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Parents seeking BPS k2 assignments facing long wait

Yawu Miller | 2/7/2018, 1:32 p.m.
Parents began signing up their children for kindergarten seats in Boston’s public schools in early January. But those anticipating a ...
BPS officials say kindergarteners won’t be assigned schools until May 31 this year. Banner photo

At-large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George said the changes could drive families away from BPS schools.

“We need to actively engage new families and increase enrollment,” she said. “This discourages them and pushes them to look at other districts outside the city.”

Trail of tiers

In January, many parents were upset that the Discover BPS website, which generates a list of schools to which student is eligible to apply, was generating fewer choices than were actually available. Parents visiting BPS welcome centers, sites where parents enroll their children in district schools, found substantially longer lists.

The glitch happened because the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and BPS currently have three different sets of exams by which they’re assigning schools to school quality tiers: the old MCAS, the new MCAS and the PARC test. DESE ranks schools as levels I through V based largely on students’ performance on the tests, but because they are currently shifting away from PARC and the old MCAS, it’s impossible to make apples-to-apples comparisons.

This year, schools that saw their ranking slide from Level I to Level II due to changes in test scores were held harmless by DESE, meaning they were allowed to retain their Level I rank. In Boston, where schools are assigned to tiers through a slightly different ranking system that still relies heavily on test scores, the same allowance was made. Therefore, there are more Tier I schools this year than in past years.

The algorithm that generates choices on the Discover BPS website is designed to add Tier I schools to every student’s list. Because there are now more Tier I schools, the algorithm selected fewer choices, Harvey said.

Harvey cautions that parents must visit welcome centers to get a valid list of their choices.

“The Discover BPS site is only informational,” she said. “It is much more important that people come in a register.”