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Review of March 7 Boston School Committee Hearing on Assignment

Last night the School Committee held a marathon hearing on the student assignment recommendations by the EAC. The meeting started late to allow more School Committee members to arrive. Chair Michael O'Neill, Alfreda Harris, Claudio Martinez, and John Barros attended. Superintendent Johnson was also present.

The hearing started with a presentation by EAC co-chair Helen Dájer on the EAC's recommendations. This was pretty similar to what we've seen in the past, so I won't get into details. She was joined on the stage by EAC members Miren Uriarte and Rahn Dorsey. The committee had several questions. Most from Claudio Martinez and John Barros. The EAC members answered some questions...

Why the Only Path to Equity is Quality

During the school choice reform process, much of the discussion centered around equity of access to quality. But can any plan actually achieve equity in a system where school quality varies widely and underperforming schools are concentrated in poor neighborhoods?

Peng Shi, who developed the "home-based" model now under consideration by the school committee, had originally proposed a plan he said would guarantee access to quality. This was an intriguing plan that balanced equity and proximity quite well. The plan was scrapped because there were logistical problems with implementing it in a district like Boston. The plan did indeed offer what Shi calls "equal access to quality for every...

EAC Votes to Recommend Home-Based Plan A, Unchanged Walk Zone Priority, and All Overlays

This is old news by now, but here's my recap of last night's EAC meeting. You can also read coverage from the Globe, Dorchester Reporter, WBUR, and WBZ.

The meeting started with 20 members in attendance and approximately four submitting proxies. Apparently, some of these proxies were from members who had rarely or never...

If Neighborhood Schools Are Higher Quality, Where's the Evidence?

One claim that has been made many times during the student assignment reform process is that if more students attend nearby schools, the schools will improve in quality. The thinking is that parents will get involved in their neighborhood schools and help them improve. Also, if students lived near their school it would be easier for them to attend after school programs. Finally, if a school serves neighborhood children, the thinking goes, the neighborhood will pressure the district to improve the school. Lawrence Harmon made these same points in a Globe column yesterday.

This argument has also been made by the Mayor and by some members of the EAC. One...

Review of Community Meeting at the Trotter School

This will be a relatively short post on last night's community meeting. Mostly because it really didn't feel much different from last week's community meeting at Orchard Gardens, though the turnout wasn't as good.

This time, Laura Perille from the EAC presented the proposed plans. I thought she explained them in a little more detail than they were explained at the last community meeting, but I'm not at all confident that people understand how the home-based plans work.

BPS gave the same presentation on the impact of the plans that they've given in the past. They really need to fix the charts that don't start at zero, they're pretty...

EAC Meeting Review - 02/11/2013

The EAC met last night to get more information from BPS and to further discuss the proposed plans. The new information from BPS included breakouts of several statistics by race, ethnicity and free lunch status; an analysis of a new 11 zone plan, and further analysis of the impact of various ways of implementing walk zone priority. These reports are available on the EAC meeting materials page.

The breakouts by race and ethnicity show that all groups have better minimum access to quality under all the new plans except for Asians. However, Asians have by far the highest minimum access in the current plan and would still have the highest...

Interesting Lottery Facts: Staying Where You Are and Good to Be a Twin

Along with a tremendous amount of analysis on the three proposed student assignment plans, MIT released a technical appendix with details on how they created the demand model and used it to analyze the plans. Unless you're a pretty serious geek, I don't recommend trying to read this report. I did, however, find some tidbits that might be of more general interest.

One question parents often ask is whether their child is guaranteed to be able to stay in his or her current school if the family applies for another school and doesn't get in. In the past, the family resource centers have given conflicting answers to this question. According to MIT, there is a priority for...

EAC Meeting Review - 02/07/2013

The EAC started their meeting with some discussion of the upcoming schedule. Saturday's meeting has been postponed due to the impending end of the world. On the off chance that any of us survive the weekend, here is the tentative schedule of upcoming meetings (no times were given, but I would think that the weekday meetings will all start at 6:00 pm and the Saturday meeting would start at 9 or 10:00):

Monday, 2/11 - EAC meeting Boston City Hall room 801
Wednesday, 2/13 - Community Forum, location TBD
Wednesday, 2/20 - EAC meeting, Suffolk University, 73 Tremont St., 9th flr.
Thursday, 2/21 - Community Forum, location TBD
Saturday, 2/23 - EAC...

How Do We Measure Absolute Quality?

One problem with implementing the proposed "home-based" student assignment plans is that BPS is currently assigning schools to tiers using quartiles. This means the top 25% of schools are in Tier 1, the next 25% in Tier 2, etc. The problem is that even if schools improve significantly, there will be four tiers with approximately equal numbers of schools. Ian pointed this out in a comment on a previous post and it has been discussed by the EAC.

One of the advantages of the home-based plans is that they can be flexible over time. If, as we all hope, quality improves significantly, families will automatically be given fewer choices because they won't need to go as far from home to get to high quality...

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...


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