Monday, October 8, 2012

0 An Analysis of The Quality Choice Proposal & Questions Part 1

Many families and community groups have been lobbying for Boston Public Schools (BPS) to drop their five proposals regarding school assignment and instead adopt one of the alternate plans, The Quality Choice Plan (QC), presented by Boston City Councillors John Connolly and Matt O'Malley, and State Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry, Nick Collins, Ed Coppinger and Russell Holmes. This lobbying began within minutes of the QC plan being announced on October 3rd as an alternative to BPS proposals. 

One reason the lobbying began so quickly in my opinion is that unlike the BPS proposals, which are really just a set of maps with no explanations given of how they would work, the Quality Choice Plan is well-written and seems to give parents what they are asking for in an assignment plan. 

All those who helped draft the QC proposal should be commended for the work put into it as it has some great suggestions. I am sending my questions and requests for information and data to Councillors Connolly and O'Malley as well as Rep. Ed Coppinger et al and hope to have some of these answers soon to share with everyone.

It is interesting to note that the QC plan was presented the day after school officials announced that they would be discussing their proposals for "grandfathering" of current students at the next night's School Committee meeting and just hours before said School Committee meeting was due to start. 

Let me start off by saying the following:
  • My children are not affected by the proposals as they are in middle and high school now, so my interest is as an advocate for quality education for all children;
  • With plans like these I like to fully analyze the ramifications;
  • I want to know all the details and cost/savings analysis of any plans;
  • I am not currently supporting any of the plans as none of the proposals have the nitty-gritty details and numbers outlined clearly for full evaluation and analysis that needs to be done;
  • I do believe that we will absolutely have a new assignment policy in Boston and it will most likely be a "compromise" plan made up of pieces of the BPS proposals and pieces of some of the community plans offered along with the feedback BPS is hearing from families now via school committee, community meetings, emails and the online survey.
In the interest of full disclosure, because that is how I am, the following is what I posted to a group I am involved with on FB after seeing the general responses coming in so quickly (I have also given a copy of these to John Connolly's assistant who attended the BSC meeting on October 3rd):
Karen Kast Okay - don't shoot me, I have only read the breakdown and can't read this in-depth until much later, but as nice as it looks on paper and in theory, there are some of the same issues with this plan as with the current proposals by BPS, and the suggestions (through the FAQ sheet) for how to address those are nice ideas, but may not be do-able. I appreciate John & Matt et al putting this together, but I think we all need to take some time and read this closely and be realistic about what can and can not actually happen - both for John's proposal and for BPS.... just my two cents on it SO FAR (I COULD totally change my mind with time to read and study it in-depth) 
In response to a request for what issues I saw initially: 
Karen Kast  I agree with X's post above because at the heart of all of this is the fact that money needs to be invested and ALL the plans will need more than what the transportation savings would actually allow for. Additionally, realistically, there is no way anyone can guarantee a K-8 seat unless we do put in place the feeder model proposed by BPS at the same time as instituting this plan. With the addition of citywide options that will also mean still providing busing for more than just SWD; then there is the issue of looking at the 4 elementary schools closest to my chosen address in Roslindale, and luckily all being great schools, even with 100% walk-zone model (which also is not legally possible due to laws pertaining to SWD) the four schools do not have the capacity for all the children I know live in that area; modular classrooms? Guess who will be put in those? SWD & ELL students.....
I admit, the same concerns I initially had regarding the Quality Choice Plan in the above posts still stand and I will further outline my questions, concerns and observations through this series of articles. I hope this helps others think about ALL of the current proposals: the 5 offered by BPS, the Quality Choice plan and the other four plans submitted by community members to date.

I decided to look at the "grandfathering" and sibling preference promises within the Quality Choice Plan first as those are the most common issues for families with all the BPS proposals.

