Mayor Menino and the Boston school department deserve credit for presenting five realistic options for reforming the school assignment process, including a straightforward alternative of placing elementary and middle school students in schools closest to their homes. Now, as the debate gets underway in earnest, every option should be closely considered — including those that mark the most sweeping changes from the dysfunctional current system, which buses children across three wide geographic zones at great expense and to little educational purpose.
Already, some observers are opting for a more modest change that would reduce the size of the zones, but maintain the basic structure of the current system. It’s too early for that kind of split-the-difference mindset, which could squander the best hope in a generation for improvement in the Boston schools. Rather, all stakeholders should concentrate on devising an assignment plan that satisfies the key aims of education reform: