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Councilors want to look at changing how kids get into Boston's exam schools

City Councilors Andrea Campbell (Dorchester) and Kim Janey (Roxbury) want to look at ways to increase black and Latino enrollment at the city's three exam schools - including possibly replacing scores from the ISEE exam now used to help determine entrance with results from MCAS tests.

Campbell - who herself went to Boston Latin School - and Janey say the ISEE is fundamentally unfair to minority students because it includes topics not taught in Boston grades before kids take the test for seventh-grade enrollment, including algebra, which means kids whose parents pay for expensive prep classes are better prepared. BPS does offer its own free prep classes, but has had problems enrolling minority students for them.

In their formal request for a hearing on the issue, which the council will consider on Wednesday, the two councilors say that while BPS as a whole is 75% black and Latino, only 40% of the three exam schools are - a rate that drops to 20% at Boston Latin School.

In addition to ISEE, the councilors say they also want to look at grading differences between BPS and local private schools, which might also hurt minority applicants to the exam schools.

The councils regular Wednesday meeting begins at noon in its fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.

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BPS demographics do not match the city demographics either.

"Overall, children in Boston are 25% White, 30.8% Hispanic, 30% Black/African-American, 7.5% Asian /Pacific Islander, and 6.7% other."

http://www.bostonplans.org/getattachment/ff4bf0fa-64ec-4b31-a417-0444600...

Of course the exam schools should try to support more students from poor/disadvantaged households and increase Black and Latino enrollment but the constant use of the BPS stats is a purposely skewed way to frame the debate.

IMO.

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Voting closed 52

It's not skewed it IS the debate. Families with means make a choice to purposely put nothing into the system, then at the end want to take a seat that many consider the most valuable fruit of that system.

We can't have a successful school system and a segregated one. It's one or the other. If you weren't part of BPS before exam school time you should be ineligible to apply.

...and I did not know the exam had content beyond the standards. That's crazy.

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Voting closed 24

You mean other than the taxes which fund the system?

You may also be surprised to learn that BLS funds most of its additional programming through alumni fundraising. I suppose that money should also just be dispersed to all the schools?

In addition, as been discussed on this board ad nauseam, if all these kids who parachute into to BPS for exam schools were to opt into the school earlier, we'd actually have a serious BPS budget problem which would make the current issues look minor.

If say, 10k of the 20k kids who opt out of BPS were to opt in to the system, that's an increase in headcount of 20% but of course would not generate any more inflow to the city budget so the schools would now need $200m more in annual budget to maintain current per student funding.

Do you think the city has another $200m/year for funding BPS?

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Voting closed 39

After putting 8 PM meters on Harvard Ave.

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Voting closed 23

'If you weren't part of BPS before exam school time you should be ineligible to apply. "

Does paying property taxes make you a part ?

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Voting closed 31

Nonsense... any child who is a resident of Boston should be able to attend BPS.

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There absolutely is a lot of merit to looking at these questions, and the issues identified are real.

But it undermines the discussion and the conclusions if the facts are not accurate and complete.

So let's also talk about a big part of the reason why students of color are not at the exam schools - 3500 students of color choose the Metco program. There are more high school students in Metco than at BLS and BLA combined. (btw Metco is a terrific program, both for academic and social reasons. It's a great alternative for a lot of students. It might be worth looking at what could be improved in the BLS and BLA academic and extracurricular programs to make them more appealing to students of color.)

And charter schools are also never mentioned, when they are clearly chosen over the exam schools by some students of color. (Not coincidentally, charter schools actually know how to get new schools built in Boston.)

Anyone looking only at BLS stats and then comparing them to the BPS student population (rather than the city) is twisting the facts, and just isn't credible.

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Voting closed 20

There absolutely is a lot of merit to looking at these questions, and the issues identified are real.

But it undermines the discussion and the conclusions if the facts are not accurate and complete.

So let's also talk about a big part of the reason why students of color are not at the exam schools - 3500 students of color choose the Metco program. There are more Boston high school students in Metco than ALL of the HS students at BLS and BLA combined, and all of the Metco students are students of color. (btw Metco is a terrific program, both for academic and social reasons. It's a great alternative for a lot of students, life-changing for many. It might be worth looking at what could be improved in the BLS and BLA academic and extracurricular programs to make them more appealing to students of color, and that would likely improve things for everyone.)

And charter schools are also never mentioned, when they are clearly chosen over the exam schools by some students of color. (Not coincidentally, charter schools actually know how to get new schools built in Boston.)

Families of color can choose Metco and charters, and they are. But there's not one word about that in any of the analysis or discussion.

