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Teachers alliance opposes student assignment plans

Teachers alliance opposes student assignment plans

At a recent meeting of the External Advisory Committee (EAC), the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts (BEAM) joined a number of other community organizations in a joint statement stressing the importance of quality schools for all students and raising serious concerns about the four student assignment models presented to the EAC.

The concerns included: 1) the study population of students used in the models; 2) the impact of walk-zone priority on the student assignment models; 3) the broken promises of past academic interventions in low performing schools; and 4) changing the student assignment process before substantially improving the quality of schools serving majority low income, black and Latino students.

BEAM believes that the reports and testimony received since the Feb. 4 meeting by the EAC have not satisfied the concerns raised in the joint statement, and therefore, we do not endorse any of the proposed assignment models.

BEAM continues to question the appropriateness of the study population used to evaluate the impact of student assignment models. The Feb. 20, 2013 report to the EAC confirms these concerns.

The report states in part: “The sample used does not fully reflect the makeup of BPS student population.”

More specifically, the report admits that the sample “under-represents Black students and students eligible for free and reduced lunch compared to the overall BPS enrollment.”

Secondly, the proposed models and the walk-zone preference will negatively impact students who live in neighborhoods with a preponderance of low-performing schools. They will be adversely impacted in successfully accessing quality schools that are disproportionately located in neighborhoods outside of their walk zones. Additional information on the true impact of walk-zone preference and other assignment algorithms are required to inform parents of the realistic likelihood of being assigned to quality schools, all with limited seat capacity.

Thirdly, we cannot disregard the long history of Boston Public Schools (BPS) of not sustaining academic interventions in low-performing schools or replicating interventions that have proven successful. The EAC’s working draft memo dated Feb. 22, 2013 states: “These improvements have yet to significantly reduce historical achievement gaps across all groups and a number of schools have yet to see notable improvement.”

BPS has committed some additional funding to Turnaround Schools that lose their federal funding this year, but the amount does not fully cover the cost of minimally sustaining all of the academic interventions that allowed some Turnaround Schools to achieve improvement.

BPS has committed additional funding to the high support schools, but not enough funding to allow these schools to launch meaningful academic interventions. This limited support is not available to all low performing schools.

Finally, EAC must put quality schools first and not recommend the implementation of a new student assignment plan until BPS establishes significantly more high-performing schools across the city.

BEAM believes that the Boston Public Schools has too few high-performing schools and too many low-performing schools. Any proposal to improve student assignments and equitable access to quality schools must be based on the existence of substantially more high-performing schools across Boston, not just plans and promises for improving low-performing schools.

The Boston Public Schools, as a good faith effort, should present a detailed systemic plan to the EAC that includes specific strategies, the identification of financial and other resources and an implementation timeline to respond to the public outcry for quality schools heard consistently by this committee over the past year.

BEAM urges members of the EAC to vote “none of the above” or “present” on the four student assignment models.