METCO, which stands for the METropolitan COuncil for Educational Opportunity, is a state funded, voluntary educational desegregation program designed to eliminate racial imbalance through the busing of children from Boston, MA and Springfield, MA to suburban public schools in the 38 communities where the program operates. The METCO program provides opportunities for urban and suburban students to experience diversity, learn to respect human differences, and celebrate the richness of a multicultural setting.
Q: What is the mission and purpose of METCO?
A:The mission of METCO is to provide, through professional leadership and voluntary citizen action, the development and promotion of quality integrated educational opportunities for urban and suburban students in the Greater Boston and Springfield communities, and to work toward the expansion of a collaborative education program with urban and suburban school systems. Its purpose is to provide the opportunity for an integrated public school education for children of color from racially imbalanced schools in Boston and Springfield by placing them in suburban schools; to offer a new learning experience for suburban children; and to facilitate understanding and cooperation between urban and suburban parents and other citizens in the Boston and Springfield metropolitan areas.
Q: How long has METCO been in existence?
A:Since 1966. Hingham has been a METCO community since 1968.
Q: What is the value of the METCO program?
A:The METCO program not only provides the opportunity for enhanced multicultural interaction, it also has helped to broaden the scope and content of professional development by providing access to programs that underscore instructional methods that foster high expectations and achievement for all students in general and minority students in particular. Such programs include the ongoing study of cooperative learning techniques, efficacy training, anti-racism initiatives, and multicultural education.
One of the reasons for METCO’s longevity is the success of its graduates. According to statistics generated by the Massachusetts Department of Education “METCO Student Participation and Achievement Survey (2003-2005)”, cited in the METCO, Inc. Education Policy Initiatives (https://metcoinc.org/METCO_Policy_Initiatives_Updated_1-19-07.pdf), one-hundred percent (100%) of METCO seniors in the Class of 2004 passed the 10th grade English and Math MCAS tests. Additionally, eighty-seven percent (87%) of Boston students participating in METCO matriculate to institutions of higher learning.
Q: Is the METCO program the same as a Choice program?
A:The METCO program is not a Choice program. The students’ home districts do not transfer tuition funding for METCO participants.
Q: How is METCO funded?
A:The program is funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Funding must be approved annually by the legislature.
Q: Are there residency requirements for METCO students?
A:METCO students must reside in the Greater Boston or Springfield metropolitan areas.
Q: Isn’t METCO for students from low-income families?
A: No. Family income is not a determining factor in applying for METCO. The widely assumed misconception that METCO students are from low-income families often stems from the stereotypical generalization that minority families who choose to live in inner city areas are poor. METCO families encompass a broad range of income levels and lifestyles.
Q: How many METCO students are there in the districts?
A:Each district has determined a maximum seat allocation number. METCO students may be admitted at this maximum number but METCO enrollment may also be decreased at the discretion of the districts to compensate for increases in resident student enrollment. Hingham has 40 seats allocated for METCO students.
Q: Are resident students denied space due to the placement of a METCO student?
A:No. Placement of METCO students is based on available seating in each school.
Q: Is there a waiting list for METCO?
A:Yes. The number of students varies but as of January 2007, the METCO waiting list was at 15,000 students.
Q: How many students are there in METCO?
A:At any given time, there are approximately 3,300 students participating in district METCO programs.
Q: In which grades are METCO students placed?
A:METCO generally places students in grades K-12; however, decisions regarding grade level acceptance and placement are generally left to the discretion of the districts and can vary annually based on various factors including, but not limited to, individual class enrollment sizes. Hingham METCO does not place students in kindergarten.
Q: Is there a difference between METCO, Incorporated and the local METCO programs?
A:METCO, Incorporated is the service provider for all METCO district programs throughout the suburban Boston area.
Q: Where is METCO, Incorporated located?
A:METCO, Inc. is located in the heart of the Roxbury community at 40 Dimock Street, across from the Dimock Community Health Center. The phone number is (617) 427-1545. You can also access their web site at www.metcoinc.org.
