On Monday night the External Advisory Committee on Student Assignment is slated to recommend a new assignment model to the Superintendent and School Committee. After nearly a year of work, the models put forth by the district for the EAC's consideration still fall short in a several areas.
In October, a coalition of six elected officials put forth the Quality Choice Plan as a comprehensive model that addresses the issue of uneven quality across the city as an integral part of the creation of a new assignment model. Over 7,000 Bostonians signed onto the plan and, as this process comes to a conclusion, their voices must be heard. There are a few key elements that should be included in the final recommendation to the School Committee.
A long-term quality school plan as outlined in the Quality Choice Plan
The failure to link a real and sustained commitment to upgrading quality at every Boston Public School with student assignment reform hurts our children and prevents a consensus from being built across neighborhoods. A quality school plan should include detailed commitments with timelines and resources attached to each. Every school needs to have a qualified leader and teachers who can provide excellent instruction while being supported by fully staffed student support services like social workers and guidance counselors and family engagement coordinators to foster parental involvement. Wherever a child attends school, he or she should be offered a full array of academics, including art, music, social studies, physical education, and after-school programming and the district must rapidly increase programming for our students with disabilities and English Language Learners and alter the student funding formula to provide additional resources for schools most in need.
A guaranteed K-2 seat for every child at a school close to home
If a family receives a list of schools at registration time, they should have an assurance that their child will attend one of the schools on the list. We all know that close to home schools won't guarantee quality. However, allowing students to go to school close to home will create a launch-pad for success by making it easier to foster parental involvement, offer quality before and after-school programming, and strengthen a school's ties with community based partners, such as libraries, community and health centers, and local businesses.
A network of magnet schools to act as a quality option instead of a constantly changing list of schools as offered by the current home-based proposals
This process is an opportunity to make the lottery more straightforward for families, but the current plans add complicated formulas that can change a family's list of schools every few years. Utilizing magnet schools to offer innovative programming and curriculum could transform struggling schools and get quality options into neighborhoods that need them most. This would also offer the opportunity to increase dual-language and inclusion schools in Boston.
A long-term school facilities plan with a strategy to address enrollment changes and trends, so that our children will have the school facilities they deserve and families will no longer languish on wait-lists.
Allow parent compacting after the first round enabling parents who were left out in the lottery to group together and enroll at under-selected schools.
We need to all come together for a last push to ensure that we have a student assignment plan that guarantees quality, choice and predictability.