BPS could replace ISEE for deciding who gets into exam schools

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Lower the bar

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So they're trying to make it so less qualified kids get accepted. That's going to water down the exam school with students who don't belong there.

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No

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Read the whole article. Many minority kids in Boston have issues with the ISEE that have nothing to do with how smart they are or whether they can handle the work at an exam school. I could simply repeat them, but, honestly, the Globe does a good job of explaining why a poor kid from Roxbury might not even take the ISEE or do well on it. Replacing the ISEE with the MCAS, which is also supposed to judge a student's abilities - and which is limited to material that Boston schools actually teach - won't seem like that far a stretch after you read the article.

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We need better technocrats

When the closing quote of the article is from a minister refuting questions about parental involvement in kids' success in schools, this seems doomed to fail. The exam school admission process needs improvement for sure. However, BPS needs to better prepare kids who might be exam school candidates for whatever the admission gauntlet is. I have no faith that this is something the 'reformers' actually care about when ideas like 'top student per zip code' are bandied about. The NAACP and the various ministers (non-Eugene Rivers division) have good intentions but I don't think have any real foundation to propose anything useful so this will devolve to a political football.

BPS administration has zero accountability for system wide failures (beyond Chang getting fired for reasons which were never explained.) There are 20 other high schools which aren't exam schools - they never seem to warrant any discussion about how to improve them. It's ass backwards.

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Well actually..

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The MCAS is beyond easy and is really a low bar baseline test that I liken to the standards of the MA driver's license exam. Using the MCAS would lower the standard in my opinion. The primary purpose of the MCAS is to measure school performance. Some others have echoed this in various discussions on the topic, but the real time and energy needs to be placed in improving the other schools that are underperforming rather than focusing on changing the ways of the few schools that are doing well. It's honestly quite frustrating to see the attention so misplaced.

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ISEE vs MCAS

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The MCAS test is a breeze compared to the ISEE. Mainly, the verbal portion of the exam is much less difficult and much less based upon a knowledge of vocabulary.

The ISEE is actually a very good test for Latin School, since the vocabulary section can be made easier with a working knowledge of Latin prefixes and roots.

With test prep (and I happen to know the finest ISEE tutor east of the Connecticut River), any kid can improve their score on the vocab section.

BPS provides ISEE test prep at Latin School during the summer, but one-on-one tutoring is the best way to prepare.

What is the telos (purpose) of Boston Latin School?

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One on one, you say?

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You've just stumbled onto a key part of the problem: Many kids in West Roxbury can afford that sort of tutorting. Many kids in Roxbury can't. This is part of the "structural racism" that hinders smart minority kids from getting into Boston Latin (nobody's being deliberately racist, and yet the system is set up in a way that makes it harder for a minority kid to advance).

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Screening for families, not students

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Having just been through this process recently, it seems clear to me that the admissions process is screening for committed families, not individual students. I'm not convinced that it's unintentional.

Sure, there are some students who can succeed in the exam schools with no or little support from home, but I don't think it's even close to the majority. BLS and the other exam schools benefit from all this family support tremendously and would have to ramp up their student support a lot (more than peer tutoring) if the system truly could isolate the individual student's achievement. Despite all the nice rhetoric, BLS is still very much sink or swim and they don't much care which it is.

Another question that should be asked is:
Are the exam schools filtering and certifying institutions, or are they transformational educational institutions?

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Prep School

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I'll just say this. To me, it was always understood that the BLS curriculum is meant to prep you for doing well in college (and perhaps afterwards). It is not meant to merely get you through a high school-level education or just to barely make it into university. In order to do that effectively, you need to maintain high standards (using MCAS vs. ISEE would be lowering standards). I am a foreign minority who had no money, tutoring or help from parents (they didn't even speak English). It was proactive hard work that got me through. Those who couldn't handle it or were overwhelmed were eventually weeded out one way or another through the years. Looking back, I would not have it any other way. Their curriculum made college a breeze and it also prepared me for the cut-throat nature of the business world.

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Assuming facts not in evidence

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Adam, you scold Bugs to read the article more closely, but you might want to do so as well.

the Globe does a good job of explaining why a poor kid from Roxbury might not even take the ISEE or do well on it.

No it really doesn't. It implies that paid tutoring gives students from well-to-do families an advantage. This is certainly possible - although anecdotal evidence indicates that the free city-funded ISEE tutoring program (not mentioned in the article btw) does at least as good a job of preparing prospective applicants.

It presents a vague unproven conjecture that minority students have difficulties travelling to test sites on a Saturday - but then immediately notes that this won't be an issue starting next year.

Replacing the ISEE with the MCAS, which is also supposed to judge a student's abilities...

