How Boston schools could save $40 million

End busing, argues Ted Landsmark (yes, he's the same Ted Landsmark in that photo):

Busing students from one neighborhood to another does nothing to change the racial, cultural, and caste demographics of classrooms, while devouring financial resources that could be better spent on teaching and learning. That $40 million would better prepare students for success in college and would support arts, music, technology, and physical education instruction.

If Ted Landsmark says it's time to end busing, I'm going to listen.

But he can do better than putting up a strawman argument. More than anybody else, he should know that busing in Boston today is NOT race-based, since he chaired a task force a couple years back that tried (and failed completely) to come up with alternatives to the present zone system.

Our kid rides a bus not to comply with some Wellesley judge's conception of racial equality but because we felt the school we applied for in the assignment lottery was the best fit for her. Yes, it's an expensive and frustrating program (if you're not lucky, your kid gets assigned to some random school), and yes, it's amazing to stand with her at her stop and watch zillions of school buses going in zillions of directions (her stop's at a busy intersection), and yes, saving $40 million is an excellent idea.

But until Landsmark can prove to me that all schools in Boston provide equally good levels of education, I'm going to continue to think there's value in the present system.

Landsmark notes that a quarter of Boston's parents opt out of busing by sending their kids to charter, private or Metco schools. That means that 75% do not. By returning to a strictly neighborhood-school system, Landsmark will be condemning some of those parents and kids to underperforming schools with no chance of escape.

Now saving $40 million - especially in times like these - is most laudable. If, as Landsmark says, some bus routes haven't changed in 20 years and run half empty, maybe the school department needs to invest in some decent scheduling software to sort out the routes. If the goal is to save lots of money, that's fine, too, but let's not pretend that all kids will get the same level of education.



    Free tagging: 



    Sounds controversial.

    One question I have, then, is, if schools differ by neighborhood, then shouldn't you move to a neighborhood where there are good schools?

    In the suburbs, don't towns and cities compete against each other? Parents fight to get into towns where there are good schools.

    Why should Boston be any different?

    Shouldn't kids go to schools in their own neighborhoods because, well, because the schools are in their neighborhoods?

    Theres a problem with your

    Theres a problem with your logic and that is the budget of the school. Boston has one budget and many schools, it then decides to spend that money in each school, often in different ways. What tends to happen is the nicer areas, OR the areas that are still poorer but have significant political clout end up with more money coming into their schools. It just so happens that black kids, and spanish kids tend to live in areas that are void of powerful people, and that means they get/got the smallest piece of the pie. I never thought it was bcause of racism that the schools were given less money, I feel its because you tend to give money to those who you know, and to those closest to you. Busing took that concept and turned it on its head, you didnt know where your kid was going to go to school in the lottery.


    What are the "nicer" areas, and where are these mythical schools where the majority of school kids are not black or Spanish?

    Rounding up?

    Okay, over 50%.

    That's a great site, thanks for the tip. When I research BPS I go to their site and it's a bitch to pull up all the data because they are pdfs.

    Have you been in many Boston Public Schools?

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    Or missed the articles about how some huge percentage of students in Boston go to a school where the majority of the students are of their own race?

    The Baldwin ECC comes to mind. The Lyndon and the Kilmer too, as Adam mentioned, plus the Mozart. Also BLS, for that matter.


    No, I haven't seen any articles about how in some schools the students are of their "own race".

    That's not what the commenter said, though. He said that the "white" schools get more money or are better connected than the "black" or "brown" schools.

    I was questioning his data, that's all.

    There are five schools (out of 144) I count that have greater-than 50% white students:

    Boston Latin
    Joyce Kilmer
    Olive Harvard Perry
    Warren Prescott

    So, I think his theory that schools do better or worse or that somehow the odds are tilted in their favors due to racial breakdown has yet to be proven.

    Fantasy schools

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    Yeah, I think eeka's got a bit of a disconnect. In the BPS as a whole, most students are either black or hispanic. Most of them go to schools where most (or almost all) students are either black or hispanic. There's a small handful of schools where slightly over half the students are white. But most white students don't go to those schools.

    There is a way in which some Boston public schools end up getting more money than others - they get it from grants, and they get it from the parents. You might be interested in this article, which talks about how parents fund an art teacher at the Manning (which is not majority white, btw) Maybe this sort of thing is what Shady was talking about.

    My comment was more about

    My comment was more about using public funding. For example the majority of the school committee, the superintendants and most of the city leadership would live in certain parts of town and their kids would go to those local schools, then you had the poor areas. Under the old guard which area do you think got more attention?

