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.
Our meeting at the West End House Boys and Girls Club began with families sharing their experiences with enrollment. Family members shared that:
- Experience went well for the two BPS parents at our table
- There were varying degrees of success. Generally a positive experience with BPS, some great and some not so great.
- Generally good experiences. A little extra wait time; the first week is brutal.
- Very long period of waiting on the wait list
- Was helpful to be on wait lists for BPS and charter schools
- Finding information about schools and deadlines is difficult
- Two district parents didn’t want to switch schools
- They should be able to register at community centers
Question and Answer
We dedicated some time to answering questions from parents and advocates. Here are the questions we heard:
C. Having a hard time that the Compact is not sharing its information with the public. Nine documents were withheld from FOIA request. This is like the Olympics. When we found that information, we found what was going on. I have a hard time that this is a private organization that is not sharing information.
Q. What about Commonwealth charters, which can pull students from outside the city?
A. We don’t have an answer to this yet. We will need to work with the Department of Education on what those schools’ obligation is.
Q. Previously, the City of Boston was responsible for transportation, food… charter schools were responsible for sharing best practices. Entirely one way. Mayor said we aren’t shutting down schools. They did. We know the Boston Foundation, Gates, and Compact are looking to charterize schools. What is going to happen when city owned buildings are given to privately run charter schools?
A. School closures are not part of the Boston Compact. Our orientation is for all sectors to thrive. The three entities– Boston School Committee, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Transportation, and the Archdiocese– have the power to make decisions.
Q. Will data from these assignment forms be used to bolster legislation on charters?
A. That is not the intent. School Committee looks at this data to see where families want to send their students.
Q. How could this simplify?
A. Home-based and this proposal both include close neighborhood schools. This system does not change that.
Q. I live in JP. One of our Tier I schools doesn’t have a lot of seats. Are there plans to improve neighborhood schools we do have?
A. Dr. Chang’s plan includes more rigorous curriculum in all schools and making sure MassCore is a part of all schools. There is a template for quality improvement.
Q. We just switched to the home-based system. You see more neighborhood people in your school. That seems to be working. Why is this push happening? It’s not that complicated to apply to BPS, wasn’t that complicated to apply to charters. I liked having the option. I would get less charters to choose from.
A. While it doesn’t seem to resonate with many here tonight, there are others who have difficulty navigating registration for district and charter schools. This speaks to ease of registration as well as sharing responsibility across all schools for enrollment. It reduces the number of charter schools you can apply to, but increases the odds of getting into any specific school.
Q. We shouldn’t have to go through FOIA process to get information. Will you commit to more transparency for the Compact?
A. We’ve heard that loud and clear. You will likely hear news from us about measures to be more transparent.
Q. People aren’t terribly troubled by the enrollment system. How is the current system assessed? What’s the problem you are solving with this? What about the use of technology to bridge the equity issue. How are you thinking about the digital divide that some families that are chronically left out?
A. We need to learn, then do equity analysis. Digital divide one of the reasons BPS hasn’t moved to web as early, aware of this and trying to acknowledge through. Welcome Center, survey to get feedback how did you hear etc.
Q. This room is not reflective of Boston’s students, the vast majority of whom are students of color. Have there been parents of color at these meetings?
A. We have had parents of color, but meeting attendees are disproportionately white.
C. This is predicated on the idea that BPS is not good enough; it feels like the death knoll for district public schools. It feels like the end of a democratic public school system. We know you have children’s best interests at heart, but our anger comes from that.
Q. The Boston Compact is not representative of the children. Four people on the Steering Committee represent most of the children in district public schools. You want more charter schools. A lot of us are aware of the other compact cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia and tension comes from this. How can we get to trust, change, request for absolute transparency?
A. We’ve spent a lot of time building trust with practitioners. Obviously we need to do more with families.
Q. What are the next steps?
A. We are at the last of seven community meetings, but this is the beginning of the process. Next steps are to 1) publish feedback and share with the city 2) take that feedback and wrestle with it to answer the tough questions and 3) have more public discussions about this, bringing a more complete proposal to the public and continuing the feedback loop.
Q. Would you scrap the plan?
Yes, it is a possibility.
Q. Did you ever discuss going to the state to get rid of the charter problem? Have you ever, since you are using weight of the mayor, and Boston Compact, pushed legislature to make BPS not responsible for charter busing?
A. The Mayor has gone to Beacon Hill to eliminate reimbursement and to make the state the direct payer and partner. He is working to relieve city burden on costs of transit and buildings.
C. Need more of these meetings. Make sure it is representative of district population. They weren’t well advertised. BPS is not advertise at all. Charters do advertise. BPS needs to do this too. Don’t just release summaries, want raw data. Please provide this on the website so accessible to all.
A. That is good feedback
Q. What will be different in Boston than other unified enrollment cities? Denver went from 5 to 54 charters.
A. The charter cap debate will go on regardless of the Compact. We need to all be at the same table talking, this is what the Compact is about doing. In Boston, there is a different level of trust at the practitioner level. We are also intentional about targeting students with the highest level of need.
C. Under DESE schools are reviewed every 3 to 6 years on how they meet certain needs. Not the same for charters. It should be.
Q. Why are we even discussing this in terms of MOU, shouldn’t be in MOU until the community is on board? Admin and principals feel they can’t come to forward with their concerns. Give us all the documents and let us be part of the table to build trust.
A. We agree, there should be no MOU until we synthesize your feedback and bring it to the community to see if we’ve gotten it right.
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?
- Senses of voting age, why don’t collect household data to target families.
- Processes so long, need to start early.
- City doesn’t target families with this info
- A lot of information, many different pages, no consolidated page
- Too much info need more consolidated. Tiers, levels confusing.
- Didn’t use countdown to kindergarten; use JP moms page, talked with other moms
- Perception rather than reality, lot of really good schools for Tier 2, etc.
- Need a mechanism for parents to get out to community to advocate for schools
- Unevenness of marketing, development etc.
- Communication is inconsistent, need translators
- Newspaper, Robo calls, detailed minutes to principals, translated
- principle to parent Council
- Why are parents not on Boston Compact
- Will be a process to involve parents needed to get practitioners on board first
- CPC is always looking to have seats on bigger bodies
- On the Roman doctrine need to have an introductory paragraph about district and charter perspectives be clear if district or charter
- Reducing choice for families
- A different point in process, choice earlier in the process
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?
- What services, staff, experience to schools and teachers have
- ELL – dual immersion availability
- Specific programs for specific kids – if you have program, capacity doesn’t mean you will have kids to fill
- The district is the one at the end of the day with responsibility to ensure needs are met
- ELL – DOJ and BPS, same relationship doesn’t exist with charter
- SPED and ELL similar, need to know you have teachers and experience
- As part of system need to show where programs exist to meet needs, at a BPS and charters
- Assignment process needs to be done by a public entity
- Training qualifications, experience with certain needs, not just inclusion, put them all in the same room.
- Even in inclusion environment need to have program
- Legally they should be all be inclusion to extent they can
Group C: System Administrator
If you had a question or issue with unified enrollment, who would you want to help you resolve it?
- Resolve the funding
- Horace Mann – in district charters
- Public and transparent data, about charter schools, all types of schools
- Public school should administer
- BPS, elected school committee
- some people believe should be separate group
- Charter schools governed by school committee
- Totally BPS
- Parents on governing boards, transparency or charters
- Suspension and discipline, transparency, clear data before money, coming from
- Include high school enrollments for BPS district and charters
- common requirements, common application process
- timeline and same place
- compact, should be selected by teachers, be proportional and add parents, democratically select
- formal teacher engagement in the process
- establish problem, measures
- transportation and choice
- define the problem, provide evidence
- three year moratorium on raising the cap
- common requirements, common application process