Anyone presenting (a) BLS-only stats versus (b) the BPS student population (rather than the city) is twisting the facts, and just isn't credible.

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Voting closed 47

all of the Metco students are students of color

This is factually incorrect. Flat out. It is certainly true that a significant majority of METCO students are young people of color, but it is not all.

That's my critique. The rest of your post is bang on.

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Voting closed 10

Metco is a program for students of color. They are all of color.

Race Percent Count
African American 73.0% 2,421
Asian 2.8% 93
Hispanic 18.6% 617
Multi-Race 4.2% 140
Other 1.4% 46
Total 100% 3,317

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http://www.doe.mass.edu/metco/faq.html?section=all

Race Percent Count
African American 73.0% 2,421
Asian 2.8% 93
Hispanic 18.6% 617
Multi-Race 4.2% 140
Other 1.4% 46
Total 100% 3,317

Anecdotally, I've met couples where one partner is a Latino of European background and their kids certainly looked like standard issue white Parkway kids but they qualified for and used Metco to go to school in a leafier suburb. I think that's rare-ish though.

I'm not the right person to declare what 'of color' means.

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Voting closed 21

Why would anyone expect a school system which could not prepare their kids for the exam after having them 180 days a year to be able to run a prep class that would make up for their institutional failure for the previous six grades.

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Voting closed 23

Only a little of the test prep is learning content. Most of the test prep is reviewing content and learning the test format, getting comfortable with it. Learning how to take tests is a skill that can be learned (when and whether to guess, and such).

ISEE definitely does test material that is not covered in the BPS 5th grade curriculum.

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I just read that the BPs offers test prep courses for free but has problems enrolling minority students. I don’t understand what this means. Are minority students being discouraged or barred from attending these free classes? If so, that’s a big problem.

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Voting closed 13

They offer the classes but the kids don't show up.

There is also a chicken/egg issue with the exam schools, especially BLS - some black/Latino parents don't think it's a good fit for their kids so don't prioritize trying to get their kids in and so they don't take advantage of programs to try to improve their opportunities to get their kids into the schools. So fewer black and Latino kids attend the school and it keeps its reputation as a school for white and Asian kids.

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Voting closed 12

You know what, the private schools don't teach the ISEE math until right before the test is given. Only kids who get extra help outside of school (from their parents or test prep) will have seen the math that the ISEE tests. Why basically none of the schools - public or private - teach this, knowing that the ISEE will include it, is beyond me.

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That's not great reasoning. They should fix the ISEE exam instead of using MCAS, which was not designed to be accurate or valid for this proposed use. If they use MCAS for something it's not designed to do, they'll be in the same hot water as those states that tried to use achievement tests and value-added models for teacher evaluation. Fix the broken test, don't be lazy and just try to use the some other test.

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BPS doesn't own the ISEE. It's owned by the ERB. BPS can do nothing about its content.

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The ISEE is a national exam similar to the SAT and not under MA control. It's also used by private schools so they don't have to create and administer their own test.

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is fundamentally unfair to minority students because it includes topics not taught in Boston grades before kids take the test for seventh-grade enrollment,

So why not just teach those courses to BPS students earlier? Oh, but it's much easier to play the race card and claim "unfair" instead of taking action that will actually improve education for everyone.

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Voting closed 45

VERY few schools teach algebra before 7th grade. I went to a private school the prodigious Roxbury Latin and took PRE ALGEBRA in 7th grade...that was 2006 I very much doubt curriculums nationwide have accelerated that much that quickly

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I went to BLS from 62 to 68. We had Arithmetic in Grades 7 and 8. Algebra I in 9, Geometry in 10, Algebra 2 and Analysis in 11, calculus in 12.

What was called "Arithmetic" in grade 8 in 1963-4 was a lot harder than what passes for Algebra 1 nowadays anywhere, including BLS (have been a parent of recent BLS grad) and what is called Algebra 2 now is essentially the same as what we called Algebra 1 back in the day.

So the long and the short of it is, what passes for Algebra 1 and pre-Algebra in today's world is Arithmetic with a calculator.

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that the exam covers subjects not taught in BPS schools before it's given. It's outrageous for an exam to enter a public school to go beyond the public school curriculum. Yes, the exam schools should be aimed at students capable of doing advanced work, but they should not be biased against kids who haven't had a chance to cover topics outside those taught in their schools.

