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Boston to get examless exam schools for one year

Boston School Committee and School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius

Student member Khymani James speaks during School Committee discusion early this morning.

Update: School Committee chairman resigns over "hot-mic" comments.

The Boston School Committee voted unanimously early this morning to suspend the use of an exam to decide who gets into the city's three exam schools for the next year because of a raft of problems brought up by the Covid-19 pandemic, in a meeting that lasted more than 8 1/2 hours.

The committee approved a system in which the first 20% of seats at Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the O'Bryant School of Mathematics are offered to Boston students with the highest pre-Covid grades in BPS, charter, private and religious schools. The remaining 80% would be offered in rounds based on grades in individual Zip codes, starting with those Zip codes with the lowest median incomes for families with at least one child under 18 - an effort to help low-income students whose families have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19.

The change would apply to sixth graders and eighth graders applying for seats at the three schools and ninth graders applying for the O'Bryant.

Members of the working group that developed the proposal and Mayor Walsh emphasized the physical dangers of forcing students to come into a school to take a standardized test in the middle of a pandemic and with the growing divide the pandemic has exposed between well off white students and black and Hispanic students in poorer neighborhoods as reasons to suspend the exam for the current school year.

Working-group and School Committee members said the vote could lead to more permanent steps that both increase minority representation in the student bodies of the three schools - in particular Boston Latin School - while leading to moves to improve the quality of the city's non-exam schools. School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius plans to make bolstering non-exam high schools a priority in her budget recommendations for the coming fiscal year.

"We need to take action in an effort to actually show our community and our nation this city is ready to move on" from decades of racism, School Committee Chairman Michael Loconto said, calling the vote "the proudest moment I've had in my 18 years in public service."

The committee voted 6-1 for steps that will include letting the working group that came up with the new policy to continue its work to find ways to more permanently increase minority representation at the exam school and to look for money to pay for extra out-of-class programs for exam-school students next year to help them adapt to their new schools. Member Hardin Coleman voted against the motion because he feels BPS needs to focus on improving all the city's high schools, not just the three exam schools.

During more than seven hours of public testimony, even some parents who said they supported greater racial equity in BPS urged the committee to postpone the vote so that they could have more time to consider the algorithms the working group used to come up with its proposal. They were joined by City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (at large), who said the committee was prematurely approving a system without looking at such issues as grade discrepancies both among BPS schools and between BPS and private schools.

But other parents - joined by City Councilors Kim Janey (Roxbury), Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Roslindale and Mattapan), Julia Mejia (at large) and Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) - urged that BPS take this step, not just because of Covid-19, but because it was past time to start dealing with the residue of Boston racism that has consistently handicapped minority students when it comes to the exam schools.

Several white parents, from neighborhoods such as West Roxbury and Roslindale, said they favored the move, even if it might make it harder for their children to get into an exam school.

Lynn Burke of Roslindale, who has a daughter in the sixth grade at the Curley School in Jamaica Plain - so somebody whom the change could directly affect - said she hopes her daughter gets into an exam school, but if she doesn't, it would be a lesson for her, that "for first time in her life the door may not swing open for her simply because of the accident of her birth."

Working-group member, and former Superintendent and BLS Headmaster, Michael Contompasis, said even just a one-year policy aimed at increasing diversity at the exam schools could lead to more permanent change. "We have seen over the years that having students of different backgrounds interchanging on a daily basis far improves what we as educators are able to do."

Although white West Roxbury parents organized much of the initial opposition to the proposal, most of the opposition in the testimony during the meeting came from Chinese-American parents, in particular in Chinatown, who said the Zip-code system was biased against them and called on the School Committee to stick with an exam, which they said could be safely given in a large space, such as the Hynes Auditorium or South Boston convention center.

Jiexia Chen said she and other parents had invested heavily - both in time and in money - to get their children ready for an exam school. Now, she said, Chinatown kids would think they couldn't get into an exam school because they're in the wrong Zip code, while kids in other Zip codes would get in without any such hard work.

Some Chinatown parents specifically blamed Black and Hispanic parents of not doing as much as them to help their kids get into the exam schools. Jingsong Cao said the test is not biased, but objective and that eliminating it could lead to "socialism and probably Communism." Sum Tan called exams "a pure reflection of talent and effort."

Derun Li said that, like Martin Luther King, he too has a dream, that one day children will be judged "not by the color and Zip code, but by the content of their character, hard work and dedication."

