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Middle-class families continue to flee Boston when kids reach school age

The Globe examines the state of the elementary school system at the height of lottery season.

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Is the Glob subsidized by private schools or something? Or by the suburbs...oh wait, that's it.

I feel like I know quite a cross-section of Boston peeps, among my neighborhood and my job and my religious community, and I know very few people who send their kids to private schools (the ones I do know send them to moderately priced co-op sorts of places) and exactly two families who've moved out of Boston because of schools. One moved because they have a child who needs special education and BPS wasn't providing what was on the kid's IEP, so they moved less than a mile away to a similarly urban part of Brookline.

I know a lot more people who moved INTO Boston because of the diversity and the walkability and the backyard full of amazing places to take your kids that only exist in cities. The Globe makes it sound like most families share this elitist racist agenda around their kids' schooling, when this just doesn't seem to be as widespread as they wish it to be. (It's unfortunately TOO widespread, but it just doesn't seem to be the norm unless we're talking only about important families the Globe writes about.)

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Poor eeka - sounds like the hunter who can't imagine that vegetarians actually exist. It's called the "Everyone I know...!" fallacy.

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I don't see where I denied that such people exist. And I qualified the sorts of people I know and how I know them. Thanks for deciding that I was limiting this to a really narrow group of people, though.

(And isn't the Globe doing exactly this? Deciding that it's the norm to leave Boston because of the schools, just because a few families who are fancy enough to be in random Globe articles do this?)

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Show me where they have some actual data on people leaving the city, other than "everyone the reporter knows".

The drop in percent of households with school age children isn't alarming given regional trends.

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The fact that the public school population has been constantly decreasing for the past several years, while the city's population has been slightly growing is enough, I think, to arrive at Globe's conclusion. It also agrees with my subjective observations of what is happening in Brighton at least - yes, middle class families are leaving as soon as they hit school age. Brookline and Newton do not seem to have that problem with their public schools, even though they are just across an imaginary line from the city...

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Brighton is one of the whiter parts of the city, and home prices are fairly high (lower than downtown hoods, higher than most other non-downtown neighborhoods). There are parts of it, as you allude to, where it's hard to tell when you're crossing into Newton or Brookline. Brighton is full of the demographic of people who leave for whiter schools.

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Is Brighton one of the whiter parts of the city? My kid went to school there for years and it didn't seem that way to me. Not a big Hispanic population as far as I could see, but an incredibly high number of immigrants from all over.

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Look at census data. No census tract with more than 4% black except for the one that's the projects. A few with 0% black. Smattering of Hispanics and Asians here and there. Not the whitest census tracts though; those are in Southie and Dorchester, where there are tracts that are 98% and 99% white (shudder).

And immigrants can be white too.

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Sure, I'll admit it: I never moved to Boston because I didn't want to deal with the schools - especially after the experiences my SIL had with my niece and nephew.

However, the Glob is engaging in Truthyism here: there is very little actual statistical data, and a whole lot of "he and she said" stuff in this article. At best they note a drop in the school age population in Boston. However, they don't note the trends in other communities, the state, etc. OR that there has been a drop in the number of breeding age people in Massachusetts relative to the US as a whole as the Commonwealth's housing prices have led people of house-buying age to select other cities.

I think an excellent demonstration would be to show how many people actually sell houses within 5 to 7 years of their child's birth. Some people make the jump after kindergarten, too. I don't see that exact info in the article - and that is the premise upon which the article is built.

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People move in that timeframe for a lot of reasons; I can list off a number of people who moved within Boston with primary-school-aged because they wanted a bigger house or wanted to be closer to various things. Then there are also people who move for different reasons that have nothing to do with kids or schools.

You'd have to actually do a longitudinal study in which you pick a large number of families, representing the demographics of Boston, and track them from the time their kids are 2 or 3 until their kids are, say, 8, and ask them to explain their various reasons for having moved or not moved, take data about what kinds of school(s) their kids have tried to get into, etc. You'd also have to control for the families who already have siblings; if someone gives birth or adopts an infant but already has a 10-year-old in public school, you can kind of guess they aren't going to move away from BPS once the kid is preschool age.

