The Sixth Alternative?

The Parent Imperfect has talked before about Boston City Councillor, John Connolly, and his serious attention to the school assignment issue and all issues related to the schools. Connolly has held dozens of meetings with parents around the city, led hearings on the issue at the City Council and generally placed himself at the center of an issue that the City Council doesn’t really have much control over. The Mayor, his appointed School Committee and the leadership of the BPS are the key decision makers.

Connolly’s work has come together in the “Quality Choice Plan,” a comprehensive alternative to the options offered to date by the BPS. He has brought together a small, but diverse group of local pols  behind the plan, but it is the Connolly Plan.

The plan integrates a focus on quality and on getting kids in schools closer to home, two issues that the BPS plans keep quite separate. I wouldn’t say it’s data driven, but it at least uses the data at its disposal and draws very explicitly from other experiences and from new thinking about what works in schools.

Unfortunately, the plan is fatally flawed. To assure access to quality for all students, it relies on the BPS creating and managing 15 city-wide magnet schools. In return, the plan would set up a plan that would guarantee every student a seat in one of the four schools closest to their home. It says that it does away with zones, but it actually situates every student in the middle of a mini-zone that–in most cases–would be smaller than the current walk zone. Connolly also has a long list of quality-improvement steps that the BPS would be required to take. All of the improvements rely: (1) on the ability of the BPS to manage a massive quality improvement plan, and (2) additional resources coming from transport savings and attracting more students into the system. I’d love to believe that both of these conditions are likely to be present over the next few years, but I just don’t see it.

One sage Mom who has had children in the BPS for over 20 years put in this way in a recent comment on the Plan:

“With all due respect to councilor Connolly who I think has been very supportive and sympathetic about many issues around education in the last several years, his plan is a campaign platform not something that can be implemented any time soon if ever.  There are a lot of things in it that may not be feasible.  It seems to me that if we do not tie changing zones to equity now, We may end up with changed zones and unfulfilled promises.”

She should do a blog and send the Parent Imperfect into retirement.

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