Student Assignment Policy

BPS has adopted a Home-Based student assignment policy to assign students to kindergarten through grade 8. All of our high schools remain citywide options for our students.

The Home-Based plan uses a student’s home as the starting point.

  • BPS offers a customized list of school choices for every family based on their home address. It includes every school within a one-mile radius of their home plus, as needed, nearby schools that ranked the highest under BPS’s School Quality Framework.  The School Quality Framework is a new system of measurement that redefines how the quality of a school is assessed.  It looks not only at how students perform on standardized tests but also how they grow from year to year as well as other key aspects of a school, such as its culture.  This plan ensures that every family has access to high-quality schools, no matter where they live.
  • The list may also grow, as needed, to include schools offering K0, Advanced Work Class (AWC) and more, and to ensure we can offer every child a seat in a school on his or her list. These are called “Option Schools.”
  • Families may also select any citywide school. And some families may have regional options, as well.
  • Most families will have an average of 8-14 choices on their customized list.
  • The Home-Based plan uses an algorithm, similar to a lottery; therefore we can’t guarantee an applicant will be assigned to one of his or her top choices
  • Just as in the past, due to limited seating we cannot guarantee an assignment to K0 or K1.
  • Students who apply for kindergarten, grade 6 and 9 in January have the best chance of assignment to their top choice schools.
  • For 2017-2018, students applying for K2 and grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 are guaranteed an assignment to a school on their customized list. Students applying to grades 4 and 5 may be assigned to a school on their list; however, due to grandfathering, we cannot guarantee a seat will be available.  If a seat is not available in any of those schools, the student will be assigned to the school closest to home in his or her former zone (East, West or North) which has an available seat.
  • Families can view their customized list of school choices at  This site also provides families with more information about the schools on their list and lets them explore how their schools performed on the School Quality Framework.

Ensuring Quality

The Home-Based plan is designed to make sure every family has high-quality schools on their customized lists. Under the School Quality Framework, each school receives a score from 0-100 based on various metrics across five different categories: Student Performance; Family, Community, and Culture; Teaching and Learning; Leadership and Collaboration; and Student Access and Opportunities*. The measurements in these categories reflect what the BPS community values in its schools and believes should be found in every high-quality school. 

We then translate these scores into a tier, from 1-4, that is used for the home-based student assignment plan.  On their school choice list, every family will have at least two schools that are classified as Tier 1 and at least four schools that are classified as either Tier 1 or Tier 2.  Finally, at least 6 of the schools on the choice list will be either Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3.  In many cases, that number is often more.
 Graphic of framework score by tier. Tier 1 is 65 plus, tier 2 is 55-64, tier 3 is 45-54, tier 4 is zero to 44. Pie chart of percentage that goes into the score of an SQF tier.
*Note: Student Access and Opportunities is currently not included as part of a school’s core.  BPS is working to develop reliable metrics in this category.

Valuing Family

The Home-Based plan continues to work to keep families together. As such, the plan includes sibling priority. While BPS cannot guarantee siblings seats in a particular school, the sibling priority is the highest priority we offer to ensure that we make every effort within our policies to keep families together.

Supporting English Learners and Students with Disabilities

The Home-Based plan creates community clusters of school options to ensure that students can enroll in schools that offer quality programs closer to home.
English Learning students have access to schools on their home based list as well as program options in their wider cluster.
Depending on their needs, students with disabilities may be able to choose seats from the home-based list, or they may be assigned to a program within the cluster in which they reside if their Individualized Education Program calls for specific services or level of services.
A few programs remain citywide, as well.
You can read about the plan in more detail and learn about school options here:
An in-depth look at our elementary and middle school options
An in-depth look at our high school options

Understanding the Home-Based school choice plan

What are "priorities?"

Sometimes a school doesn’t have room for every student who lists it as a choice. When this happens, the computer assigns students based on choice and priorities. Sibling priority is our highest priority, and other priorities include EEC/ELC priority, present school priority, and East Boston/Non-East Boston priority.  

Sibling Priority

We try to assign children in the same family to the same school if the parent requests it. If you want your children to go to the same school, ask the Welcome Center staff how to apply for sibling priority. However, sometimes a school doesn’t have room for all the siblings who apply for it; so we can’t guarantee sibling assignments. Be sure to list sibling preference the first time you apply.

Present School Priority

Present school priority gives a student priority to a program in his/her school over another student attending a different school. For example, a student currently enrolled in grade 3 at the Hennigan School will receive a priority to a grade 4 AWC (Advanced Work Course) seat at the Hennigan over a grade 3 student attending the Mendell School who has selected the Hennigan AWC program.

Priority for EEC and ELC students applying for Grade 2

Students completing grade 1 at an Early Learning Center (ELC) or Early Education Center (EEC) that does not have a Pathway school will be assigned to available grade 2 seats before students new to the BPS or those applying for transfers from other elementary schools.

When assigning these students to grade 2 seats, including assignments from wait lists, the usual factors will be considered, including the registration period when the students applied, priorities, and a random number. Exceptions may include program seats for English Language Learners, services for some students with disabilities, and middle school-age students because some East Boston elementary schools have pathways to middle schools in Charlestown.

East Boston/Non-East Boston priority

Due to its unique location, East Boston general education students beginning in K2 have a guarantee to an assignment in East Boston, if they so choose.

  • Customized lists for East Boston students will include all schools in East Boston. East Boston residents are given priority over non-East Boston applicants to those seats. These customized lists will also include some schools outside of East Boston, but the priority would not apply for these schools.
  • Since this limits access for non-East Boston residents who may have East Boston Schools on their lists as well, these students will have priority to the remaining schools on their lists over East Boston students.

Random numbers

The computer gives each application a random number. Random numbers are used to break “ties” between students who have the same priorities for the school.

How does this work? Let’s say there is one seat left for K2 at the Kenny School. All applicants with sibling have been assigned. Three additional students, all without sibling priority, listed the Kenny as their first choice. The student with the lowest (“best”) random number will be assigned.

Middle School Pathways

Middle School Pathways link elementary schools with middle schools.

Grade 5 students who are currently enrolled in a K-5 school will receive a guarantee to their middle school pathway school. Parents and students may also visit a Welcome Center to select a different school from within their customized Home-Based list and enter the choice process. If the parent does not select the guaranteed middle school pathway, and the student cannot be assigned to a chosen school because of seat availability, the BPS will administratively assign the student to a home-based school.

Administrative Assignments

State law requires every child must attend school beginning in September of the calendar year in which the child turns six years old. If you do not receive one of your school choices, or, for currently enrolled students, you do not return an application for a student age six and older starting a “transition grade,” we will assign the student to the school closest to home that has a seat.

For students entering grades K2, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8, an administrative assignment will be made to a school on a student’s customized home-based choice list. However, due to the grandfathering provision, which allows current BPS students to continue in their school and program, seat availability in the other grades may be limited.  Students entering grades 4 and 5 may still receive an administrative assignment based on the prior zone-structure. When assigning students in these grades, we will use the following order during the algorithm run. If there is no seat available at one level, the computer will move to the next. Here is how it works:

  1. Assign the student to home-based school, based on priorities and their choices.
  2. Administratively assign the student to a non-chosen home-based school, based on distance.
  3. Assign the student to a preferred zone-based school, based on distance.
  4. Administratively assign the student to another zone-based school, based on distance.

Generally, kindergarten students are not administratively assigned, unless you have requested us to do so by selecting this option on the registration form. However, if your child will turn six years old before December 31, the district will assign your child to a school even if you do not receive one of your choices. If your child will remain five years old (or younger) through December 31, and you are not assigned to one of your schools of choice, you may return to a Welcome Center to make additional choices.

Wait Lists

If you don’t get your first choice, the computer will assign your child to one of your other choices, or your child will be "administratively assigned" (see below). Your child may also be placed on a wait list for one or more of your other choices. Here are the rules for wait lists:

  • BPS will create wait lists for all schools where there are more applicants than available seats for a particular grade.
  • A student’s place on the wait list is based on the registration period when the student applied, sibling priority, the school choices selected on the application, and a random number.
  • No student will have a lower place on a wait list than any student who applied in a later registration round, regardless of priorities. However, within each period, a student’s place on the wait list can change if his/her priorities change, which may affect the placement of other students on the wait list.
  • Families registering for any grade, K0 through 12, may be placed on up to three wait lists. Families who are assigned to their second choice school may be on the wait list for their first choice school. Families assigned to their third choice school may be placed on the wait lists for their first and second choice schools.  And families assigned to their fourth choice school or higher, or who are unassigned (kindergarten only) or administratively assigned (see below), may be on wait lists for their top three choices.
  • Families may request that a student be added to any wait list (to a school for which they are eligible to apply). However, students may not occupy more than the number of waitlists prescribed above. Students already on the maximum number of waitlists must go off one list in order to be added to another.
  • Any student who remains a Boston resident may remain on a wait list after the beginning of the school year, regardless of whether or not the student attends the Boston Public Schools.
  • All waitlists expire at the end of the second marking period (January of the following year).

Coming Off a Wait List

When seats become available, students will be assigned from wait lists based on round applied, the assignment priorities, and random numbers. 

From mid-March through mid-August, as seats become available, children are automatically moved off the wait list into their chosen school. Families receive notification about their new school assignment with a letter sent in the mail.

For kindergarteners after mid-August, if a space becomes available at a school with a wait list, families on the wait lists are contacted in order. Families have 24 hours to decide if they want to attend the school. Families are contacted only at the phone numbers they listed on their registration form. This process continues into the school year through January as seats become available.

For students in grades 1 through 12, if a space becomes available at a school with a wait list, families on the wait list are contacted from mid-August through the end of September.

After September, families are only contacted about transferring schools where they are wait-listed after marking periods (mid to late November and late January). Families have 24 hours to decide if they want to attend the school and families are contacted only at the phone numbers they have listed on their registration form.

All lists, regardless of grade, expire at the end of the second marking period (January of the following year).


If your child is already enrolled in the Boston Public Schools and you want to enroll in a different school next year, you may apply for a transfer. For the best chance of receiving approval for your transfer request, apply during the first opportunity for your child's grade level:

  • Kindergarten, grades 6, and 9: Apply during the first registration period.
  • All other grades: Apply during the second registration period.
  • You may apply for a transfer in later registration periods, but your chances of having the request approved decrease the longer you wait. All transfer requests received within each registration period are processed together.

Families also may apply to change schools during the current school year. Requests received by September 30 will be processed as they are received. Requests received after September 30 will be processed in two batches: mid-November and late January. Regardless of when you apply, we can’t guarantee your transfer request will be approved.
School Committee policy limits the number of times students may transfer to a different school:

  • Elementary School: Once per year in kindergarten–grade 5
  • Middle School: Only once in grades 6–8
  • High School: Only once in grades 9–12