Boston Public Schools bus scheduling
Occurred: December 2017
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
Purpose: Improve student academic performance; Reduce costs
Technology: Scheduling algorithm
Issue: Bias/discrimination - income, race; Scope creep/normalisation
Transparency: Governance; Black box
INFORMS (2019). Optimized School Bus Routing Helps School Districts Design Better Policies
Ito J. (2018) What the Boston schools schedule can teach us about AI
Ito J., Crockford K. (2017). Don't blame the algorithm for doing what Boston school officials want
Boston Public Schools (2017). 2018-2019 School Bell Times Equity Impact (pdf)
Boston Public Schools (2017). Important letter from Inspector Chang on start and end times
Boston Public Schools (2017). MIT's Quantum team wins first-ever BPS transportation challenge with revolutionary new computer model
Bertsimas D., Delarue A., Eger W., Hanlon J., Martin S. (2020). Bus routing optimization helps boston public schools design better policies
Boston Teachers Union (2018). What the Boston School Bus Schedule Can Teach Us About AI
Petition (2017). Stop immediate changes on school start times in Boston
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Published: April 2023