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Abstract: The assignment of students to schools is often a controversial process that requires a delicate balance between operational needs (school capacity and costs) and student and community needs (quality of school and community cohesion). In 2016, Boston Public Schools (BPS) implemented a new student assignment process that attempts to balance both operational needs and students’ access to quality schools. This case examines BPS’ new student assignment process and considers whether it satisfies both sets of needs.
The case also provides a simplified spreadsheet assignment model and dataset to allow students to see the tradeoffs and how they can be balanced.
Learning Objective: The learning goals are:
1. Understanding school assignment models used in various jurisdictions.
2. Identifying the tradeoffs inherent in the assignment process. (In this case student assignment to schools, but the concept is generalizable.)
3. Enumerating the criteria for evaluation of tradeoffs.
4. Illustrating the tradeoffs with a spreadsheet-based simulation model.