Boston Public Schools Assignment Policy Evaluation and Geospatial Analysis
The City of Boston’s struggle with racial segregation in the public schools resulted in protests that left an indelible mark on the country’s consciousness. In the early 1970s, the federal government ordered the city to bus children as a process of integrating the schools.
Today, 40 years later, the City of Boston is still grappling with the legacy of segregated schooling and busing policies. The composition of the city’s schools has changed dramatically, with an enrollment half the size it once was and a shift to an almost entirely non-white public school population. As a result, much of the initial impetus for busing to integrate schools has gone, even as the costs of busing have continued to rise.
The creation of a new school assignment policy required multiple parameters to evaluate scenarios, such as projected demographic mix, access to quality schools, transportation costs, school capacities, and English as a Second Language programs. The technical preparation for the assignment policy scenarios included ensuring that all the homes of the school children were geocoded in GIS.
The school assignment policy scenarios included variations on school zones and approaches without school zones, requiring a complex evaluation process utilizing the ArcGIS extension Scenario 360. These new school assignment approaches were modeled and judged on their balancing choice, social equity, school capacity and anticipated transportation costs.
To complement the development of new assignment scenarios, five-year enrollment projections were constructed for the City of Boston. These projections enabled fine-grained, location-based planning for the school district and could be tweaked to accommodate different assumptions based on the different assignment scenarios.