Hey, there! Log in / Register

BPS has sudden need to replace the exam that helps determine who gets into exam schools

The company that writes the ISEE exam that BPS has long used to help figure out who to invite to attend exam schools and BPS administrators are exchanging exclamations of "You can't quit me! I quit you first!" today.

The Globe reports that the Education Records Bureau actually decided last spring to cut off BPS from access to its test because the district had refused repeated requests - over eight years - to stop screwing around with the results in a way that the non-profit group says was harming minority test takers in particular.

The group released e-mail to other participating school districts today from President Thomas Rochon:

Our decision to no longer supply the ISEE for admission purposes in the BPS exam schools was made because the District continues to utilize ISEE scores in ways that do not align with ERB implementation guidelines or best practices in admissions. That misapplication of ISEE scores has been one factor in perpetuating admissions outcomes that disproportionately affect students belonging to underrepresented groups, thus reducing their access to the educational opportunities available in the exam schools.

ERB has requested multiple times that the District use ISEE scores in an appropriate way, for example by stopping their practice of summing the four measures of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, mathematical achievement and reading comprehension into a single score. We also attempted several times over the last eight years to work with District leaders to identify the most equitable and valid way to weight ISEE scores by offering to fund the appropriate research studies, but we were always rebuffed. The most recent refusal from the District to undertake a validity study and reform their admission process came last year, leading us to notify them that ERB will no longer be part of their process. District leaders have chosen not to make that fact public but have instead begun to point to the ISEE as the root cause of their admissions disparities.

The Globe reports, however, that BPS officials say it was BPS that decided to stop using ISEE, because it wasn''t really all that fair and equitable.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, which has butted heads with BPS in recent years over the issue of increasing minority enrollment at Boston Latin School, released a copy of Rochon's e-mail and called the message so damning the group is already committing to "represent parents who want to sue the City for discriminating against their children."

Neighborhoods: 

Ad:

Comments

This is one of the worst stories to come out of Boston in a long long time. The city knowingly doubled down on its racism. Parents should sue. Every parent who tried to make their way into an exam school believing their child had some measure of a shot should sue.

up
Voting closed 4

BPS is trying to adjust results in order to appear WOKE. 2+2= whatever you identify the result as.

Let’s kill the only decent HS’s in Boston in order to pander.

How many schools have closed because of the musical chairs solution a rich judge from the burbs decided was in everyone’s best interest.

Positive note, more rich families will leave Boston and I’m sure BTU will be pumped.

up
Voting closed 5

Clearly the two do not get along. Either BPS was firing the testing company or the company felt the heat and dropped BPS.

What doesn't make sense is that BPS was this company's biggest client. It doesn't make sense that a company would drop their biggest client unless they felt that they were going to lose future business.

It's easy to take jabs at BPS but it's classless for the company to email a whole bunch of other people to tell them that they're firing BPS. My guess is they saw the writing on the wall and tried to make BPS look like the bad guy.

up
Voting closed 2

Meanwhile the rest of the BPS high schools will continue to rot unabated while politicians (elected and non) fight over the crown jewel and its endowment.

Hard to know which side to give more credence to, the test company which seemingly wouldn't provide BPS with requested test data or BPS which has a poor track record on this front. This is early enough in Cassellius' reign that she hopefully will be given at least a few years to lead some effective changes in the system.

up
Voting closed 18

Just one point: the endowment is not at stake - BLSA manages it and donors actively choose to give to it. The recent calls in the media for "equitable distribution" of donated funds are BS - you can't force people to donate to schools they don't have a stake in.

Also, BLS already gets one of the lowest funding levels per student in the city. Among other things, the school has no A/C, has countless broken windows, and insufficient science labs than required under state law. But, of course, BLS and its students have "privilege", so it's on the bottom of the priority list for politicians! Meanwhile, the other schools in the district receive so much funding and brand-new facilities, but they are still lagging behind...

up
Voting closed 4

you can't force people to donate to schools they don't have a stake in.

Once the money has been gifted it becomes the property of the school system, and they can do pretty much whatever they want with it. Reallocating it where it's needed most would seem to make a lot of sense.

Also, BLS already gets one of the lowest funding levels per student in the city.

This seems rational to me as its students are among the least needy.

the other schools in the district receive so much funding and brand-new facilities, but they are still lagging behind

Hardly conclusive when the main measure of "lagging" is low test scores and BLS, by its very nature, only includes kids who already have high test scores. The metric of "which school is best at taking bad students and turning them into good students" (in my mind, the most important mark of a good school) just isn't being measured.

up
Voting closed 5

Once the money has been gifted it becomes the property of the school system,

It was not gifted to the school system; it was gifted to the BLSA.

up
Voting closed 2

This seems rational to me as its students are among the least needy.

