About 70 people rallied this morning on the steps of Boston Latin School in support of keeping an exam to help determine who gets into Boston's three exam schools next year, while across Avenue Louis Pasteur, about 20 people held a counter-protest saying it's time to ditch the test as a legacy of Boston's racist past.
The pro-exam protesters were almost entirely white and Asian-American; the anti-exam protesters were almost entirely white. Mostly missing on either side: Blacks and Hispanics, who make up the majority of BPS students.
The School Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposal by School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and an exam-school working group to ditch exams for Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the O'Bryant School of Mathematics for next year.
Instead, 20% of the roughly 900 exam-school seats for seventh grade would be offered to students with the highest grades citywide while the remaining seats would be offered in several rounds based on Zip codes - the students with the highest class rank in each Zip code would be offered seats, but with preference given to students from lower-income Zip codes.
Protesters chanted this would ruin the exam schools because too many "feeder schools" suck and that that's not fair to the kids in Zip codes that traditionally supply a disproportionate share of exam-school students. "Fix the feeder schools!" they chanted at one point.
They also alleged the proposal is itself racist because it would limit the number of students from Chinatown.
"Don't bring back the quota!" they chanted at one point, referring to the busing-era system BPS used to assign some seats at the exam schools, until a white parent from Hyde Park sued and won in 1996. They also demanded the School Committee schedule a public hearing on the issue before taking any vote. Some questioned why the whole thing isn't being put to a public vote.
Instead, they want BPS to test students who want to go to one of the exam schools with a test called MAP. BPS chose MAP in July to replace the ISEE, which it abruptly decided to stop using in February.
On the other side of the street, protesters pointed to the fact that Boston Latin School in particular has demographics nowhere near those of the rest of the BPS system and that several years of attempts to change that have not worked: