If you’re a middle-​​class parent in Boston, the ques­tion inevitably occurs: Should I raise my family in the city or abscond to the sub­urbs, where the public schools are a more cer­tain bet? Anec­do­tally, it seems that increas­ingly par­ents are choosing to stay, and a new study based on in-​​depth inter­views with Boston par­ents begins to explain why.

Soci­ol­o­gists Chase Billingham and Shelley McDo­nough Kimel­berg of North­eastern inter­viewed 32 middle-​​class par­ents with kids enrolled in the Boston Public Schools. Many of them lived in the city’s rapidly gen­tri­fying neighborhoods—Jamaica Plain, the North End, South Boston, the Fenway, Charlestown—and all of them had the means to leave once their chil­dren reached school-​​age.

Instead they decided to give the BPS a shot. And, as the inter­views reveal, the deci­sion was based largely on the belief that, through major invest­ments of time and money, they could shape their local ele­men­tary schools into the kinds of places they wanted their kids to attend.

Urban public school sys­tems are famously intractable, and it’s hard to believe that against such sprawling bureau­cra­cies, parental ini­tia­tive can make much of a dif­fer­ence. But, as the authors explain, the par­ents they inter­viewed do much more than orga­nize bake sales and chap­erone field trips. They also guide strategic plan­ning and cur­riculum devel­op­ment, sit on hiring com­mit­tees, recruit other middle-​​class fam­i­lies into their schools, and write grants (including one that pays for a second kinder­garten teaching assistant).

Read the article at Boston.com →