Alternative Programs: Designed to help students new to the US and Boston Public School system, as well as students who are over-age or off-track, who need to go to school at night, have disabilities, and have disciplinary needs.
Astroturf: Paid lobbying made to look like grassroots organizing.
Boston Compact: The Boston Compact is a private org that was created by a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, as part of its “Gates Compact” edreform efforts to control local policies in most major urban districts. In now redacted language, The Gates Compact and its research arm, The CPRE, stated their aims are to replace/close “low performing public schools” with “high performing charters,” to make public facilities more available to charters, and to create universal enrollment (UE) systems that blend charter and public schools into a common lottery. Here in Boston, the compact claims to focus on “cross sector collaboration” among Charter, Catholic, and Public schools. This is a focus-group tested phrase meant to show it in a positive light. It was started under Menino but gained a much greater role under Walsh. Many BPS exec leaders now serve on the compact and it appears to have a shaping role on policy even though its meetings are not open to the public nor subject to open meetings law. It has focused on UE, public facilities access, bell times, and transit reform, all controversially, and has sought to softpedal and even on occasion deny its ties to the Gates Compacts of other urban school districts so as to discourage comparisons to their problematic UE rollouts and charterization policies; the message is always that it's unique to Boston, and not a multi-city charterization and UE agenda from Gates Foundation. Mayor Walsh by contrast has at times openly trumpeded his efforts to curry favor and funding from Gates due his own pro-charter stance. Here is further backstory on the Boston Compact.
Boston School Committee (BSC): appointed by the mayor, the Boston School Committee is the governing body of the Boston Public Schools. The School Committee is responsible for: defining the vision, mission and goals of the Boston Public Schools; establishing and monitoring the annual operating budget; hiring, managing and evaluating the Superintendent; and setting and reviewing district policies and practices to support student achievement. The Boston School Committee is the only school committee in the state of MA that is appointed by the mayor and not elected by the people. The BSC switched from an elected to a mayor-appointed body in 1991 by city vote, based on a feeling it had grown too political and contentious. EdReform groups including the Gates Compact see Boston as a worthy target for policy influence because the mayor-controlled BSC is seen as more susceptible to outside influence and less responsive to public/citizen objection. In other urban areas, School Committees commonly fall into two other types: fully elected, or hybrid (part elected, part appointed.)
Charter school: independent private schools accountable to their own investors, not to the public, yet publicly funded. There are many venture capital firms investing in charter schools with leaders from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and such ventures enjoy many tax advantages. They wield a vast political influence thanks to backing from enormous Big 3 “vulture philanthropies” like the Gates Foundation, Walton (Walmart) Foundation, and The Broad Foundation. These 3 are also known as “the Billionaire Boys Club.” Historically, charters have operated on a philosophy of seeking to replace traditional public schools and “break their monopoly," and have assembled funded bands of paid/false activists, a practice known as astroturfing. Lately they have sought to tone down the bad reputation of corporate EdReform under seemingly kinder language such as “cross sector collaboration.” In MA, Charters operate under five-year charters granted by the Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. See also Horace Mann Charter Schools.
CPC (City Wide Parent Council):the official voice of BPS families. The CPC is the umbrella organization of each of our 128 schools’ School Parent Councils, and we are constituted by the elected representatives from each of our schools.
Dark Money: funds given to 501 (c) (4) type nonprofit organizations that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections, but are not required to disclose their donors.
DFER (Democrats For Education Reform): DFER is a PAC, a Political Action Committee, which means it can (and does) play a direct role in state and local elections. Public school advocates like Diane Ravitch have been spotlighting concerns about DFER since its beginning. Because DFER is not a charity, money given to it does not result in a tax write-off but--if successful in changing laws--that money could get the hedge funders who back it a return on investment through politicians and policies that redirect tax dollars from truly public schools to "education reforms." Ed reform is fueling non-profit corporations paying lucrative for-profit style salaries to their executives and for-profit firms, such as the controversial K-12 Inc., which has made hundreds of millions while traditional public schools have faced budget cuts.*
DELAC: District English Learner Advisory Council
DESE: Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
ELL: English Language Learners
Exam schools: In Boston, there are three 7th-12th grade schools that are public yet select admission based on the Independent School Entrance Exam score and grade point average. The schools are Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.