The Quality Choice plan states that "grandfathering" will apply to every current student in BPS which is the same proposal BPS offered at the October 3, 2012 school committee meeting. Boston Public Schools also stated that transportation of the grandfathered students would be provided through 2019, whereas the QC plan cuts transportation of those students. Unlike BPS' grandfathering proposal, the QC plan additionally states that grandfathering should apply to siblings also.  

Looking at the “grandfather” option under the QC plan, these are the questions I have:
  • Will sibling preference only apply to the CURRENT student (Child A) who is attending the school when the plan is put in place?
  • When Child B joins his/her sibling, does Child B then trigger the "grandfathered" sibling preference for subsequent siblings even if not in a home-zone or citywide school?
  • Are ALL subsequent siblings of the current student “grandfathered” for sibling preference into the school even after Child A leaves that school (could leave for AWC, Exam school, possible Special Ed placement or graduation)?
  • Or, does sibling preference “grandfathering” only apply while Child A is still attending the school?
Potential problems for families under QC:  
Many families have current students in a school they love, but that school is not close to home. Under current assignment policies they have sibling preference anyway and as their siblings enter that school, each of the new siblings (Child B, then Child C, etc) triggers new sibling preference for any younger siblings. 

Under the QC plan, many students could stay at their current school and sibling preference based on the original student (Child A) is triggered under the grandfathering plan, but (the way I read it) sibling preference would not apply to subsequent siblings if Child A has left the school even if Child B is now a student there if it is not a home-zone or citywide school, which is similar to the issue many have with the BPS proposals.

IF the QC plan instead means that sibling preference at the current student's school is grandfathered for ALL subsequent siblings:
  1. The youngest sibling of Child A, let's say Child C, because s/he is "grandfathered" sibling preference based on Child A having a seat when plan was put into effect despite Child A no longer attending the school, Child C gets a seat at said school;
  2. Potentially this means that a seat is not available for a child whose family is actually in the "home zone" of that school;
  3. In turn this means that a new student without a sibling attending that school who lives in the school's "home zone" would then need to be placed at one of the three other schools in their "home zone" or a citywide option;
  4. Unfortunately, all four of the new student's home-zone schools have hundreds of potential students for the same seats and this particular student does not get a seat in any of the four schools;
  5. Parents of new student find out their child was denied placement at a home-zone school due to a child granted sibling preference whose older sibling was "grandfathered" when the plan was put into place even though the grandfathered student, Child A, is no longer at the school; 
  6. Parents of new student are upset and potentially pull their child from BPS entirely as they do not want the other options offered (same issue as with current policies and BPS proposals).
Other grandfathering of sibling preference issues to consider:

If the QC guarantees sibling preference for all current students through grandfathering, estimating that at least half of current students have at least one sibling 2-3 years younger, this means when those children are eligible to enter K-2, potentially over half the seats in K-2 will be allocated for siblings of "grandfathered" students and leave minimal seating available for new students who do not have sibling preference. 

Additionally, the QC plan guarantees sibling preference for all students entering a home-zone school after enactment of the plan:
  • New student enters a "home zone" school under new plan the year after enacted and also have siblings 2-3 years younger; 
  • New students' families are promised sibling preference at home zone schools under new plan;
  • When new students siblings are eligible for their guaranteed K-2 seat in that home-zone school there are not enough seats in that school for all children with sibling preference so some siblings do not get their guaranteed seat;
  • This leads to the same issues families have with current policies and the new BPS proposals.
As you can see, there are several questions which need clarification in order to fully evaluate the Quality Choice Plan and the implications for all of our students. Forgive me for not going over the entire Quality Choice Plan in one post, but as these two issues took up quite a bit of time in an attempt to make my thoughts clear to all who read it, I determined that I will need to do a series so as not to overwhelm anyone. I will get into the other parts of the plan in my next couple of articles I promise!

Hopefully all of you who read this followed the path of my thoughts! (Painful, I know, but this is how my mind works lol!) If you have questions or know of further clarification that is available in writing on any of the above, please share it with me so I may also analyze that information as well as providing it to everyone else. :)

For the second part of this series, please see my article here.


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