School Choice in Boston

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choiceA brilliant author has crafted a masterwork on school choice, entitled School Choice That Works For Boston in this week’s Dorchester Reporter.

Oh, that was me, wasn’t it?

I’ve been interested in this issue from a policy and a personal perspective for awhile.

The lottery system for Boston’s district public schools has long been a source of controversy. It was so complex (and flawed) that it spawned a series of analyses by economists from Harvard, MIT, BC, and Columbia. They are not for the faint of heart but you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.

A blue ribbon panel came in and made some fixes, as well as generating a lot of feedback and data.

But the process is still damnably complex, and fraught with peril, as your chances of getting your first choice at certain schools is slight. Check out the Boston Public School Choice Data.

What this shows you is the number of open slots in 5 year old kindergarten and the number of children selecting those schools. For some schools there is a oversupply, but for many (look at the Lyndon or the Kilmer) there are far more applicants than slots.

What this form doesn’t show is how many of those slots are already allocated for sibling or walk preference. And for the last year that we had data (see fall-2005-assignments-with-sibling-data.xls) – 2005 – you can see that certain popular schools, like the Lyndon, had 37 of their 45 slots allocated for sibling preference. In other words, unless you have a kid in that school, forget it……

Boston has a number of schools that parents want to send their kids to, and a number of schools they don’t want to send their kids to. Are we doing enough to expand the former and contract the latter?