After a long work-induced haitus, the Parent Imperfect is back. I can’t help myself.
I’m not off to a great start. I had my first post all cued up this morning when, blip…one false keystroke and the whole thing was gone. Maybe the blogosphere was trying to tell me something. Then, I went off to the dentist for the dreaded root canal and they ended up having to yank out the sucker. Not my idea of a good day.
It is the drama of Boston school assignment that has brought me back. The Globe ran an article on Tuesday that finally recognized that there is an equity angle to the school assignment discussion. It’s not just about how much it costs to bus so many kids. Yippee!
The article takes off from a report done by Harvard Ed School Professor–and JP Mom–Meira Levinson, and several of her students. The report uses the BPS’s own data to construct a School Quality Index. Levinson admits that the Index is not perfect, but it does allow us to have some sense of where the better performing schools in the city are located. Her first conclusion is that, today, children have very unequal access to “quality” schools, depending on where they live. More importantly, Levinson’s report makes clear that each of the five proposals that the BPS has floated makes the access situation worse. Under these plans, kids in some neighborhoods will have even less access than they do now.
In responding to the Globe article, the BPS spokesman suggests that they have a problem with Prof. Levinson’s definition of school quality. Great! Maybe then they’ll make their own index, based on their own definition. I hope they then use their index to evaluate their own assignment proposals.
At the meeting last week where they floated their plans, Deputy Super Michael Goar was very clear that the effect of changes on access to quality education WAS NOT one of the variables that the BPS was taking into account in evaluating the options. The Super’s External Advisory Committee didn’t like that, and they are right. Several parent groups feel the same way.
The BPS is saying, “TRUST US on the quality issue. With all that we are doing on our Acceleration Agenda, we’ll be improving the quality of education at troubled schools, regardless of the assignment process.” The Acceleration Agenda is taking some positive steps, and that’s good, but I’m not ready to trust the BPS on school quality. Thankfully, I’m not alone.
Ms. Claudia is attending the Washington Irving School this year. After 17 combined years in the BPS, one of our children can walk to school. She likes it (even though she’s there for 9 hours between walking there and walking home). It’s easy to see why parents want this for themselves and their children. When every (or even most) neighborhoods in the city have strong schools, it might make sense to build an assignment plan that encourages children to attend school close to home. I hope to live to see it. For how, however, “close to home” feels like a recipe for choosing winners and losers in a way that feels a little too familiar in Boston. We have to do better.