It’s about 7:30 AM, and Morgan and Ian White are biding time in their South Boston living room. They’re waiting for their bus to the Henderson K-12 Inclusion School in Dorchester — and pondering the future.
Asked if they plan to stay at the Henderson through 12th grade, they answer yes — but then add a significant caveat.
"Unless we can go to BLS," Morgan, who's in 5th grade, tells me, referring to Boston Latin School, the most prestigious of the city's three exam schools. "If we [can] go to BLS...we're going."
But when they're out the door and the bus pulls away, their mom, Anna White, makes it clear she’s got some misgivings about that plan.
Listen to Adam's debrief with Barbara Howard on All Things Considered.


"With my first child, we were very, 'Is he on the track for an exam school?'" White says. "And a teacher at the Josiah Quincy [School] said, 'Look, he’s definitely on that track, but in BPS the weakest teachers tend to be placed with the strongest kids. So if you want the best, most creative, most groundbreaking, innovative teaching, that track might not be the way to go.' And those words have resonated."

When I spoke with another BPS mom, she talked trade-offs, too.

As middle school approached, Baker had new reservations about her son's path. Looking back, she says she "just didn’t feel great about my options."

The state of Boston's public schools has been discussed at length in the mayor's race. Mayor Marty Walsh tends to emphasize the system's successes, including an unprecedented high school graduation rate, expansion of the school day and kindergarten programming, and a steadily increasing budget. His challenger, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, has been focused on shortcomings: he says too many schools lack nurses and guidance counselors, and the growth in system-wide funding has masked damaging cutbacks in certain areas.