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Boston Public Schools Hope for Transition

Boston Schools to Reconsider Student Placement

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01

Boston Public School System, long in need of reform, may see some change in the near future. This Tuesday, three proposals were revealed in hopes to improve the current public school system in the city.

Presently, Boston Public School placement is determined by a lottery system. There are general zones that parents can request, but a lottery is a lottery, and large parts of the process are left to chance. Boston Public School students are often traveling across the city, some for an hour or more by bus or public transportation, to attend school. According to Boston Magazine, parents and students alike want quality schools that are closer to home. They also call for less frequent transitions between schools when possible. The positives of the system, consideration of sibling preference and walk-zone schools, defined as schools within one mile from home, even if it is across a district border, will be considered in all three of the newly proposed plans.

According to a press release regarding Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s State of the City address on Tuesday, Menino recognized the “tremendous work of his External Advisory Committee on School Choice,” a committee which will soon make a final reccomendation to restructure school assignments for Boston students.

According to, three main plans have emerged from almost a year of discussion. One is a 10-zone plan and the other two are home-based plans.

The 10-zone plan is exactly as it sounds. There will be 10 geographic zones created across the city. Families will then get school choices within the zone that they live in and rank schools in order of preference. As mentioned, sibling preference and walk-zone schools will be taken into consideration. These zones will be drawn “to balance access to quality schools,” more predictability for families and close-to-home options for the students. In addition, elementary schools would have a linked middle school that would provide predictability for elementary students progressing to middle school. Students would have the ability to select other middle schools, but feeder middle schools would be established to maintain consistency.

There are two home-based plans: plan A and plan B. In home-based plan A, every family will receive a list of schools based on where they live. Each list is guaranteed to have both quality schools and walk-zone schools. Quality of schools would be based on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), Massachusetts’s standard based testing system, to gauge both academic performance and growth of schools. Based on the standards, schools would be broken into four tiers. Each family would receive a list of the two closest Tier I schools, the four closest Tier II schools, and the six closest from Tiers I, II, and III. Some family’s lists may have overlap depending on where they live. In addition, all walk-zone school would be included. Finally, there would also be “capacity schools” that, according to, “can usually seat any student who requests it” to ensure proper supply and demand. Each family will have the three closest capacity schools on their lists.

Home-based plan B is similar to plan A but has a few distinct differences. Again, each family will get a list based on the location that they live. In this plan, however, each list will contain three schools from Tier I, six schools from Tiers I and II and nine schools from Tier I, II, and III. Again there is the possibility of overlap, the consideration of siblings and walk-zone schools and capacity schools. The ranking process based on MCAS will also remain the same in plan B.

In addition to the basic framework provided by these three plans, the advisory committee wants to provide more alternative school options. According to this would include “in-district charters, Innovation schools, dual language and inclusion programs.”

These plans each have their own individual intricacies, benefits, and drawbacks. Each one, however, was carefully crafted to improve on the currently flawed Boston Public School System. According to the official website of the city of Boston, Menino has stated that a key focus of his this year will be “promoting public school success.”

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