The article points out that the MCAS is not, in fact, designed to test individual student achievement, but is designed to measure school performance.

***

Unfortunately for those trying to find a quick fix to improve exam school diversity, I don't think the problem is an (admittedly imperfect) gateway test. I suspect the issue is not so much any ethnic or racial bias in the testing process, but a more general problem of engaging those families of lower socio-economic means that feel the educational system has not served them well. And I mean engaging from the get-go, at K1, not when their children have almost a decade of schooling behind them already.

The exam schools aren't going to get easier, regardless of whether the entrance test does. We do young scholars no favors if we throw them into the deep end without teaching them how to swim first.

(Btw, if anyone has a link to the Harvard University report mentioned in the article, I'd love to review it.)

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Go West (Roxbury), Young Man

Paid tutoring is an advantage for the ISEE but it's not the only way to have a shot at passing the ISEE.

Blah blah blah families in West Roxbury: Jerry Howland grew up in the Brighton projects. He attended Boston Latin School, then Harvard, and then years came back (out of retirement! Like Jay Z post-"The Black Album") to serve as interim headmaster when BLS was under investigation by the feds.

This narrative that 1) having money/economic privilege 2) working with a paid tutor on ISEE prep... as the only ways a student can gain admission to BPS exams school contributes to the problem/current conundrum.

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What tests measure

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Good point about what the MCAS was designed to measure. The same issue has come up in evaluating teachers, tests designed to measure one thing are being used to measure something else.

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Quibble

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MCAS is presented to parents in their score packets as measuring the kid.

They even have hilarious fake error bars around the scores, which they only recently explained and that anyone trained in stats knows are stupid. If your kid took the test 100 times, that would require repeat measures analysis.

So I'm not sure that the schools are being tested at all - not with the things that have been done to spread out the distributions.

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Get rid of the test

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They should adopt the holistic approach. Grades these days are every bit a result of effort, personality, class participation, and other soft factors as they are performance on tests. Colleges are increasingly placing emphasis on applications, essays, and extra curriculars over SATs.

This all makes sense. Success in life is mainly determined by whether people like you and want you to succeed. People get jobs based on resumes and how they come across in job interviews, not IQ. For this reason, it would be more predictive of job success to have Boston Latin applicants put together a resume and be interviewed by a panel. The best BL applicants will go in and yuck it up with the panel, exhibit a firm handshake, and maybe even subtly insult the prior interviewee (ex. "Did you notice the dandruff on the last guy?").

Sure companies like GE and Google still give their applicants logic problems in the interview but that's like 1% of all jobs out there.

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Success in life is mainly

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Success in life is mainly determined by whether people like you and want you to succeed. People get jobs based on resumes and how they come across in job interviews, not IQ.

I take it you've never had to fire a lot of people for being personable yet blitheringly incompetent at their jobs?

I don't give a shit who wins the "nice person" participation trophy. I want someone that knows how to do their job well.

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So only the most personable kids get in?

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I think the effort is to remove barriers not add new ones. Every kid shows strength in different ways. currently BPS uses grades and a test that requires kids to show up at a special time and place, thus disadvantaging kids with transportation challenges or who don't have an engaged, available adult in their lives.

The MCAS is just a different test that they're already taking. Switching tests removes the advantage of families with the money and drive to pay for tutoring or to attend public sessions outside of school (again the transportation and useful adult problem).

The fairness comes when every eligible kid gets the same access to a slot based on their individual merits and not what situation they end up in. It's not perfect, some parents will still pay for tutors but they will be drilling kids on the same stuff they're getting in class.

Using tests and grades are as neutral as our human, under-funded system can manage. Requiring a college style portfolio and additional materials will go back to disadvantaging kids without resources to pay for those things.

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The UT approach

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Accept the top 6% of students from every BPS elementary school.

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Wouldn't help

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If that were the only criteria, then you would have a whole lot of kids transferring into BPS schools in 6th grade thus becoming part of the top 6% and shutting out others chances.

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Top 6% isn’t objective in elementary schools

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And each school, grade, and teacher grade differently with a 1, 2, 3, 4 grading system - 4 being the best. It’s highly subjective and it’s already cutthroat for the last grading period of 5th grade with parents in the know gifting fruit cakes and Amazon gift cards to teachers, hoping they’ll give all 4’s in return. Yes. Known from experience.

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I agree compleetely!

I didn't get my job because of knowlgedable that I had.

LPH got her job based on her resume and how she came across in the job interview. It is rumored that her boss has said her performance in the job interview was the best he has ever had, and her firm work with her hands really sealed the deal !!!

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Best Practices

Boston Public Schools should do a study of Best Practices in exam school admissions. There are around 130 competitive admission public high schools in the US. They have different admissions systems, but many of the same problems.