But Hieu Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American junior at Boston Latin School, urged the committee to suspend the exam. He said it was "outrageous" to try to force students to risk contracting a potentially fatal disease taking an entrance exam and that opening the schools to more minority students would at least provide a Band-Aid for the systemic racism they have long faced.

Kathleen Adams, who said "I am from West Roxbury and I will not apologize for that," said the proposal "smacks of favoritism and backroom deals and promises," and said it's just not fair that her daughter got into BLS with no problem a year ago, but now her son, in sixth grade, could have problems. And she said using Zip codes is itself a form of discrimination, because all Zip codes have been hit hard by Covid-19, not just poor ones.

Lauren Kelly Trimble, who has three kids in BPS, said the vote was unfair because parents were not given detailed background info on how the system would work or enough time to even consider the idea. "You're asking for us to sacrifice for others but refuse to meet us halfway and thoroughly vet your proposals," she said.

Following testimony from roughly 150 people, committee members discussed the proposal before voting.

Lorna Rivera, who has a child at the Lyndon School blased the "self righteousness" of e-mail she got that accused BPS of working to drive out the very families that made the city what it is today. "Whose city are we talking about here?" she asked. Are "black and brown residents" not also making the city what it is today. She said the proposal doesn't go far enough. "White students will continue to benefit from 32% of the seats," she said. "It's not a huge change for Asian and white families."

And like Coleman, she said BPS has to do more to uplift all its high schools. And pointing to Boston Latin School's $60-million endowment, she said BPS needs to ensure "all our schools receive the funding they need.;

Jeri Robinson said that at the heart of the matter, "even though we were talking about three schools, it really felt like we were talking about one school" - Boston Latin. "We're failing significant numbers of our students by focusing on one school."

Quoc Tran, the one Asian-American member of the School Committee, began by saying he heard Asian-American parents "loud and clear" and that he is there for them. But as a lawyer who has spent considerable time on civil-rights matters and that one thing he had learned from anti-discrimination legal efforts is that they need to "remediate past practices" - and that's why he voted for suspending the exam., because it's time to start dealing with how other minority families have long been dealt with by BPS, to "take a step back and share those benefits with others."

Michael O'Neill said that while he approved the change, he does have some concerns, such as the way the use of Zip codes might harm poor families who happen to live in Zip codes with high family median incomes.

Alexandra Oliver Davila said she hopes the vote will lead to efforts to help other Boston high schools. "If we spent this much energy on those struggling schools, perhaps they wouldn't be so struggling," she said, adding that, like River, she, too was offended by some of the e-mail she got, suggesting the change would lead to some sort of rigor deficit at the exam schools.

Loconto apologized twice during the meeting. He apologized to sixth graders and their parents for the extra stress the change could mean for them.

And he apologized for the point during the meeting when it appeared he was making fun of certain ethnic names. He said he wasn't, that he was talking to somebody in his house about a particular book for a moment when he thought he was on mute, only it turned out he wasn't, but that it had nothing to do with the meeting. He did not name the book.

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Plenty of nice mailing addresses, er, homes, in 02121 to go around.

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Voting closed 26

Where's the best collection of three year old Boston Resident Parking Stickers?

It's a tie between the Hingham Ferry Lot, a soccer game in Winchester, and along Humphrey Street in Marblehead on a Saturday.

I've had two people this week ask me about some suburban towns and their schools. They both have pre-K kids and live in the city. They however see the repeated clown show that is BPS and are voting with their feet.

They are not leaving because of Covid. They are leaving because they see poor schools. They leave because they try to get involved and run into inertia from the schools and teachers.

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Voting closed 49

Maybe their departure will free up some badly needed family housing for the rest of us to live in.

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Voting closed 11

Well first this has been happening for a long time. You buy a condo or even a multi family in Boston (very expensive to do that now but was done by even single income families up until the 1990s), and then when you have kids and need more space and know your kids don't need a lottery for a good school, you sell your condo (keep your multifamily to rent out) and move to the suburbs where you have more room, a yard, and schools that don't require a lottery. You also get to make some money on your original condo for a good down payment.

This has been going on since the 1970s.

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Voting closed 11

It's interesting to research an area as a new residence and what is printed vs discriminatory reality. If families aren't able to experience a healthy community and can choose a diversive and welcoming one the outcome automatically produces members who will compliment their surroundings. The effervescence is contagious. Similar to what is affecting America today.
Forecasting for domestic stability wi be the forefront of 2021.

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Voting closed 3

Thank you for hanging in there and reporting all these details! It was a long night and I stopped at around 10 pm. So glad for this vote and hope it helps move things in the right direction. But Coleman and Rivera are right that there is so much work to do to improve all of our schools and make them places where any kid can avail themselves of the resources that exam schools possess.

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Voting closed 32

Wow look at the body language of this motley crew,

Can you define the nonverbal communication of each individual?

What exactly do you think their body languages are conveying?

If you could add words to the body language what do you think each of them would be saying?

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Voting closed 6

It's 1 a.m., we've been in this meeting since 5 p.m. yesterday and we're exhausted.

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Voting closed 41

a master class in asking the exact same question three times in a row.

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Voting closed 7

If you want to go to Boston Latin and take 3-5 AP courses (or any school that has AP courses it shouldn't matter where), then go ahead. If you can't handle AP work, you don't get to go to that school. If you try BLS and can't do the work, go to another school (the school should easily be able to tell this as the AP system has exams no matter what). The rest of the State and the "top" schools (Dover-Sherborn, Acton-Boxboro) have all of that in one place, while Boston decided to just have different schools for each.

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Voting closed 21

Guaranteed.
Too much homework, why are we teaching a dead language... etc.

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Voting closed 55

Over a century BPS went from successfully teaching first generation immigrant children fluent English, Greek, and Latin on top of a full academic curriculum of history, math, literature, and science to participation trophies. Great job administrators, judges, and politicians!

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Voting closed 15

Because at least as of four years ago, BLS at least was still teaching kids Latin and they could still take Greek and that's not going to change next year. And it's still going to be a Harvard feeder school.

But that's not really your issue, is it?

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Voting closed 15

The next step could be to make the exam schools better: either drag BLS kicking and screaming out of the fifties, or focus on bringing another school up to 21st century excellence. Study the successes of other cities’ selective public schools, like Stuyvesant, High Tech High, and Thomas Jefferson, and figure out what would have to be done to have a school that good in Boston. BLS has been resting on its laurels too long, and the legend of its past greatness is used as an excuse for the whole system to fall ever farther behind.

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Voting closed 26

I wouldn't call what NYC has been doing the past few years to destroy their exam schools and launch pogroms examples of what Boston should be doing. If anything Boston should be running away screaming with its hair on fire away from any bad ideas coming out of New York lately.

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Voting closed 23

Because you stink of excrement.

You keep ranting on about grass is greener schools yet what they are doing is exactly what Latin does; trains the smart kids to succeed. Welcome to life. The cream rises.

When the average SAT score is 1363 at BLS (2019), 1119 at O'B, and 1192 at BLA, somebody is doing something right on Ave. Louis Pasteur. The average score in all of BPS was 987. Take out the three exam scores and whatever that average is, means BPS is not, um, good. Not good at all.

Resting on laurels? You get the laurel for winning, not participating.

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Voting closed 43

Or it could be that selecting students based on their standardized test scores guarantees they will perform well on a standardized test?

I went to BLA, that school isn't doing anything particularly special, its just preselected students who test well.

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Voting closed 16

If the truth smells like excrement to you, it's no wonder you're so ignorant.

No, the other schools I bring up aren't doing exactly what Latin is doing. They're educating kids well for the 21st century, with a heavy helping of math and science. Latin is just skimming the best-testing kids out of the district, flogging them with busywork for six years, and then bragging that they are still the best-testing kids in the district when they graduate. That's not progress.

Please remember the facts cited here previously: forty percent of the kids at BLS didn't come from BPS. So it's apples and oranges to begin with comparing them to other BPS kids. Only 30% of Boston kids don't go to public school, and about half of those go to charter schools. So BLS has a higher concentration of privately schooled seventh graders than the city as a whole.

Bearing that in mind, if you really want to brag about the outgoing SAT scores of the highly selected and winnowed BLS grads, they're not much to brag about. They are the third in the state, and how do they compare with other cities' selective schools?

https://brainly.com/insights/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/infographic_2-sc...

They're not on the list. Nowhere near the list. And this is only public schools. You know who is on the list? Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, at almost a hundred points higher than BLS.

Other folks are talking about the exam schools being great because of all the AP classes. Well, AP tests don't do you much good unless you pass them, and BLS' passing rate is not terribly good, even compared only with other Massachusetts schools. Lots of tests taken, sure, but the passing rate is behind thirty-nine other public schools here.

https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/ap_part.aspx

Are the teachers of all those failing kids doing a good job? Or are they pushing them into tests they can't pass to juke some stats?

