Parents try out new BPS system

By 
Dave Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
Jan. 16, 2014

Boston Public Schools are in the second week of school registration for the new school assignment system.

The Home-Based school choice system, established for the coming school year, gives parents fewer choices, but gives them choices that are closer to home, according to Denise Snyder, the Senior Director For the Office of Welcome Services for Boston Public Schools.

“Someone’s list was anywhere from 25 to 32 schools – now the list is 10 to 15 schools; it’s a more manageable list for families,” Snyder said.

That list will include all the city’s schools within a mile of the family’s house, meaning there is an increased likelihood people in the same neighborhood will go to the same school.

“The idea there is an increased chance for shared homework opportunities, more family involvement in the schools and that they are easier to get to,” Snyder said.

Formerly, the city was broken up into three zones, and students within those zones could try to get into any school in that zone, Snyder said.

“You could live at one end of a zone and go to a school at the other,” Snyder said.

Now the city’s approximately 57,000 students will be more likely to attend one of the cities nearly 100 elementary and middle schools closer to their homes. All 30 Boston public high schools will remain open to students throughout the city.

While all schools within a mile are included in a student’s list, the list will also include some schools designated as “Tier 1” schools, Snyder said.

Schools are separated into four tiers based on results of MCAS testing, a system that will change over the coming years to include grades, learning environment, and student attrition, Snyder said.
As a result, each student’s list will give that student access to some of the city’s best schools.

Other schools are added to the list based on programs they offer and the capacity to hold a number of students, Snyder said. Siblings are also given priority and access to the school their family members are currently enrolled in.

The registration period for students transitioning to another school – entering either kindergarten, sixth grade, or ninth grade – began on Monday, Jan. 6, and will continue through the end of the month, Snyder said.

School assignment decisions for that group will be announced in late March, she said.

The Home-Based school choice plan allows students currently enrolled in schools to finish out their full time there, but parents of students who normally wouldn’t be transitioning to a new school will get the opportunity to register from February 5 through March 22, Snyder said.
The difference is that less space is reserved for such students, she said.

Snyder urged parents to go online to discoverbps.org, where they can preregister their children. Parents must still come in to present the same paperwork the district has always required – immunizations, birth certificates, photo identification of the parent or guardian, and proof of residency – but those who preregister are placed in a faster moving line, Snyder said.

Parents can also use the website to determine what schools will be on their child’s list.

So far, the registration period has gone well, Snyder said.

“People are primarily happier with the shorter list,” Snyder said. “A shorter list means a higher priority of getting the school you are familiar with. You’re not overly concerned about getting that school you don’t know anything about. That is not going to happen as often if at all.”

A veteran of working at the Boston Public Schools for 10 years, Snyder said this was the largest change she had seen.

“This is really monumental for us,” she said.

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