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more underrepresented minority enrollment in the exam schools, then work with those underrepresented minorities to ensure that they are able to compete with others who may have more opportunity for outside tutoring geared toward scoring well on the ISEE. Play with the numbers all you want and come up with different ideas of who should be admitted but until every child in this city get equal opportunity to succeed, nothing will change. If some minorities are underrepresented in the exam schools, then go into their elementary schools and give them extra tutoring, reduce class sizes so they get more attention in the classroom, extend school hours so they have more time to learn and do homework with someone around to help them. There are so many college students in Boston. Can't BPS use them to help tutor? That would be a win-win. The kids get more academic help and the college students can put it on their resume. Why are BPS and the Mayor and the City Council not really doing anything constructive to help minority students if that's what they really want to do? They have the ability and the means but it seems like it's too much work for them so they'll just sit back and complain instead of truly helping minority children succeed. (sorry. rant over. but i'm sick of hearing this issue repeated every year and NOTHING is done to make a difference by those who have the ability to make REAL change happen)

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Voting closed 33

Why isn’t algebra taught in the BPS before seventh grade?

I’m supportive of Latin admissions going by MCAS scores, as long as the BPS gives a chance for non-BPS kids to take the MCAS. I think every student in the Commonwealth should have to sit the same test to get a true feel for how well the kids are doing, anyway.

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Voting closed 35

If you think BPS should teach algebra before 7th grade, go lobby for that. But until they do, any test for entrance to a BPS exam school should only cover what is on the curriculum.

Want to test math aptitude? There are ways to test for the ability to use what they already know creatively to solve new problems. Being good at math has to do with understanding concepts and being able to solve problems of a type you haven't seen before. It's not measured by how much you've been taught, but how well you can use what you've been taught.

Speaking as someone who uses math professionally.

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However you try to rig admissions it won’t work.

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I was a white kid who tested into BLA in the early 80's.

I was a BPS student with no tutoring.

I don't know how the testing is today but to claim white students will just get tutors is unmitigated racist bullshit.

Kids with parents that have the means, regardless of race, have more options.

I'm all for leveling the playing field honestly. Race is part of it but painting all the white kids as being able to afford tutoring is nonsense.

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My kid goes to BLS and I don't think most of his classmates whose parents I know did any tutoring to get in. Not saying it doesn't happen but I don't think the majority of BLS enrollees are there due to tutoring. We certainly didn't get any tutoring.

There are myriad advantages which a white middle class kid has over their peers from an average BPS school in Roxbury/Mattapan but I think tutoring is overly focused on.

To flip it around, I supposed you could make the argument that the kids who are getting the tutoring to get into the school are the problem - they are getting extra assistance without which they might not make it into the exam schools, assistance their minority counterparts might not have. I have no good idea how to fix that issue though.

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I'm a parent of a sixth grader in a downtown neighborhood and I am unaware of any Charlestown, beacon Hill, south end or back Bay teammate or classmate who is not in heavy test prep mode. One big flaw no one mentions is that BPS administers a test to 5th graders and those who score high get a two week summer camp ISEE prep at BLS.

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Boston white kids in the 1980s were much more financially similar to their POC peers than white kids who grow up in Boston nowadays. Surely you can attest to that. Prep etc. in the 1980s was nothing like today and there were thousands and thousands more lower-income white children. BLS was also more black/hispanic back then as well.

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Interesting point. I went to BLS in the early 70s and there were far more African American students than there appear to be now. It appeared to be a very integrated school. I do not have children so I have not kept up, but is there a reason there were more black kids back then, and in the pre-busing era to boot? I would argue that it isn't that institutionalized racism has gotten worse since then, but rather that the system designed to rectify such problems only screwed them up further.

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After 1974, BPS included race as one of the criteria for deciding who got into BLS. A white father whose daughter didn't get into BLS sued and won, and race stopped being one of the criteria.

But let's also talk for a moment about structural racism:

My daughter took that free ISEE prep class offered by - and at - BLS. I guess it worked - she got in. Yay, free prep classes.

But the thing is, we knew this prep class existed. Why? She went to a sort of BLS-prep elementary school (the Kilmer in West Roxbury) and so they told us about it and we signed her up.

But one of the things that came out during the whole Black at BLS thing a couple years ago was that Boston Latin School's fundraising arm (yes, of course, BLS has a fundraising arm) was paying for an administrator whose job included letting kids and parents know about the prep class - only he wasn't going to any schools in minority neighbors because who the fuck knows why. So our daughter benefited from extra help because we were told about it, but thousands of parents a couple miles away didn't even know it existed.

Even though it obviously didn't directly affect us (except by shrinking the potential competition, I guess), that really pissed me off, and I'm glad that one of the things that came out of the Black at BLS affair was a commitment to recruiting more kids into the prep classes. That is, at least, a start.

