All of Boston's minority elected officials ask for more time to study school assignment changes

All of Boston's minority legislators and city councilors today asked a committee looking at ways to change the way students are assigned to public schools to hold off a planned vote next week on a recommended method.

The letter, delivered today to the External Advisory Committee, comes on the eve of what is supposed to be a last chance for parents to hear the latest proposals - one in which the city would be split into ten assignment zones and two with no zones but at least two possible schools with good test scores.

The committee has a public meeting on the plans scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Suffolk University, 73 Tremont St.

"We have heard from constituents, stakeholders and most importantly families about their need for more time to review and understand the most recent plans," the officials say.

State representatives Carlos Henriquez, Russell Holmes, Gloria Fox, Linda Dorcena Forry, Byron Rushing and Jeffrey Sanchez, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaza and city councilors Felix Arroyo, Charles Yancey, Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley all signed the letter, as did newly appointed Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins.

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Comments

Why color barrier?

I don't disagree that this process gives little time for third parties to weigh in in a meaningful way on the 3 proposals. Why, though, was this a letter focused on being from non-white elected officials only? It injects an unfortunate racial divide when the reality is that much of the school attendees are not white and several white elected officials have done an excellent job trying to represent their interests. Quality schools is not a racial issue, it is an issue every city resident and employer should be concerned about.

Wait...

Quality schools is not a racial issue

Did you actually look at the maps of which neighborhoods have access to which schools in the various proposed plans?

Or look at the demographics of the failing schools?

A modest proposal

Since the fundamental problem with our schools seems to be the unfairness of having kids from neighborhoods where more kids are poor and test poorly going to school with each other and not those kids who are middle-class across town, assignment to schools should be completely random with no parent choice whatsoever and no reference to home location. Any time you put parent choice or geography into the process, the middle-class parents will find a way to game the system and concentrate themselves.

The confusion caused by personalizing schools with names should be fixed by assigning them numbers that change each year. Then a new SES-sensitive algorithm can do a perfect balanced casting of each class of students, on a daily basis if necessary. Every class will be a fair class, and all schools will be equal.

A central mustering ground could help solve the confusion of dozens of different buses tooling through each neighborhood with two kids each. All children from each neighborhood should be bused first to Government Center Plaza to line up in groups and then be separated and bused to their schools. If overnight reassignment for SES rebalancing must happen, then the children can be regrouped at the plaza.

It is a certainty that such a method would produce an even SES balance among the city's public school children, producing uniformity in school results and solving our educational system's most pressing problem.

One of the problems with the

One of the problems with the school assignment is the proclivity of middle-class parents to "game" the system. Rather parents should be encouraged to show little interest in where their kids are assigned.

Nice

I'm enjoying the Orwellian imagery, but kidding aside, this city is so segregated into tiiiiiny enclaves that it would actually be really easy to do more-or-less neighborhood schools while still retaining SES and racial/ethnic diversity. It would do the city some good, too, to be divided into zones that are diverse but generally contiguous -- might solve some of the problems of people who won't go somewhere half a mile away from their house because they think everyone is shooting at each other the second you cross a zip code line.

The problem is circular

As long as not being able to go to a school with high test scores is the definition of unequal access to education for low-SES students, the problem is not resolvable.

Now that the entire BPS system, with the exception of the exam schools and (by a narrow margin) one or two elementary schools is majority-minority, it's no longer a racial thing, and some other measurable item is needed to embody the idea of unequal access to education.

The overwhelming favorite for that role is test scores, which correlate very closely with socio-economic status. The problem with that is unless a completely even casting is made of each class, not matter what way you cut them up or assign them, some schools will always have a student body with higher SES, and those schools will almost always have higher test scores. Defining equal access to educational opportunity for low-SES students as equal access to schools with high test scores is circular reasoning.

A specific example of how this plays out is in math: our BPS is entirely taken with constructivist, Chicago-style math in TERC Investigations. As a result, the only BPS kids who get to fourth grade knowing their times tables learned them at home, either with their parents or with tutors their parents hired. Those kids who have arithmetic down pat will all score better on the standardized tests (perhaps thereby gaining entry to advanced work), and such a score will relate directly to the math work the parents supplied for the children outside of school - which will relate directly to the education and financial ability of the parents.

Everybody wants the best for their children. Everybody will try to use what resources they have to give their children an advantage. Those with more resources will create a greater advantage. The fact that the schools cannot level this playing field is not their fault, and playing musical schools every three years is not a solution.

I would like to see the BPS be improved, but officials and activists will have to stop chasing their tails and focus on the actual problems. It seems perfectly fine to me to focus on low-SES kids, a perfectly acceptable use of our tax money. But do so not by imagining the rich kids across town are getting a better school because they spend their evenings at Kumon. Do so by figuring out what works for low-SES kids and then delivering it.

It is already being done.

That was my point.

The kids that don't get into Boston Latin have to go to Boston English. And according to how we rank schools, the kids at Boston English don't get to go to good colleges like the ones at Boston Latin, because they don't test as well, and they don't do as well in the classroom.

No one seems to have a problem with that system, so why not expand it to other schools?

And the busing comment was more about the neighborhood school point. Kids in West Roxbury don't get to go to West Roxbury High by themselves.

Almost

While most kids just get student CharlieCards, there are BPS buses for certain areas that aren't well served by T routes - parts of Charlestown, for example.

And the answer for kids who don't get in or don't want to go to an exam school is to ensure that kids can get a decent education no matter where they go. You create specialty schools (Fenway Arts Academy), you add more AP classes and incentives to do well, yo arrange special programs/internships with local colleges, etc., etc.

There's no reason non-exam schools have to be warehouses (except for the arts academy which is, literally, in an old warehouse, which is really a shame).

In response to the previous posts

As a "middle-class parent" I can assure there is no "gaming" the system. There is being an active voice in the process but no "gaming." Second, only upper class parents can really afford private school, not "middle class", in this city. But the ones that chose to do it are making a larger sacrifice than most outsiders realize. Third, why is the emphasis being placed on "middle class parents" and not ALL parents in Boston? How does one group of people "leaving" result in "no good schools"? If there are less children in the school system doesn't that provide them with a smaller teacher/student ratio and higher quality instruction time from the teachers? And while race is a component of the education issue it is not THE issue. Shouldn't all parents be held accountable for the actions of their own children? If you want your child to be successful in school then you need to push your child AND their teachers to reach for higher levels of achievement. You earn an A, it is not given to you.

Have kids much?

Parents steering their kids to the best possible opportunities is not "gaming the system." It is called good parenting. Also, what is with the "snowflake" thing all the time? Of course parents are going to treat their kids as the most special thing in the world to them - thats what they are. Hopefully I'm just missing the joke. Otherwise, you come off as kind of sad.

Heaven forbid parents care

Heaven forbid parents care about their children's education.

Some students aren't so lucky as to have parents that give a shit about them beyond granting a government check in the mail.

For once I can say with all seriousness THINK OF THE CHILDREN! They are the ones constantly being screwed over because all the adults are too busy playing politics and a couple of decks worth of race cards.

Not a zero sum game

I am not anon, but this is how I see it. Until they are older, my kids have me to advocate for them and no one else (my wife is too sweet for this sort of thing). That means sometimes I have to jump into fray.

The likes of NotWhitey might call me an entitled soccer mom or my kids special snowflakes or whatever.
I don’t give a rat’s ass. Because being a parent isn’t just about wiping your kid’s nose and getting them to school on time. In a world of limited resources, you sometimes have to fight for your kids.
And it works across racial lines. I was at the EAC meeting, and many of the moms who got up to speak were from Roxbury and Dorchester. They were being parents and advocating for their kids.

I think anon was rightly pointing out that not all kids have parents who care.

BTW - I don’t see this as a zero sum game. I want my kids to grow up in a city where everyone has an opportunity to get a good education. This whole process has been really ugly but I think it’s necessary to push BPS to come up with a plan to provide quality education to the entire city and not just a lucky few who pull a good lottery number.

What decent parent

Of any income, ethnicity, neighborhood DOESN'T do this? Isn't this just common sense? Still--unless you care to share any concrete examples of how this is done in some nefarious way, I'm not sure what you're accusing anyone of.

Having just finished reading

The Soiling of Old Glory, Common Ground, Boston Against Busing and, METCO the other Boston Busing Story, I am watching school choice and busing throughout the area with a renewed interest. I wonder if other area cities, Cambridge, Everett and my own Revere have the same problems and we just don't hear about them because "Boston Busing" is still such a hot topic all these years later?

There's no comparing Cambridge and Everette with Boston,

because, unlike Boston (and most other big cities here in the United States, particularly the northern cities), Cambridge, Everett and Somerville do not have areas that're really "ghettoized" the way Boston does. Sure, Cambridge, Somerville and Everett do have somewhat more insular areas, but the boundaries aren't nearly as pronounced as they are in Boston. Cambridge, Somerville and Everette did not need mandatory school busing for precisely that reason, plus, especially in Cambridge, there was a much more liberal school committee that deliberately integrated the schools.