What Is the Home-Based Assignment Policy (HBAP)?


Boston Public Schools (BPS), like many other urban school districts, uses a school assignment policy—rather than a neighborhood policy—to determine where students will attend school. It is important to understand that when you register your child for BPS they are not necessarily guaranteed to attend a school located in your “neighborhood.” 

The Move to HBAP

The current system, called the Home-Based Assignment Policy (HBAP), has been in effect since the 2014-2015 school year. This system replaced the previous BPS assignment policy known as 3-Z, where the city of Boston was divided into three different zones. In the old 3-Z assignment model, students were only eligible to attend schools in the zone in which they lived. 

According to BPS, HBAP tries to balance how far students and their families must travel to attend school, while trying to ensure all students across the city have access to high quality schools.

Comparison Map of Boston Public Schools Assignment Policies 3 Zone HBAP

Images courtesy of Boston Public Schools.


How BPS Assigns Students with HBAP

Students are assigned to schools using a computer algorithm developed by BPS. 

  1. When registering your child for BPS, the algorithm takes into account your home address and the quality of schools closest to your home. If you have a sibling already attending a school, you receive preference and your child has a much higher chance of being placed at the same school as their sibling. 

  2. Families are provided a “choice basket” of schools for each student. 

  3. Families rank their school preferences from within their choice basket. 

  4. If there are not enough seats at a school for every student that wants to attend, admission for those seats is determined by a random lottery. Again, siblings are given preference in that lottery, but you must still register each child separately, and on time.

Unless your child has an older sibling, there are no guarantees that you will be placed at the school you want. We encourage all families to build their own choice baskets that consider all of your school options. Click here to launch our School Finder tool.


Special Considerations

Special Education & English Language Learners (ELL)

In some cases, if a student requires Special Education support or English Language Learner (ELL) services, they will be placed by the district directly into a school with programs that can meet those needs, outside of the general lottery process. See our Special Education and English Language Learner resources guides for more information.

Sibling Priority

If you have an older child in a BPS school and wish your younger child to enter that same school, BPS gives preference to siblings. You then have a significantly higher chance that your younger child will be placed in the same school as their older sibling. 

Accepting a Seat

Registering for BPS, entering the charter lottery, and applying to private schools does not require you to take a seat at any accepted school. You are able to accept and decline seats offered to your child in each process, without penalty. For this reason, Boston School Finder encourages families to consider all of your available school options: you can always decline a seat you receive, but you cannot decline a seat you do not have. 

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