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Plan To Return Boston to Neighborhood Schools Is Proposed

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A Boston city councilwoman and a prominent desegregation expert have attacked the city schools' "controlled choice'' desegregation plan, arguing that it has done little to boost minority achievement.

Peggy Davis-Mullen, a council member, and Christine H. Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University, have offered a plan to return the city to neighborhood schools because, they contend, the current controlled-choice plan, adopted six years ago, is ineffective and wastes money on the unnecessary transportation of students.

At a news conference earlier this month, the two presented several analyses of test scores that, they said, show that busing minority students away from their neighborhood schools has had no significant impact on the students' academic achievement.

They also contended that the controlled-choice plan has done little to integrate the school system, which, largely because whites have moved out of the city, now has a 60,200-student enrollment that is about 81 percent minority, with blacks making up the largest group of minority students at 48 percent.

Several researchers and consultants connected with the controlled-choice plan last week expressed doubts in the research and conclusions presented by Ms. Rossell and Ms. Davis-Mullen, however, and contended that their proposal focused on 1993 data and gave short shrift to trends over time.

Larry W. Faison, a spokesman for the Boston schools, said last week in an interview that the neighborhood-schools plan advanced by Ms. Rossell and Ms. Davis-Mullen "is an attempt to turn this school district back 20 years.''

Noting that most of the schools that have closed in recent years are in predominantly minority neighborhoods, Mr. Faison said returning to neighborhood schools would place an unfair burden on minority children.

Ms. Davis-Mullen has argued that the money that the district spends to transport students for desegregation purposes could be better spent building better schools in minority neighborhoods.

Ms. Davis-Mullen has asked her fellow council members to fund a $40,000 survey of parents in metropolitan Boston to assess their views of various education issues and their level of satisfaction with the current student-assignment plan.

The current plan was adopted in 1987 as a condition for having the district declared unitary, or free of the vestiges of racial segregation.

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