Final school-assignment proposals released: Ten zone or none at all

Because Boston doesn't have enough quality schools, the External Advisory Committee on School Choice tonight released three proposals to try to give as many elementary-school students a shot at entry to one of the ones it does have: A proposal to split the city into ten assignment zones and two that would do away with zones altogether but let parents apply to either six or nine schools that include at least two that have standardized test stores near the top of city rankings.

Whichever plan is approved by the School Committee, possibly next month, would replace the current three-zone assignment system in the 2015-15 school year.

Whichever plan is picked would preserve sibling preference.

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Comments

10 Is Better Than 3

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Although not a perfect solution, a 10 zone system whithout a lottery is better than a 3 zone system with a lottery or a "home zone" system with a lottery. Because the "home zone" proposals keep the lottery system, they maintain the current insanity where you have no certainty as to where you child will go to school and everyone gets a chance to "win" their child's education. I actually find it disturbing that the committee decided to keep two proposals with the lottery system on the table, as it shows that they still believe that there are always going to be bad schools and that everyone should have to take a chance on getting one.

Home-zone is better than 10

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'Not logged in from Roslindale' makes several erroneous statements in hirs comment above. A "10 zone system whithout a lottery" (sic) is not on the table - the proposed 10 zone plan includes an assignment lottery with existing sibling and walk zone preference.

I think that breaking Boston into ten school zones will just excabberate the isolation of different parts of the city from each other, culturally and politically. Although my particular neighborhood (in Roslindale, btw) makes out pretty well in that plan map, I think overall it does not well serve the families of Boston.

The Home-based (aka no zone) system strikes me as much more equitable and adaptable, and looks like it will actually encourage crosslinking between families and neighborhoods. (My cynical self whispers 'that's why they'll never allow it').

I would appreciate well-supported projections of transportation costs for each of the two plans. If there's not a huge disparity, I would be far more supportive of the home-based plan.

Isolation?

Crosslinking between neighborhoods seems like a weird thing to expect from a school system. Fracturing neighborhoods for some nebulous idea of connectedness seems like a bad trade off. Why is my kid from Roslindale better off for knowing kids from Dorchester or Hyde Park? Pretty much every ethnicity and economic strata is represented in the Roslindale schools- what is he missing?

If the reform gets more people to stay in the system, the system improves. That is the payoff of school reform I think.

Not just kids but also parents

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First off, I happen to think that our city-wide public school system should encourage students' knowledge and appreciation of themselves as full Bostonians - admittedly as a secondary objective, but still a strong one.

But in any case, I don't see how the home zone proposal 'fractures' neighborhoods. Quite the opposite - unlike the ten zone plan, it doesn't assume that some wonk sitting in a cubicle at Court Street can magically know for today and the future, where one neighborhood starts and another ends (if that's even a real thing).

One of the disadvantages of the current zone system is that parents have little or no 'ground-level' exposure to what's going on in schools in other zones - when we're shopping or socializing or at a school event, we don't hear about what's working and what's not for families who might be living just a mile away - but in a different zone. It dilutes our political power as a constituency and makes it easier for discrepancies and inadequacies to be slipped by without most people hearing about it.

Unlike the 10 zone plan, the Home zone plan doesn't further balkanize the city into even smaller echo-chambers. I've been actively involved as a parent in the schools for nearly a decade - I can tell you a lot about what's happening in West Zone schools, even ones my child has not attended. Yet even though I live very close to a zone border, I can tell you little about the schools of the North or East Zones - because I'm almost never in 'parent-mode' while in the presense of people with kids in those schools. Change to a 10 zone system, and I'll have even less common ground and opportunities to 'parent talk' with people living as close as West Roxbury and JP - to say nothing of Mattapan or Hyde Park.

If the differences in overall transport costs between the 10 and Home plans are not significant, I'd much rather live in a city where each family had access to the best close-by schools instead of there being these arbitrary virtual walls all over the place.

I agree

... with most of your points. On first glance, all three options seem much better than the current set-up. I was commenting on the crosslinking part of your initial comment as given the serious and deep issues which need to be addressed by BPS, altruistic stuff like cross city bonding is not important.

My experience with schools is that only a few parents are heavily involved which is largely a function of their personal situation and willingness to devote their time and energy. I don't think neighborhood enters into it beyond if they want to drive back to the school at the end of a workday.