History and Purpose
The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) is a state-funded educational program designed to eliminate racial imbalance through the busing of children from Boston and Springfield to public school systems in surrounding suburban metropolitan communities.
The initiative for the Program can be traced to the concern for quality education in the Black community, spearheaded by the Boston Chapter of the NAACP. In 1963, the NAACP's Education Committee challenged the Boston School Committee on educational policies, including the racial imbalance of the schools. Subsequently, legislation was filed making racial imbalance illegal. School systems were penalized by having State appropriations withdrawn until suitable plans to alleviate racial isolation were approved by the State Department of Education. The Boston Public Schools were among the entities penalized. During this time, too, suburban residents realized that their children were also inadequately educated because of racial isolation. This combination of concerns and legislative action resulted in the establishment of the METCO Program.
In September 1966, the school committees of Arlington, Braintree, Brookline, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, and Wellesley elected to be the initial participants in this unique plan. The school systems determined the number of children they would enroll, and which grades they would include. A total of 220 children from Boston's African American communities of Roxbury and the South End were enrolled as pupils in these seven suburban communities.
Many groups within the Newton community, including the citywide P.T.A. Council, Newton Fair Housing Committee, League of Women Voters, Roxbury-Newton Freedom School, the historically black Myrtle Baptist Church and many individuals officially supported the unanimous vote of the Newton School Committee to participate in METCO. The Newton METCO Program began with 50 African American students in grades three through six, attending seven different schools in Newton.
The METCO Program Today
The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) is a state-funded educational program designed to eliminate racial imbalance through the busing of children from Boston and Springfield to public systems in surrounding suburban metropolitan communities.
The METCO Program is open to all children of African American, Latino, Asian and Native American descent who reside in the City of Boston and volunteer to participate.
The Newton METCO Program is comprised of a diverse group of students from broad ethnic, cultural, economic and religious backgrounds possessing a range of educational strengths and needs. Newton's METCO program is the largest, maintaining a targeted enrollment of 415 students (within five percent.) Students are enrolled in all 21 schools, in Kindergarten through Grade 12.
How is the METCO Program Funded?
The METCO Program is funded by the State of Massachusetts through the Department of Education under the Racial Imbalance Law. Funding includes the cost of student transportation, anti-racist materials and training, program initiatives which enhance academic achievement, cross-cultural presentations and salaries for the Newton METCO Program staff. The City of Newton also receives funds calculated to cover the cost of teachers. Each year the Newton METCO Director prepares the budget proposal. This proposal is presented to the Newton Public Schools Superintendent and School Committee and approved by the State Department of Education.
Newton METCO Staff
Newton METCO staffing includes a Director, Secondary & Elementary Counselors, Executive Secretary and Elementary & Middle school Bus Monitors. Staff members are employees of the Newton Public Schools and members of the respective bargaining units.
The Director oversees the operation of the Program as well as consulting with principals, school staff, and parents regarding students. The Director also supervises and evaluates staff, and manages the Newton METCO transportation contract.
The primary role of the Secondary Counselors is to work with Boston students in grades six through twelve. They serve as advocate and a resource for academic, emotional and social development for students, and provide support to parents and school staff. They along with the METCO Director may also serve as a resource to school-based personnel in developing, implementing or modifying a child's educational program. The Executive Secretary is responsible for assisting the Director, METCO staff, and parents with the operation of the Newton METCO Program. On a daily basis the Transportation Aide maintains the transportation contract and provides assistance to the bus monitors. The Elementary Bus Monitors supervise the Boston students while riding on the bus. The METCO staff also assists students and their families with logistics, which result from the unique experience of attending school in a suburban community.
How Do Children Enter the Newton METCO Program?
The placement process begins with parents registering their child at METCO, Inc. in Boston. Since the METCO, Inc. waiting list is very long, many parents register their children before their first birthday and update their information on a yearly basis. When seats become available in a participating school system, METCO, Inc. refers students on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date the child was registered.
The Newton METCO Program primarily places students in Kindergarten through grade three based on space availability, class sizes and the total amount of Boston students already enrolled in that grade. The Director of the Newton METCO Program works with the Newton elementary principals and school administration to determine the number of seats available for Boston students in each of the elementary schools. Although there are no income guidelines for participation in the METCO Program, parents and students go through an extensive placement process, including students being assessed academically to plan the best placement, parent interviews, and attendance at mandatory workshops and orientations. Siblings of students already in the Newton METCO Program will be considered for placement provided their parents have continued to demonstrate support for the Newton Public Schools, the Newton METCO Program and for their child presently in the Program. However, placement in the same elementary school for a sibling can not be guaranteed.
Once a student enters the Newton METCO Program they exercise all of the rights, privileges, and services of Newton resident students provided they maintain the expectations of the Newton Public Schools and Newton METCO Program.
The Newton Public Schools is solely responsible for the student's overall educational development. Families of the Newton METCO Program are expected to attend a minimum of two parent-teacher conferences, all back-to-school events, and school programs in which their children participate. They are required to attend four of six Newton METCO Parents’ Council meetings in order to get important information concerning the Newton Public Schools and the Newton METCO Program as well as to develop a support network. Finally, parents are encouraged to participate in school-based parent-teacher organizations and other committees at their children's schools. These expectations are outlined to prospective parents during the placement process and each year to all the Newton METCO families.
The cooperative work of Boston and Newton residents and the staff of the Newton Public Schools advances the purposes of the METCO Program: to obtain a quality education and provide a more diverse cultural experience for all students attending school in Newton.