City councilors and state representatives who Wednesday unveiled a school choice plan they say builds upon the best aspects of the five options the city's school department presented last week but doesn't force families to choose between school access and educational quality.
“This is a step we felt compelled to take after reviewing the options
that BPS put on the table,” said Connolly, chair of the City
Council’s Committee on Education. While acknowledging the hard work the school department and the External Advisory Committee did to create the five options, Connolly and others said that they can be improved upon.
In that effort, Connolly joined with fellow City Councilor Matt O'Malley and Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry, Nick Collins, Ed Coppinger and Russell Holmes to present a sixth option they are calling the "Quality Choice Plan." They sent a copy of their plan to Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson and said they will lobby for its inclusion in the ongoing reform debate.
Among the most notable differences between the BPS plans and the sixth plan are the fact that current students would be grandfathered in to the schools they already attend, and zones would be abolished. Instead, all children entering kindergarten would be required to attend one of four schools closest to their homes. If those schools become over-enrolled, then the city would have to provide modular units or build or acquire new schools.
One of the new schools the plan calls for is an elementary school in Beacon Hill, the Back Bay or the West End. None of these neighborhoods currently has an elementary and Connolly said he wants to leave the reform process with a firm deadline on when this school will be built, though it hopes it will be by 2016.
The full outline of the plan, which the group presented at the State House Wednesday morning, is as follows:
THE QUALITY CHOICE PLAN – OVERVIEW
I. REFORMING STUDENT ASSIGNMENT
- Grandfather current students
- Guarantee a K-8 option
- Guarantee a kindergarten seat for every child at a school close-to-home
- Offer more choices through 16 Citywide Magnet Schools
- Allow parents to group together for seats at under-selected schools
II. ESTABLISHING A QUALITY BASELINE FOR THE BPS
- Mandatory principal evaluation
- Mandatory teacher evaluation
- A commitment to eight new fully inclusive schools
- A commitment to nine new dual-language schools
- Provide full academic enrichment for every student
- Provide every student with a K-8 option
III. PROVIDING QUALITY SUPPORTS FOR SCHOOLS SERVING LARGE NUMBERS OF STUDENTS IN NEED
- Grant each school Innovation, Pilot, or In-District Charter status
- Provide fully staffed student support services
- Provide academic coaches for literacy and math support
- Guarantee afterschool programming
IV. FUNDING QUALITY
- Direct all savings from reduced transportation costs to high-need schools
- Adjust funding formula to provide additional funding to students in need
- Increase enrollment to increase state funding for BPS
V. QUALITY FACILITIES
- Build or acquire a facility for a downtown school in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill or West End
- Realign kindergarten seats
- Address supply/demand issues