Thursday, February 26, 2009

Proposed assignment zones to be revamped

The Globe has been following the proposed assignment zone changes the past couple of days. On Wednesday, they had a story noting that under a five-zone plan, poorer neighborhoods, particularly Roxbury and Dorchester, would have more schools that did not do well in standardized tests. They also have a handy map showing the current zones overlaid with the proposed five-zones. So my proposed new zone would now include Hyde Park and Mattapan. I haven’t visited any of those schools, but solely judging from the map, the picture in Mattapan isn’t pretty. All of the Mattapan schools are expected to be overhauled based on test scores.

Today, they covered Wednesday night’s meeting of the Boston School Committee. There, Superintendent Carol Johnson told the committee that the plan needed to be revamped because of the inequities and the lack of seats in some zones.

BPS does want to hear from parents about this issue. They have a survey on their website regarding the budget.

Roslindale parents, don’t forget about the meeting with Johnson on K-8 options at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 2, at the Roslindale Community Center. I’m going to try to make it. Although the focus of the meeting isn’t on the proposed zone changes, I’m sure it will come up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Haley not expecting to lay off teachers

I'm just catching up on all my reading. The Transcript had an article last week about BPS budget cuts. It didn't have a lot of news in it except for a bit about the Haley school, which is going pilot next year. Among other things, this means they get more autonomy in their budget decisions. Principal Ross Wilson said he doesn't expect to lay off teachers next year. Instead, they will shift positions around, and they may no longer have a library paraprofessional. I guess something's gotta give.

Arts in Boston Public Schools

Not surprisingly, a new report has found that arts education varies widely within Boston Public Schools. The report from the Boston Foundation concluded that BPS should “expand equity and access to arts education across all [schools], prioritizing the initial expansion of sequential and consistent arts instruction for all students, from Kindergarten through Grade 8.”

The report found that 70% of students in the district receive some sort of daily arts education, including art integrated into the core curriculum. It looks like West Roxbury/Jamaica Plain/Roslindale fall just under the district average.

Eleven percent of schools reported that their students receive no arts education. Students in K-5 and K-8 schools get the most exposure to the arts (e.g., dance, music, drama, folk arts, media arts and visual arts), followed by middle and high schools. Here is the percentage of BPS students who receive of weekly arts education:
  • K-8: 81%
  • K-5: 75%
  • 6-8: 48%
I guess that’s one more in the plus category for trying to get into a K-8 school (as much as I loved many of the K-5 schools I visited). The report also found that smaller schools had a greater percentage of students regularly taking arts classes, compared with larger schools. But these larger schools offered more variety.

Making Music Matters gets a shout-out in the report (p. 20). It’s a partnership between the Ohrenberger, Beethoven, Mozart, and Washington Irving schools that teaches students the violin, clarinet, flute, or trumpet beginning in third grade.

The first page of the appendix has an alphabetical list of individual schools and the type and frequency of arts instruction offered. They’re not listed by zone, so you kind of have to wade through it. The Haynes EEC fares really well, with all of their students receiving twice-weekly arts instruction.

This was very informative, but I worry that these numbers might change drastically in the coming year(s). Arts education always seems to be one of the things schools threaten to cut when the economy gets rough. As an example, listen to WBUR’s story on Belmont’s proposal to eliminate all after-school programs, including performing arts and non-varsity sports.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Three assignment zones going up to five?

First of all, sorry for the dearth of posts in the last month. I know I told some folks I would post about Hernandez, and I also visited the West Zone ELC in December. I just never got around to posting my notes. Various cold cycles, increased work, and life in general kind of got in the way. Apologies. The abbreviated version is they're both very fine schools. I'm probably more excited about the Hernandez because the idea of giving my son a bilingual education thrills me. At one point, I had a working knowledge of German and Russian, but I was far from fluent. A current Hernandez parent pointed out at a WZPG meeting that she took it upon herself to learn Spanish so she could help with homework and participate in the school community.

Now to my real motivation for blogging today: the proposed FY2010 budget. Good lord. In addition to nearly 400 teachers potentially losing their jobs, parents also have to wrap their heads around a potential redistricting of assignment zones. BPS says this will save money on bussing students. BPS has posted the redistricted model.

From what I can tell, our zone (Zone 5) would separate West Roxbury and Roslindale from JP. So Zone 5 would lose the Manning, Agassiz, Curley, Mendell, Ellis, Trotter, Higginson Lewis, Hale, Hennigan, West Zone ELC, Haynes EEC, and Kennedy to Zone 3.

My zone would gain the relocated Young Achievers (yay!), which will be moving this fall, and a lot of schools in Mattapan and Hyde Park that I'm not familiar with: Channing, Grew, Rogers Middle School, Greenwood, Hemenway/Roosevelt, Chittick, Mattahunt, Mildred Ave, Ellison/Parks Early Education School.

So much for my brilliant idea to get a headstart on school tours for 2010. It looks like I may have a new batch to check out. I don't know when these possible changes would take effect -- I had assumed it would be for 2010, since it would be a logistical nightmare to implement these this year. But now I realize that it's lumped in with the FY2010 budget, so maybe it is indeed for this fall. Nothing's been laid out for us yet.