HGSE Researchers: BPS Plans Will Increase Inequity

By newseditor
09/29/2012 1:06 PM

According to researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Boston Public Schools’ proposed student assignment plans do not address inequitable access to high quality schools and, in fact, make the situation worse.

The research group, led by Associate Professor Meira Levinson in cooperation with a team of HGSE doctoral students and Assistant Professor Jal Mehta, note that their analysis indicates that currently only 20 percent of BPS primary school students are enrolled in high quality zoned schools. Access to these schools is unequally distributed with twice as many students in the West Zone having access to high quality schools compared with students in the East Zone. Additionally, more than one-third of white and Asian children are enrolled in high quality primary schools while barely 1 in 10 black children and 1 in 5 Hispanic children are enrolled in such schools.

“The five school assignment proposals put forward by BPS last Monday night make access to high quality schools even more inequitable.  Under the six-zone plan, 35 percent of the seats in Zone 6 are high quality, whereas only 5 percent of the seats in Zone 3 are high quality,” notes Levinson. “This means students in Zone 6 have seven times the access to high quality seats as students in Zone 3.  Disparities get even worse under the other plans: a full third of the zones in the nine-zone plan have under 10 percent high quality seats, and over half the zones in the 23-zone plan have no high quality seats whatsoever.”

“All children in Boston deserve—and need—a high quality education. No one disputes this,” says Levinson. “The important challenge is therefore to increase the absolute number of high quality schools in Boston Public Schools, while also ensuring that children have equitable access to these schools. I am concerned that the proposals put forward by BPS fail to do either. I hope that our report enables families and stakeholders throughout Boston to have an informed, constructive dialogue about how we can do better.”


On September 24, 2012, the Boston Public Schools released five proposals to replace the city’s current student assignment plan. These proposals will be vetted at public hearings and by the appointed External Advisory Committee, which will present a recommendation to the Boston School Committee in December. As part of this process, the Boston Public Schools has made available a tremendous amount of data for analysis.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers have conducted an initial analysis of the four zoned proposals, as well as the current 3-zone assignment plan. Their report is intended to help all stakeholders deliberate about children’s equitable access to quality schools across the city.

Additional resources: Data and supplemental files

Press inquiries may be directed to Meira Levinson at meira_levinson@harvard.edu.

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  • citizen

    But this analysis fails to address the fact that a school isn’t just magically “quality” or not, a school’s ability to educate its students also depends on the readiness of the students who attend the school, and the involvement of their parents. Neighborhood schools would allow more parents to become involved with the school, helping to make the schools have higher “quality” than they currently might.

  • guest

    If you look at all the proposals you may see that West Roxbury only moves to the side. Why is Quincy school stretched only to the Brighton area? Serious questions about the plans!

  • Anonymous

    Boston Public Schools said, “Boston is now home to 21 pilot schools as well as In-District Charter and Innovation Schools. Together, these schools serve more than 10,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.”

    Until the Boston Public School District is evaluated on AYP by the state and federal government, there will not be access to quality schools for all Boston students. In 1994, instead of addressing school problems, Boston embraced pilot and in-district charter schools creating a “portfolio of schools” model and as a result created a system of haves and have not’s, hoping the “not’s” wouldn’t notice. These BPS created segregation academies were a cost saving measure under the guise of providing families with “choice.” Choice as long as families could fill out an extensive application to get a ticket to the pilot or in-district schools lottery!

    Had BPS really been interested in “equal choice,” there would have been no application process or separate lottery. These schools would have been listed as a check-off choice on the same application along side traditional Boston Public Schools. There would not be a second “Showcase of Schools” just for pilots and in-district charters. These Boston segregation academies cream off students with more resources (read parents), and left our traditional Boston Public Schools saturated with SPED and ELL students. Pilot and in-district charter schools exercise their autonomy and “counsel out” students deemed not to be “the right fit” because they are behavior problems, SPED, or ELL students and suggest to parents that they can’t “meet the students” needs!

    Now that transportation is out of control and only going up, we have heard little of the impact on pilot and in-district charter segregation academies; will they still require applications? Will the lottery for them still exist? Will they become the 20 magnet schools that Connolly proposes? Will students be provided with transportation or will parents be expected to provide it? Or will it be business as usual in a school system with haves and have not’s?

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