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That sports-coach cum test-prep advocate wasn't just bypassing minority neighborhoods - he hadn't promoted the test anywhere other than literally a couple schools. All the promotion was being done by in-the-know members of the community (typically parents with older kids already in the exam schools).

I know this because I was a member of both the Parent Council and School Site Council of my daughter's k-6 and middle schools, and we had to reach out (more than a couple times, I believe) to get hard info on the test-prep program to pass along to our school families.

One of the things the BLS community did (shortly after my daughter started there), was to recommit to getting info about ISEE test-prep out to all Boston schools, with particular attention to those that had low interest/enrollment (aka a lot of those in 'minority' neighborhoods). This was well before the [email protected] and Mooney-Teta mishigas.

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At least according to my memory. I don’t remember the kind of huge dominance of West Roxbury kids that there are today (20%+). Tons of kids from South Boston, Charlestown, Roslindale, etc. and yes—plenty of black and Hispanic kids.

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Voting closed 11

When I was attending the best of Boston's all-male Catholic high schools, Latin had the reputation of being heavily tilted towards West Roxbury.

It would be a hoot to see how the class of 1950 was. I bet (I write euphemistically) kids growing up close to Blue Hill Ave were overrepresented.

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I went to a Catholic Grammar school where the math curriculum was designed to make you the best darnn cashier a Dollar Store or Gas Station clerk that your three decker living ass could be. Also, 1/6th of the day was spent covering magic and spells, sorry Religious Education.

My test prep for Latin was one day of the teachers (Thank you Mrs. Frain, Ms. Whelan, and Ms. Benjamin) sneaking around the principal to gives us some pointers for the test on the day before the test. That's it. That was test prep.

The math taught at BPS was far and beyond what I was doing when I got there and what the Archdiocese School taught. I got killed while others succeeded. I got 3 Fs in 7th grade math. I then studied and passed 7th grade math. I also ended up getting a pile of college credits and some more mediocre grades along the way. I made it through even though there was a 40% attrition rate from my entering class. It was called using the Hard F'ing Work System. That is what gets you through Latin, whether you are white, purple, or magenta.

The point I am trying to make is that they are looking for smart people, not just those who memorize for the test.

Don't dilute the best and brightest (and I am not using the great David Halberstam ironic title here). Keep standards, Keep them high. Those who want to succeed will.

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Voting closed 37

The Boston area's best and brightest don't go to the forty-sixth best public high school inside 495. The school isn't as good as area suburban high schools, let alone competitive with area private schools. They're doing the same thing they did when you were a kid (e.g. memorize textbook factoids and spit them back on tests), but meanwhile other schools have improved greatly. In a way it's excellent the applicants all take the ISEE, because that can open up scholarship opportunities at private schools for kids who score well.

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And they do seem to weigh class size and faculty/student ratio high. Of course, for those of us who want their kids to do well in the MCAS and SAT, Latin (and Latin Academy) seem to be very sure shots, using the chart in they provide.

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The exam schools are the only schools on the list that test kids before they let them in. They've already selected for higher scores at entry. The school doesn't need to do anything at all for the kids to have higher scores at exit.

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This is like when people are amazed at private school kids even though the teachers don't even have educational degrees. You simply take the richest and brightest kids from any given area and the scores will be good because you already made sure of that. Its not a secret.

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How they are ranked is very different form the test results when you get out of the top 10. The Boston exam schools look to be punished. In fact for MCAS? For Reading and Math? The Exam Schools rank first, second and fourth against all the other schools... Latin School is ranked first in all three MCAS, First in Reading/Writing, Second in SAT Math and tenth in Advanced Placement Proficient. How are they ranked 46th on this list?

These are all the schools that ranked in the top 20 in one of the test categories. (There are more than 20, I included the top 20 MCAS, SATs, and AP).

Dover-Sherborn Regional High School 1
Concord-Carlisle High School 2
Wayland High School 3
Weston High School 4
Manchester Essex Regional High School 5
Newton South High School 6
Sharon High School 7
The Bromfield School 8
Lexington High School 9
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School 10
Wellesley High School 12
Westborough High School 13
Westford Academy 14
Westwood High School 15
Winchester High School 16
Brookline High School 17
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School 18
Hopkinton High School 19
Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School 21
Newton North High School 22
Hingham High School 23
Needham High School 25
Ashland High School 26
Norwell High School 27
Pentucket Regional High school 30
Swampscott High School 31
Georgetown Middle/High School 32
Holliston High School 33
Masconomet Regional High School 34
Arlington High School 36
Chelmsford High School 38
Lynnfield High School 40
Belmont High School 42
Boston Latin School 46
Scituate High School 54
Boston Latin Academy 73
West Bridgewater Middle-Senior High School 77
John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science 95

If you do a ranking just summary of rankings on test scores, you get this instead...

Dover-Sherborn Regional High School 1
Westford Academy 14
Boston Latin School 46
Lexington High School 9
The Bromfield School 8
Concord-Carlisle High School 2
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School 10
Wayland High School 3
Wellesley High School 12
Westwood High School 15
Winchester High School 16
Manchester Essex Regional High School 5
Belmont High School 42
Hingham High School 23
Hopkinton High School 19
Sharon High School 7
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School 18
Needham High School 25
Westborough High School 13
Holliston High School 33
Norwell High School 27
Newton South High School 6

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Voting closed 14

That is like only using Das Kapital quotes on your term paper on Capitalism. The truth may be a little skewed in their research.

Boston Magazine exists to tell the people in those towns how great they are and isn't great not to be unwashed. How do you make their Best of Boston list? You advertise with them, then you are THE BEST!

A lot of people thing Prince William is good looking. I'd be good looking as hell if I didn't have to work for anything in my life too. It is kind of the same with this list. You don't have to work hard, if you've already got it.

You can skew any numbers to the way you want to make it work for you. All I know is that Latin gives a lot of people the chance to move up and thrive, but only if you do the work.

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The numbers are there if you're interested. The school board probably is.

It's a bit of a sacred cow locally, latin school. World-famous all over Boston. Back in the day it compared well with schools outside Boston. Now it doesn't. It's just a run of the mill public high school, plus Latin and delusions of grandeur. I think sacred cows make good hamburger.

Public high schools all across the country give a lot of people the chance to move up and thrive. Boston's exam schools appear to do a better job of it than the other high schools in the city. But then they select for the kids who are already moving up and thriving in fifth and sixth grades.

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And see what you get. You can always move to Buffalo if you want to just get by. Your bias against those who strive for something better is a bitter take.

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Why would I move to Buffalo if I could move to Florida or Vegas though

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I have done well. It's part of why I'm here. Neither BLS nor Buffalo had anything to do with it.

My concern is the mediocrity of our city's flagship public school. It's a mediocrity everybody swears is great. I think Boston deserves better. You don't. You are in the majority. The school will keep slipping in comparison with area public schools, and schools elsewhere in the country, as long as denial overwhelms the conversation.

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by a tutor in one of those towns ranked way above BLS (according to this list). The tutor was a parent and tutored many kids in that town for the SAT and couldn't get over the amount of work my child has to do at BLS.

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in Acton or Weston or Wellesley before you start making those comparisons. I know well that BLS isn’t perfect, but sheesh—the resources aren’t even comparable. Despite the much-ballyhooed alumni fundraising, there was never enough money for anything—sports equipment, etc—or the kind of basic resources that a Brookline High would take absolutely for granted, say fields or a track or more than a tiny handful of guidance counselors. And though there are definitely a lot of middle class kids there, I wouldn’t have said there were many wealthy ones and there were plenty low-income kids. I don’t think you could say the same about most of the other highs schools on that list.

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Obviously the Latin school must have done something to you for your odd obsession with it, but, here is US New's national rankings:

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/massachusetts/distric...

#48 in the country
#1 in MA

It also, by far, graduates the most students to Harvard in the country (generally around 20 a year).

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"I got 3 Fs in 7th grade math."

When I was at Boston Latin in the stone age the lowest grade they gave was an "E". And I should know, because I got a lot of them.

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They give out Fs now.

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I'm just trying to figure out exactly what the difference is between and E and an F. A fail is a fail. A fail leads to certain consequences (i.e. not graduating or whatever). Does it really matter what the "gradation" of the fail is? These places drown in minutia.

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BLS apparently used to fail kids with an E. Now they do it with an F.

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The curriculum was tough, and because the subjects were advanced, the grades at an exam school would be slightly higher than a regular school.

My only "F" at Boston Latin Academy was in Honors Algebra II (freshman year). It was my only one in the 16 years I've attended school - after my parents threatened to pull me out of there if they saw another one. (I ended up with a C- for the year, but I did get put into regular Geometry the next year.)

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Among the factors UMass Amherst uses to determine who gets in is the number of honors classes an applicant has taken. They consider every class at BLS an honors class.

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BLS remains a great choice for parents who will think they succeeded if their kids get into UMass.

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I suppose my National Merit Scholar is doing poorly to go to UMass. Yes, those $75K/year jobs being dangeled in his face when he graduates are a certain sign of failure.