The program where I work pulls from every type of family in Boston that has young children. We don't do any formal longitudinal studies (I really wish we did, for many reasons), and I'm guessing the families who keep in touch once their kids are school age are the more functional sorts of families who bother to do things like send us holiday cards once their kid is done with us, but they still seem to be pretty scattered across income levels and ethnicity and whatnot. Most of the families are still in Boston.

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The stories told in the Globe article are so sad. It's very depressing to think that families (thousands of families) go through this mess.

There seems to be so much left to chance in a system that tries to please the highest number of people.

Two things not mentioned in the articles are the students who are in special education. How does this affect the lottery system? Do they get to go to the top of the list or do they fight for spots just like everyone else?

Two of the South End elementary schools have more than 25% of students are classified as "special education".

What's also not included is an analysis of school data. Are schools with higher percentages of "English as a Second Language" students ranked higher or lower than other schools? Is there any correlation here?

The city's public school population dropped 10% in the 2000's (2010 census numbers are not yet available so this is from previous reports). And we have ~142 schools, some of which are believed to be up to 50% empty.

Need I go on?

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John, are you thinking of the Carter and the Blackstone? The Carter is entirely students who have severe/profound disabilities -- most are nonambulatory, nonverbal, a lot of them have significant medical needs like ventilators and such. The Blackstone is a regular elementary school, but they have several classrooms designated for kids with moderate-severe autism and for kids with other moderate-severe needs. They also have some inclusion classrooms that are half typical kids and half kids with disabilities such as Down syndrome or mild-moderate autism.

The statistics about special ed or passing/not passing MCAS are so tricky to extract meaning from, because they don't distinguish between the kids who are currently classified as sped but really could be regular ed if the schools had a more inclusive teaching model and did a better job motivating them and the kids who have a disability such as profound autism and just won't be regular ed no matter how awesome the school is.

Oh, and then to further complicate things, any child with an IEP is classified as "special ed." So, if a child gets speech therapy just for articulation (pronunciation), then that child is "special ed," even if working well above grade level. Same thing if a child has a physical disability and has physical therapy once a week to help them learn to use stairs or something.

We really need a better way of distinguishing between the kids who have lifelong disabilities and the kids who currently aren't learning as well as they might be, but there really isn't any way I can think of that's appropriate and respectful. You can't very well officially designate some kids as "defective brain and will never be normal" and other kids as "lazy with crappy parenting."

"Hey, the school that specialized in teaching kids with dyslexia has the worst reading scores in the state! It's an outrage!" ;o)

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No, I'm not.

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(Yes, I could look at the DOE stat site, but you're right here!)

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It has been almost twelve hours without a response from JohnAKeith. Think it might have been faster to check the DOE website, hmmmmm?

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He posted the article lower down in the thread. And he was basically talking about the schools I mentioned, only I forgot to include the McKinley, which is also 100% sped like the Carter. Blackstone is around a quarter sped, as I had thought.

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No, I wasn't. I was speaking of the Hurley and the Quincy (South End / Chinatown).

But I erred by rounded up to 25% when they are in fact both under 25%.

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;o)

Both the Hurley and the Quincy each have several classrooms that are for kids with significant disabilities, and the Hurley is doing some cool stuff with inclusion. So yeah, there are a lot of kids in sped, but it's quite likely that they don't have an overrepresentation of kids who are currently sped who don't necessarily need to be.

(Even so, "special ed" and "working at grade level" aren't mutually exclusive. A kid can be receiving an accommodation that ALLOWS them to work at grade level.)

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There are two reasons why the BPS should improve going forward which will help reverse this perceived trend.

First, the budgeting is being reworked so that kids of similar needs (educational requirements, SPED, etc...) should be getting something closer to parity in terms of per school funding. While it will have to be an imperfect system due to variability in terms of who actually attends a school year to year, this means there will be a lot more equity in school budgets. At our West Zone school, we will be getting an increase of almost $2k/student for next year and this will still put our school at the lower end of the per student spending spectrum. As I interpret this, that means our school has been seriously underfunded as compared to the other West Zone schools to date. Our kids aren't any less deserving of funding than those at the other West Zone schools, so this is a step in the right direction.

Second, improving the lottery process is the next goal of the BPS after increasing the equity in school funding. Once parents both feel better about having more quality options (vs. the West Roxbury Kilmer/Beethoven/Lyndon or leave the BPS approach common currently) and there is a more transparent system, I think more will opt in to the system.

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One way to get a sense of how many families leave Boston because of the schools would be to track the ones who participate in the lottery. How many got a school they wanted, how many did not, how many moved? Was it the schools, some other reason, or a combination of both? And if they move, where did they go?

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Lets say a couple lives together in Boston for 3 years, and has a kid. 5 years later is school time, so they move away.

Theyve paid 8 years of local taxes, and run away to get an education....which is a very high high expense.

As soon as kiddo turns 18 and heads to college, bam, parents move back to the city.

So Boston gets all the income, but some poor suburb has to spend all their money on schools while Boston can put it into things that benefit everyone.

Sounds good to me.

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But ultimately, that kid grows up with no ties to the city, doesn't move here and then, when multiplied by everybody else who does the same thing, you're left with a city of extremes - the people who can afford the multi-million-dollar condos with the views downtown and the people too poor to get out.

That's not a viable city in the long term (ah, but what about New York, you say, to which I reply: That's just Manhattan, and despite what you see on TV, most of New York is not actually crammed onto one small island).

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Sure your scenario is bad, but is Boston definitively trending towards your example? Here in Roslindale, JP, West Roxbury there seem to be a fair amount of families staying, especially considering the lottery issues for the most desired schools not to mention enrollment at Holy Name, etc...

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I agree, thats an extreme example, and even Manhattan has kids.

You also assume that someone needs ties to move to a city....absolutely not. Look at the growth of Phoenix over the last 20 years, it was all new people.

Boston can attract plenty of 20+ year olds who grew up in some suburb and want to live an active life in an active city. In fact, the lack of kids will help draw them in, because again, less taxes going to schools and playgrounds, more taxes going to better transit, free internet, museums etc

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Those weren't all "new" people - Phoenix has grown dramatically in part by annexing surrounding towns, something Boston hasn't done since 1912.

You're right, though, people without ties to a city move there all the time. I did, as did my wife. But it's not particularly healthy when those people keep moving out when they have kids (we bought our house from a family moving to Norwood to get out of Boston).

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Apparently, anecdotal evidence is not held in high regard around here. But I am about to give you a buttload of it.

I grew up in Phoenix. Phoenix grew rapidly in the last three decades. Annexation doesn’t entirely or even mostly account for it. I was born in 69. By the time I was twenty, I was like an old lady. I could stand on Camelback Mountain and exclaim, “I remember when none of this was here.” “None of this” being track houses for as far as the eye could see. I really remember when it was all just desert. Plus, by my teen years I was a bit of an anomaly. Almost everyone I knew outside my family was born somewhere else. I was the only one actually born in Phoenix. Everyone was from the Midwest.

That being said, I love Boston more. The BPS lottery was daunting. But we are very happy with our school.

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I agree with your argument Adam but there's a lot of complications about the whole thing. We're all looking backward at what cities have been traditionally throughout the 1900's. In Boston, even this changed during the 30's and 40's and the 70's and 80's. One of the pressing questions is, What type of city do we want to be?

You mention NY and Manhattan vs. the outer boroughs. I'd make the case that Boston is just like this, with the "island" of Boston being its original borders and all of its annexed neighborhoods being the outer boroughs. Similarly, the money made in "city central" (financial district in both cities) and the property taxes of the "inner" city is what pays for the majority of services the cities provide.

Is it a pipe dream to imagine a city where all income groups are welcomed and provided for? I don't know. I think the future of the city is a wealthy core with lots of low-income, subsidized housing, and little else. I don't see the outer boroughs becoming any less appealing to middle-income people unless property taxes increase or crime creeps up. Perhaps the families moving out with kids in the public schools will go away but maybe enough replacement families will move in. Or not. Perhaps something new will occur - the outer boroughs will falter much as cities such as Peabody, Lynn, and Framingham did in the second half of the 20th-century, where the downtown areas became ghost towns.

Or, thinking about it more, perhaps the housing will move from White middle class people to second- and third-generation immigrant families moving up the economic ladder. I can imagine that happening, as well.