Face it, the reality is that BLS is an okay school, but not a great school anymore. When you go into the auditorium, and look up at all those prestigious names adorning the frieze – Franklin, Emerson, Bernstein, Adams, Hancock, Santayana, etc., consider for a moment that few of them would go to Boston Latin as it is today, because all of them would have better choices now.

Yes, John. Laurels are something you get for winning. And Boston Latin hasn't won any for decades, which is why they are now sitting on them. It would be great for the kids of the city if we had a school that was truly competitive.

Also, Johnny, we are all participating in that MWRA COVID study. Do you really not know how sewage systems work?

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Voting closed 15

So you want to talk about the other selective public schools?

Stuyvesant: 74% Asian-American (2018)
Thomas Jefferson: 71.5% Asian-American (2019)

Noticing a pattern here? But right now, the BPS exam-less system is projected (by BPS itself) to lower the percentage of Asian-Americans in exam schools from 21% to a mere 16%. In theory, this would make Boston even worse off compared to NYC and Northern Virginia.

To talk about the 1950s: the 25% reduction in the enrollment of Asian-Americans reeks of 1950s discrimination, with McCarthyism, the Red Scare about USSR and Red China, and all that.

Yes, High Tech High is substantially more diverse, but that's because it's lottery-based rather than exam-based. Also, it's both a "public charter" and a "non-traditional" curriculum school, with individualized project-based learning. Besides the fact that many BPS buildings are crumbling and can't accommodate all these projects, we all know the BTU isn't going to like such changes... So no comparison there.

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Voting closed 23

Stuyvesant is really not the example to use here! Recently they had fewer than 10 Black students invited to begin the year. I don't think that's what anyone here wants. Though we could look to NY's Discovery program to see how the school system preps younger kids- for free- to get into the specialized high schools.

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Voting closed 13

Lowering the standards for 3 exceptional schools is easier than raising the standards for all Boston Public schools. We have a few good schools and the rest are awful.

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Voting closed 39

The school has grown whiter and whiter every year.

The number of kids dropping out grew.

The seventh grade curriculum was adjusted two years ago to be less challenging.

It’s not the low income kids of color who can’t handle rigorous academics.

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Voting closed 9

When I was there in the early 80s I had 5-6 hours of homework a night. And yes, that is too much. Especially for students that aren't from privileged backgrounds who have to work after school, have sibling responsibilities b/c their parents don't have baby sitters, nannies and are working multiple jobs. Then add in the ability to pay for private tutors.

This is all about access and how underprivileged kids never get the same access/opportunities or the same voice as those from privilege. There is a reason POC can't get ahead - the systems in place were made to keep them from getting ahead. It's time to make things right.

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Voting closed 18

I had my butler and nanny do my homework for me.

Actually, I took care of my brother because my mother had to work because my father was "away" a lot. I did my homework.

I paid $5 ($17 in today's money) a session (once a week) to a "private tutor", actually my 5th grade math teacher to help me with math. She took my money once. I went to her no more than 10 times. There was tutors available at the school for free for any subject you needed help with.

Don't keep putting out this "poor me" crap. You're going on about underprivileged kids not being able to succeed is wildly disingenuous to the kids from then working class areas who worked to succeed then and still do now.

I guess you couldn't hack it.

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Voting closed 27

My brother went to Latin and we were not what anyone would call privileged. Both parents worked (Dad sometimes had 2 jobs) and we ate bologna and cheese lunches not sushi. Smart kids get it done and always have and blaming your race or income if you don't is a crutch.
Every kid is not cut out for an Exam school, I know I wasnt.
We need to fix the WHOLE Boston School system and not just the Exam schools (which seem to be doing just fine)
But like I said before, screwing around with 3 schools to make it look better is easier than fixing the whole system.

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Voting closed 25

You're not exactly showing yourself to be a good spokesman for the rigorous education at BLS in the 80s.

"There was tutors available at the school"? "You're going on about underprivileged kids not being able to succeed is wildly disingenuous to the kids from then working class areas"? I see a subject/verb mismatch, a misuse of "you're" vs. "your," and a complete misuse of the word "disingenuous." Oh, and there's some decidedly half-assed punctuation in that sentence about your math tutor. Perhaps you should have spent the money on an English tutor instead.

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Voting closed 14

Yes, I misspelled a few things and has pour gramma. I guess that makes eveyting I sey not rite.

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Voting closed 15

5-6 hours of homework is too much for anybody regardless of economic status. Other than that your post is disingenuous to the past century or so of low income and minority students who did attend BLS, overcame any obstacles that might be in in their way, graduated and went on to have successful lives. I salute them rather than portraying them as victims.

