Case in point, the February 2010 proposal to create the Roslindale K-8 Pathway, the model for the proposed Middle School Feeder overlay map, which was simply an admissions policy change to the student assignment plan only affecting six elementary schools (roughly 1700 students), garnered many more questions, requests for data and clarification of same, and much more discussion by the school committee members than has been seen so far regarding the current proposal before the BSC, which will impact all of our schools and 57,000+ students.
This is extremely disheartening, especially since there were no questions by BSC members regarding the validity of the data used throughout the process! The data utilized to create and assess the proposals is in question by many advocates and groups because the data used to assess all of the models is based only on the 2012 Round 1 K2 registration data for new students (no siblings in the system yet) which is 1,659 out of the 4,030 students who applied for a K2 seat and the choice popularity data for 2012-2013.
Throughout the model and neighborhood analysis report presented to the External Advisory Committee on School Assignment (EAC) on February 20, 2013 are consistent statements regarding the limitations of the data:
- Sample used for analysis does not fully reflect current makeup of BPS student population.
- When broken down, data does not necessarily reflect an entire neighborhood’s access to quality.
- The study population is not necessarily representative of all BPS elementary school students. Specifically, it under-represents Black students and students eligible for free and reduced lunch compared to the overall BPS enrollment.
- Because of the low representation of students from specific neighborhoods in the study population, the data may not be reliable in analyzing access to quality.
The above is only a sampling of the "disclaimers" regarding the data utilized throughout this process. Similar disclaimers have been made throughout this process in reports and verbally at EAC and community meetings. By pointing out the limitations of the data used, there is an implied admission that the conclusions made during this process do not account for the majority of our BPS students.
Maybe I am the only one disturbed by this, but I doubt it and suspect that the majority of people, like myself, are probably shocked that when proposing such a drastic assignment change so few of our students were factored into the discussions, many of whom will clearly be impacted, both by assignment as well as programmatic shifts (for ELL and SWD students especially), even if not new incoming K2 students.
This will probably lead to questioning why anyone would agree to put a plan in place without further data, analysis and impact projections for our current students and the schools. The fact that the BSC members did not ask questions regarding the above is beyond concerning, because any new plan will impact all of our current elementary/K-8 students who the BSC is currently accountable for and yet it seems the focus has only been on future potential students. There is no doubt we need to make projections for future students new to the system, but why are we dismissing the impact of this new plan on current students and their siblings?
While writing this article, I have come up with several more questions, as follows:
- Why didn't the EAC ask that an analysis of the proposal be prepared which details the projected impact on the schools and our students currently in grades K2-8, inclusive of those potentially entering during those grades?
- Though I understand why BPS picked the sub-set of K2 students for choice projections, as current students and their siblings are promised grandfathering, doesn't that lead to many of the same questions I outlined in my series regarding the Quality Choice Plan (QCP), especially regarding the actual ability to fulfill the projected capacity demand (and the promised capacity expansion ideas) for those new students along with the siblings who are grandfathered? (I still foresee many upset parents who are promised close to home seats only to find that a K2 seat is still not available at the school closest to them until grandfathering of current students' siblings is done in a few years.)
- With regard to the ELL and SWD overlays, one of my questions at an EAC meeting that was never answered specific to SWD strands which were just shifted two years ago is concerning too: though we have a map breaking the city into clusters (again), BPS has not provided any clear data or even a draft proposed site list for the cluster-based programs specifically for students with "high incidence" disabilities. This could lead to BPS breaking its promise made to families two years ago that the sub-separate strand shifts would be the last time parents would have to go through such a huge change for their students. At that time, BPS claimed that it wanted to ensure predictability for parents of SWD, especially those for whom change can be even more traumatic than other students. My clients have children in those strands, and though the goal of special education is to have the student who needs a highly specialized program enter a more inclusive program when they have met the goals necessary to do so, because progress for many of those students is minimal compared to the student in regular education (think instead of 1 years progress in 1 years time, some of our most at-risk students are only making 3-6 months of progress instead), some of those same students will potentially be moved out of the school many of them just settled into yet again!
"There is a sense of an accomplishment with this recommendation, and rightly so – but within the recommendation is a serious warning: That simply implementing its elements and claiming victory will not be enough. As the EAC has told us, we must immediately craft a set of interventions and direct our resources to significantly improve quality in schools across our great city..."
"Whether the School Committee votes to accept the EAC recommendation around school choice or not, we believe that many of the quality improvements we have discussed over the last several months must move forward. We are taking the necessary steps now to begin planning for and implementing changes in schools that are not performing well for our students."
- a place-bias that uses a BPS-constructed walk zone unfairly (i) to add tier 1 school choices to BPS-constructed market baskets for geographically advantaged families; (ii) to advertise through BPS-web-based tool the place-bias, giving the old realtor’s/employer’s wink to non-walk zone families -“DO NOT APPLY HERE”; and then (iii) to assign seats using place-bias to control competition for seats at a given tier 1 school, triply disadvantaging those at a less preferably home base;
- . a time-bias that unduly advantages families entering the lottery early and disadvantages other families, including later registrants and newcomers to our City"
- The data utilized is not representative of the entire BPS population and may under-represent minority and socio-economically challenged populations;
- According to the BPS disclaimers throughout the process, the data may not be reliable in analyzing access to quality; and,
- Our BSC members are not asking enough questions about the assignment plan and process.