idea would address the concern that any pairing model would result in only a one-way migration of students. Students from around a low-quality school would attend the higher-quality paired school if they got a seat while middle-class parents who get a seat in an under-performing school would opt out. Of course, this happens quite a bit now and may be part of the reason for inequities in the current system. Ann's idea would actually merge some paired schools into a single K-8 school. If the higher-quality school were the lower school (say K-3), parents would then have an incentive to send their children knowing that they would all go to the under-performing upper school together. If the under-performing school was the lower school, parents would have incentive to send their kids there as it would be the only way to access the high-performing upper school. The committee and BPS showed some interest in this, but both seemed to feel it was outside the scope of this process. I'd definitely like to see this explored further.
I continue to be encouraged by what I'm hearing from the committee. My biggest concern now is that this process is moving so fast. Peng's plan is a week old (by which I mean he had the idea for it a week ago). He completed his write up and analysis of it last night. At the same time, the EAC is still waiting for vital information on SPED/ELL assignment. A deeper evaluation of the plans is needed and will probably take at least a month. And they're expected to make a final recommendation on 11/26. There was a fair amount of talk of extending the process, even if just by a few weeks.