Are Analytics the key to solving inequity in Busing?

Some lessons are worth saying twice… maybe even three times!
A few hours before the Data for Black Lives Conference official began 50 plus education activists from around the country and across generations discussed the ways big data has impacted public education in the black communities. Below is a synthesis of their analysis. 

Rather than typing a direct transcript of everyone's statements I've written a series of post discussing the primary themes that came about during my facilitation, following my presentation on Big Data for Education Justice (View Deck).

The structure of each post:

  • Observations – A synthesis of notes from a discussion on the current structures that exist in education and how big data has impacted education.
  • Recommendation – Based on existing interventions brought up during our discussion and frameworks being implemented by activist in the room.
  • Implications – Broader ideas of how we see big data’s role in public education should evolve.

Data types we discussed:

Quick definitions
  • Administrative Datainformation captured at the school level that has to do with the schools ecosystem. This data includes metrics that measure achievement, demographics, and engagement.
  • Resource Data – Any information that relates to funding, budget and how money is allocated.
  • Click Stream Data – the capturing of mouse movements and keystrokes, used to learn patterns about human behavior.

Observations, a Tale of Two Cities’ Attempt to address Structural Racism

Primary Data Type | Resource Data

Boston Public Schools’ failure to implement more equitable bus routes resonated with many activists who understand the racial politics of busing.

We discussed how BPS’s partnership with MIT flopped, due to its lack of parent support. Similar to my post on predictive analytics in schools, this project never established a collaborative partnership with parents, who saw the 85% change in school start times as untenable.

Our Boston based participates cited this failure as a trend. One mentioning A plan in Boston in 2009  attempted to bring bus rapid transit to the 28 line, a project known as “28X.” The state failed to win support from leaders, activists, and merchants in neighborhoods.

In October, recently elected Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke at the Dukakis Center Convenes Forum on Public Transportation Inequality in Boston, stating “that African American people who use the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system have longer commute times than white riders, and spend 66 more hours per year waiting for and riding buses than white riders.”

Pressley, like many at our workshop understood that riding the bus is often the only option for low-income minorities. She ends with a familiar point.

“People close to the pain are the ones that need to be involved in creating the solution,” 

Sound familiar?


1) The communities that will most be impacted by data-driven interventions need to be part of the design and implementation process.

* Note: this lesson is so important it deserves two post.*

The work in NYC led to the “Select Bus service in the Bronx spurred by advocacy among local groups and coordination between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs buses and trains, and the city Department of Transportation, which controls streets, curbs, and traffic lights. 

While this program has not solved all the transportation equity issues in New York it has been around for nearly a decade and has made things better for those who rely on public transit.

Implication for Officials:

There’s no algorithm to build trust. You can’t build consensus with billboards and op-eds. I can’t speak for what citizens in Boston are asking for, but I can cite the creative work of the team behind Envision Cambridge. This team spent 2016 researching and LISTENING TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS asking their opinion on new city planning. Transportation journalist Rachel Kaufman wrote about their efforts. While it’s not exactly the same challenge the lesson are translatable. Article linked below:

Cambridge Is Working on an Inclusive City Road Map

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: