Navigating the Boston Public Schools System

IN THE END, THE BIGGEST PROBLEM with the whole city-versus-suburbs debate is that you can’t always predict where your child will flourish. Maybe your kid really will excel in one of those idyllic suburbs. But it happens to be true that not every child does. Of course, it’s also true that the lottery system in Boston and Cambridge takes the already overwhelming process of handing your kid off to the public school system and heaps on extra servings of stress and anxiety. “I don’t think there’s any way around that,” says Denise Snyder, senior director of enrollment and welcome services for BPS. “The reality is that [understanding Boston’s enrollment system] requires homework. Yes, you’re going to have to do the lottery, and you may not get your first choice. But if you are willing to put down five or more schools, about 90 percent of parents will get one of their top five.” Snyder raises another good point: Let’s say you go ahead and move out of town. What happens if your child doesn’t thrive at his or her neighborhood school? Where are you going to go then?

It’s something Stefan Lanfer thinks about as he looks to next year’s lottery. For now, there’s no talk of the suburbs, and he’s trusting in the power of being an involved parent. “So many parents are so focused on trying to get [their kids] into a great school. Not to diminish the importance of a quality school, but most of these kids are going to be fine. Kids with parents who are this committed, they’re going to be fine. They’re resilient.”

  • Julie

    Thanks for this article. I just wanted to clarify a couple of points. Massachusetts parents have the right to educate their children outside of the school system. Cities and towns do not “allow” us to do so. Although this family consults the state curriculum guidelines, parents are not required to follow any curriculum. Another good resource for current or potential home educators is Advocates for Home Education in
    Massachusatts (AHEM).

  • justin

    When all of your children are 5 and under, you are not homeschooling, you are being a parent.

  • Kerry

    I think the point of the article was to demonstrate the options city parents have as their kids reach kindergarten age. That is, stay in the city or leave, and if they want to stay how they can make it work.

  • Dima Bilan

    I’m so frustrated at this stupid system I’m (we)
    are ready to move out of the state, maybe out of the USA. There is nothing fun about the way we live, racing from one activity to another, put on wait lists and then filling out a
    folder of forms and dishing out loads of money when my job is always in jeopardy.
    You can have it.