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Voting closed 13

Too much homework, sure

Dead language? It's actually a very helpful thing to have taken for your critical thinking skills and for other language learning endeavors (something that more Americans really need to do). That's one of the traditions of BLS and BLA I would never endorse taking away... also, then what the hell is the "L" for?

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Voting closed 15

Study after study shows that homework doesn't affect student learning or outcomes, so.....

And every justification I was given as to why I had to take four years of Latin had to do with knowing the roots of modern words for the SAT (seriously?). I'd much rather have conversational skills in a living language.

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Voting closed 7

I didn't take Latin (heck, I didn't go to school in Boston), but my daughter did. There's a lot more to it than just learning word roots to help you on the SAT - although that skill will then help you if you go into a career in certain fields such as law or medicine. But there's a certain discipline required to learn a complex language like Latin that could also serve you well in far more fields.

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Voting closed 17

I wonder if the same formula could be used for the METCO program opening up seats to poor families of all races.

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Voting closed 17

All those suburban schools haven't been participating in Metco just because they're nice and care about disadvantaged kids in the inner city. They accept Metco students to introduce diversity to their otherwise lily-white student bodies.

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Voting closed 12

Lexington is 27% minority. Belmont is 16%. Brookline 16%. Arlington 11%. Newton 13.5%.

Guess you haven't been out to the toniers lately.

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Voting closed 18

Lily white like you?

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Voting closed 6

Yes, I am a Pasty-American. I'm surprised it took somebody so long to figure that out, snort.

But I live in Boston and can say my daughter is a graduate of BPS schools. Can you?

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Voting closed 13

Which BPS schools?

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Voting closed 3

We were lucky - we won the lottery for kindergarten and got the school we wanted.

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Voting closed 4

METCO is a joke, a nice way for suburban districts to feel good. In addition, there are far more Asian students in METCO now than there ever were. It is another anachronism that should go. I saw it from the inside working at a top suburban school system.
As a BLS graduate, I would say that it was hard and great preparation for the rest of my academic and professional life. IS it perfect? Far from it but making wholesale changes is not smart and could create an outcome far worse than it is now.
The Mayor has botched this from the beginning, his school plans have been a complete failure.

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Voting closed 14

Metco is a way for kids to escape the crappy Boston Schools and race is used to justify its existence, parents of kids in Metco are driven and involved and if you ask them off the record if they send their kid to a Metco school for diversity or for a better education, 99 percent would say the latter, in my opinion.

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Voting closed 20

Public Statement by Ibram X. Kendi

Boston School Committee Meeting

10/21/20

Members of the Boston School Committee, I am writing to express my support for suspending the high-stakes test for Boston’s three exam schools. My name is Ibram X. Kendi. I am a Boston resident and a parent.

I am not going to speak to you about what is best for my child. It is not your job to do what’s best for my child. It is your job to do what’s best for all Boston children. And I’m one of many Boston residents who share your perspective: thinking about what’s best for the community of Latinx and White and Black and Asian and Native and biracial and low-income and middle income and upper-income kids in this city. And what is always best for the community is admission policies that create equal opportunity for all. And we know a policy is creating more equal opportunity if it is closing racial and economic inequity. We know a policy is not creating equal opportunity if it is maintaining racial and economic inequity. And the data is indisputable on the effects of this plan: it will close racial and economic gaps.

That’s how we should be assessing proposed and existing policies. Are they reducing or maintaining racial inequities? Because if they are reducing racial inequity, then they are antiracist. If they are maintaining or expanding racial inequity, then they are racist. And so, I urge you to approve this antiracist policy proposal. Because it is what’s best for the community. Again, I am not supportive of suspending the standardized test for my child. I’m married to a physician, and my wife and I have the resources to sign her up for an expensive test prep course. We have the resources to hire a test prep consultant. We have the financial ability and job flexibility to take off from work to tutor her ourselves. All the test prep will end up being money well spent: it will boost her score.

All the while, I’ll come here and tell you that she worked hard in school, and she’s so smart—and that’s why she got such a high score that got her into the exam school. I won’t tell you I took advantage of the multi-billion-dollar test prep industry. I won’t tell you that across the United States test prep companies and consultants are concentrated in White and Asian neighborhoods—and no wonder they tend to get higher scores on standardized tests. Because we’re not supposed to talk about all this. We’re not supposed to be talking about the fact that all Boston children do not have equal access to high quality test preparation—and it’s impossible to create that equal access. We’re not supposed to talk about all this legal cheating: because that’s what it is.

It is like allowing some NFL teams more time to practice in the offseason and when those teams regularly win the Super Bowl somehow claiming the rules are fair. And of course, when you try to take away the practice advantage to those winning teams, they are going to resist the policy change. They are going to claim you are being unfair. They are going to claim they are being persecuted and their teams are the best, all the while they know privately, they were gaming the system all along.

This is the elephant in the room that the folks claiming the standardized test is fair do not want to discuss. They will just claim White and Asian kids on average score higher on tests because they are smarter or work harder. Meaning Black and Latinx kids are not as smart or not as hard-working. Meaning White and Asian kids are intellectually superior. And all these racist ideas from people claiming they are not racist.

I could claim that low-income Black and Latinx children are intellectually inferior; that there’s something wrong with them. After my child receives extraordinary K-6 schooling, after my child receives extraordinary test prep, I can sit here and lie through my teeth and argue that the standardized test is fair; that my child is extraordinary; that she deserves the extraordinary opportunities in these three schools. But I’m not going to do that. As much as I care about my daughter, I care about fairness, I care about justice, I care about equity, I care about the truth. We have a culture of lies to substantiate the exalted and the advantaged in this country. We do not want to tell the truth to provide equal opportunity for the denigrated and disadvantaged in this country.

And to tell the truth about standardized tests is to tell the story of the eugenicists who created and popularized these tests in the United States more than a century ago. Eugenicists today are commonly considered to be racist but somehow many Americans consider their tests to be “not racist,” whatever that means.

In 1869, Charles Darwin’s cousin, English statistician Francis Galton, hypothesized in Hereditary Genius that “[t]he average intellectual standard of the negro race is some two grades below our own.” Galton pioneered the western eugenics movement but failed to develop a testing mechanism that verified his racist hypothesis. Where Galton failed, other eugenicists succeeded.

Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman introduced and defended the viability of the nation’s first popular standardized intelligence test in his 1916 book, The Measurement of Intelligence. These “experimental” tests will show “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence, differences which cannot be wiped out by any scheme of mental culture,” Terman maintained. He imagined a permanent academic achievement gap, a permanent racial hierarchy, verified by these supposedly objective measures.

It is fascinating how Americans today can rightly decry the Nazi Holocaust, Americans can rightly decry Jim Crow segregation, but still defend the invention of eugenicists: the standardized test. By the 1960s, genetic explanations to explain the so-called achievement gap itself had largely been discredited. Instead lower test scores from Black and Latinx students were explained by their environment. The new racist ideas claimed their broken cultures and broken homes and broken schools and broken families had made them culturally or behaviorally inferior—not their genetics.

And today, many Americans still imagine an achievement gap rather than an opportunity gap. We still think there’s something wrong with the kids rather than recognizing their something wrong with the tests. Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and Brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools.

Why do Black and Latinx children routinely get lower scores on the standardized tests? Either there’s something wrong with the test takers or there’s something wrong with the tests. Why are Black and Latinx children routinely under-represented in the exam schools? Either there’s something wrong with the Black and Latinx children or there’s something wrong with Boston’s admissions policies. To say there’s something wrong with Black and Latinx children is to say racist ideas. And those who say racist ideas, typically deny their ideas are racist.

We need to stop putting down Black and Latinx and Native children. We need to stop putting down low-income White and Asian children. There’s something wrong with the test; there’s something wrong with the admissions policies—not the kids. We need to radically change our educational system and stop attacking the kids and their caretakers and their teachers.

Members of the School Committee: It is your job to do what’s best for the children of caretakers who don’t have the time and privilege to make statements today. I’m speaking about the overwhelming majority of caretakers of the city’s low-income Black and Latinx children; these families are suffering the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in this city; these families are facing unemployment and food insecurity and housing insecurity.

The children who have the least in their homes often have the least in their schools—an ongoing crime that you have the power to begin to change. I wholeheartedly support this plan that begins to reverse the status quo: Instead of advantaged kids having the edge in admission decisions, disadvantaged kids should have the edge in admissions decisions. From eliminating the test to setting aside a number of seats from each zip code, this proposal will allow our exam schools to more closely reflect the racial and economic makeup of Boston kids. This proposal can begin the process of Boston transforming our high-quality exam schools into high-quality opportunity schools. Let’s call them that, let’s make them opportunity schools.

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Voting closed 24

This reads exactly like what the above poster predicted - lower standards going hand in hand with less rigorous admissions.

I hope both are wrong and BLS continues to expect a lot from all students admitted and keeps up the high standards. If not, it will all be for nothing but claiming a political scalp for the anti-BLS crowd.

