Peng Shi, Organizing the Quality of Education

April 4, 2013

While school officials and parents here were debating how to assign students to Boston’s public schools, a lanky young man was quietly observing their public proceedings. He quickly saw the Rubik’s Cube-like puzzle: How could the school system design a plan that would send children to a good school, close to their homes — in a city that had too few good schools? And could that plan also ensure that students from poor neighborhoods had the same chance of attending good schools as those from more affluent neighborhoods?

The young man, Peng Shi, a 24-year-old doctoral Sloan student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began asking questions and talking to parents. Then he made a suggestion: why not drop the idea of zones altogether? For Boston, it was a breakthrough moment. He developed a computer model that uses home address and MCAS scores to suggest at least 6 options for each student assignment. On March 13, the Boston School Committee voted to approve the “Home-Based” model. This plan will go into effect for all incoming students for the 2014-15 school year. To read more, continue the article here. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Ertl.

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