Q: Are there support systems in place for METCO students in the receiving districts?
A:METCO districts employ a Director to act as a liaison for the district, the transportation provider, METCO students, and METCO parents. There may also be other support staff including, but not limited to, bus monitor(s), secretarial staff, aide(s), and tutor(s). Members of the METCO staff, while generally hired by the individual districts, are usually paid exclusively from the METCO grant funds. METCO students enjoy the same access to all district services as resident students.
Q: Who is in charge of transportation?
A:The Hingham METCO Program contracts with METCO, Incorporated to provide transportation services for METCO students. Questions regarding transportation should be directed to Lance Carter, METCO, Inc. Director of Transportation Services, at (617) 427-1545.
Q: Will my child be the only person of color in the classroom?
A:Since many METCO programs across the Commonwealth are relatively
small in student numbers, and since the minority population in receiving districts is usually minimal, there is a possibility that your child could be the only person of color in his or her classroom. However, participating METCO districts try to maintain a heightened sensitivity to the concerns of all students in general, and METCO students and their families in particular, and continue to establish and implement programs and policies that help alleviate alienation and isolation of all students within their population.
Q: Do METCO districts hire and train minority teachers and staff?
A:All participating METCO districts stringently adhere to the Equal Opportunity Employment guidelines.
Q: What is expected of METCO parents?
A:Despite the distance to a participating community or other personal circumstances, METCO parents are expected to participate fully in their child’s total academic and social growth experiences. It is expected that parents will make themselves available to attend all scheduled meetings and functions at their child’s school, pick up their children at school should the need arise (for instance, in the case of sudden illness or school suspension), provide transportation to and from school in the event of an emergency and attend scheduled METCO parent meetings during the course of the academic year.
Q: Do parents get to choose which METCO community their child is enrolled in?
A:Parents are not given a choice of which community their child is chosen for; however, a parent can decline placement for any reason and ask to have their child placed back on the waiting list. Placement preference, by community, may be given to siblings at the discretion of the Director/Coordinator. Placement in the case of siblings is still based on waiting list eligibility and available seating.
Q: Are there criteria for accepting students into METCO?
A: Schools in the participating METCO districts are public schools and do not have entrance requirements for resident students, then, by law, any student whose parent signs him/her up for METCO is eligible for placement. No child can be denied placement by any participating district for reasons of attendance, behavior, or special needs – except in the case where a student receiving services and accommodations through an IEP (Individual Education Plan) requires a placement that the district does not offer.
Q: Do METCO students need to have a specific grade point average to qualify to participate in the program?
A: No. METCO is open to any student whose parents wish to enroll them. Students are placed on a waiting list – often at the time of their birth – and chosen for placement as their waiting list number comes up. Students enter the METCO program from a variety of early childhood and academic settings; which include day care as well as public, private, and parochial institutions. Since METCO was designed to help achieve racial balance in the participating districts in which the students are placed, students on the waiting list are predominantly of African, Hispanic, and Asian descent.
Q: Are Special Education students eligible to participate in METCO?
A:Students with special education needs are eligible to participate in METCO if the accommodations and services needed by that student are offered in the participating district.
Q: What happens to a METCO student on an Individual Education Plan who needs accommodations that cannot be met in the participating district school?
A:The rules governing Special Education are subject to frequent change; therefore, current guidelines posted on the Massachusetts Department of Education web site, located at www.doe.mass.edu, should be consulted on an individual, case-by-case basis. In general, as of the date of this FAQ compilation (July 2007), if it is determined by the members of the participating district Special Education Team that the district cannot offer services and accommodations based on a students’ Individual Education Plan, and if Boston Public Schools is in agreement with the findings of the district Special Education Team, then the METCO student, with the help and support of the participating district, the METCO Director/Coordinator, Boston Public Schools placement personnel, and METCO, Incorporated, will be re-entered into the Boston Public School system in a placement which can accommodate his/her needs.