  1. "Focus on the bottom; they need it most and the top will take care of itself."
  2. "Focus on the top; they're the ones who can make best use of the available resources and the bottom is a lost cause"
  3. "Focus on the middle. The top will take care of itself and the bottom is a lost cause."

None of these positions are on the face insane. They all lead to different outcomes.

up
Voting closed 21

"Bottom is a lost cause" is clearly insane.

up
Voting closed 2

The idea that the bottom is a lost cause is fundamentally at odds with the mission of our public school system. Any approach that’s based on that assumption should be immediately abandoned.

Also, the premise of the choice is just wrong: Focusing on the struggling kids also leads to better outcomes for everyone else (provided you haven’t gone out of your way—as Boston has—to segregate the better performing kids from the rest of the student population). The problem with designing your program around the kids who are already top performers is that it is actually pretty hard to know if you are even having an effect, since many (And possibly all) of those kids would still perform well no matter what school you sent them to. By contrast, bringing UP the test scores of low performing kids proves that you are actually accomplishing something.

up
Voting closed 2

We can leave the slowest runner behind and let him get eaten by the wolves while the other 99 of us get away. Or we can all run at the slowest runner’s pace and hope the wolves get full before all 100 of us are eaten.

Also, are you really naive enough to think top-performing (*in a proper environment) kids will be able to get quality education in a classroom where 75% of the teacher’s time is spent ensuring kids in the back don’t murder each other?

up
Voting closed 2

Also, are you really naive enough to think top-performing (*in a proper environment) kids will be able to get quality education in a classroom where 75% of the teacher’s time is spent ensuring kids in the back don’t murder each other?

I don't think those kids are getting a particularly great education now. It just looks like they are because they do well on the tests, and they do well on the tests because they get help and support from their parents. There's very little to suggest the school has anything to do with it at all.

up
Voting closed 2

So they should design a program and ignore the higher performing kids because they will be fine anyway? come on that is simplistic and wrong. Believe me BLS and the course of study has a positive effect no matter how hard you try to knock it

up
Voting closed 2

The idea that high and low performers have fundamentally different learning styles has been widely debunked. It turns out that the things that work best for the most disadvantaged kids also help the most advantaged kids. This thing we like to do where we cordon off all of the high performing kids into one school and then start calling that school "good" just because it has higher test scores is exactly what's lead even our "high performing" kids to perform worse than the average Finnish student on the PISA. You study the lowest performing kids because that is where the effectiveness of your educational program is most obviously visible (and where screwing it up has the greatest impact), but the high performing kids benefit as well.

up
Voting closed 4

in trouble. Let the finger pointing cover up shit show begin.

up
Voting closed 8

Are screwed. It is clear that the ISEE will not be administered in November 2020, but yet, BPS has not announced a replacement exam. Even if they announced it tomorrow, there would only be 9 months until the new exam, not to mention the inevitable problems with rolling out anything new.

So much for equal access. Poor kids across the city now have no way to prepare, while the middle class and up can probably afford last-minute cram tutoring. Before this, at least they could have gone to BPL to borrow ISEE prep books (they do exist, and many copies are up-to-date but not used)...

up
Voting closed 6

That's completely backwards. People taking months and months to over prepare are not poor kids. If anything, the situation you just described created more equality by giving rich kids less time to push ahead of lower-income ones.

up
Voting closed 2

Guys. Seriously. Just have your kid(s) study for the SSAT. You're acting like whatever is on the ISEE is coveted information that would never be on a different and equal exam. Just have your kid frickin' continue to study for the ISEE and the replacement exam will have the same shit. Not a reason to stop in your tracks or call WOKE that disadvantaged kids are now even more disadvantaged. Likely the replacement exam will be the SSAT. Get on it! (And yes, I have a child in this age range and while he's been prepping for ISEE, we'll continue to do so. It can't hurt - and keeps him away from the damn screen).

up
Voting closed 2

The public schools of the “Poor” children need to be way more advance like the “Rich” children school. Many public schools of Boston does not even cover half of the questions that are in ISEE exam. So the parents of poor children’s public school demand the change of the syllabus so that students deserve the equal opportunity.

up
Voting closed 0

Particularly for students who apply but don't actually live in, um, Boston...

up
Voting closed 3

So, either the ISEE was racist, or it wasn't only that BPS used it in a racist manner.

But, to allay some fears, there is another test option. The Secondary School Admission Test is still alive and strong.

up
Voting closed 7

I anticipate this will be a hurricane of idiocy. Let's get the party started.

Cassellius: "a test that has been shown to be free of bias"

What measure will Cassellius propose to determine whether a test is free of bias? She is digging herself into an intellectual ditch. Our society is unequal. An equal test will provide an unequal result. ERB has a point that it's up to the schools to use test results properly in context. Trying to cook up some imaginary test that puts its thumb on the scale to right society in its results is a fool's errand. As soon as the gimmick gets out, the test prep companies will be cramming it into kids for 10K a pop.

