Connolly Presents Alternative to BPS School Choice Proposal

November 30, 2012
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At-large City Councilor John Connolly’s alternative to the Boston Public School Department’s school choice proposal is gaining momentum among city residents.

“Currently, 6,551 Bostonians have signed a petition in support of the Quality Choice Plan — an alternative plan to reform the student assignment system in Boston Public Schools,” said Connolly.

Last month the Boston Public School Department released several proposals for redistricting the city’s school choice zones in an effort to return to community schools in East Boston but Connolly released his own plan.

Connolly met with State Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry, Russell Holmes, Ed Coppinger, Nick Collins, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley to pitch the proposal.

Connolly said he is convinced that his plan, the Quality Choice Plan, presents a creative alternative that focuses on improving school quality and bridging the divide between those who want schools close to home and those who want broad choices.

The plan offered by Connolly states that every child would be grandfathered at their current school. Every child will be guaranteed a kindergarten (K-2) seat at one of the four schools closest to that child’s home (no more wait-lists and no more lines on maps). Every child will be eligible for a network of citywide magnet schools with innovative curriculums. Every child will have a guaranteed K-8 school or K-8 pathway. Families can apply as groups to gain seats together at under-selected schools.

“Second, we address quality with ten specific measures – five focused on establishing a quality baseline for every Boston Public School, and five focused on creating quality supports for schools serving large numbers of students facing the greatest challenges,” said Connolly. “These quality measures include fully staffing student support services and after-school programming at these schools as well as granting such schools innovation, pilot, or in-district charter status.”

Under the new BPS school choice plan the department has come up with several scenarios to make the commute to school for Eastie students and parents easier.

Right now there are two options on the table.

The first is a ‘no zone’ model. In this model BPS would assign Eastie students directly to the school closest to them, with adjustments for capacity and programmatic options. In this model, families would not make school choices and students would receive their assignment based on their address and specific programmatic needs. If the capacity at the closest school were full, then the student would be assigned to the second closest school.

The second option would use a school choice model breaking up the city into 23, 11, 9 or 6 zones.

Under the 23-zone plan, Eastie would be split up into three different zones. Eastie students living in Orient Heights would be services by either the Bradley or Guild Schools. In Eagle hill parents would have the choice between the Umana/Alighieri, Kennedy, O’Donnell or Otis. In Jeffries Point parents could choose between the Adams, McKay or the Early Learning Center.

Under the 11-zone plan Eastie would be one zone and separated from the North End and Charlestown. Currently, parents can pick the Elliot in the North End or the Warren/Prescott and Harvard/Kent in Charlestown as options.

Under the 9-zone plan Eastie would be merged with the neighborhoods of Charlestown and the North End as it is today. This is the same for the 6-zone plan as well.

Under the zone plan students living in a zone would apply to any school in their Home Zone or within their walk zones, even if that school were across a boundary. Students could also apply to citywide options.

Inside every zone is a pathway. Elementary school students would feed into middle school and K-8 Schools. If a student moves into the district after 5th grade, they would be eligible to apply to any middle school or K-8 within their middle school zone boundary. All high schools would remain citywide just as today.

Sibling preference and walk-zone preference would still apply. If a school is across a boundary line from a students’ home but within the walk zone, that family could still apply to the school.

The proposals are based on feedback and input from the External Advisory Committee (EAC), BPS will be updating the proposals after a series of community meeting in this month across the city. Then, the EAC will make a recommendation to the Superintendent, who will bring a proposal to the Boston School Committee in December. The School Committee will then hold additional public hearings before voting on a new plan this winter.

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