Q: What happens if a METCO student has excessive absences or is considered to be an ‘underperforming’ student?
A:METCO students are held accountable to each school system and must follow the rules, and accept the resultant consequences, established by their district. It is important to note that students who are participants in METCO are drawn from the general population of Boston and Springfield resident students. They are not drawn from any talent pool of the best and brightest students from the Boston or Springfield areas. METCO students should not be held to a higher standard than their resident counterparts, nor is less expected of them due to any circumstance, real or imagined, that may be perceived on the part of anyone inside or outside of the district.
Q: Can a METCO student be asked to leave a program if his/her parents are not active participants in their child’s education?
A:No. Students are not held responsible for the behavior and/or lack of involvement of their parents; however, parents are reminded that close and consistent contact with teachers, principals, and school administration, along with frequent, active involvement in all aspects of their child’s academic career, usually leads to better grades and fewer behavioral issues. Parents are strongly urged to attend all school meetings and other functions, and to regularly volunteer in their child’s school.
Q: Under what conditions can a METCO student be terminated from the program?
A:METCO students are held accountable to each school system and must follow the rules, and accept the resultant consequences, established by their district. METCO students are subject to the same rules and regulations, included those governing suspension and expulsion, as any other district resident student.
Q: Is it true that some METCO students must be ready to board their bus by 5:30 AM?
A:Bus routes are prepared by each individual district based on school opening times. In general, students attending high school (and sometimes junior high as well) through METCO board buses between 5:00 and 5:30 AM.
Q: What is the total length of a METCO student’s day?
A:The length of the day for a METCO student varies based on his or her participation in outside/extracurricular activities. A high school METCO student who is a member of the basketball team may be up at 4:15 AM to catch a 5:30 AM bus. Court time might be scheduled for 5:30 PM but the late bus, in order to accommodate all athletes, may not arrive for transport back to Boston or Springfield until late in the evening.
Q: Since METCO students have to get such an early start, does the program provide breakfast?
A:This varies from district to district, depending on the available funding and whether or not districts provide breakfast for all, either on their own or through state funded breakfast program, for students receiving free and reduced lunches. In some cases, where funding is not adequate to cover the cost of food and/or personnel, individual staff, district METCO personnel, local organizations, parents, and districts themselves have implemented programs to ensure that METCO students are able to start their day with a nutritious breakfast.
Q: Are participating districts given any reimbursement for educating METCO students?
A:Participating school districts usually receive a portion of the METCO funding for professional staff salaries in that district. The amount is determined by each district, generally based on a reimbursement formula, and usually includes the salary of at least one professional staff member.
Q: What is the METCO placement procedure in my district?
A:Placement procedures vary among districts. Answers to specific district placement procedure questions can be obtained by contacting the METCO Director in each district. A list of districts and Directors can be found at www.metcoinc.org/communities.html. All families interested in participating in the METCO program must begin be filling out an application at the METCO, Incorporated office located at 40 Dimock Street in Roxbury, MA. The Placement Department may be reached by phone at (617) 427-1545.
Q: Who can I contact if I have questions about Hingham METCO?
A: Carols Perez, Director
Hingham METCO Program
1103 Main Street
Hingham, MA 02043
781-741-1550 ext. 4093
Chronology of the Early Development of METCO
June 11, 1963
Fourteen demands to improve the quality of education for Boston’s black students were presented to the Boston School Committee by the Education Committee of Boston’s NAACP, (Ruth M. Batson, Chairperson) with an Admission of a de facto segregation policy affected by the School Committee as one of the demands.
June 18, 1963
Black students and parents hold one-day school boycott to protest the inequalities of segregated schools. This Boston School Stay-Out, organized by the Massachusetts Freedom Movement, was the beginning of suburban involvement in the Boston school problem.
The Boston Branch of the NAACP led picketing demonstrations at School Committee headquarters as a result of inaction by the Committee on the 14 demands of the NAACP’s Education Committee.
