EAC Meeting Review - 02/05/2013
Tonight's EAC meeting started with Bob Gittens reading a letter from Mayor Menino asking the committee to work past the weekend but finish by the end of February. The committee voted overwhelmingly to accept this request.
There was confusion early in the meeting as Hardin Coleman said that the committee had asked BPS for analysis of a "no zone" plan which he described as a "strictly neighborhood" plan. I was surprised by this because I hadn't heard it at the prior meetings. It turned out there was confusion about what was requested. EAC member Bill Walczak had requested data on a "no zone" plan, but not the "no zone" plan that BPS had proposed in September which involved kids attending the closest school with an available seat. It seems like what Bill wanted was a version of Peng Shi's grouped schools plan, but he wasn't at the meeting and nobody was entirely clear what had been asked for.
The committee then moved on to public comment. Again, there were a lot of comments about quality. Also questions about whether the plans are equitable. Several people also spoke about concerns about further segregating both the schools and the city's neighborhoods if a neighborhood school plan is selected.
The committee moved on to a discussion of what information they need in order to make a decision on the plan. They want to see analysis of models without walk zone preference. They also want to see more analysis on the plans by race and socio-economic status.
John Nucci asked how big the difference is between schools in the four tiers. He says that if the differences are small, then equitable access is not so important. If they are large, it's very important. Bob Gittens says that having seen the MCAS quadrants that the difference is large.
There was further discussion of walk zones. Kathleen Colby wants to be sure that walk zone access (ability to cross a zone line to go to a walk zone school) is preserved in the analysis even if walk zone preference is eliminated. Carleton Jones from BPS said he thinks that's what they've done but he will check.
The EAC asked for the following data from BPS (and possibly more that I didn't capture):
- More detail on why Peng's first and second plans weren't workable (the first plan would have been difficult for families to navigate, the second had issues managing capacity)
- Analysis of all three plans without walk zone priority
- Analysis of the 10 zone plan with Dorchester split into two zones (which would make it an 11 zone plan)
- Brendan McDonough asked to see the impact of increasing walk zone to 75% or higher on distance traveled and socio-economic diversity
- Rahn Dorsey asked to see data on which schools are doing the best as far as closing the achievement gap
- Miren Uriarte asked for details on impacts on ELL level 4 and 5 students under the various plans.
- Miren also asked to see the Mission Hill neighborhood broken out (it's usually included as part of Roxbury). Carleton Jones said he didn't think they could do that because none of the district data breaks it out that way.
The committee will meet again on Thursday night at 6:00 at Suffolk, 73 Tremont St. The expect to have some of the data they've requested by then and also will have BPS staff and hopefully Peng Shi available to answer their questions. They also asked BPS for a plan to further engage the community. I hope they will focus on helping people understand the plans and their impact rather than trying to get feedback before people have had time to understand the plan.
The EAC also scheduled a meeting for Saturday from 10-1:00 at BU. Since there's currently a snow storm forecast for Friday and Saturday, they said they would decide by 3:00 on Friday afternoon if they needed to cancel the meeting. Frankly, I suspect I'm not the only one who would rather be shoveling.