A Study Looks at Massachusetts’ Suburban Busing Program

Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno:

Massachusetts’ METCO program (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) enables about 3,300 students who live in Boston and Springfield to attend opportunity-rich suburban schools. Since the vast majority of the students in METCO are either African American or Latino and most suburban districts remain overwhelmingly white, METCO fulfills two goals: it creates a degree of racial and ethnic diversity and provides students who’d otherwise attend challenged school districts the opportunity to attend schools with reputations for rigor and excellence.
METCO is one of eight voluntary interdistrict school desegregation programs in the United States and the second longest-running program of its kind. This paper describes the structure and history of METCO and summarizes what is known about the academic achievement and experiences of students who participate in the program. We argue that given METCO’s generally positive track record, its enduring popularity and the well-established benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in schools, educational leaders should seriously consider expanding METCO, should provide more incentives to suburban districts to participate and should conduct more rigorous, transparent analyses of the program.