More Thoughts on BPS and Rezoning: Predictability and Equal Access are Dynamically Opposed to One Another

On October the 17, while he was in Italy on vacation with his wife, Mayor Menino sent out a letter to all BPS families. In it he articulated his administrations goals for the Boston Public School system:

 My goal is to create a new student assignment system that is fair, follows the laws of common sense, and prioritizes placing students in quality schools that are closer to their homes.

This is what I want my readers to notice. The goal is to be (1) fair, (2) follow common sense (3) place kids in quality schools that are (4) closer to home.

My scholars on the first day of school

What has become clear to me is that under the current system, it is impossible to assign students in a way that is both (a) predictable for families (close to home) AND (b) gives equal access to high quality schools (fair).

Why? Because currently THE SCHOOLS ARE NOT EQUAL. There are some really high quality schools and there are some disastrous schools. Some people live in neighborhoods with good schools and some people don’t. Therefore, any plan that does not first address quality has to either sacrifice predictability or access to high quality schools.

This is what I mean.

If you place value on neighborhood schools and predictability, you are telling families: Some of you are going to go to high quality schools and some of you are not. But you will know beforehand where your family stands.

If BPS decides equal access is more important, this is what you are telling families: Everyone in the city will have a chance to go to a high quality school.  But you are not going to know if your family is going to be going to the good school until after the lottery.

The other thing I want people to notice is that redrawing the zoning lines does not change this dynamic.

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