Meanwhile, it is actually getting more difficult to get into UMass.

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He's probably busy enough trying to justify his $100k in student debt from Tufts or Brown as it is.

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Probably got more sleep, was less abused by teachers, and had more fun at Meffuh High (#78 on the Boston Mag list), for the same result. I'm sure he's doing well to go there, is doing great there, and will achieve the same kind of professional success his mother did. All without pretending Meffuh High is the best school in the universe, and anybody who wants it to be better is just jealous.

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I mean, that would be kind of unlike them, at least the ones I know, but you seem particularly overwrought on the topic. I guess it's good to finally let all that anger out.

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By not being impressed?

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Yes, BLS can be a tough environment, but your mention of "abuse" shows you still think it's 1979 or something, which tells me you really don't have a clue about current conditions - did you know they admit girls now?

Kids at BLS thee days have actually helpful guidance counselors and all sorts of support and tutoring programs. It's no longer a junior-grade Paper Chase, even if they still gave that stupid "look to your left, now look to your right" spiel to my daughter's freshman class.

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He got to play football.

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IIRC, even the honors courses at BLA/BLS carried significantly more weight in determining admissions than the normal courses. When I applied to the colleges I did (all non-Ivy league except Brandeis), this was likely the factor in me getting accepted to all of them - and I was a straight "B" student.

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(all non-Ivy league including Brandeis)

Ivy League:
Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale.

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The member schools are more academically oriented.

A hundred years ago the Ivy League was what the SEC is now, just with more history.

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I'd never heard of the UAA. Some good schools there. But better? I dunno.

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Of course, the NESCAC might also want to chime in, but I put the NESCAC on the level of the Ivy League- full of excellent liberal arts colleges, but not quite MIT or the University of Chicago.

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Another thing I had no idea was a thing. NESCAC sounds like instant coffee to make you throw up.

It's certainly true that small liberal arts colleges don't do a good job of being big universities, but I think one could say that large universities also don't do as good a job at being liberal arts colleges. There are plenty of people out there who say an undergraduate education at Williams is superior to an undergraduate education at Harvard, and it may well be for their purposes.

Is it just a weird historical accident that we define the strata of colleges by who they play sports with?

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"the ISEE is fundamentally unfair to minority students because it includes topics not taught in Boston grades before kids take the test for seventh-grade enrollment, including algebra..."

If I follow the argument correctly, it's not that white kids do better on subjects they haven't been taught in school yet, it's that because the BPS elementary schools are behind what the private schools teach in the same grades, and the BPS elementary schools have a higher proportion of minority kids, any test given equally to both the private school kids and the public school kids will have a discriminatory effect.

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Not really. My kids are going through BPS but I am a white parent engaged in their lives, am educated and can teach above and beyond the BPS curriculum (algebra) with no problem at home, can pay private tutors if they need it, and make the effort for my kids to attend free BPS tutoring sessions. It’s the norm. Let’s face it.

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Voting closed 21

I know some kids at BLS and they said that the AWC definitely prepped them for both the exam and the school's demands. Do you know if they cover algebra (or the other "untaught" topics) in AWC prior to the exam? That would definitely change the argument about it not being on the curricula at BPS before the exam.

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Thank you for the honesty. Many white parents who live in Boston are in a totally different world than minority parents who are trying to eek it out in one of the most inequitable expensive and segregated places in the country. Combine that with poverty, language barriers, dangerous neighborhoods, cold weather, and missing bus drivers and you have a bulk of stressed parents who can't offer much academic help to their kids come 5th grade.

Most white parents who live in Boston have at least one degree, live in very safe neighborhoods, English is their native tongue, and they have household incomes of 80k+. As long as the city and school system are segregated and discrimination pervades every part of economic and civic life in Boston and Massachusetts this will not change.

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Voting closed 14

I have news for you - good students who love learning do it on their own, reading and learning material beyond the curriculum in libraries and online. Sometimes parents support their kids who love to learn, but not necessarily. These are the students deserving of advanced education, not what is mass produced by the education machine.

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It is the STUDENTS seeking more learning because ASIAN. Must be some Asian gene, eh? (/snark). And they go to the library and just naturally soak up exactly what is going to be on the test.

Can't possibly be the result of parents prohibiting them from playing by taking all their free time while they pay people to groom them and drill them and make them into little ego monuments. Nope.

If you believe that, I have a nice used bridge to sell you - goes over the Charles in Charlestown, great location ...

Guess what that "extra" stuff is testing - WALLETS. It certainly isn't testing self-directed learning. I was a geek kid and even I didn't follow a special test prep curriculum when I went to the library to learn more about things I wasn't taught in school.

