Here’s what happened when Boston tried to assign students good schools close to home

The shortage of top-quality schools in certain Boston neighborhoods has undercut the city’s bold efforts to provide access to good schools close to home, according to a new study led by a Northeastern University-based research center.

Four years ago, Boston began implementing a school assignment system that uses an algorithm to produce individualized school options for families, with the goal of increasing students’ access to high-quality schools while reducing the distance they must travel to get to school. Schools were ranked into one of four tiers based on their most recent MCAS scores and historical trajectory, with tier 1 being the highest.

The researchers concluded that the new assignment system failed to counteract the city’s longstanding geographic, racial, and socioeconomic disparities, noting that in some ways it further diminished geographic and racial integration across the district.

Increasing the number of good schools in the district is the most direct way to improve equity and access to high quality education for all, the researchers said.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that black and Latino children, who are already disadvantaged in other ways, face greater competition to get into tier 1 schools,” Hill said. “The deck is already stacked against them in this society, and this policy has made it harder for them to get the educational foundation they need to succeed.”

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