Tuesday, January 8, 2013

0 New Boston 'Guaranteed Assignment' Option for Incoming Kindergarten Students

On Monday, January 7, 2013, Boston Public Schools (BPS) published a press release stating that there is a new 'Guaranteed Assignment' option for incoming kindergarten students. As soon as this hit the web, there was much conversation about it on listservs, facebook and twitter. Of course, the way this is worded sounds wonderful to families in Boston hoping to gain a kindergarten seat for their 4 - 5 year old child, for won't a school "close to home" be the one right down the street, or maybe a mile away at most? The real answer? No.
Once you read the release thoroughly, disappointment comes to those whose children would only be turning 4 as they realize that this option will not apply to their child as it is only for Kindergarten 2:
Superintendent Carol R. Johnson has announced a new assignment option for parents of in-coming kindergarten (K2) students to consider as they register their children for school this month. Families may now choose to have their in-coming K2 student assigned to the school closest to their home that has an available seat, if the schools they choose are not available. Round one of school registration for the Fall of 2013 began last week and runs through February 1.
However, for parents whose child is 5 or will turn 5 by the cut-off date for kindergarten 2, when you read this, on the surface it sounds fabulous: a guaranteed close to home seat for your child for K2! And for some of you, it will actually be fabulous because statistically speaking, some of you will get a seat at a school very close to your home that is acceptable to you even if it is not one of the schools you listed on your BPS registration form. 
But for those who do not fall into the small group above, you need to be aware that this policy may not be all it seems on the surface. As written, the announcement states that this option goes into effect only if you do not get a seat at one of the schools you listed as your choices during the registration process for BPS. I have asked for clarification of this matter to be sure that my interpretation is correct, as soon as I hear back from Boston Public Schools I will post the answer. Of course, if you get one of the schools you picked, you will be happy and the rest is moot! But, if you do not get a school of your choice, the school BPS sends your child to instead could very well be a school close to your home as promised, but it could be one that you never wanted your child to attend, for whatever reason. 
Another consideration to think about regarding this new policy: we have three assignment zones for Boston Public Schools and the "close to home" school BPS will place your child in will be the school closest to your home, with an available seatwithin your assignment zone (confirmed per my conversation on Twitter with @BostonSchools). When I read this part of the press release my mind automatically made the connection that this could mean your 5 year old may very well end up at a school several miles away from home, well outside any walk-zone possibility and possibly bused for about an hour (in perfect weather and traffic). I admit, this is most likely a worst case scenario, but I have confidence the following example illustrates my point pretty clearly on how the school "close to home with an available seat" may end up being "across the city" as I put it when I inquired about this in my twitter conversation with @BostonSchools:
  • Let's say you are a family living in Allston/Brighton, near the Lyon K-8 school, which you picked along with 9 other schools when registering but did not obtain a K2 seat at any of them. 
  • Because you checked the magic "close to home" school option on the form, BPS has guaranteed your child a K2 seat as close to home as possible
  • Problem is, the school closest to you with an available K2 seat is at the Bradley Elementary School, all the way in East Boston. It is a lovely school, with some wonderful programs and extras, but it is in East Boston which means your child will need to travel by bus through the Callhan tunnel each day which is not your idea of what a close to home school should be. 

Of note regarding this new policy:
  1. If you do not want your child at the school which BPS assigned them to as the closest to home with an available K2 seat, you WILL need to go through the normal process of re-applying at a Family Resource Center via the 2nd and 3rd round of lottery dates.
  2. This policy will remain in effect after any change is made to the assignment model/policy no matter what the External Advisory Committee on School Assignment (EAC) recommends for a new assignment model for Boston. Confirmed by @BostonSchools via twitter. 

I find #2 above perplexing as there has been no proposal made to the Boston School Committee (BSC) by Superintendent Johnson or any vote taken by the BSC regarding the new policy, which is how most policies, especially regarding assignment, have been put in place. It is the BSC's job to set district policies. Of course, as with last month's announcement regarding grandfathering of siblings, BPS could ask the EAC to incorporate this policy into their recommendations, which would then, presumably, be voted on as part of the total assignment proposal presented to the BSC for a vote. 
I honestly feel that we as parents always need to remember the adage "Buyer beware" no matter what the issue/item may be and feel this is especially true when it comes to our children and their education. Hopefully my analysis of this new policy that BPS is putting in place will help clarify what "close to home" may actually mean so that other parents understand that what it sounds like they are getting and what they may actually end up with could be two very different things!


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