February 26, 1964
Twenty-thousand black students stage a second school boycott. Some suburban white students attend the day-long “Freedom Schools” set up in black churches and community agencies to protest the Boston school conditions for black children and youth.
A Twenty-one member committee (Kiernan Commission) was established by the State Board of Education to study the effects of racial segregation in schools.
Boardman School parents protest against an inadequate school facility and classroom over-crowding. Parents begin their own busing program by sending their children from Roxbury to the white Peter Faneuil School in the Back Bay.
February 14, 1966
A Proposal was submitted to Carnegie Corporation of New York for funding of a METCO staff and offices.
Braintree, Lincoln and Arlington School Committees request to participate in METCO. Winchester, Sharon and Concord vote to participate when classroom seats and additional funding are available.
Committees are formed in the seven suburban districts to develop community support, select host families and identify METCO community coordinators.
May 24, 1966
The METCO Board of Directors and Central office staff are appointed.
Notice of funding approval received. METCO offices opened at 178 Humboldt Avenue, Roxbury to recruit the first students.
August 13, 1966
The “METCO Bill”, filed in December 1965, is signed into law.
METCO staff interviews parents and students, select and assign first METCO students. Bus transportation contracts are arranged.
September 6, 1966
Two-hundred and twenty METCO students, (grades K-11) take the first bus ride to classrooms in the seven suburban districts.
METCO is Born
The planning events for METCO moved at a rapid pace. Already exhausted by organizational demands in the spring of 1966, METCO administrators faced an even more demanding schedule over the summer months. With the school year ending in late June, 220 students had to be selected to enter the seven suburban districts in September.
Human services, social, civil rights, church and community organizations throughout the black community were notified about the application process. Student selection criteria were developed and approved by METCO, Inc.’s Board of Directors. It was decided that METCO would accept students with a range of academic accomplishments–high achievers, average achievers and low achievers–with most being in the average range. Unfortunately, given the low standards of the Boston schools and high grades given for less than rigorous studies, the average student was academically weak compared to the average suburban student. The staff decided that no student with a serious learning disability would be accepted and all students had to be in a regular grade placement.
Dr. Joseph Killory, METCO, Inc.’s first director, was on leave from his position at the Massachusetts Department of Education. He spent his time visiting and working with the suburban superintendents. Associate Director Ruth Batson and Staff Assistant Betty Johnson began the process of screening applications, interviewing and selecting the students.
Mindful that the students selected had to be approved by the suburban district, METCO was ready to battle for and defend its choices. The staff expected clear and specific reasons for any student refused by the receiving METCO district. In one case, METCO selected a child with epilepsy, but the district he was assigned to did not want to accept him. METCO challenged this rejection and the student was accepted. No METCO applicant was interviewed unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Both students and parents were interviewed and all high school applicants were interviewed separately from their parents. There was one exception, a high school student whose parents would not come for an interview. After several appointments had been “broken”, an agency social worker called to explain the family’s circumstances. This student was permitted an interview accompanied by the agency representative and was accepted into METCO.
Applications for the program were completed on-site. In the interview process, the staff first asked applicants how they heard about the program and then provided an explanation of METCO’s purpose and goals. Students and their parents were asked why they wanted to participate. Invariably the response was, “To get a better education.” Few indicated that they wanted an integrated school experience. Parents were asked to describe their child’s personality, likes and dislikes, and behavior in and out of the school classroom.
Parents were advised that, “METCO is an interim program. We only expect it to last three years, as METCO only has funding for about three years. As soon as Boston ‘straightens out’, the children will return to their Boston schools.” It was emphasized to parents that their children might find this academically and socially disruptive. Not one parent responded negatively to the warning.
Students were presented with the situation they would be facing as METCO participants–rising at 5:30 a.m. and being out on the street as early as 6:30 a.m. to meet the bus, leaving familiar surroundings, being “bused” to an all-white environment, returning to Roxbury at 4 or 5 p.m. or later, and four hours of homework every night compared to none in the Boston schools.
