About the project


Metro North Boston



About us



Boston Public Schools District statistics

144 schools in the district.

6 Early Learning Centers (K-Grade 1).

61 Elementary Schools (K-5).

17 Elementary & Middle Schools (K-8).

17 Middle Schools (6-8).

1 Middle & High School (6-12).

30 High Schools (9-12).

3 "Exam" Schools (7-12).

6 Special Education Schools (K-12).

3 alternative (at-risk) programs. Of these, 18 are pilot schools (1 early learning center, 3 elementary, 4 K-8, 2 middle, 8 high).

2 high schools are Horace Mann charter schools approved and funded by the BPS; and 1 high school is a Commonwealth pilot school.

Projected SY08 enrollment is 56,190 (a decrease of 580 from SY07), including: 25,430 students in kindergarten–grade 5.

11,890 students in grades 6-8; 18,870 students in grades 9-12.

Source: "BPS At a Glance 2007-08"

Rise in autistic children puts strain on programs’ budget

Melmark helps autistic students, but their services are in high demand.



Photo: Ann Guay








BOSTON – A 750 percent increase in autistic children in Boston Public Schools since 1996 is creating new challenges for the system in responding to No Child Left Behind mandates.

Ann Guay, a policy analyst for Massachusetts Advocates for Children, knows the challenges that an autistic child has in a public school setting. Her 13-year-old son, Brian, has autism.

He goes to Melmark New England, a year-round program for autistic children, and Guay says that the most ideal situation would have been to educate Brian in Bedford, Mass, where they live. Among the drawbacks for putting a child in a specialized program includes cost; Melmark costs over $80,000 per year. And its services are in high demand.

Andrew Schlesinger, Melmark’s coordinator of program services, said the waiting time varies for a family. He said the school holds a maximum of 108 students yet 120 have applied since last April. Schlesinger says there are students from Boston in the school but could not say how many. For every teacher, there are six students, Schlesinger said. Those who don’t get in are placed on a waiting list. Guay says it took Brian six to eight months to get into the program.

What worries Schlesinger the most is the discrepancy in services that children receive, depending on where the child lives. He’s not discounting the difficulties districts face with declining aid but says there’s more they can do to help autistic children be on a level playing field.

“One way schools can deal with the issue is by hiring consultants and build their own program appropriate for autistic kids in a public school setting,” Schlesinger said. “It’s a different way of teaching – it’s not something where you can hire a teacher and an extra room. Schools, he said, have to “start from scratch and really be involved in it.”

Boston Public Schools’ Chief Financial Officer John McDonough acknowledged the district has seen an increase in the degree and cost of helping students with autism and other special needs. The district is also seeing higher costs associated with educating English Language Learners (ELL). Despite the increase, McDonough pledged both groups would receive the resources necessary to achieve proficiency.

“We’ve made specific investments in this budget to provide for additional direct services to those students whose native language is not English,” McDonough said. “We have an obligation – both a legal obligation as well as a moral obligation – in order to meet the needs of those students.”

Parents play a key role in getting the right help and the right education for children with autism and other special needs. Guay advises parents to read up on the autism and education methods that work.

“As parents it’s very devastating to be told your child has autism. My suggestion is to channel your sadness and figure out how best to help your child and help your family adjust to this new setting,” Guay said.

Schlesinger advises parents to be good advocates for themselves, if they are in school districts with no resources.

They have to do whatever is necessary to help their child,” Schlesinger said. “It makes a huge difference in the outcome and the quality of life of the child and who they will be as adults.”