    That article is a little scary because it is all about gentrification in the classroom and brings all the problems of gentrification to the table as well. Sure the school is better but the kids who were there before have left and have been replaced by middle class kids. So the school is better but where did all of those minority students go? All they did was shuffle the kids around so now this school has been "turned around" and the minority students are now in a school that is in the hole and the bottom of most peoples lists. Then one day some well meaning middle class people will show up, spiff up the new place, and those lower class kids will shuffle to a new school. While its great for the middle class kids, its not helping the lower income kids, its just moving them out of the way. The easiest way to raise a schools MCAS scores is to get rid of all the poor and disabled kids and replace them with middle class kids. Well now, that was easy, someone else will have to deal with it.

    Interesting point to debate

    School committee: it's now made up of people appointed by the mayor, not elected by the residents of the city. Has it made a difference? Would it be better if it was made up of parents / concerned citizens of the very neighborhoods from which the kids come from?

    The current school committee seems to be made up of people chosen due to their their resumes, not anything else.

    Kinda not making sense there, Shady

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    Sorry to interrupt your rant, but you don't live in Boston and I don't think you know much about the schools.

    The kids who were there before? They left, each and every one of them. Because they graduated. No kids get removed from schools and sent to other schools; once you're there, you stay there until you want to leave or graduate.

    Do you imagine that when a group of parents brings extras to a school like after-school programs and art teachers that somehow they restrict these things to their own kids only? Or get to pick and choose which kids they want to have removed? Weird fantasy.

    As mentioned above, only a handful of schools in the city are even a scoch above 50% white. That means all schools have substantial minority populations. They all also have substantial poor populations, substantial disabled populations. All of them. The Manning, for example, which was mentioned in the article, has one of the highest rates of special needs kids in the city. (And, consequently, lousy MCAS scores).

    I'm sorry you seem to resent the people who came to Boston as you abandoned it, but really. You're just making stuff up now. What makes you hate people who want elementary school kids to have an art teacher? Them's some mighty sour grapes there, fella.

    First off some form of

    First off some form of identification would be dandy, maybe even just making up a fake handle instead of being a full anon???

    Second my family was never from Boston proper so we never did leave it... My great grandparents rented a house in an area that would later become Boston, and my grandfather was born in a part of Boston but moved out before the 1930's well before the white flight. Pretty much by 1940 I had no relatives living in the Boston city limits, rather they all lived outside of it. I live in an area that really should be part of Boston due to its proximity to the city, but it just never happened, so yes I do have a bit of an affinity with the people who live in areas just like mine that happen to be on that side of the invisible line. Just an FYI some of the "suburbs" right outside the city existed before Boston, and some of them were even more well known then Boston at some points (Salem was pretty big for a while) so not every white person who lives outside the city is a white flighter or from a white flighter family, your sounding very ignorant.

    As for my previous statements, I stand by them. I dont have a problem with kids learning art, and I dont have a problem with people trying to make their schools better. Sure the current kids dont get "kicked out" once their in, but as the school changes less kids of that color end up going to them. Those kids go somewhere else to learn, and they take their low test scores with them. The one school improves, the system as a whole stays the same. Some of the people in the article even mentioned the unintended consequences of their positive actions, it just shows complicated it really is. I just dont think improving one school is the answer if it results in the shifting of a lower scoring demographic elsewhere, even if its just by a little bit. Im sorry if you have a problem with my concern for minority parents and their children, get over it.

    Conversely ...

    Not every black person lived in the cities ... at least not in Roxbury. Medford hosted an enclave of free African Americans well back into the last couple of centuries. Most were trades people who pushed their children toward college education by the 20th century.

    Framingham, too

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    Going all the way back to Crispus Attucks (whom Natick sometimes tries to claim).

    Concern for minority parents?

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    Is that what they call it?

    I'm sure they're all happy you're concerned about them. Heck, all us BPS parents are happy for your concern. I hope you're as concerned about the school district in your town or city. What are you doing to improve your local school? Bitching about it online?

    Would it make you happier if parents stopped trying to improve their local school? It sounds like it would.

    PS thanks for the clarification. I thought you lived in Boston once, and that's why you liked to talk so much about what's good for us. Now I know you never lived in Boston. So now we know you are not just partially but totally talking from ignorance about the school system. Hey, it's an easy target! Fire away!

    The site Adam linked to is a great resource you can use to learn a little more. It's great to learn facts rather than the slant and opinion of the Globe article. For example, you can learn that the Manning, though located in a majority white neighborhood (Moss Hill), has a minority (40%) white school population. The other school mentioned, the Joseph J. Hurley, in the South End, has only 10% white students. Does that help assuage your white guilt?

    Your making all sorts of

    Your making all sorts of assumptions about me without knowing me, and I think your attitude is very confrontational and not helpful to the conversation at hand. Many of us that dont live in Boston live close to the city and are affected by it just as much as you are. Many of the local cities have schools that face similar problems but are not on a large enough scale to warrent conversations as large as this one.

    White guilt , you gotta be well off to have white guilt. I grew up in a poor family and went to schools that have/had minority majorities as well... I never considered it white guilt, I always thought I was looking out for people I relate to. I help out the local schools when I can, and when I was a kid participated in student government (we were pretty good at raising money for trips and the such, and by trips I dont mean Bermuda or France, think more local and much less expensive, although we did make it to NYC one year.)

    Also once again your using an anon name, so I have to take what your saying with a grain of salt. For all I know your some 65 year old rich guy in a condo on Beacon Hill.


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    Assuming I came up with a login, why would you take what I say with less salt? For all I know, you're a dope dealing prepubescent boricua from Lynn. Maybe I am a 65-year old rich guy in a condo on Beacon Hill. How would you know, and what would it matter?

    I think what you and Swirly have in common is that you like to talk about yourselves more than the topic at hand. I'm not interested in who you are or who you pretend to be, and I'm not interested in talking about myself either. Where I grew up and how poor I was has nothing to do with the BPS today.

    What has something to do with the topic at hand is that you've got no dog in this fight. I do. That's got more to do with our conclusions than does our background or even our philosophy.

    It's easy to sit back and say "Hey, you white middle-class Boston parents are being really selfish by trying to improve your local school. What about all the little brown children at another school?" when you don't have kids in the BPS. When you have your own kids in the BPS, your number one concern is the education your own kids are getting. Worrying about whether the fact you try to make your own school better is somehow comparatively hurting other children is not at the top of your mind.

    It's easy to judge other people for making choices that you don't face. If you're middle class parents in Boston, and you're sending your kids to public school even though you could afford to send them to private school, you're making a choice that benefits the other children whose parents don't have that choice. And when you try to improve your kids' school, you're contributing to a rising tide that lifts all boats.

    Not that I think I'm any better than Bostonians who do send their kids to private school. Maybe they're better parents than I am. I don't know. Maybe I'm just glorifying my selfish motives by saying I believe in a good public education for all, and would like to participate in that.

    But that's not good enough for some people. Cuz ShadyMilkMan sold some chocolate bars in middle school, he's freakin' Mother Theresa, and he'd totally do something different and better if he were faced with the same choices.

    So, hey, enlighten me, Mother Theresa? What would you do if you faced these choices? And please spare me a hagiography of your troubled childhood.

    See, now you're not interested

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    How righteous and special am I? Give me an hour. Pontificating about how The System is FUBAR? Give me two.

    What would I actually do if I were a BPS parent? Hey, don't put me on the spot!


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    There's a paradox involved with school assignment. The schools will always be unequal based primarily on the students (that's what my BPS teacher neighbor tells me). The middle-class kids bring more social capital to the classroom than under-privileged kids do, usually including formal preschool experience. Wherever they go, they make the student pool have more social capital. Wherever they go, the school is better. (This is why she tells me it's a moral obligation to send my kids to BPS).

    You can't separate the students from their social capital. You can't make the middle-class kids go to one school and deposit their social capital at another.

    One way social capital in students' families expresses itself is by choosing and improving schools, leading inevitably to less equal concentration of social capital. The only way to assure equality among schools is to ensure that they are equally bad, by breaking up clusters of middle-class kids and spreading them around. Unless you can come up with a system to equalize the students at different schools by class (and other markers for social capital), and prevent cohorts of parents from improving those schools, you will always have this inequality among schools, even in the same district, with the same funding.

    Essentially, the only way to ensure equality among schools is to prevent any of them from improving above the others, making sure they are all equally bad.

    make the city work for black people

    It just so happens that black kids, and spanish kids tend to live in areas that are void of powerful people, and that means they get/got the smallest piece of the pie.

    We can dissect the mechanics of busing but this really is the crux of the issue. Economic equality did not come to black people over the whole life of the busing. People who want to get rid of busing need to face that first. Busing is a bad system but it doesn't come from nowhere.

    The economy of the city is a piece of crap and it gets more dependent every year to institutional expansion and big development, and that money and favoritism all goes through officialdom.

    If you want to get rid of busing fine, make the city work economically for black people.

    Couple of things

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    It's not really an issue of some neighborhoods having all the good schools and some neighborhoods having all the bad schools. Both are spread across the city.

    There was one school we initially really wanted to send our daughter. Her pre-school was in the building and it had a ton of resources that most of the other schools in our zone don't have - a gym, an actual library, large playing fields, an advanced-work program in fourth and fifth grades. And it's in one of Boston's "good" neighborhoods. Then we looked at the standardized test scores. And yes, there is more to a school than test scores, but they were bad, bad, bad. And that made the difference for us.

    Second thing: Come on, you know the importance of schools in housing prices in the suburbs. If you returned to a system of only neighborhood schools in Boston, how long before you'd wind up with good schools surrounded by expensive homes that poor people couldn't possibly hope to buy? In other words, a system segregated, if not by race, by class. Well, assuming the economy recovers, but you know what I mean.

    I have to call you on this,

    I have to call you on this, Adam. You and your wife are the kind of people - educated, ambitious for your children - who know how to squeeze every last advantage out of the system. It's clear that you put a lot of time and effort into investigating the schools. Good for you - you're good parents.

    So now that you get your child into the school of your choice - the "better" school, what happens to the children who end up attending that school with the low test scores? They aren't your problem, are they? You and your wife - active, intelligent, knowing how to work the system - have no incentive to work towards improving your "local" school. That job is left to the parents of the kids who attend that school. Those would be the same parents who didn't have the time, knowledge, energy, savvy, etc. to get their children into another school. So the current "choice" system just segregates children by the ability and ambition of their parents to work the system in their favor.

    Which is exactly the point of your second thing. The schools are being segregated by class. The knowledge class middle income people like yourself, taking care of your children, pull one way. All the rest slide the other.

    If there was no choice in schools, then active, caring residents like yourself would be at every parent-school meeting, making sure that your school - the one you lived near - was up to snuff. If kids were bringing knives to school, you'd be raising hell, demanding that something be done. As it is, you can shrug your shoulders when another kid is arrested at the Irving - it's not your school, and you damn well won't send your child there when he/she is old enough.

    All of that is perfectly reasonable under the current system - you are taking care of your own. Unfortunately, what is good for you is bad for the city. If people like you were forced to send your child to the local school, the children in that school would benefit. As it is, the system - and your reaction to it - just guarantee that some schools will never improve, and all the children who are forced to go to those schools suffer as a result.

    Back in the 1970s, when people were forced to send their children to schools they perceived as inferior, they pulled the kids out of the system and either sent them to private school or just moved to the suburbs. Those were the racists. What would you and your wife do if your choice was taken away and you were required to send your child to that "low score" school? Would you do it, or would you and your wife have a long talk? Would you send the kidlet to the Irving, or would you find your way to Norwood?

    Oh, darnit, you're going to make me think, aren't you?

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    Let's start with the Irving: The issue did come up when she got into Advanced Work and we had to decide whether to send her and where, since the Irving has it.

    People at the school went to great lengths to assure prospective parents the advanced-work kids were kept completely separate from the rest of the school. Um, no thanks. I'm not going to send my daughter to a school that's been getting into the Transcript police blotter at least every other week for the past couple of years - and one that's run by a guy who gave out MCAS questions in advance to teachers to help raise the school's scores. So, yes, if she weren't now in a K-8 school, we'd be having that private-school-or-Norwood (or Natick, maybe) discussion right now, since there's no choice at the middle-school level here.

    As for us being privileged parents helping to drag down the local schools, I'll admit I never thought of it that way. You're right, I do nothing to help any of the neighborhood schools. So you could have something there, but I'd argue that:

    Even with a standardized curriculum, there are still considerable differences between schools and educational philosophies across the city. Some schools "require" uniforms (legally, they can't force a kid to wear a uniform, but still). Some schools are more traditional-3R types (we crossed one school off our list because, to be honest, the principal seemed too much of a hard ass); others are more, um, "open" with the way they let kids learn (that's not the right word, my mind is obviously going, but I hope you know what I mean).

    So school choice can actually be a good thing - you look for a school that best matches up with how you think your child can best learn. It certainly works in Acton, which has all its elementary schools on a single campus, with the difference being how kids are taught.

    I also think you're selling parents at some schools short. I've talked to some of the parents at one of our local schools. They're every bit as committed to raising hell as anybody at our school. I'm not sure why some schools are not as good as others, but I'm not going to blame the parents.

    Yes and no

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    A lot of the families I work with aren't as able to help their children navigate school, either because they're not fluent in English and don't understand the American school system, or because they have severe mental illness, or no way to get to the school, or have another child with a disability.

    I like the idea behind school choice, but I tend to think that underprivileged families might do better if everyone on their street had kids at the same school. They're not able to hike across town by themselves to try and figure out what goes on at their kids' school and how to help the kid make the most of it, but they could certainly look over the handout from the PTA meeting that's getting passed around in the laundry room, or get a ride to the school play with the family sitting on the porch next door.

    Interesting perspective

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    So school choice discriminates against the unprepared and leads to a less equal education?

    And this is why each zone has a parent resource center

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    Which are supposed to help all parents make such decisions. Whether they're effective or not, I don't know. The few times we needed answers, they helped us, but we're hardly the sort of family eeka is talking about.

    But ...

    Those are just theories as to why the parents are not involved. I realize a lot of people have the same theories, but has anyone actually asked the parents?

    People from other countries or who speak other languages don't know the importance of good grades in school?

    In the absence of any hard data on that, I'd have to say it sounds like excuses for a general indifference on the parts of the parents.

    In the middle-class/upper middle class town I grew up in, it's not as if every parent was involved. A few of the parents did a lot of the work. Most parents only got involved if their kids made trouble. It wasn't a matter of class.

    I agree, I wouldn't want to trudge my kids around (or have them trudge around) to different schools all around Boston.

    How about we have the first

    How about we have the first option be to send your kids to the local school, and see how that works out. Let parents "opt" out of that program by applying to charter schools, like they already do, and allow parents to request that their children be able to go to other schools. Some of the best schools could be kept as "regional" schools where students will be allowed to apply to get into them. I think many students would actually benefit by living closer to their school even if it didnt quite have all the same resources, just to be closer to home, closer to your friends. Its kind of nice to be able to walk to school, or at the very least take a short bus trip to school as opposed to taking a long trip across the city.

    Ive lived close to and far away from school as a kid and really did like going to the closer , not so great, public school more then the farther , much better, non public school. It was nice being able to walk home, it was also nice to be close to my friends, and to be able to go home to grab my baseball glove and run back to the baeball field to play a game of baseball. Obviously not all kids would have the same oppurtunity or would do the same things, but I think it is worth a shot.

    Thanks for reminding me of the other thing Landsmark left out

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    Every elementary school in the city already has a one-mile walk zone. Kids in that zone get priority over other kids in the assignment lottery. In fact, 50% of the seats in each elementary school are supposed to go to walk-zone kids first (the exact number varies because kids with siblings already at the school get priority over even walk-zone kids, even if those siblings are from outside the walk zone).

    A couple months ago, Carol Johnson proposed increasing the walk-zone ratio to 60%. Not sure why she rescinded that.

    As for charter schools, first, there aren't enough of them (blame the unions, I guess). For another, they're not always the panacea they seem to be.

    In this day and age

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    In this day and age shouldn't the school system be forced to show with data where the resources are spent? We should demand that.

    By saying that they are not spent equally from school to school aren't we giving them a crutch to lean on? Stay with the current system and plan because we haven't achieved equality. That is bereaucratic b.s.

    I am lucky that my kids did get the school I put in for with the lottery. But so many people I know got assigned a "random" school, often one they never heard of.

    By having your child in the school you put in for Adam gives you a much different perspective on the process than the parent that did not.

    How about parent/family involvement? At my children's school, the parents that live nearby are much more involved in the PTA and school activities than parents that live across the city.

    And let's not forget 40 million dollars.

    "Live across the city"

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    Oh, you are absolutely right: We got lucky, and I feel for parents whose kids get assigned to some school they'd never heard of. One of the things that Landsmark's task force looked at was increasing the number of zones to deal with this very issue (which, to be honest, I find hard to think is really an issue in the West Zone, which stretches all the way from, um, JP to West Roxbury).

    The West Zone is from West

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    The West Zone is from West Roxbury to Roxbury not JP. Even if it did end in JP, people without their own transportation in the far ends of JP would have a difficult time getting to a school in West Roxbury. At least two buses, possibly a 3rd to get there. Not sure how it happened, buy my kids have children in their classes who live in Dorchester and South Boston too.

