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There are 12 comments on To Bus or Not: Boston’s School-Choice Program

  1. Dean Coleman,your father was right and you are (unfortunately) wrong. Busing was necessary back in the 70’s and it took a very brave man, Judge Arthur W Garrity, to enforce it. If you took school choice (and thereby busing) away from families today, kids in poorer neighborhoods would be stuck with other kids in poorer neighborhoods. And schools in those poorer neighborhoods would not magically receive all the money that previously had gone to busing. If busing ended, the first year probably less than 20% of the money (that used to be spent on busing) would be spent on improving schools. The next year that amount would be reduced to just 10%, then 5%…. The money would disappear. This is how school funding works in real life. You are living in an academic la-la land, searching for the Holy Grail of “data”, and naively ignoring Boston’s history of academic inequality if you think taxpayers and politicians will simply transfer all that busing money to the schools. As I say to my son who attends BU, real life is often different than what’s in the textbook. Listen to your dad.

    1. He said his father think that racial integration is the ONLY way to improve educational outcomes. Mixing income levels is not racial integration, improving the quality of teachers is not racial integration. Both of these things will improve the quality of education in schools. Statistics, when arrived at properly, are a way to measure reality, people who don’t like them usually don’t like the ones that they disagree with, la la land is saying statistics are useless and then saying that they show money from discontinued busing would not go to improving schools.

  2. I do see a pattern, most kids are going to schools near their homes now as it is and some parents would like there kids to go to suburban schools. I feel that diversity is a necessity for our minority kids. When I was 14, I was bussed to a school in Charlestown where people threw rocks as us. We persevered and as a result, became stronger, received a quality education, and experienced the diversity of other communities and cultures. I feel that all the work we did years ago is being reversed. By stopping bussing to other communities, it is a set back from where we started. Also, I don’t feel that we can just blame the teachers for ours kids’ education. We as parents share the responsibility for our children’s education.

  3. Cool and interesting article–important stuff. It’s got to be mind-boggling trying to figure out how to improve a school system with very limited resources.

    The dean cited several examples of different studies/data evaluating certain issues–anyone know who performs these studies/how they go about it? Who are the authoritative sources in the field? For readers that would like to become more informed on the subject, where is a good a place to go access reliable information?

  4. As a mother of a child who will be entering K1 in BPS in the fall this issue is very important to me. The notion that parents have a choice is kind of a joke. The lottery system allows you to choose several schools but most children are not placed in their first, second or even third choice. I also think it is a miscalculation to suggest that if busing ended that schools would already be diverse. There are huge sections of Boston that are simply not very diverse especially if you are factoring in economic factors. I also wanted to point out that although the Boston Public School population may only be 14 or 15% white, this does not reflect the racial make-up of the city overall. There are many points that could be made about this but one that comes to mind is that if neighborhood schools were brought back, more white parents might be inclined to send their children to BPS (rather than a private school)making the ethnic and socio-economic balance in schools across the city more uneven than it currently is.

  5. The Boston Public Schools have one of the highest rates of per-pupil spending in the US, at upwards of $20,000 per student. I do not think lack of resources is the reason the schools are not working.

    1. BPS Student Cost:
      Regular Ed Student: $11,558.
      ELL Student: 13,820
      Mod Sped (.3) $18,220.
      Sub Sep Sped (.4) $28,233.
      Private Placement Student $72,913.

      Boston Public Schools at a Glance 2011-2012:

  6. This is such an important issue to me. I’m an African-American woman born and raised in the heart of Dorchester. School choice is exactly that: a choice. The fact that parents are choosing to send their children to schools outside of their neighborhoods speaks volumes about education equality and diversity in Boston schools.

    Growing up, for only two years of my academic career did I attend school in Dorchester, and even that was in a different area code. My parents wanted my two sisters and I to receive the best education possible. They did not believe that education existed in our Dorchester neighborhood and we all attended schools well outside our borders. I attended schools in Roxbury, East Boston, and, eventually, attended a school in Middlesex County district as a METCO student. Only three distinct times in my entire career did I arrive to school late, and certainly never by an entire hour.