An interesting situation is at hand where the city's population has exploded >10% during the past decade while the number of children enrolled in the public schools dropped >10%. The population increased by 56,028 people (if the 2009 American Community Survey's data is to be believed) from 589,141 to 645,169 residents and enrollment from something like 63,024 (2000) to 56,340 (2010). (And, I was incorrect when I said there were 142 public schools in Boston; there are now 135 schools.) Property tax collections have doubled (I'll have to find the data) during the same time, and the public schools' budget is approximately 1/3 of the city's annual budget (~$600 million out of ~$1.8 billion).

So, everyone understands some of the problems. No one's come up with any good solutions, I don't think.

The #'s I quoted earlier for the South End are from an article in last week's South End News.

http://www.mysouthend.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc...

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You mention:

property taxes increase or crime creeps up

You can add the elimination of the residency requirement - thousands of families live here because they are forced to by job requirements - not because they want to unfortunately - with a large concentration in West Roxbury and other western neighborhoods.

Property tax stats can be found at www.cityofboston.gov/assessing and there are .pdf links at the bottom to a series of annual documents - called "facts and figures"(aka - everything you always wanted to know about property taxes if you can stay awake long enough to look through it :-)).

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I'd love to not be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and just choose a new country every few months, but these damned voter registration people force me to be a citizen.

Not only that, but my job forces me to have a professional license. Oh, and the nerve of them, making me show up to get paid.

Don't even get started on my mortgage company. I don't pay the bill because I like to, but because I'm FORCED TO!

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Therefore Eeka must critique it from wherever she is.

Not saying that an employee doesn't know about the residency requirement going in, but at the extreme risk of getting off topic (maybe we can post a poll under both our names in the spirit of cooperation and kumbaya), city workers are effectively held hostage in the city. If you have to make living here a condition of a city job, rather than a benefit that you personally choose - then we have issues. The residency requirement is a political ploy to keep city workers in the city (who tend to vote for incumbents as long as they keep the gravy train running - annual raises and minimal to no cuts in bennies and pensions). They are a large enough force in most of the city to control almost every local election (and vote because the outcome directly impacts their household income).

Personally it reminds me of feudal Japan where the Shogun kept the local lord's family hostage in Tokyo so that he wouldn't go home and start a local revolt or his family would suffer the consequences.

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Or is it a job requirement that people working for the city actually live here and are invested in the city?

(And again, they are not "held hostage" or "forced." They choose to take a job for which living in the city is a requirement, just as I choose to go to work if I want to get paid.)

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To the best of my knowledge few if any other cities and towns have a residency requirement - and I don't hear of any reports that their town is falling apart because the employees don't live there. Fair enough - you choose to take the job and there are requirements for that and they are fully disclosed - but you make that decision and then 5 years in you need to change for any one of a million valid reasons and the city can say - you can't move or you're fired - totally bogus. The city does this for two reasons a) it artificially props up real estate values and b) it keeps voters willing to accept this mandate in the city and they are likely to keep voting for their bosses. Get rid of it and you: a) have access to a much larger pool of labor that may or may not want to live in the city b) will probably see a decline of property values in traditional political strongholds as families opt out for school or whatever else and c) might see less of a stranglehold on political office that incumbents enjoy - difficult as always to unseat an incumbent - but you probably have a little more of a level playing field for challengers and reformers that currently have zero chance of getting elected in this town.

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Maybe we're not interested in having people from the suburbs doing much of the work in our city. The city provides good jobs and maybe they prefer to have them go to people who stay here and really care about the city and making it a good place. As a city resident, I like that my city workers are people who actually live here and know what it's like around here. I don't want my city run by a bunch of people who are too good to live here and ran off to whiter pastures.

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Based on this and your other comment further up for a liberal you seem to have a lot of problems with race - especially European-Americans.

Maybe they don't think of themselves as too good to live here. Maybe their spouse works in Worcester, maybe their kids have a special need that can be better served elsewhere, maybe they just want their kids to live in a greener space or even a house instead of an apartment or maybe they have sick parents or any host of reasons. Personally I'd just rather have the best employees we can find - and I could care less where they live (nor do I believe city workers care "more" because they live here -if that's true we have a management problem).

One thing I would like is to see a program that favors hiring grads of BPS - especially for jobs that require a college education.

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And you don't understand racism if you think that pointing out that a place is heavily white is the same thing as having a problem with white people.

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If they want to live in a green suburb because they think green suburbs are better than cities, then what business do they have running our CITY? They can go manage a green suburb. Again, I don't want my city run by people who think they are too good to live in it.

