School Committee to consider how many families' lives to disrupt in push for new zones

The Globe reports the Boston School Committee tonight is expected to get a recommendation from Superintendent Carol Johnson on how to grandfather thousands of students who might find themselves in new school assignment zones come the fall of 2014.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at school headquarters on Court Street downtown.

Options range from no grandfathering at all to two variants of grandfathering - one in which students could stay in their current schools with continued busing until they age out or one in which they only receive busing for a limited period of time. Also up for discussion: What to do in a new zone system about the city's traditional sibling preference, in which families with a kid in a particular school get first dibs on seats there for younger children.

When school officials first began talking about increasing the number of assignment zones about eight years ago, they pointed to saving money on transportation costs as the main reason. Today, however, school officials acknowledge the city will save little or no money - and might wind up spending extra money depending on the grandfathering option chosen - and that rezoning is all about creating more tightknit school communities, by reducing the sizes of assignment zones.

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Comments

Until there are quality schools

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in all proposed zones, this is just a shell game. Throwing everyone into a crisis about where their kids will or won't go to school simply detracts from focusing on their education.

But how do you do that?

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It's not money - we spend more per student than almost every other district in the state (and way more than the rest of the country).

Why can't you go to neighborhood schools and then focus greater/better resources where it's needed?

And it will all probably mean very little until we go to longer school days and school years - especially in weaker schools.

That's only partially true.

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That's only partially true.

For some families, there are no quality schools near their home. That's one problem.

For other families, say in Roslindale, there are many choices leading to lots of wasted time and energy for both the school system and the family in trying to get into the 'right' school. That's a whole different problem and I think a problem being addressed with the new school assignment proposals (imperfectly).

To claim any attempt at reform is a failure unless it solves all problems is unrealistic. I don't believe all schools will suddenly be flourishing if only the right approach was magically developed. An incremental improvement is still better than the status quo.

A BPS parent's perspective

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Clearly we need reform so that all kids can attend the best possible schools. But I would argue that any reform that uproots students against their wishes is not only capricious and short-sighted, it is utterly counterproductive. Kids already attending a school must be allowed to remain in that school. Being involuntarily transferred to a new school, even one closer to one's home, would be such a major disruption to a child's sense of community, friendships, and academic progress that it is bound to result in lower performance overall. Add in the removal of parent volunteers who have invested their time and energy supporting their children's schools and you have the recipe for a disaster. I guarantee you that those with the means to move out of the district will do so if no grandfathering is permitted. Their trust in BPS will be shattered and the system will lose many if not most of its more affluent and educated parents, which will hardly result in even incremental improvements. Indeed, it will degrade the entire system enormously. It's time for Dr. Johnson to step back and reevaluate these proposals with common sense and compassion. To move ahead with them would be unconscionable.

Chaos with no payoff

But I can't help but see Kathode's point. If they can't address quality with the current school assignment zones, how do these new proposals help? They won't be able to address quality with the new zones.

They don't save money. They disrupt current school communities. They limit access to high quality schools. This is a lot of chaos with no pay off. BPS simply isn't addressing the problem.

agendas

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This new plan doesn't address school quality or making the lottery process easier to understand. It only addressed the agenda of a couple of neighborhoods in the city interested in neighborhood schools. Grandfathering kids and their younger siblings shouldn't even have to be argued. this plan breaks up school communities and may end up forcing families to have kids at more than one elementary school.

re zoning could work if there was any equity and equal access to quality schools but none of these proposals have that.

This seems like

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a case of doing something just to do something because they said they would do something and they don't want to back down now. Or "Perseverance -- The courage to ignore the obvious wisdom of turning back" (courtesy of despair.com).

There is a payoff

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They drive people with kids out of the city and don't have to pay for as many schools.

Thank you oliver

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Or do you prefer Mr. Stone.

I've actually wondered about that many times - keep rearranging the deck chairs - infuriate everyone and let them leave.

It was actually working up until I think this year or last as BPS consistently shrank (although the schoo budget grew by the same percentage as the overall budget).

The housing policy of building only high end condos/apts that appeal generally to people without kids/that can send their kids to private schools certainly seems to fit in with your conspiracy theory.

No it's not

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Because you are assuming that quality students are evenly distributed across the city. They aren't. Parents who value education gravitate to areas where their child can get a good education. Parents who do not value education just live wherever suits them best.

If you want more quality schools, make it so that parents can rent or buy homes near schools that suit their family's educational needs, like people do when they choose suburban towns based on the school district. And of course, once that happens, motivated parents will be invested in their local schools and start working to improve the ones that are behind.

Do you mean to say

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that "quality students" (whatever that means) are only concentrated in certain, more middle class areas of the city? That is BS. Every kid has the potential to achieve.

It's time for my obligatory comment about uncertainty

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The revelation that sibling preference is now on the table injects yet another large bit of uncertainty into the morass of uncertainty that is the BPS system.

As I have said before, uncertainty on things involving schools is a key reason why people move from the City to the suburbs, and why people in the suburbs, who would otherwise love to live in town, will not make the move. If you want more "middle class" families in town, they need to be assured that their kids will be able to go to good schools that will stay good.

One example on point does not a make a rule, however, it may be instructive. I know one family that loves where they live in Boston, and their eldest child just got into their first choice school. Before that happened, they were putting of substantial improvements to their home, etc., because if that had not happened, they were not sure whether they would stay in the City.

After they got the good news about the school assignment, and knowing they had another child on the way who would be able to go to that first choice school, they began to make longer term plans for staying in their current home for a longer time, and undertaking the improvements.

The mere discussion of doing away with sibling preference will be enough for them to hold off on what they were thinking about doing to the house until this nonsense is settled. Frankly, I think that the constant uncertainty has weighed on them enough (the lottery for the first child alone was an unwanted burden - really, who wants to play a lottery on their kids' future?), and regardless of whether the sibling preference is maintained, this new variable could be enough to make them just throw up their hands and say "enough".

The Mayor must step up here and inject some certainty because he is the only one who can (since everyone knows that whatever TommyBoy says goes and that's the end of it).

Yes

isaacg, once again, I totally agree with you. I love Boston. I LOVE my son's school. But I am beginning to eye the suburbs (btw - a pipe dream bc our house is underwater). Parents put time in effort into building a school community. And every other year, BPS comes up with some new proposal that threatens to tear those relationships apart. No matter what BPS decides to do, I want them to start valuing stability. I am glad you put in your obligatory comment.

Boy do I agree with this

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As I've been reviewing the proposals (and with a 3.5 year old and a baby and living near Weld and Centre beLIEVE me I'm interested) the one thing I naively kept thinking was "well surely they'll grandfather the existing students and keep sibling preference sacrosanct because why piss off BPS families who are happy with their schools". *sigh* that just seems obvious to me. Perhaps let those families try the new system if they wish, but give them that stability.
Yes, its going to mean extra busing for a while, deal with it BPS. In the meantime work on improving quality across the city. Maybe slightly up the % of students who have preference for walk zones to placate families for neighborhood schools. Maybe tighten the timelines to accept the school you're assigned so families don't have to wait all summer to find out if they're off a wait list.
And yes, I'm planning on going to Thursday's mtg at the Ohrenberger.

Grandfathering

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This is a great way to boil down the problems at BPS - they don't seem to get the absolute need for stability and predictability in your childrens' education. I strongly favor neighborhood schools, but I completely agree that it is insane not to grandfather current families into their schools if they chose that option. Will this require effort during the transition period - yes. Will it cost some extra money in transport - possibly. But you can't just flip a switch and tell families that next year everything is going to be different.