Parents back BPS plan’s goal, want tweaks

March 15, 2013
By

Members of the community were critical of aspects of Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) proposed new student assignment plan, while acknowledging its innovative scientific approach and supporting its goal to improve education equity across the city.

Community members spent an hour-and-a-half sharing their opinions of BPS’s plan at the School Committee hearing, held March 7 at English High School at 144 McBride St., following a presentation from External Advisory Committee (EAC) member Helen Dájer and panel discussions with representatives from parent organization QUEST; Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC); the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC); and professors from MIT and Boston College.

The plan, called “Home-based A,” would use a formula to rank schools based on a family’s address and the school’s MCAS scores. 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 gives families at least six choices.

“We do not endorse this plan unless certain changes are made,” QUEST representative Sai Samant said at the meeting, calling for doing away with walk-zone priority.

A Boston Parent Organizing Network (BPON) representative read a prepared statement at the meeting, which called for “no more broken promises” from BPS. BPON is based in Jamaica Plain.

“It doesn’t really matter what model you put in [if] you don’t have equitable resources,” BPON Director of Organizing Programs Frank Hart told the Gazette last week. “If you don’t put resources in underperforming schools [like BPS has previously said it would do], giving [the students] access to more schools is just not going to work.”

A BPON flyer sent to the Gazette office ahead of the meeting said that BPS has promised to improve school quality with every modification of student assignment plans in the last few decades. BPON does not feel these promises have been kept.

“We’ve been down this road before. We fall short every time to what we’re supposed to attain” in terms of school quality improvement, Hart said. “This time, we want them to prioritize money to underperforming schools. We want to make sure that that happens.”

BPON is a coalition of 12 groups across the city that supports underprivileged parents and families in dealing with BPS.

Others brought up Boston’s troubled history with equitable access for students of all races and their concern that this plan would be a step backward.

“As the proposal currently stands, it will exacerbate the problem [of] residential patterns of racial disparities,” parent Stephanie Bode Ward said.

The Coalition for Equal Quality Education was at the meeting, handing out flyers calling for a rejection of the “racist re-segregation plan.”

“The plan is an attempt by the Mayor to return to ‘separate and unequal’ schools that benefit white communities at the expense of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan,” the flyer states.

A group of high school students, organized by Mission Hill-based Sociedad Latina, read prepared statements. Most spoke of the dearth of schools in the Mission Hill area and nearly all asked for better-quality schools across the city.

That feeling was echoed by many community members.

“The priority should be on improving all schools,” John Radosta, a teacher and BPS parent said at the meeting.

“These things do change for the better all the time” but only when the community decides to work together, BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson said at the start of the meeting. “Equity for all has to be the ultimate goal.”

More details on the plan are available at bostonschoolchoice.org.

Correction: Radosta is a BPS parent and a teacher at Milton Public Schools. A previous version of this article incorrectly identified him as a BPS teacher.

Best of JP 2014