Boston Public Schools bus scheduling

Occurred: December 2017

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Boston Public Schools received criticism for implementing a schools scheduling algorithm intended to benefit students whilst keeping costs at bay, but which was seen to ignore the needs and requirements of its students and their families, and unfairly discriminate against lower-income stakeholders.

Developed by a Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT) team in response to a public competition, the algorothm recommended times at which students would be picked up in the morning and dropped off later in the day on the basis of a variety of factors such as student equity, economic, health, and academic performance issues.

But some mostly-white, middle-class parents and students reacted strongly against the proposed changes, that saw an earlier pick-up of 7.15am selected, despite the majority of parents choosing a later time of 8-8.30am. Under presssure, Boston Public Schools withdrew the algorithm for a year. 

Updated and reintroduced, the algorithm is said to have saved Boston Public Schools USD 5 million. 

Operator: Boston Public Schools  
Developer: Boston Public Schools; Sébastien Martin; Arthur Delarue

Country: USA

Sector: Education

Purpose: Improve student academic performance; Reduce costs

Technology: Scheduling algorithm
Issue: Bias/discrimination - income, race; Scope creep/normalisation

Transparency: Governance; Black box


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