    I believe BPS should took some pointers from the METCO program. When the transportation budget for METCO was cut in my school system, innovation was required. The two school buses we had went from picking up students from numerous stops down to two: one bus waited at Forest Hills station, the other at Ruggles Station. For five years until I finished high school, I took the MBTA across Boston to Ruggles (already farther than many BPS students have to commute) to catch my bus and head to school 20 miles away. We always arrived well before the 7:40am start of the school day. Even when BPS (and every school district in between) had snow days, I still schlepped through Boston to my bus stop and made it to school on time. And it was worth the sacrifice. Moreover, my parents weren’t any less involved in my sisters’ and my academic life. Even with children at far-flung schools (we attended three different METCO school districts), they always made a way to attend meetings, games, recitals, plays, PTA meetings, and open houses.

    The pessimist in me is not so convinced that money saved in transportation will be reinvested in better education in those neighborhoods that most need the extra funding. Really, it’s the transportation system that needs to be reevaluated so parents may continue to have choices and, more importantly, get students to school on time.

  7. “The more high-quality teachers you have in a school, the better it will perform, regardless of the type of students. Poverty in general predicts educational outcome phenomenally, but if you look at a school with a high poverty rate that is performing well, the difference is in the quality of the teachers.”

    I disagree with Dr. Coleman, the difference is the support systems in place at those urban schools that are performing well. If you look at the data of the successful urban schools that he speaks of, the “high-quality teachers” are augmented by in-school support staff, in direct service to students, which makes it possible for those teachers to teach. Boston Public Schools have “high quality” dedicated, veteran teachers, in failing schools, who have worked tirelessly over many years, without results, because the in-school support systems are not in place, because the money is spent on busing. That is the elephant in the closet that needs to be addressed, first, by the Assignment Panel. What are you going to do with the 700+ bus drivers who will be without jobs? Many are Boston residents, over the years, they have seen our students get to school and home again safely. It is no easy task to keep 50+/- kids, on a stop and go ride throughout the city, day-in and day-out. These bus drivers are part of the Boston Public School Community; we have a moral responsibility to them.

    Will Boston University step-up and train these soon to be unemployed bus drivers, for BPS in-school support jobs as attendance officers, timeout room monitors, discipline deans, security paraprofessionals, teaching assistants and fresh food chefs in our schools? These positions were eliminated for “lack of funds” caused by busing, and schools spiraled down. Successful school systems, mentioned by Dr. Coleman, have these in-school support positions, why not Boston Public Schools?

    As Dr. Coleman knows the “turnaround,” and forever spinning, English High School is an example of a once good school that, without the essential in-school support, and experienced school leadership, is still failing. As part of being a turnaround school, the “high-quality,” veteran teaching staff, at “The English High,” was replaced with other “high-quality” teachers of the systems choosing, yet only 50% of the senior students graduated in 2011! Why? “High quality” teachers were in place! In an evaluation of program implementation by the Donahue Institute at UMass, veteran and new teachers, at The English, sited a “lack of support” as the major factor of the schools failure. That is the case in many of our Boston Schools.

    Dr. Coleman said, “conversation needs to focus on how you make sure parents have access to schools that we’d all want to send our kids to.” If this is the real agenda of the Assignment Panel, then they should suggest that the money, now allocated for busing, be directed toward instituting in-school support systems in direct service to students. Eliminating busing, and returning to neighborhood schools, should not be a windfall to the City of Boston.

    That said, will Boston University step-up and make the commitment to retrain these bus drivers for support positions in our schools? Mayor Menino that will even give Boston University up to 50% of “community service credit,” on the 25% municipal service fee B.U. owes the taxpayers of Boston! That’s only 12.5% for municipal services! What a deal!

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