Serious question: should the mayor be allowed to move out of Boston and retain his position?

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And just because you don't live in Boston doesn't mean you think you are too good for it. And workers don't always "run" the city either. What if you were on an interview for a public school teaching hire, and you found the applicants that lived outside of Boston were far better than the ones that lived in Boston. Do you hire the Boston ones because they live in Boston? Doesn't that hurt your city in the long run? How is that different than any other city job (accountant, firefighter, police officer, DPW worker etc). At some point you want the best person for the job.

Good question about the mayor though. Since he is elected, he probably has to live in the city, but I don't see why he has to in order to be a good mayor. It might even be better for the city in a lot of ways because he can avoid the political crap.

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had tried to post a similar sentiment yesterday but either my wireless or Uhub had server fever.

As for the mayor - the title of the post was "elected v. employee". There's a huge difference. Personally I think that the requirement that you be a resident to run for office is a good one - otherwise you could get, for example, a wealthy corporate titan who thinks Boston is for the businesses, not the residents, as mayor - not likely, but possible. Out of the 16,000 plus employees - I can live with the requirement for the mayor and the city councilors (and maybe a couple of those other obscure positions usually filled by people named Hennigan and Iannella).

Funny thing is - I think the most powerful unions don't have the residency requirement. Aren't teachers as well as senior cops and firefighters exempt - among a few others perhaps (maybe some of Menino's top people?)

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There was a grandfather clause for some of the unions and I'm not 100% sure of the teachers and firefighters. There was a requirement for a long time for all of them which has changed. Although the unions wanted this the most, the city also benefited by getting good employees.

I mean, the requirement has its good points. There is that sense of pride you have when you live in the city you work in. In the end though, the requirement isn't in the best interests of Boston in my opinion.

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I do think it needs to be run by at least a large percentage of city residents. City jobs are human services jobs, and people who are serving people need to have values and experiences in common.

And isn't the hiring done just like affirmative action, where all people considered for the job have to be qualified, but city residents get preference (or in many cases, are the only people who can be hired)? I don't believe the city is hiring unqualified people just because they live in the city (I mean, any more than any other business inevitably ends up with some incompetent employees.)

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being from the city or living in the city are two very different things. If someone moved to Boston from Alaska, they would be eligible for a city job over someone who grew up and lived in Boston for 30 years but moved to Cambridge, Brookline, or Quincy.

There is also a civil service issue where you must live in the city before you are even eligible to get an interview (since these jobs have long lists of city applicants). The Boston Police had a very hard time finding qualified city residents so they resorted to civil service transfers for the first time ever a few years ago (basically hiring cops from other departments).

But yea, if you don't live in the city, you can't work there.

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“You’re seeing the mixed bag of results that happens when you hire people of questionable qualifications who are in these critical positions making points of contact with people in emergencies who need the cops,’’ he said.

This is what happens when you limit your applicant pool-sounds like these people really care about their community - when they aren't taking advantage of sick leave and fighting with each other.

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I hope this topic draws more comments than the Whole Foods kerfuffle.

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My family moved out of the city (JP) when I reached school age (granted some time ago), and so did most of my extended family thru the 70's, 80's and early 90's (some 30+ kids). The three cousins that did stay went onto Boston Latin. My aunt did have (and still does) a strong affection for Boston, but moved to Quincy some years ago.

When I asked my mother later in life why we left, she cited being able to own property and the schools being her two main reasons for wanting to leave.

Just my experience

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Here's how school registration happens in Newton... it's very simple.... no angst... all the schools are excellent with the exception of a couple that are oustanding

Kindergarten Registration
Children who will be 5-years-old on or before August 31, 2011 are eligible to enter kindergarten in the Newton Public Schools in September 2011. Each Newton elementary school will hold a parent orientation followed by a registration on a separate date. Please see the schedule below.
Parents who are new to Newton or who have not received notice regarding the kindergarten registration process should contact their neighborhood school.

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Boston would be the same way if we just got rid of most of the poor people.

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that all the schools are slowly falling apart, with the exception of one that is outstanding....because it's brand new....and cost $200 million to build.

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125 kids sign up for the Lyndon school. 25 get in.

Take the other four grades full of Lyndon material, stick them in the Agassiz or wherever. Change the name to Lyndon 2. Same sort of kids, same sort of parents, basically same teachers. Why isn't this done?