One suggestion I've heard, though I can't think which city (it might have been NYC, which has a public school demographic of 70% Black and Hispanic, but only around 8% Black and Hispanic in the exam schools) is to tranche admissions by school type.

In many cities, a lot of families send their kids to private elementary schools so they can get a leg up on exam school admissions. That's one of the ways the exam schools end up being whiter than the schools at large - basically, because more white people have private school money. The proposal was to hold competitive admissions within tranches - if X% of the city's kids go to public schools, then X% of exam school seats go to public school kids, and so forth.

I don't know if that'd work in Boston, because sometimes it seems like BPS is doing whatever it can to reduce enrollment.

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Good idea

I don't know if there's available data on where kids come into exam schools from but while certainly some come from Holy Name, etc... don't forget that the Ohrenberger and Kilmer are pretty white as well. I assume there's a similar school over in the whiter parts of Dot.

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Some data

The lawyers' group who stirred the pot a year ago or so released some data:

http://lawyerscom.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ABrokenMirror-ExamSchoo...

For example, about 40% of incoming BLS kids are from private schools (undefined).

Per BPS, 29% of Boston kids (and growing) don't go to public schools - but they're counting charter schools in that group.

https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/cms/lib/MA01906464/Centricity/Domain...

Only about 5% of Boston kids go to parochial schools, and about 5% go to independent schools.

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Comment

Stop cross posting on articles about other subjects.

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Touche

but you should have led with that info.

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Civics.

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Civics via this blog mechanism. A good way to learn more about civics via blogging.

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And they took no action

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But plan to study the issue some more.

Essaibi-George, chairwoman of the education committee, though, said that while dealing with the exam-school issue is important, it shouldn't overwhelm what she said is the real issue: That ALL Boston high schools should be equipping students for success.

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I think it's a shame that

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I think it's a shame that there's hardly any elementary-level gifted education in Boston. The Advanced Work Class program exists at a total of FIVE schools:

Bradley, East Boston
Murphy, Dorchester
Ohrenberger, West Roxbury
Quincy Elementary, Chinatown
Umana, East Boston

And some of these just serve grades 4-5 or 6, rather than 4-6.

Students with lots of family support can overcome this, for example by taking them to museums on weekends, paying for private after school programs, and teaching them at home if the parents have the educational background.

But families with low incomes or other difficult situations depend more on the classroom. Bright children in those situations will have their educations wasted by being stifled in classes that don't challenge them, or where the teachers mostly deal with behavior problems.

We need to provide opportunities for bright students in ALL neighborhoods. If we don't it's no surprise that bright kids in poor neighborhoods or without family support aren't getting into the exam schools.

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That's because AWC is on the way out

There used to be more stands of AWC classes but it was determined to be better to teach to level within standard ed classroom strands.

Of course you could make this same argument about the exam schools but I think it would be hard to suddenly add the concentration of AP classes, etc... across the district without some concentration.

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How was it determined?

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How was it determined?

Dropping the enrichment program is a great way to waste the potential of high-achieving kids.

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ISEE what you did there

I found about the ISEE in 6th grade at the Mccormack Middle School (RIP) and there was a free ISEE prep course for 6th graders. No fancy expensive tutoring...just getting the okay to attend the after school prep course (held at the McCormack).

Every single branch of the Boston Public Library should offer a free ISEE prep course. Start with branches like Egleston Square, Grove Hall, Fields Corner, Copley Square...and offer free food/snacks! Everyone likes to eat.

The ISEE is one issue. BPS exam schools being places that students genuinely want to attend is another. Maybe some kind of peer mentor program would be helpful for students? Let students shadow students at BLA, BLS, O'Bryant & build friendships...ones that last even if the mentee isn't admitted to a BPS exam school.

I recall students who would later become my BLS schoolmates divulging how they selected "C" as their answers on the ISEE in order to thwart their chances of admission. Maybe they were joking/misrepresenting their experiences...but they still managed to get admitted to exam schools.

Seeing some studies on the transfer rate of BPS exam schools, particularly Boston Latin School, would be fascinating. I've run into some former Latin School classmates. Two of them were in construction...which would suggest that vocational education would have been more helpful to them than taking 6 years of Latin only to not be able to read their high school diploma...written almost entirely in Latin.

Lastly: remember that Ben Franklin dropped out of Boston Latin School, got into the trades, and received his education through being an avid reader. BPS exam schools can provide excellent opportunities for students but they are not the only was to ensure student success.

In fact, all BPS students would benefit from vocational education integrated into their learning.

I speak from experience: earning Magna Cum Laude on the National Latin Exam has not put any money into my pocket.

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