I'm sure this guy also thinks BLS for no good reason should match the demographics of the school system not the actual city it is in. We'll see.

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Voting closed 47

For all of his newfound fame in the new field of anti-racism, he seems fully out of touch when it comes to practical matters, such as this exam (or the lack thereof). He isn't even from Boston, and talks about the test as if BPS were still administering the ISEE (e.g. requiring prep, when in fact the MAP test is based on BPS learning standards). His test prep talk is also problematic: yes, many many white West Roxbury residents go to test prep, but so do many Chinese immigrant residents in Chinatown - clearly, access to test prep is NOT dependent on income.

To make matters worse, he talks about expanding opportunities for poor children. This ZIP code plan, which he supports, does the opposite of that - most of all, it hurts the low-income residents of Chinatown (02111), and it hurts the poorer residents of higher-income neighborhoods, particularly BHA residents (e.g. Section 8 recipients generally, McCormack 02127, Washington-Beech 02131, and Bunker Hill 02129). Another prominent example is 02124, which includes poor areas as well as yuppie Ashmont Hill, the Mayor's home, etc.

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"He's not from Boston" crap? Actually he is a Boston resident and teaches at BU. But even if he were not a Boston resident, he is an expert in racism and African American studies. You might try reading one of his books.

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How exactly does one become an "expert on racism"? By being a victim of it certainly, but then that would make all who have experienced racism "experts". I don't know what sets this guy above the rest. I kind of know what you mean, but it just seems like such an odd distinction, "expert on racism".

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As noted on this page:
"Kelefa Sanneh noted Kendi's "sacred fervor" in battling racism, but wondered if his definition of racism was so capacious and outcome-dependent as to risk losing its power".

I think that applies well to his comments on the exam schools

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He's an "advocate" against racism, perhaps a "scholar" on racism, but not an "expert" on racism, unless he's very good at performing racism himself.

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...that's not how the word "expert" is used, in pretty much any field.
Otherwise, a top oncologist would not be an expert on cancer, unless they're very good at performing abnormal cell growth themselves. Or an expert detective would not be an expert on murder, unless they're very good at performing murder themselves. Or I guess no historian is an expert on any historical field, since they weren't actually present for all the events they're studying, etc...

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no historian is an expert on any historical field

Pretty much. For example, you wouldn't describe a historian of concentration camps as a "concentration camp expert". Concentration camp 'experts' were the Nazis who designed and ran those places. People who could answer "if you wanted to concentrate X people, then you'd need Y buildings, Z guards, this much land," etc. Someone studying the history of those places would be a 'scholar', not an 'expert'.

Not to say a historian can't also be an expert. A historian on revolutions might be the person you hire to organize a revolution, if you wanted to topple a government.

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Because it makes a big difference - not growing up here, having no roots in the community, having nothing at stake in the community except a paycheck.

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*snert*

yeah he really just came outta nowhere didn't he?

just because things happened before you learned the term "anti-racist" doesn't mean they never happened.

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If they are maintaining or expanding racial inequity, then they are racist.

This inflated definition of racism, to cover things like standardized tests, is absurd.

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you look at the outcomes of the system. Do you think students in Newton and Wellesley are inherently smarter than students in Randolph or Chelsea. Their standardized test scores are certainly different. So something is driving that, wonder what?

https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/sat.aspx

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that understand how important a good education is and make sure their kids know what is expected of them in terms of school behavior, school participation, homework, etc.
You can have a wealthy family where Pops and Mama are too busy jetting off to the Bahamas to care about Junior or what Junior does when it comes to academics. If no one is helping/caring about Junior, he's probably not going to do to well in school or life.
You can have a poor family - immigrants perhaps - who are working two jobs to put a roof over their heads and food on the table but who are checking in with their kids to make sure they are doing what needs to be done in school and checking homework and making sure their kids understand their schoolwork.
In a home of any economic means, when education if emphasized, more likely than not, that child will do pretty well in school.
Most teachers in any school have the same type of degrees depending on what they're teaching. This is why teachers can get jobs in one school or another and BPS teachers are able to move around the school system to different schools. While there are good teachers and bad teachers (I've had both in my life), family expectations are huge in determining student success.
BPS does need to make sure that those who can't afford tutoring are offered free tutoring and test prep. Every child being registered in the BPS system should know about high school options, exam schools, testing, and whatever else is involved and required long term for a successful outcome from day 1.