The student response to the program was mostly positive. Many worried about leaving their friends. However, in the separate interviews with high school applicants, only two said that they didn’t want to be in METCO. There seemed to be some differences between the boys and girls as to their feelings about being in the program. The girls were more adventurous about schooling in the suburbs, the boys were a bit cautious and reticent. There were also a variety of responses about how participants would handle racial harassment. “I’d ignore it,” was the most frequent answer; but, “I’d punch them in the mouth,” required some discussion! More than 600 students were interviewed, hundreds of telephone calls and inquiries were received, and nearly 1,000 letters asking for an application form were processed. Parents seemed to wait for acceptance letters from METCO with the same anxiety as waiting to hear about their child’s acceptance to college. When the final student selections were made, the METCO staff was satisfied that it had embraced these considerations:
• A balance between boys and girls
• Students who represented an “academic mix”
• Students representing varied family backgrounds: professional families, working class families, single parent families, and families on public assistance
• Parents’ ability to bear up under the pressure and rigors of the program
• Children with an independent spirit regardless of past academic performance
• A mix of neighborhoods where the students lived: Roxbury, South End, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and Mattapan.
Assignments to the suburban districts were determined by space availability in each grade and parent preferences when possible. Almost every parent wanted their child placed in Newton or Brookline, both communities having regional and national reputations for educational excellence and short traveling distances from the city. Newton had the largest suburban black population, which nonetheless comprised only about one percent of Newton’s total population.
Wellesley was the only community for the placement of children entering kindergarten. Later, Lincoln did accept kindergarten. This caused concern for some parents as Lincoln was an upper class community with no black residents. It was unknown to most parents, and entailed a 50-minute bus ride. Arlington was accepting only fifth-graders, and parents were skeptical because of its reputation for housing discrimination. Further-more, Arlington was not considered to be one of the “elite” suburban communities. Lexington was known because of its historical background. It was a popular choice in that it was accepting only junior high students, which represented the largest pool of applicants. Braintree was of parents and was not a popular choice. But, as one parent said, “It’s got to be better than Boston!”
On August 15, 1966, the 220 letters of acceptance were mailed. Parents whose children were accepted were jubilant. Others were disappointed, and some were very angry at not having their children placed. Some parents claimed that the admissions process was biased, that METCO had selected only the “cream of the crop”, or worse, the personal friends of the staff. Ironically, when school began, suburban educators complained that METCO students were not well enough equipped. METCO administrators were subjected to a great deal of pressure from these parents in the days leading up to the opening of school in September. Parents telephoned constantly, sent letters, and made unannounced visits to the office–all to request that their children be reconsidered, some literally “begging” that their child be admitted.
The staff had gone to an extreme to eliminate favoritism in the admission procedures and final decisions. Because there were three times as many applicants as spaces, no siblings were accepted. There were several exceptions. The children of METCO staff were selected as were all students from the Boardman School closed by the urban renewal process going on in Roxbury. There was also a situation where the medical hardship of a parent warranted the placing of three siblings. All of the students selected were black with the exception of two– a boy who was part of the Boardman School group, and a high school girl who was assigned to Brookline High. The Program directors were asked many times why she was placed. The response was that she was the only white applicant to apply, and she lived within the neighborhood area set for selection. There was no reason not to accept her. METCO was funded with private money at that time.
With the selections and assignments completed, the job of orientation for the students, their parents, and the suburban school people and host families began. Freedom House on Crawford Street opened its doors for the preparatory sessions. Since 1949, Freedom House, founded and co-directed by Otto and Muriel Snowden, has been sponsoring race relations improvement and understanding in the greater Boston community.
A mood of seriousness, excitement and apprehension filled the meetings, which were swelled with many family members and friends of these first METCO students. The rationale, purposes and financing of METCO were presented. The possibility of racial incidents, and the physical, emotional and social demands that the students would face, were openly discussed.