    Yeah, I need to stop thinking like a privileged car owner

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    I thought the part of Roxbury in the West Zone was pretty small, though, but you're right, to get to, oh, the Mozart from parts of JP (or, for that matter, from almost anywhere) would be quite a trek by public transit.

    Comparison of school performance

    I found a number of Landsmark's points doubtful, but it is a good idea to check... In particular, I found this claim rather dubious:

    We can no longer afford to spend $72 million a year to bus children across Boston to schools that are not demonstrably better than schools near their homes.

    Adam, since you've put yourself up as an example: what are the schools within walking distance (i.e., "neighborhood schools") for your child at this grade level? Can you compare the MCAS 3rd grade scores, for example, between the school your kid attends with those of the neighborhood schools?

    Here goes

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    Important note: Our daughter's now in fifth grade; things may have changed since we applied back before kindergarten. My wife visited our walk-zone schools and at the time, test scores were not the only reason we didn't apply - one seemed way too cluttered (even more so than your typical 1930s-era Boston school) and focused on special-ed; one "required" uniforms. The third was exactly one mile away, would have required our daughter to walk up hill both ways (yes, I'm serious) and had a principal who didn't like the idea of recess because kids shouldn't have fun.

    In any case, to answer your question, based on the 2008 MCAS results for third grade, out of 1,002 schools in the entire state, here are the English rankings for those three schools: 897 (in other words, 896 schools did better), 677 and 465. Our daughter's school: 73. And here are the math rankings: 909, 803 and 269. Our daughter's school: 56. A Boston elementary school ranking that high on MCAS statewide? Pretty darn cool.

    So based strictly on test scores, we made the right decision (and were very lucky that the year we applied was the year before the school became "hot"). And Landsmark is wrong to say there are no differences.

    My usual MCAS caveat

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    MCAS score averages aren't necessarily reflective of the education going on in a school or a district, since they also take into account the students who don't pass MCAS because, say, the child has severe autism and has no meaningful language. No Child Left Behind requires that schools and districts count these kids as having not passed the MCAS. (Some states actually abuse these children by taking several hours out of their education and sitting them down with a test so they can crumple it or drool on it and submit it to be scored. Massachusetts does not, but their lack of passing does count in school and district averages).

    If a school building contains classrooms for kids with severe/profound disabilities, those kids aren't passing the MCAS (because of inclusion laws, kids who are in a separate classroom all day have to have disabilities that prevent them from working anywhere near grade level). Those kids are counted in the number of students who don't pass the MCAS, since the current MCAS situation requires that every student in the building is counted as passing or not passing.

    Same goes for every student who lives in Boston (or any other school district) being counted in the MCAS average, even if s/he is, say, attending a private school for children with severe/profound disabilities. If a city or town has good services for people with disabilities, a lot of families with special kids are going to choose to live there, and this will bring the MCAS score down.

    small schools

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    The resulting skewing of MCAS results is more marked at small schools. Because all schools must have special needs kids, and a room is a room, a school with very few rooms per grade (say, two) might end up with a much higher percentage of special needs kids, because one room might end up being entirely special needs while the other is standard. Having almost half the kids be special needs does wonders for MCAS results.

    Basically there are two

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    Basically there are two types of students in the BPS, the great majority are lower income black or latino and then there are the middle class whites who for some reason haven't moved or gone to Catholic school. The white parents, of which I am one, have resources far beyond the non-white parents. They go on school tours, join online forums, compare notes at the playgroup and generally treat it like getting into college. There is a unspoken but understood rule that you dont want your kid to end up being in one of those big schools where the test scores are low and the whites are few. The white parents do everything conceivable to get their kids into a small school where they can sort of take over and fund raise to get things moving their way.

    Its a game every middle class white family in the BPS plays but no one ever really talks about in racial terms because it makes them uncomfortable. I do not know what goes on with the non white families who make up the bulk of the system but they're clearly not playing the same game as the whites. Its like two worlds co-existing for a few years before the white kids peel off for advanced work or exam schools. Whenever I bring this up with other parents they use the "lottery system" as a fig leaf to say its all fair and above board but thats crap, they play the lists like card sharks. Its no accident things end up the way they do and it helps to reinforce the good school / bad school pattern that makes the BPS fail so many of its students.

    At least if they gave up the bus and lottery nonsense you could focus on tailoring schools to deal with the issues of the neighborhoods they serve. It would also allow parents without cars or tons of free time to be more involved in their schools. Of course you could still have special schools for special needs but most kids would be better off without the complexities of going out their neighborhoods to learn.

    What difference does race make?

    The white parents, of which I am one, have resources far beyond the non-white parents. They go on school tours, join online forums, compare notes at the playgroup and generally treat it like getting into college.

    There's something special in white people's genes that lead them to compare notes at playgroups?

    No, but ...

    By on

    I've mentioned the West Zone Parents Group elsewhere in this discussion. At least the year we were active, the overwhelming majority of participants were white - in a school district that is something like 85% non-white. Why? I never asked if the group was advertised in non-white areas of our zone (we found out about it from a flyer at the West Roxbury library). No, I don't think we were collectively a bunch of racists, but it was kind of odd.

    I see it all the time in my

    I see it all the time in my work, it sometimes becomes a hassle to try to get minority representation and you almost curse when another white person shows up. Im not a super liberal quota seeker, but I do find it hard to garner legitimacy when an area is very minority heavy but no minorities show up to the party.

    IMO its not race, its economics. I appreciate people who get all defensive when someone makes the "mistake" of saying "white people show up and black people dont" most of the time they really meant to say "well all the middle class people with jobs that end at 5 showed up, but non of the parents/people with a lower level job who works from 1-9 or works two jobs was able to show up." More people in group one are white, and more people in group 2 are not.

    The world is not set up for group 2, and it shows. I love it when people say something like "why dont they just take some time off of work to show up to the meeting" like A) DO they have an option to just take time off B) Are They are living paycheck to paycheck and d not just have so many hours they can take off for meetings and C) Will there be someone else in their place when they come back. This isnt a bad economy thing, its actually worse when times are good. People who want to understand minorities , specificly poor minorities, need to spend some time in their shoes. While there are many people abusing the system, there are many more who are working 2 or 3 jobs to keep the family running, they send their kid to school and just pray it all works out because lord knows they dont have the time to figure out what school,what program,what their kid needs to take to get to school,they just need it to happen.

    None at all

    By on

    If the brown people are middle class and act like white people, then there's no problem. It's not a race divide, it's a social capital divide. Just happens that the social capital divide shares cleavage with race.

    Those Catholic Schools ...

    Are full of working class and middle class black and brown kids now, too - perhaps that is soaking up all of the "caring parent" energy from that sector?

    Latin Academy

    I guess I've been at this a year or two longer than many parents or observers here, so I'll contribute this: there are a few decent schools in each zone where the kids of active parents tend to gather. Once you get your kid into such a grammar school, you get sibling preference on sending the next kid. I think that's how these schools end up whiter overall, however in our case the grammar school was not over 50% white.

    In a classroom it's not so much that the parents are active and involved in the class, it's that they help their kids do the homework and achieve well, and make sure the kids get enough sleep and stop watching TV etc. If 80% of the kids are in that situation and can be good learners, then it's not a huge problem to have some kids who need extra help. The problem comes when 80% of the kids in a class need help in school, and then go home and watch too much TV etc.

    There is really nothing that says a black or hispanic parent can't do that basic work. My kids went to one of the good schools, and the parents of black or hispanic students there were involved at both levels, home and school.

    If you want to see a group of parents who are involved and are not white, you should go to Boston Latin Academy, which has a largely working-class student body which still achieves academically in spite of the second- and third-rate tools available to those kids.

    The basic problem is that 80-90% of the families in the BPS do not have the money or the time, and for some reason cannot make up the difference with an achievement culture. You can bus them or not bus them, but there will only be a 10-20% concentration of good learners anywhere.

    The best solution

    Don't send your kids to a school. If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.

    To each his own

    By on

    More power to you if you're home-schooling your kids. But tell me, when you have chest pains, do you give yourself an X-ray?

    Busing fragments communities

    By on

    The extent to which busing isolates neighbors from one another is rarely mentioned. I've lived on streets where it seemed like every kid in elementary school went to a different school. And these were streets with a lot of kids, in neighborhoods with a youth crime problem and only intermittant community organization for crime watches and zoning issues.

    If the kids went to the same school, it brings the parents together. The kids themselves also know each other and have some sense of community. Bringing the kids and parents together increases the level of parent involvement in the school, and the level of parent involvment in the community.

    Busing was an insane experiment. It not only failed to achieve its aim of desegregation, it increased segregation. It also had a devastating effect on neighborhood cohesion, which helped lead to crime problems in many places.

    Mandated busing failed to get to the root of the problem.

