In January I made a promise to our city’s parents and children. Our families would like a school choice system that passes the common-sense test. Today’s system does not.
In the Bowdoin/Geneva area of Dorchester, where families speak 15 different languages and one in four falls below the poverty line, 2,000 students attend 100 different schools. Something similar could be said in East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Allston and Dorchester. We cannot build a stronger community when we split ourselves apart every morning.
This spring we asked you to tell us how we can improve the school choice system. More than 2,300 people responded — three times more than joined a similar conversation eight years ago.
Two clear themes emerged: First, you asked us to continue our focus on building school quality.
Working with Superintendent Carol R. Johnson and the Boston School Committee, we are proud to be the first district in the state to fully use innovative new tools to turn around the lowest-performing schools and transform what wasn’t working.
We have doubled the number of K-8 schools and have put arts, athletics, advanced mathematics and science back into education. We are setting higher expectations for children in every school and are finally funding our schools equitably depending on what the students need.
The second thing people asked us to do is provide a less confusing and more predictable way to attend a good school close to home. And with your help, we can do it.
Last spring Superintendent Johnson and I created a 27-member panel, called the External Advisory Committee on School Choice, to help us create a new system that lets families put a priority on attending school closer to home.
This group is helping us generate an assignment system that protects the diversity, choice and access to quality that has served us so well for so long, while allowing our schools to connect more closely to the communities we seek to build up. We are also “showing our work” as we go and are posting everything we do on the web at bostonschoolchoice.org.
BPS has just offered its best thinking on how a new system might look in the future and is asking for your feedback. We hope you will join a community meeting or visit the website to share your thoughts with us. All of the plans we are discussing would protect what we value as a city — fair access to a quality education — while giving families more predictability and confidence in the school their child will attend.
No system is perfect and, in a city with as much history as ours, not everyone will ever be satisfied. However, we know that a school choice system designed nearly 25 years ago no longer serves us well when we have changed so much for the better. Let’s pull together and answer the call for quality schools, close to home.
Thomas Menino is the Mayor of Boston.
Last week’s Banner article entitled, “Council Candidates Push Anti-Busing Agenda” focuses on “busing” and misses the real issue — the BPS student assignment lottery needs serious retooling in order to work for all children in every neighborhood. By using a partial quote of mine and presenting a factual error, the reporter framed the debate almost exclusively on a historical divide along strict racial lines.
This kind of dialogue gets in the way of the intentions of my generation of Bostonians of all races to come together to work to create a school system that offers every child a quality education in a top performing school. More »
There is a lot of conversation about teachers unions and contract negotiations – from political posturing to the strike in Chicago. I can imagine how difficult it is to separate the substance from the noise.
I believe it becomes clear when you ask a parent and student how they feel about their school, how they feel about their teacher and how they feel about the quality of the education they are receiving. More »