Families for Excellent Schools (FES):An EdReform organization that supported Question 2 (see Question 2 in glossary). FES is a non-profit, but FESA is the advocacy arm, able to donate to issue campaigns. Dark Money funding from Paul Sagan, Governor Baker’s chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education - via FESA from FES - was revealed after the ballot initiative failed, resulting in a fine equal to the dark money in question and a dissolution of FESA. FES is prohibited from fundraising in MA until 2020. See Bay State Action Fund, also Dark Money
Horace Mann Charter School: Horace Mann charter schools must have its charter approved by the local school committee and, in some cases, the local teachers’ union in addition to the Board. Also called “in-district” charter schools. Right now, state law allows a total of 120 charter schools in Massachusetts; no more than 48 of these can be Horace Mann charters. Ten of the Commonwealth’s 77 operating charter schools are Horace Mann schools. For more information on Horace Mann Charters, please see: http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/new/2015-2016QandA.pdf
Home Based Assignment Plan: Implemented in 2013, this plan altered the school lottery to be more central to a student’s home address. The home base plan was an alternative created by the EAC Committee in 2013 under Menino. It was an alternative to a neighborhood school system with 9 zones instead of the 3 zone system (North, East, West.) The 9 zones were seen as an inequitable distribution of quality schools. The home base plan used an MIT algorithm as a balancing factor, and also did away with the 1-mile walk-zone preference (based on the argument that it was proximity was already factored in to the home base algo choice set.) There were many commitments to follow up with data to see the plan’s impact on preference, equity, etc. (which have not come to pass.) It was also supposed to reduce busing costs over time. A yearly data report was promised, however in December of 2017, no report has been released. See also Student Assignment Policy. Also see And http://bpsworkshop.com For more information, see City Councilors’ request for analysis in December 2017, as well as QUEST and parent requests in April of 2017.
Innovation School: An Innovation School (either a conversion of an existing school or a new school) is an in-district public school that can be established by a wide range of applicants, may utilize increased autonomy and flexibility in six areas (curriculum, budget, schedule and calendar, staffing, professional development, and diistrict policies), and is authorized by the local school committee. In exchange for increased ownership, discretion, and authority to establish and operate an Innovation School, eligible entities will be held responsible for improving student learning and school performance in accordance with measurable annual goals. Two goals of establishing these schools are to foster innovation across the state and increase students’ access to excellent educational opportunities – while retaining funding within public school districts.
Level 1-5 schools: These are the levels in the (MA) Department's framework for district accountability and assistance, required by 603 CMR 2.03(1), in which schools and districts in the Commonwealth are placed. Level 1 is the top level. The state partners with Level 1 and 2 schools to share their best practices with other districts. Level 3 and 4 districts receive targeted support, resources, and training from DESE to help boost student learning. See this chart for detailed explanations of levels. DESE recently announced a move to abandon this leveling system.
Lottery: see Student Assignment Policy
Mass Parents United: Mass Parents United is an organization that seeks to combat, from their Facebook page, "the voices of parents <that> have been co-opted by special interests with hidden agendas that put the greed of adults over the needs of children." MPU is funded in part by the Walton Foundation (Walmart), one of the Big Three of the Billionaire Boys Club of edreform (Gates, Walton, Broad foundations).
Pilot school: Pilot schools are part of the school district but have autonomy over budget, staffing, governance, curriculum/assessment, and the school calendar to provide increased flexibility to organize schools and staffing to meet the needs of students and families. Pilots are not charters; they are not privately owned and operated.
QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student): From their Facebook Page: We are parents who have come together to fight for quality and equity in the Boston Public School system. We believe that any new Boston Public Schools student assignment process must provide children in every Boston neighborhood with equitable access to a quality school, regardless of race, national origin, color, gender, immigrant status, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, special needs or disability. We believe that the current student assignment system (three zones) provides inequitable access to quality schools, providing particularly low access to neighborhoods with high populations of people of color and lower income families.
Question 2: a 2016 ballot question to authorize Massachusetts to add more charter schools and allow charter school expansion. Full text of the ballot question is here. This ballot was defeated by more than 60% opposition. For context, here are popular opinions about Question 2 from WBUR. For full context, here is a Yes on 2 opinion. This link, a No on 2 editorial from Mayor Marty Walsh, is important to understand, as he is a charter school proponent. Largely, he voted no because "state reimbursements to cover the district’s transitional costs have been underfunded by $48 million over the last three fiscal years."
Receivership: The status of a school reporting to the state instead of the local district, usually because the school has not met improvement markers.
School Quality Working Group: The original School Quality Work Group (SQWG 1) was established by the Boston School Committee in May 2013 in response to a recommendation by the External Advisory Committee on School Choice (EAC). Read the complete EAC recommendations here. In the fall of 2014, the SQWG I released its recommended School Quality Framework, which was approved by the School Committee. In the fall of 2016, the Boston School Committee established the School Quality Work Group II (SQWG II), chaired by Dean Hardin Coleman, vice chair of the Committee, to serve as ambassadors and accountability partners during the implementation phase of the School Quality Framework. Their work set the “home base lottery/algorithm” that replaced the three school assignment zones. See also Home Based Assignment Plan and Student Assignment Policy. SPED: Special Education
SPED-PAC: Special Education Parent Advisory Council
SPC (School Parent Council): The parents and guardians of students at each individual school form the SPC and support the school and advocate for quality education. The SPC works closely with the School Site Council to review the school’s budget, recommend programs, sponsor events, solve problems, and raise funds for special school activities.
