METCO Merits More: The History and Status of METCO

Alicia Goldberg

Since 1966, the Metropolitan Council for
Educational Opportunity (METCO) program has been busing students from Boston
and Springfield, MA to quality schools in suburbs that volunteer to
participate. Today, the program now links 3,300 students—most low-income and
minority—with thirty-seven receiving districts. This white paper from Boston’s Pioneer
Institute and the Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard assesses
the effectiveness of METCO and offers recommendations to expand it. Overall, the
authors find that METCO students consistently beat their peers in Boston and Springfield
on state tests. Further, 93 percent of METCO students graduate on time (30
percentage points higher than the Boston or Springfield average) and 90 percent go on to
post-secondary education. In light of these successes, Pioneer recommends
increased state funding for the program (as well as district reimbursements and
competitive grants for participation) and the expansion of METCO to other urban
districts in the Bay State. Regrettably, the authors’ analyses of the program’s
effectiveness can’t control for student motivation, parent income or education,
or selection bias. It will be up to legislators on Beacon Hill to decide
whether these promising—but less than “gold standard”—findings warrant an
additional investment.

Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno, “METCO Merits More: The History and Status of METCO
(Boston, M.A.: The Pioneer Institute, 2011).