My name is Lisa Jeanne Graf and I have been closely following the school choice process. I even submitted some of the community proposals.
At this point I am looking at the process from two places. From my own personal perspective as my daughter is ready for K1 this September, and as a concerned citizen.
Personally the Home Based B Plan works best for us as a family from the Fenway as it includes the Curley school in JP as one of our choices. Things that are important to us are finding an inclusive school, with good arts programing, differentiated learning or advanced work classes, and easy access by public transportation. Every family has their own definition of quality. I think the fact that the B Plan has a larger amount of options makes it more likely that each family would have a better chance at finding a school that matches what matters most to them.
In all the school choice assignment proposals I have access to two schools that are excellent schools and in the top 1 tier- the Quincy School and the Hurley. But they are not a good match for my family’s needs. I think it would be good to tweak how quality is defined in the Home Based proposals to include more of a family’s personal preferences. The good thing about these proposals is that they can be improved and I think that is a great strength.
Also to increase fairness of equitable access to quality schools I think the walk zone preference should be taken away.
The other thing I would like to propose it that advanced learning be addressed more. The current goal now seems to be to make the lower performing schools perform at a proficient level. I would be more hopeful if each school had the structure in place to offer advanced work classes or differenced learning. When these are not offered in a school I think that it sends the message that the kids in that school are not expected to do better than proficient. We should not under estimate what our children can achieve.
The other area that I would like addressed more is the overlays for Special Education and English language learners. Currently the maps do not match up well with the new school assignment proposals. I think they should be more similar and also include walk zone access. Ideally I think that more programming needs to be added throughout the city so that overlays are not needed. I don’t believe that kids should be separated because they need particular learning supports. The schools should be able to say “We will try to bring you what you need as close to your home as possible.” Services should follow the kids, not have the kids follow the services.
On a related note I think that most special education services should be provided in an inclusive environment and that more English language learning should be available through dual immersion programs. All kids should feel included, appreciated and welcome in the Boston Public Schools.
I think a lot of work still needs to be done but I am hopeful that if parents stay involved some great changes can happen moving forward.