    By on

    There's no question but that the problems that mandated school busing set out to correct were far too deeply-rooted and too complex to be solved by a such a solution. However, one must bear in mind that mandatory school busing was an emergency measure to fall back on due to years of intransigience by an extremely corrupt and racist school committee that was also riddled with no small amounts of patronage, politics and opportunism.

    All that aside, however, I believe that, had the B-BURG (Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group) program been carried out differently than it was, things would've been way different. B-BURG, a consortium of roughly 20 Boston-area banks in partnership with real estate agents, which came roughly six years prior to busing, and about a month after the MLK assassination, was ostensibly a program to help low-income black homebuyers break out of the ghetto and assume the responsibility for homeownership for the first time. However, the B-BURG program was nothing less than a disaster.

    The Jewish neighborhoods of Mattapan, North Dorchester and parts of Roxbury were chosen for this experiment and effectively "red-lined", affectively restricting black homebuyers to the "red-lined" neighborhoods. Often, black homebuyers who'd found housing that they liked that were just afew blocks outside the B-BURG area were denied loans to buy that particular house. Pre-existing flight from the red-lined B-BURG areas increased, at least in part due to fueling by racist campaigning on the part of the banks and real estate agents affiliated with the B-BURG program. Phone calls were often made warning Jewish families to "sell and get out before property values went down". With the advent of threats, arsons, firebombings and break-ins, ets., most of the Jewish population fled. Far from helping blacks and other non-whites to break out of the ghetto, the B-BURG program had, in fact, enlarged, expanded and re-enforced the ghetto, which still exists today.

    All of the above being said, and, at the risk of arousing the ire of some posters here on UniversalHub, I firmly believe that, had B-BURG had carried out their program differently and allowed black homebuyers access to housing throughout the city, two things would've happened: A) neighborhoods and schools alike would've been much more integrated, and the need for such divisive policies such as large-scale mandatory school busing (which frequently made many people more angry, fearful and suspicious of each other) would've been eliminated, or at least minimized (B) There would've been a far better chance of neutralizing people such as Louise Day Hicks, thereby derailing her crusade and that of the School Committee at large.

    This is my position, which I've had for a long time, and firmly stand by.

    Arousing ire

    By on

    Naah, you'd be more likely to arouse ire by saying stupid things. What you say here isn't stupid. It's sensible.

    The fundamental problem that lead to busing was residential segregation. The B-BURG program increased segregation, and resulted in the mass exodus of Jews from Boston. It's not that controversial to add two and two and get four.

    If you want to arouse ire, you'd say something like B-BURG was the Irish siccing the Blacks on the Jews out of religious intolerance. So the deeper root of Boston's public school problems was anti-semitism.

    Apples and oranges

    I can teach kids about algebra and the Civil war without the city intervening.

    I don't know how to perform an X-ray, so for that, I'd need a contractor.

    Not yet

    I have to breed first. But it will be a premarital topic of discussion with any potential spouse.


    By on

    Have you attached a manacle to your stove yet?


    We actually considered this as a vanity license plate for our minivan.

    What humans do ain't any more noble than what animals do.

    In the words of the famous local band HSR:
    I see another baby born
    One more mouth to feed
    Sometimes I cannot comprehend
    This urge to breed


    I find the term rather "aggravating" (especially since it is particularly favored by nasty anti-children fanatics).

    PRIDE drives performance.

    Attaching ownership makes people care. It makes them proud because it is THEIR school in THEIR neighborhood. It's human nature.

    People tend to resent things

    People tend to resent things they dont use. I lived near an elementary school when I was a kid and went there for a few years. For the few short years I went to the school it was the best thing in the world, but ever since I left its now a pain in the neck and my parents wish it was not there anymore. Now imagine how much they would resent it if I were going to school 8 miles away and we had to drive past the school every day on the way to my school.

    view from an eastern european immigrant

    By on

    I like living in Boston (Brighton), but once I have kids, I will undoubtetly leave the city. I don't want to expose my kids to what I experienced as a student in my crime ridden public high school during the nineties after I immigrated to the USA. My family was dirt poor after coming here, but somehow I managed to graduate and complete a University education, largely because of my parent's moral support, involvment and direction. Very few of my high school classmates made anything of themselves, even though we had access to the same libraries, teachers and resources. The difference was my parent's involvement, not our bank account or economic status. I am not aversed to the race or economic status of the students in BPS. I am aversed to the criminal, arrogant and boisterous culture that dominates among the students there and that the students perpetuate. greetings.