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Guessing, but I think one of the reasons the Lyndon is so popular is that it is in West Roxbury. Most people would prefer their elementary school kids to go to school where they live if feasible. Given the choice between dropping of little Liam at Holy Name or driving into JP, the Lyndon 2 loses.

Lyndon material? You make the Lyndon sound like Roxbury Latin or something.

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The Lyndon is popular because it's a pilot school that has a reputation for giving kids a good education. Almost nobody in West Roxbury would have ever dreamed of sending their kids to the Ohrenberger (that may have changed since it merged with the Beethoven, which itself was sort of third behind the Lyndon and the Kilmer).

Even parents outside West Roxbury try to get their kids into the Lyndon (not us, we tried for the Kilmer, also in West Roxbury, and got lucky, partly due to our lottery results, partly due to the fact we played the lottery the year before it really became hot).

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So, you play the lottery once and if you get into your preferred school, you stop.

But if you don't get in, do parents try again the next year, the next, the next? They may prefer not to, given the stress, but do they have that option every year?

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I think it's kindergarten and then it becomes a wait-list sort of thing. So, yeah, it's pretty stressful.

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...but there are way fewer seats available each year at the higher grades as the way one opens up is if a student leaves the school, which is rare. I'm sure some parents try each year but it's a small portion of the school population compared to the kindergarden lottery. I think the wait list resets each year, so you can't stay on the wait list year after year.

The whole process starts up again at high school for kids who don't go to an exam school. The format is different but there is still the core issue that you can't know if your kid will get to go to the school you would like, unless you want to send them to less desirable school.

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It depends what school you're trying to get into. A lot of the charters will only intake in intervals (intake at K and 5th grade for a K-8 school, for example), and will only intake in the intervening years at replacement-level. So, for a parent whose kid doesn't get into any of the schools s/he signed up for for kindergarten, the pool of available schools for the first grade year is much, much smaller, and the pool of kids vying for those spots is even more overwhelming.

It's a pretty awful prospect for a parent to face, when the option is between uprooting everything to move out to the suburbs, or roll the dice with BPS.

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If you're posting on Universal Hub, the chances are your kid will start qualifying for the advanced work class as soon as third grade. But if you like the school you can probably stay, send your kid to a short prep class and your kid will get into the exam school.

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I would like to take this point further and note a fact that is getting lost in all the noise here:

Students do not go to elementary, middle, or high school to learn beyond the basics.

Once you get basic literacy and arithmetic out of the way, American schools primarily function as day-care and social conditioning centers.

I'm pretty confident that anyone reading this who can still remember their childhood will agree. If you were interested in learning, then you likely taught yourself. If you were uninterested in learning, then you just ignored whatever the teachers were trying to say, no matter how good they were.

There's no "magical school program" that is going to make a huge difference in the long run. The biggest thing is getting your kids to be interested in learning in the first place, and that is mainly a role for the parents to be filling. The rest is about growing up.

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The argument is that the class at the Lyndon (or whichever "good" school) is better because the parents are more helicoptery, more on top of the teachers, the kids, the principal and so on. Having sent my kids to one such school, I think I buy it.

But the kids who are numbered 1-25 are not more helicoptered than kids 100-125. These are the motivated parents. The lottery throws 80% of these parents out of the pool though.

Yes, the parents could get together and pick say the Agassiz or something and just take it over. It could be done but they won't do it. They want the Lyndon name, even though it is essentially meaningless. It's a little status symbol even though you get it just by being lucky!

You could reward the principal of the good school with an increase in salary or a satellite administrator. In the school that is not chosen, you just close up the classroom and get rid of that teacher, and replace them with a Lyndon teacher and Lyndon class. Rather than dynamiting the school you just don't fill up the class in the school that underdraws.

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Here's what I said elsewhere, no need to reinvent the comment wheel:

This article is very slanted in my opinion, and suited toward the demographic the Globe hopes to capture -- yuppies who've moved to the burbs. It identifies a problem in somewhat catastrophic terms by selecting particularly poignant stories, but then fails to make the case with data. Per the article, 10% of families do not get their first choice. That's really a pretty reasonable figure. The only way to improve it is to build spare capacity into the system so that fewer schools have every seat assigned. That's terribly inefficient.