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If parent's make good choices and prioritize the right things their kids have just as much a chance as getting into exam schools as anyone else.

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This hearing seems more for show. Many of these things are real issues, but have already been addressed by BPS. If you know BPS at all, then you know they they are already in the process of changing the grading system because the 1-4 system puts public school kids at a disadvantage when it comes to exam school admissions. They have also announced plans to give the ISEE during the school day starting in 2019.

If you want to fix exam school admissions, you can't wait until the sixth grade- changes need to be made at the elementary level. Let's increase rigor. Let's get rid of the investigations math curriculum, which is basically arts and crafts, and get back to some real work. Most importantly, let's improve reading instruction in the elementary grades so that all kids can read by third grade.

Politicians don't ask for these changes because they will take years to show results. Changes made in K1 will take five years to show up in AWC test results, and 6 years to show up in exam school results. It's not sexy, it can't be fixed in a hearing, but it's the only way to effect real change. Anything else is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Every time they pull this piñata out and take a few whacks at it they come up with something new. Eventually they'll get somewhere.

Two ideas I heard this time that I found interesting were:
-Save a couple seats for BLS at every elementary school in BPS;
-Benchmark applicant grades at their institutions.

I like the first one because it's a backhanded way to address segregation in Boston. If everybody knows that two seats at each elementary school are set aside for the top exam school, middle-class white people will angle to get their kids into historically underperforming minority schools to try to snipe those seats. This will spill over into housing. It might end up reducing segregation.

I think the second proposal is reasonable and in keeping with what high schools already do for colleges - they prepare a report that shows the percent of kids who get different GPA tranches so the colleges can interpret grades in context. It's kind of an open secret hereabouts that some parochial schools goose the Math and English grades of their fifth graders who plan to apply to exam schools. Benchmarking would help counteract that.

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BLS does regard grades from say Holy Name differently than the Brooke or the Ohrenberger in my understanding.

Unlike college admissions where students are coming from tens of thousands of schools potentially there are a fixed number of 6th grade schools potential applicants can be coming from so it's pretty feasible.

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Save a couple seats for BLS at every elementary school in BPS;

That is not how it works. If the top two kids from School A are not as strong as kids #3 and #4 at School B, why should the weaker students be admitted? Everyone takes the same test and you are judged on that and your previous grades. You can argue about the appropriateness of the ISEE, but there must be a level playing field and setting aside ANY seats for any reason is unacceptable.

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They want to look into how the kids get into exam schools? I’ll tell you how; they study and take a test. They look at their past performance via report cards from the 5th grade. The kids who study hardest, exhibit good grades, and have the aptitude get into the schools. There’s really no secret to it. Parents who want their kids in these schools make sure homework is complete and the child isn’t following behind. That increases the child’s chances immensely. Some kids, no matter how hard they work, don’t have what it takes to get in. I fell into that category. Actually, I’m lying. I worked hard enough to keep my parents from yelling at me. The end result was that I didn’t get into the exam schools. There was nothing racist about it. That’s what some are trying to turn this into— a race issue.

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They want their easily digestible mild story line back.

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I'm surprised that even 20% of BLS is black/latino. But I think the basic research question that needs to be studied is how does the racial breakdown of Boston exam schools compare to exam/magnet schools in other American cities?

The racial performance gap is not a local problem, so you need to normalize against that.

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...but I would guess if you're a UHub Poster who reads frequently here... and is opposed to BLS making admissions fairer (because that all this is doing, making it fairer let's be honest/)... then you're probably very YIMBY and think that 'locals' are ignorant and annoying. I could be wrong.

Some people never think of the working class families in this city and the extremely well documented structural racism they face.

MCAS is something all the kids prepare for they all take compulsory and is what we use to measure our public schools by. Seems like a no-brainer but (white) BLS alumni will probably throw a hissyfit. Commenters here who want to enroll their young children in BLS one day may feel there is some future spot being 'taken away' from them because standards are 'being lowered.' Can we truly objectively say the ISEE is a higher standard than the MCAS and can we objectively say testing on untaught content is fair? The answer to both is no-only in Boston would this debate even be a debate, honestly using the ISEE damn near sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

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As long as everyone takes the same test, maybe the MCAS would be a better exam to use. There are operational issues since private school kids don't take the MCAS....that would need some state intervention to resolve. You'd need to give a year or two notice so that each school's curriculum can be synced with using MCAS. But sure, I'm cool with using MCAS.

