BPS lays out 3 school-assignment plans

February 8, 2013
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The Boston Public Schools (BPS) has unveiled three plans in its effort to improve the school-assignment system.

One plan would create a new zone system—similar to, but more varied than the one used today—while two other plans would create a list of schools based on quality and proximity to the student’s home.

For the three plans, the Hernández K-8 School, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester would be options available for all students.

Sibling preference and walk zone priority would remain in any new plan. The assignment changes would affect incoming students for the 2014-15 school year.

The zone-system plan would move from the current three zones to 10 zones. Families would pick from any of the schools inside the zone they live, as well as any school within their walk zone. The walk zone is a mile and may cross a zone boundary. They would rank the schools they preferred and are assigned based on seat availability.

Zone 5 appears to encompass all of Mission Hill. It includes the Tobin and Higginson/Lewis K-8 schools and the Trotter, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Hennigan, Ellis and Hale elementary schools.

The other two “list” plans would use a formula to rank schools based on a family’s address. BPS would use MCAS data to chart two years of academic performance of students in math and English for each school and the rate of academic growth.

The ranked schools would be placed into a four-tier system and a list would be compiled picking schools closest to the family’s home from each of the top three tiers. The “Home-based A” plan would give families at least six choices, while the “Home-based B” plan would give families at least nine choices.

The two plans would also include three “closest capacity” schools, which is a school that can usually seat any student that requests it.

For the three plans, elementary schools would “feed” into middle schools nearby. High schools would remain open citywide, as they are now.

The External Advisory Committee (EAC), a group put together last year to help form a new school-assignment system, held two community meetings on the plans Feb. 4 and 5, after the Gazette deadline.

“I think we have done a great job of listening and reaching out to every constituency,” said Craig Lankhorst, a member of EAC and the chair of the local Ward 10 Democratic Committee.

Lankhorst could not comment on which plan EAC was leaning towards, saying further analysis is ongoing.

BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder said that the two meeting would probably be the only community meetings held by EAC before it makes its recommendation to Superintendent Carol Johnson. But, he said, once Johnson has submitted a plan to the City’s School Committee, there would likely be more community meetings.

For more information about each plan, visit bostonschoolchoice.org.