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Boston Picks 6 Schools To Operate Largely Free of Regulations

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Boston school officials have approved six proposed pilot schools that will operate largely independent of the district and the teachers' union.

The Boston School Committee voted late last month to approve pilot status for the six proposed schools, which Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones had recommended from among 17 applications.

District officials said they hope to have the schools, some of which already are open, fully up and running by next September.

The schools will use vastly different approaches and cater to a wide range of student interests. But they share, and were largely picked for, a perceived replicability and a commitment to involve parents and the community, Ms. Harrison-Jones noted.

"We must remember that the pilot schools must come up with the means by which we can do a more effective job within the system--and not with more resources, but just by using them differently," she said late last month.

That same week, however, reports in The Boston Globe newspaper that an effort to raise the district's academic standards had slowed to a crawl called into question the district's commitment to such systemwide reform.

The newspaper reported that disagreements between the superintendent and her senior aides had stalled plans to try out proposed reforms in several schools this fall.

Union a Stakeholder

The district's pilot-schools initiative was launched as part of its contract with the Boston Teachers Union, signed in June.

Both sides agreed to establish six schools that would be allowed to stray from district regulations and B.T.U. contract requirements deemed restrictive--provided the deviations met sound educational practice and conformed to court orders and state and federal laws.

Educators, cultural organizations, business leaders, and other community groups submitted 17 proposals before the mid-September deadline.

The three-year contract with the B.T.U. allowed for just six pilot schools, but said more could be established if both sides agreed. Edward J. Doherty, the union's president, has said he wants to see how the first pilots fare before approving more.

The six programs chosen were:

  • Boston Arts Academy, a secondary school for the visual and performing arts.
  • Downtown Evening Academy, a special evening high school for 125 working youths.
  • Fenway Middle College High School, which represents the expansion of an existing school-to-work program for middle and high school students at Bunker Hill Community College.
  • Health Careers Academy, an effort to duplicate an existing health-careers program supported by the New England Medical Center.
  • Patrick F. Lyndon Elementary School, a new program for up to 300 students that will emphasize thematic learning and team teaching.
  • Young Achievers Science and Mathematics School, a program for up to 340 pre-kindergarten through middle school students featuring individualized instruction and a technology-based curriculum.

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