If everyone takes the same exam (which they do now, it just happens to be the ISEE) and they are judged by their test score and their grades (and nothing else) then the system is fair. Everyone knows what the rules are and what is expected. Anyone can take the test and the best and brightest are admitted. Sure, there's tons of racism in Boston, but deciding who gets into the exam schools is as unbiased as it could be.

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Not so fast. One of the questions they're looking into is grade comparison. If there is grade inflation (or any significant difference in grading standards) between the public, parochial, private and charter schools then you are not comparing apples to apples there either.

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I remember before I took the exam 12 years ago they offered an summer schooling program for about 30-45 days in Boston Latin school. they told us what will b on the exam and gave us text book to assist. I went to Mattahunt elementary in Mattapan and I’m a Dominican American. A lot of us from that school got an opportunity to go and it was a majority black school and I was 1 of the 3 people to go and only 1 was black out of a 30-40 kids who graduated elementary the same year as me. TAKE ADAVANTAGE OF ANY PROGRAM I SACRIFICED HALF MY SUMMER AND LEARNED ALOT FOR THAT MONTH. We have internet now all of the hurdles aren’t as significant from 10-15 everyone has internet to take any course.

MY HiSPANIC AND BLACK MEN BE IN YOUR KIDS LIFE AND TEACH THEM THAT LIFE ISNT FAIR AND THAT THIS SOCIETY ISNT MADE BY US SO OF COURSE ITS NOT MADE TO BENEFIT US. IT ALL STARTS AT HOME

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I came here expecting to disagree with the Councillors but instead I am annoyed. How can you have a public school that requires additional learning outside of school to gain access to? If my child is a high performer in their current school then I expect them to have been exposed to all the things that will be on that test. If my child is a top performer in their school yet has never seen math with letters... but math with letters is on the test then I demand someone turn their attention back onto the schools my kids were in. Test prep should betest prep... not the first time my child sees the subject matter.

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Good lord.. at this point, I would much prefer if the exam schools just privatized (even though it won't realistically happen) and retain some legacy rather than watering down their academic standards even more. Students who qualify to get in based on academic merit should be the ones getting in regardless of race, gender, etc. It should be pretty straightforward.

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Can we put more efforts into improving other bps? Those schools need our attention.

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The Latin alumni association raises enormous amounts of money to fund theater, art, sports programming at the school which is why it attracts a lot of kids. There's a lot of institutional pride about the school being the top school in the system AND being a challenging school which will test your child's academic mettle, work ethic, etc...

If you just say, eh it's a lottery with a test now, I bet a lot of that funding slowly dries up as BLS becomes just another BPS high school. Maybe that's more fair, maybe that's a loss for the system - it depends on your values I guess but it's not a trivial amount of money.

From a BLS email today from a parents group:

"This past year, the Headmaster had under $100 per student to spend for expenses beyond keeping the lights on in the building and paying faculty salaries. As I’m sure you can imagine the cost of providing one of the best educational experiences in the country is far greater than that modest amount.

So over the past few years the BLSA has provided about $3MM in annual funding to the school, including some of the larger ticket items as follows that are budgeted for this school year:

Subsidize the school’s athletic program with almost $500,000, including most expenses of Junior Varsity and Freshman teams;
Provide $260,000 for academic technology support;
Support programming for the arts with funding of nearly $175,000 to support bands, singing groups, and extracurricular activities;
Fund 100% of Saturday Success School, which helps our students thrive academically at BLS
Additionally the BLSA funds the following BLS programs/centers that you may or may not be aware of:
Clough Center for Global Understanding
Wolk Center – Capstone and Entrepreneurship
Seevak Facing History & Ourselves
McCarthy Institute for Transition & Support
Schawbel College Research Center
Keefe Library & Media Center
Deitch Leadership Institute
Ward, Seevak, Deitch and Babbitt Fellowships
Exam School Initiative

BLS alumni and friends provide about 94% of the BLSA Annual Fund contributions, with parents donating the remaining 6% share."

This is all done outside of the BPS budget - this is all for a free high school. That's a pretty great asset in the abstract to have for the kids in the city. Would it be great if more schools had these resources? Of course, but then that's a bit like telling folks who give money to say the EDF that they should give money to the ACLU or something. I don't see a good, fair mechanism for diverting that money elsewhere without ruining that part of the school. BLS is certainly not from getting tons of resources from BPS which should be spent elsewhere based on the weighted funding formula.

I do not believe these funding players care about the school being mostly white/Asian (but can't say that for sure of course, I'm sure there's some bad eggs involved) but those donors are pretty heavily invested in the concept of the school being the most academically challenging school in the system and an exam admission school.

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Voting closed 13