SSC (School Site Council): School-based decision-making is the responsibility of the School Site Council. For example, School Site Councils hire teachers (in some cases), approve school rules, and decide if students will wear uniforms. The School Site Council also may request waivers from some BPS policies. Parents are elected to the SSC. The SSC should mirror the diversity of the individual school population.
Start Times, also Bell Times, Early/Late Start Times: In December 2017, the BSC voted unanimously on an initiative that was intended to accomplish 4 goals: 1) Increase the number of secondary school students starting after 8:00 AM. 2) Where possible, increase the number of elementary school students dismissing before 4:00 PM; 3) Where possible, assign schools with higher concentrations of medically fragile students or students with autism or emotional impairments to bell times reflective of the needs of their student body; 4) Where possible, do all of the above while maximizing reinvestment in schools. About 24 hours later, a team from MIT formulated an algorithm that had some K-8 children starting as early as 7:15am and that had no regard for medically fragile students; additionally, there was little input from families until after the algorithm was published and accepted as policy. What resulted was many hours of family and teacher testimony to hardship, as heard in a 5 hour BSC meeting and in 10 three hour meetings across the city, from a full representation of neighborhoods. City Councilors vowed to reject the next school budget if the policy went forward, and civil rights groups, most notably the NAACP Boston and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, condemned the policy, even threatening legal action to repeal it. Ultimately the policy has been put on hold for one year, but according to James Vasniz, Education writer for The Globe, “The district entered into this school year with the hope of saving $5 million in busing costs by teaming up with MIT researchers who developed a new algorithm for bus routes that took 50 buses off the road. Instead, spending is over budget by $6.6 million.” Ultimately, the controversy of school start times has spurred many families into action regarding the overall BPS budget, the $140M cuts over the last 4 years, and why BPS transportation is so expensive. Vasniz reports that "One of their goals with the new bell schedules is to save on busing costs, which represent about 10 percent of the district’s $1 billion budget." Also see Transportation
Student Assignment Policy: Students are assigned to schools based on their home address. Possibilities includes every public (but not charter, nor parochial) school within a one-mile radius of their home if there is one, plus nearby high-quality schools based on BPS's School Quality Framework (SQF) system of measurement. This is meant to ensure that every family has access to high-quality schools, no matter where they live. Families are not guaranteed their first choice school, and many of the popular schools have a waiting list, often with no movement. Also see Unified Enrollment. Also see Home Base Assignment plan.
Tier levels: Boston’s grouping of schools into four tiers according to how students performed on MCAS tests for the past two years. We take into account both overall performance and improvement. Every family has at least two of the highest-scoring schools (Tier 1, the top 25%) and at least four schools that are in either Tier 1 or Tier 2 (the top half of MCAS performance) on their customized lists. MCAS Tiers 3 and 4 are in the bottom half. Tier 4 is the bottom 25%.
Transportation: The district is responsible for transporting students K-8 and those in later grades who qualify, whether the students attend public, charter, parochial, or private schools. Transportation costs about 10% of BPS $1 Billion budget, and transporting charter school students is essentially an unfunded mandate from the DESE.
Turnaround school: Turnaround is an action plan for a level 3, 4 or 5 school that aims to produce significant gains in achievement within two years and readies the school for continued improvement.
Unified Enrollment (also Universal Enrollment): A highly controversial proposal from Boston Compact, backed by Mayor Walsh, to create a hybrid common lottery that treats charter schools as having the same status as public schools, allows direct charter assignments, and “contracted enrollment” fee structures to debit the public district directly for charter-elected services. Similar UE structures have been used in other Gates Compact cities, often to the detriment of public schools and district finances. Under the current enrollment system, parents must apply to BPS district schools and charters separately, with different timelines; in other words, it is a process a family opts-in to. See http://baystatebanner.com/news/2017/oct/11/quiet-push-unified-enrollment/ for recent news events regarding UE, and an important follow up: http://baystatebanner.com/news/2017/oct/18/walsh-rejects-charter-enrollment-bill-his-name-it/ Parents and QUEST criticize Unified Enrollment, say it makes student assignment more complicated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGHMRhloRPk&t=4s
Weighted Funding: How BPS funds are allocated per student. Based partially on demographics (such as poverty, special ed/learning needs), these per-student dollar amounts follow the student to whichever school they go. While it sounds like a custom budget, the practicality is this: when students leave one school and go to another, the funding follows the student, leaving the individual school with less money. Schools with shrinking populations, particularly level 3 and 4 schools who need support in order to meet their improvement goals, then see budget cuts which result in fewer materials and staffing. When a district student leaves BPS for a charter, it is even more devastating; state reimbursements to the district have been underfunded by $48 million over the last three fiscal years. Remember, too, that charter schools are publicly funded and accountable to their boards and investors, not the public. Also see https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/110 ; Also see Transportation