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Kendi goes on for 13 additional paragraphs defending his claim that the standardized test system is "expanding racial inequity" and doing so in ways that are clearly racist. You could try engaging with his argument. But of course, it's much easier to stop reading after you find something you don't understand and proclaim it's "absurd."

White resentment and reading comprehension just don't go together.

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Ibram X. Kendi is a Boston guy?

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He works at BU.

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After BU hired him to launch their "Anti-Racist" Center.

Otherwise, no connection whatsoever to Boston. He certainly didn't deserve to take up >5 minutes of time at the School Committee Meeting (via a loophole where he got one of the working group members to read his speech). Instead, he should have waited in line and got his line muted after 2 minutes just like everyone else, ranging from parents to students to elected officials, etc. etc...

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But there is still an AP test. That is what BLS does. They teach AP students who need to take AP tests to get credits.

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There's a bit more to BLS (the one exam school I know anything about) than AP classes, though.

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"We need to stop putting down Black and Latinx and Native children. We need to stop putting down low-income White and Asian children. There’s something wrong with the test; there’s something wrong with the admissions policies—not the kids. "

I can only speak for myself, and it's been a long time since I've seen a standardized test so I don't know what they are like now, but I am white and came from a low income family and had no problem passing the BLS entrance exam in the early 70s. I didn't end up staying the entire six years but that had more to do with me not liking the atmosphere and not wanting to get up so early to go across the entire city on the T (although that was a learning experience that benefits me to this day), not to mention the soul-deadening study of a crushingly boring and impractical dead language that was too ridiculous to even be spoken by the mainstream populace when it wasn't dead.

The other thing is that back in those days there was no "test preparation" of any kind. It didn't exist. We simply walked in cold and took the test. The same for the SATs. Perhaps that was the equalizer?

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You hit the nail on the head about test preparation: if all students just show up one day and are handed a #2 pencil and take a test without any content preparation beforehand, that's an equalizer.

As long as there are tutors (which I used for both of my kids) and test prep courses, we're never going to have equal access to the districts top schools.

Last year BPS administered the test on a Thursday morning, in student's own classes, with their regular teachers as proctors, and offered test prep classes after school to sixth graders (not sure if they also offered classes to 8th grade.) It was a step in the right direction. Let's hope they continue the work they started when we are able to return to school as normal.

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Ibram makes a lot of really good points. The challenge as I see it is: How do you admit students based on their potential and desire to learn and work hard rather than their performance on tests where some students have had advantages that others have not?

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maybe an oral exam. This isn't rocket science here is it?

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had just told everybody at the beginning that they were voting for it regardless of what anyone said. It would have saved everyone a lot of time.

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They actually did, without saying it. The mayor came on within the first hour and voiced his support for suspending the test. Since he appoints the school committee, is the superintendent's boss, and basically runs the schools, it was his endorsement that should have tipped you off.

That goes for any vote. If the Mayor speaks in favor, it's a done deal. If the Chair (or the new chair) speaks favorably, it's a done deal. Pro-tip.

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Jiexia Chen said she and other parents had invested heavily - both in time and in money - to get their children ready for an exam school.

Please stop believing that spending money to get government to pick you as a winner is a good idea. See also: Taxi medallion holders and liquor license holders.

Also, why didn't we have this conversation before COVID? Better late than never, I guess. Been saying it the whole time: This is good for our country, because it's making us talk about all of our broken constructs.

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Ms. Chen's "investment" was probably based on the fact that China has, for many centuries (i.e. during its many dynasties), used a merit-based system of upward mobility through the civil service. It's a cultural priority, not an attitude toward political systems.

She expects government to be wise and unbiased in picking winners by using a standardized test. It should be simple, but our leaders in Boston have made it so that it is the opposite...

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Then why does admission even matter? Stick the BLS teacher in front of a camera, and then everyone can watch the lectures.

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Did you ever get called on in class? How would that work with an increased class size of...anyone and everyone? There would be no time for the lesson and to engage kids individually.

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Of number of kids who want to be in the class, and desired class size to meet your specs?

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The ideal class size is around 18 and most classes are already bigger. Adding more people on Zoom would increase class size, and there are plenty of logistical problems that you don't get with being in person.

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You really see no difference between preparing for an entrance exam and buying a liquor license or taxi medallion?

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And he apologized for the point during the meeting when it appeared he was making fun of certain ethnic names. He said he wasn't, that he was talking to somebody in his house about a particular book for a moment when he thought he was on mute, only it turned out he wasn't, but that it had nothing to do with the meeting. He did not name the book.

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