The potential benefits of the program were also presented along with reassurances about the support that the METCO staff would provide. These meetings were emotionally draining. While the parents seemed to trust METCO personnel–they hung onto every word–there was a great deal of fear about this “experiment”. At times, even METCO workers and staff were overwhelmed by feelings of doubt. Was METCO a good idea? Would it work?
In late August, the students visited their assigned METCO schools. As the buses approached the schools, silence prevailed. They were greeted warmly by the receiving school principals, staff and host family coordinators. In some instances, the school personnel were as nervous as the students. They searched for the right words. People who were skeptical about the program were easy to spot; they greeted the students with “frozen” smiles and stiff body movements.
The students were impressed. Green grass and manicured shrubs around the schools, wide freshly painted school corridors, well equipped gyms and libraries, cafeterias, and the science labs amazed them. They had never seen such things in Boston schools. The return trip home was different. Loud and lively talk prevailed. The first trial had ended successfully.
To promote a supportive environment for the METCO students, each one was assigned a host family in the suburban district. It was the responsibility of each suburban organizing committee to find an appropriate host family for each student, preferably a family with a child of the same sex and in the same school grade as the METCO student. The host family arrangement was especially necessary in Newton and Arlington where elementary students went home for lunch at noontime. The host family was also responsible for the care of the METCO student–a home away from home– in the event of an emergency, and for providing a ride back to Boston if the bus was missed.
Joe Killory and Betty Johnson tackled the logistics of setting up the bus transportation routes and schedule. Detailed street maps of Boston and of each of the suburban neighborhoods were studied. Each student’s residence was pinpointed on seven Boston maps–one for each METCO district. Distances and travel times had to be calculated. Bus pick-up and drop-off points had to be decided. Safety and the length of the bus ride were priority considerations. Young students shouldn’t have to cross busy main thoroughfares. Parents requested stops near their homes and safe shelters from bad weather conditions.
As the various transportation routes were developed, traffic patterns in and out of the city during the early morning and late afternoon hours had to be checked. There were a large number of variables to be taken into account. All routes mapped for the buses had to be field-tested by staff in their automobiles. It was decided that all students going to Brookline High would be provided with tickets to ride public transportation, while all kindergarten children assigned to Lincoln would ride in station wagons for safety.
When the bus schedules were released there was a flood of complaints. Parents wanted their children picked up earlier, or later or at different stops. Some requested permission to drive their children to and from the suburban community every day. The staff did not yield to these initial requests. No bus schedule changes were made except where an extreme hardship on the family or student was clear. The plan was to see how the bus schedules and routes worked for the first two weeks, and then make the necessary adjustments. A firm policy that all students had to ride to and from their assigned school on a METCO bus was established. As it happened, after two weeks, most parents and students had adjusted to the original bus schedule plans and few changes had to be made.
The true test of METCO was not the busing routes, but how the children would be received on the first day of school. At the end of August and just before Labor Day, rumors abounded about the lack of support for the METCO concept in the suburbs. The METCO suburban community organizing committees tracked down the various rumors which were determined to be without foundation. In Wellesley, however, the rumors appeared to have some validity. On the morning of the opening day of school, Betty Johnson, Joe Killory and other staff were on the streets at sunrise, covering the bus stops and assisting the drivers with their routes.
Attendance was nearly one hundred percent. Ruth Batson stayed in the office to cover telephone calls from parents and to be ready for any crisis that might arise. In Wellesley, fears of disruption and racial incidents seemed to have some basis when a custodian found the message, “GO HOME NIGGER”, painted on the front wall of the school. The message was quickly painted over before the METCO bus arrived and the day went on without further incident in Wellesley.
To everyone’s relief, the first day went smoothly and was uneventful in the other six communities. Only a few students had missed their buses, or the buses had missed them. Ruth Batson recalls, “We waited anxiously as the buses headed back to the city to end METCO’s first day. My heart was heavy with both fear and excitement. I could not relax until each student was home safely. At 5:30 p.m., with no calls from parents and all students accounted for, I walked up Humboldt Avenue from the METCO office, and turned the corner onto Ruthven Street to my home. We had made it through the first day.”