And the truth of the matter is that most families don't really know the system until their kids are there. It is often the case that the first choice isn't even the best choice for your child. My daughter didn't get our first, second, or even third choice. But my wife and I were foolish in how we made our selections. Every school we picked save one was on the highly sought after list. The one that wasn't was fairly close and we put it down as an after thought. We are now on our third kid at that school, and we think it is fantastic.

The problem for the profiled families is that they are afraid of trying to commit to a public education. They like the idea in principle, but they can't face up to it unless it's the school their neighbors or friends told them is the only acceptable option. Most of the schools are good if your child has additional resources. Failure at BPS is reserved for children who have other obstacles -- poverty, violent neighborhoods, learning disabilities.

And the implication that all middle class families leave is patently wrong. My neighborhood is filled with middle class families that send their children to BPS schools.

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HenryAlan,

I think this comment hits the nail on the head. I have talked to many parents who are trying to decide what to do. Many of them complain that their zone doesn’t have very many good schools. Then they completely fail to investigate. They might enter the lottery and put down one or two of the most sought after schools. I honestly believe that for many of these people, the real plan is to send their kids to a parochial or a private school. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to just say that. I guess it offends some idea that they have of themselves. In the meantime, they trash BPS.

I went to a parochial school for most of my life. I then went to a private, hard to get into university. I honestly think my son’s experience in BPS is superior to the education I received at his age. He does not go to the Kilmer or the Lyndon.

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I honestly believe that for many of these people, the real plan is to send their kids to a parochial or a private school. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to just say that. I guess it offends some idea that they have of themselves

So the parents 'real plan' is to send their kids to parochial school, but they don't know it? They have a secret plan of which they are not consciously aware? Thank you, Dr Freud.

If anyone has an issue with 'some idea they have of themselves,' it's you, dude. You flatter yourself.

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I am not a mind reader. I had this converstaion many times with many parents. Some of them come out and say it. "I am sending my kid to Holy Name. But I will put our name in the lottery for Kilmer and Lyndon. If I get it than we will save the tuition."

But I think many parents don't like to think of themselves as the type who send their kids to private schools. They do this little dance where they protest that there are no good schools in their zone. That is the part that annoys me. I don't care where people send their children. But it not true that there aren't good schools in BPS. But for whatever I think some people feel the need to justify their choice by talking smack about BPS.

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Competitive attitudes and striving for social acceptance are nothing new and are not going away. I am sure we had some of the same attitudes when we started out at the BPS. In any case it doesn't get better, it happens all over again in 6th grade! and then for college all over again.

What do you do to make the system work in a way that captures these people instead of responding to their concerns in a combative and alienating way? If they stayed in Boston, they're basically unracist enough to accept a school that's 50-60% black and latino. That shouldn't be a difficult target to hit.

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Who said anything about these people being racist? Like I said, I don't care where people send their kids to school. Honestly, I don't care if people move to the suburbs. Everyone gets to make their own decisions. I am talking about something very limited. I am just responding the familiar refrain that I am hearing, "I have to send my kids to private school because I am unable to get my kid into a good BPS school - because there are only two of them." This statement is not true, and I wish people would stop saying it.

And when I hear it, I respond that if they investigated BPS they might be surprised.

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A lot of people don't really try to discover that their children can thrive in the BPS environment. My wife and I really wanted our kids to go to public school, so that's what we did. People who are less committed to the public system will often make a peripheral attempt, but then brush it off. If what they really want is parochial/private/suburban, then good for them. They should make that choice and talk about it in positive terms. "These are the wonderful opportunities at this private school that I wanted for my kids," should not be re-stated as "BPS is so awful, I had no choice."

I think most people who value the concept of an urban public education will find what they want in BPS. Those who value something else should simply admit that and then seek out the solution that fits their needs.

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That's basically the BPS attitude now. "Things aren't as bad as they look!"

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Are you suggesting a PR strategy to solve the conundrum?

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Just had this discussion last night with my wife. Daughter #1 got two As, two Bs, two Cs. Was told that was going to get her into --- UMass Boston!!! horrors

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EM Painter, despite my sterling educational credentials that I bragged about above (heh), I am a little dense. But I think I get what you are saying. I think you are saying that we (BPS parents) need to reach out to disaffected parents so that migration away from BPS stops. Because if enough people leave then the system crashes.

I agree, and in my own way, that was what I was trying to do. I try to address bad attitudes about BPS when I encounter them. I have to admit though this is a very sensitive topic. I am not from here, and I am often surprised by the conversations I have about BPS. There is a context that I don't always get. I didn't live through the turmoil that surrounded busing. It is almost impossible to talk about public schools without talking about race. And race is really hard to talk about.

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We had plenty of elementary schools here in Brighton that were not subscribed at all by the locals. But we have one, the Mary Lyon, that is massively oversubscribed. There were several schools nearby that could have been closed, and the Mary Lyon model simply replicated into the other buildings, using the students who applied to get into the school to form new classes.

The PR angle is you call it "Mary Lyon 2" or "Lyndon 2". People want the good name. Maybe "Lyndon Mark II".

Parents want their kids in a class that is not 80% "problem kids" and 20% "good kids". I would much rather have my white kids in a class that was full of strivers of all races than just bratty white kids. That's not how it happened for us, we had #1 in a private school for a year and then got into a "good" elementary school in the lottery.

What is the racial breakdown of the applicants to these "good schools"? Couldn't you reward the good schools by replicating their models, expand their sites, and use that to gain a critical mass of "good kids" in more schools rather than just concentrated in 1 or 2 in each zone?

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First of all, everyone perpetuates or fights racism all the time with any number of decisions they make. There aren't people who are just not part of racism.

Second of all, there absolutely are blatant racISTs in Boston. Do you know how many times I've had educated, worldly people who live/work within a mile of me but across the imaginary lines into the South End or Dorchester decline invitations to my home or suggestions that we hold something at a place in my neighborhood because "thanks, but Roxbury really isn't safe." Or the parents who are happy with in-home therapies, happily sign up to drive or take the free van to our center-based programs, then say "oh, it's in Dorchester...nevermind, that wouldn't be safe." Particularly disturbing when parents in Southie will tell us that Dorchester (Neponset/Lower Mills) is "a really sketchy neighborhood and I wouldn't be comfortable there." Oh, and then there's the program where I worked where they had a policy of reimbursing you if your car got vandalized while working, which was nice of them, but the explanation the administrators gave was "it shouldn't be your fault, because you wouldn't be in those neighborhoods otherwise."

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Amazing stuff...and all too common. So many need to believe that their town/neighborhood is safe and superior, and can only do that by slamming others.

I think of suburbanites (and include WR residents) who said to me years ago upon learning our first son was in the Quincy School in Chinatown, "Oh, your child goes to school in the inner city?" The pity and disdain were absurd. I'd laugh, note that they had pools, gyms and classroom computers long before public or private schools, as well as a rigorous learning environment better than suburban schools.

I didn't mention that while the neighborhood was safe and well policed, Theater District hookers were about late at night.

It is astonishing how many folk stereotype to excuse their provincialism.

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in the city? I looked at the demographics last year, but I couldn't find them just now. I had to go there one day for something and was sort of struck by the apparent lack of diversity among the students, relative to the overall BPS population.

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And it was probably followed closely by the Kilmer, which, the last time I checked (a couple years ago), was 55% white.

Given the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood, though, when coupled with BPS's walk-zone and sibling preferences (kids with siblings in the school go to the head of the acceptance queue and kids within a mile of the school get extra lottery points), it's not really surprising.

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Sibling and walk-zone priority count equally, Adam. And only half of an incoming class's seats are subject to priority placement - the other half are filled by lowest lottery number, regardless of priority.

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But it used to be that you could have a school with less than half the seats going to non-walk-zone kids if students in the school happened to have a lot of brothers and sisters.

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According to the BPS website,

Sometimes a school doesn’t have room for every student who lists it as a choice. When this happens, the computer assigns students based on choice and priorities. Here are the major priorities, with the highest listed first:
1. Sibling + walk zone
2. Sibling
3. Walk zone (a priority for 50% of available seats)
4. Random number

Siblings get in ahead of all walk zone and lottery winners. Siblings in the walk zone get in ahead of other siblings. Sibling preference is such a priority that having twins doubles your chances, as one may automatically follow the other, even if it overloads enrollment.

This could, in theory, account for 100% of available seats between siblings and walk zone.

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