First Church in Jamaica Plain – November 12, 2015

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At each citywide community meeting, we are working to inform and engage the community in a unique way. We’ve created an interactive community meeting with the goal of informing the public while getting their feedback on the proposal and engaging with them to improve it.

After each meeting, we will publish notes from our team on key areas of discussion. They will not have the context of the speaker or subject, but will, we think help inform the online discussion while being transparent about the feedback we are getting– positive, negative, and beyond.

Family Experience

Our meeting in Jamaica Plain began with families sharing their experiences with enrollment. Family members shared that:

  • Face-to-face communication and parental support was good in the West ZoneCTpok2jUEAQl3Su
  • Happy with their choices in BPS and did not explore charter schools
  • Some parents had to apply to both BPS and charter and went through both processes
  • Some parents said it was easy, others said horrible in this group
  • Application was difficult for some to figure out
  • Different timelines for charter vs. public
  • Was challenging to have so many timelines
  • Schools in different sectors began school at different times of day
  • Parents didn’t feel a ton of anxiety; some got first, second, or third choice and are happy with BPS schools
  • Process was overwhelming when they applied
  • Lottery was difficult
  • Complicated as things change over time
  • Lottery is ultimately making the choice for you
  • You can do all of this research but then the lottery happens and you’re at the mercy of it
  • Lottery system narrows down schools you can access, and sometimes that helps parents decide
  • Wait list frustration; getting in right before or after school begins
  • It gets harder to enroll as you get older and fewer choices are available
  • Differences of how the system has changed over time
  • School closings really impacted where parents could send kids
  • Differences between East and West Zone quality for college readiness, understanding early decisions had a long-term impact
  • There were issues around special education seats


Question and Answer

We dedicated some time to answering questions from parents and advocates. Here are the questions we heard:

Q. Will a universal enrollment system mean that school records will follow the child from school to school?
A. Yes, there would be centralized data allowing records to follow the student.

Q. How do we even begin to talk about neighborhood schools when we have plenty of neighborhood schools that don’t even meet the Tier III standard?
A. The home-based system tries to acknowledge that families want quality and proximity to home– and understands that not all neighborhoods have quality schools.

Q. What issues of equity do you see the Compact addressing now? How does this system avoid the same people who have not had access, still not having access to quality schools and how do we avoid charter school options being removed as options for those families?
A. Under the proposed system, all families would have access to Tier I charter and district schools.

Q. How do we know this won’t lead to BPS schools closing down?
A. The Mayor has made a commitment to BPS in investing $1 billion in new schools and capital improvement over the next year. We acknowledge that there are challenges to this, but the commitment is there. Additionally, the proposal will not change the number of charter and BPS seats.

Q. Who pays for this unified enrollment system with records following students?
A. Initial start-up costs will be resourced by foundation support. Ongoing costs will be shared by BPS and charter schools.

Q. When will we get the data on the past two years of the home-based system?
A. Data from year one has been presented, and agents are working to schedule a meeting to share year two data. A full equity analysis requires three years of data, which will be completed after the 2015-2016 enrollment cycle.

Q. Students with disabilities and English language learners are not being serviced by the charters. How are we going to see charters staff up with teachers who can serve these populations?
A. Charter schools recently received federal dollars to create a special education collaborative.

Q. What other cities with similar sized districts have implemented unified enrollment, and have we examined those cities?
A. Washington DC, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Newark, and Denver. These cities are not a model for Boston.

Q. Why should we expend resources on this now when we don’t yet have data from the home-based system?
A. We think this is a step towards equity.

Q. Can you clarify the relationship with the Gates Foundation, Walton, and the Gates Compact?
A. The Compact has received $2.5 million from Gates. We have not received funds from the Walton Foundation. This is not a “Gates” Compact, Boston educators are driving the collaboration and making the policy recommendations.

Q. How does unified enrollment relate to the city’s Facilities Master Plan?
A. The Facilities Master Plan uses municipal money. It is not tri-sector. This proposal has nothing to do with this master plan.

Q. Are you going to have an accurate list of which services are provided at each school?
A. Yes, and we would like that to be a real yes. Need to know when and what is available.

Q. Given that this will have a tremendous impact on BPS, why has BPS done no outreach to Boston parents about these meetings?
A. Not personally familiar with advertising for this meeting.

C. I am a mother of three students with disabilities. All schools need to work together across the board to meet student needs.

Q. There’s disparity in discipline policy. Will discipline be the same across the board under this proposal? How can we communicate schools’ discipline policies to parents and families?
A. Discipline policies are on the table to be considered. We are looking at the restorative justice model BPS has adopted and sharing it with charter and Catholic schools.

Q. How will we ensure that every teacher is going to be teaching the same curriculum? Will this proposal ensure that all schools are teaching to the same curriculum?
A. This proposal does not address curriculum, but BPS and Dr. Chang are making a high bar. Every fourth, fifth, and sixth grader will have access to advanced-level work and all high school students will have access to MassCore.

Q. Who are the members of the Compact? Is there any parent representation in the Compact?
A. For the first four years, the Compact was a practitioner-only table. Tension among the sectors required this dynamic. Under our newly adopted compact, we are looking to bring families from all sectors on board.

Q. How can this system ensure that minorities will have access to those top tier schools?
A. The way home-based assignment works, every family’s list has at least two top tier schools. Under unified enrollment, every family will have at least four top tier schools– two BPS and two charter– regardless of where they live or their ethnic background.

Q. How will traditional school funding be affected by opening more charter seats?
A. Charter seats are not impacted by this enrollment proposal. The school funding discussion is happening at the state and legislative levels.

Q. Who will have access to the data and exactly what data will they have access to?
A. This is one of the questions we need to answer.

Q. Last night on WBZ, Marty Walsh said there was no discussion with the Walton Foundation. Is there a commitment to more transparency in this process? What are the implications and who’s funding this?
A. Mayor Walsh has not spoken with the Walton Foundation. The Boston Compact is committed to more transparency.

Q. How are Walton funds or private foundation dollars used in this process?
A. No funding has been provided by the Walton Foundation. Money from other foundations is used for planning, meetings, technology, and startup costs.


After hearing about the current enrollment systems and the proposed unified enrollment system, members broke into three groups to discuss the “what ifs.”

Group A:  Family Communication
What information would be most helpful to families in selecting schools? In what formats? 

  • Discipline plan and differences in policies
  • Services and programs, everything
  • Percentage of teachers that have SPED licenses
  • After school and pre-school
  • Schedule for enrollment and school activities
  • How parents are involved, parent Council
  • Where is parent voice
  • Governance is important, charter boards and accountability stream
  • No billboards, make no sense don’t waste money
  • Materials in multiple languages, data
  • Schools more empowered at this
  • All staff should know about enrollment etc.
  • Was for BPS schools to market themselves
  • Online parent portal, interactive
  • One for students too
  • Waitlist should be transparent
  • Parent should know what school quality are, school quality should be published
  • Put the logical rationale focusing on choice rather than spending or proven student outcomes
  • 50% of kids qualify already receiving state aid, state already has addresses, then they just get assigned
  • Per-pupil spending
  • Level at building level
  • Qualitative, not just grades and scores, school climate,
  • Parents, staff, students and schools need to get this or disclose the data, invest in using the tool
  • Do we have tools to get family engagement dollars
  • Immigration process, who helps new arrivals? Go to local school
  • Is there data that communicates non-core curriculum data, reporting data to parents
  • Social emotional resources
  • Enrollment -wise, community resources how to get that out to parents, early enrollment
  • Putting logical rationale, spending resources on this proposal not looking at existing proposal
  • Talk to parents at school
  • Acronyms and jargon explained
  • Know history of Boston Compact and enrollment process
  • Website, low hanging fruit, smart phone with cameras, send Bill to verify address
  • Food truck concepts, come to where people are, Sunday at church, evening hours, not 9-to-5, Monday through Friday
  • school submitted their weaknesses and challenges
  • Websites equitable, some parents do them, comparison of schools, definition of terms


Group B:  SPED/ELL
How would you want to be informed of school choices for children with specialized needs? What information would you want about particular services available at schools?

  • Would want to know if teachers are licensed in that field
  • Knowledgeable directors especially around laws
  • Capacity of the schools to serve these kids can we get copy of federal grant proposal discussed, as well as Walton proposal
  • How many years do the teachers have? Directions? How many high needs? Psychologists in the house?
  • Process around home language survey and enrolling second language learners? Does intake happen at individual school or collaboration control level? More resources at this level
  • Trauma sensitive, teachers who live in the community they teach. Need to have trauma sensitivity training
  • Disciplinary system at each school, need to know
  • Have never been informed of process, BPS can’t tell you what schools are good at. They have to take special needs in and can’t appropriately handle.
  • No uniformity on forms for schools to report what needs they best address
  • Teachers are informally giving advice, because that is the only way how
  • The teachers are good, but they are just one person. Need at higher level to report what schools are good at doing
  • Midyear intake, seems like a cloudy process
  • Stability is very important for this
  • How to make a midyear intake equal across
  • Charters plan attrition, lower seats at higher grades: this pushes into BPS.
  • How does the charter school build a system to have the capacity to deal
  • How well charter schools deal with high needs expensive students in higher numbers, from two systems and financial standpoint, charters looking at this and leverage

Group C: System Administrator
If you had a question or issue with unified enrollment, who would you want to help you resolve it?

  • Include private and other parochial schools
  • Don’t value convenience over choice
  • One lottery for charter schools
  • Charter and District Library at the same time
  • Charters all convert to Horace Mann in district schools
  • Open and clear, no counseling out at charter schools
  • Nonbiased system evaluating charter schools, access, outcomes, accountability
  • Publicly available no zones, all citywide
  • School quality working group, what’s up? How recommendations used in unified enrollment?
  • Keep the three year moratorium on unified enrollment
  • Transparent vetted metrics for charters, set rules, run for some time
  • Clear which are which on list, guarantee seats in BPS
  • What are the success metrics?
    • Student demographics
    • Retention graduation
  • BPS have facilities that are comparable to charter and parochial schools