Goodman: "Given that it’s an exam that is completely foreign to students and requires parents and outside resources to help prepare them"

Goodman is so comfortable with privilege that he just assumes it has to exist. I wonder how much his parents paid for test prep. No, no test requires parents and outside resources to help prepare. Plenty of the students who scored into BLS didn't do any prep at all. It's just that privilege has its privileges. Maybe one of the problems our exam schools have is that they telegraph to the privileged students what test will be given so that they can accentuate their advantage and jump ahead of smarter, but less moneyed students whose unprepped scores would be higher than theirs. Maybe it's the unequal prepping the school system should focus on. Too bad they can't have a broad selection of possible tests and keep it secret until the day of which test they'll give.

up
Voting closed 14

Oh, this is easy to fix, let everyone go to Boston Latin School. Parents happy. Problem solved.

up
Voting closed 7

Yet another story where black people are like "ye no s**t we've been saying this for 20 years."

Like the BPD hair drug test thing they had to throw out.

Black people are like "Duh..." and white people are shocked the test was biased and would come to an end.

Literally laughed aloud reading these comment. Such a divided world country/city we live in

up
Voting closed 17

Thank you.

up
Voting closed 2

Has BLS considered adopting the University of Texas approach? After losing lawsuits over its affirmative action policies, UT started automatically accepting the top couple percent of students from each Texas high school.

Same approach would diversify BLS. Keep the "racist" entrance exam, but allocate seats per high school or neighborhood or some other unit.

up
Voting closed 14

Awesome! I love the idea of pitting 4th through 6th graders against their classmates! Great prep from them to enter The Hunger Games! And I'm sure the teachers would love it too!

up
Voting closed 5

Why penalize students who don't go to BPS before 7th grade? They are saving us all lots of money by not attending K-6 schools.

up
Voting closed 4

unexpected bonus from this approach: "savvy" affluent parents then shop around for bottom performing elementary schools to ensure their kid nails that top % of their qualifying year class, freeing up seats in high-performance schools for minority/poor/POC kids.

up
Voting closed 3

Just name all of the city's high school's Boston Latin School and instantly take a giant leap toward the equality that everyone is seeking. UMass did something similar and it seems almost everyone is now making $200,000+. At minimum this would help the staff cope.

Let's have those children perceived as the "smartest" and/or most politically connected continue to attend the "campus" at 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur, with all of the glory appertaining thereto, while the others can stay where they are and still get a BLS diploma which seems to be the most desired goal. The BLS diploma is the least expensive luxury hood ornament available at the moment. The cream will rise to the top in the real world after high school anyway. Multimillionaire high school dropouts like McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, Henry Ford and others would find the high drama and mystery of the BLS admissions process laughable.

up
Voting closed 8

Even in a post about BLS, you managed to name drop two Nazi sympathizers. Do you have a quick reference guide on your desk?

up
Voting closed 3

It's his imaginary pen pal list.

up
Voting closed 2

what is the percentage of millionaires with versus without a high school education? How about college? Nice nonsense post taking shots at BLS.

up
Voting closed 4

Now he's going to start talking about NBA athletes...

up
Voting closed 2

I'm sure he'll segue right to The Boston Globe call center in "Manilla" after that.

up
Voting closed 2

I read the whole Globe article and I still have no idea what exactly BLS is supposed to have done. (They added all the individual scores to create one master score, yeah so what? ) Everything was written with all these vagaries that were never openly explained.

up
Voting closed 2

Who knew? This is my surprised face.

up
Voting closed 6

As someone who couldn't afford tutors, I heavily relied on the ISEE prep books at my BPL branch to prepare for the exam. The 5th graders who are in the same position I was in 7 years ago are screwed if the city gives a different exam and practice books aren't readily available. Heck, so many people don't even know the ISEE and exam schools existed in the BPS system, that I doubt that most students will hear about this new test until it's too late.

The exam and admission criteria do need to be changed, but this last minute shift is not going to help anyone except the rich children in West Roxbury.

up
Voting closed 6

and not rich children elsewhere in the city?

up
Voting closed 2

I don't think they're that screwed if they prep the same as you did. The actual content on standardized tests doesn't vary that much (hence the word standardized) so if you are practicing for the ISEE you'll be helped out on whatever test they replace it with. Outside of the actual content, preparing for the test format will be nearly identical with a section of work and a time limit to do it in.

up
Voting closed 3

No amount of shuffling of test scores will change who can and cannot do advanced classroom work. The kids at the top of the test will be at the top of any reasonable test - all such tests correlate. That's because what's correlating is general intelligence. This is a commonplace in the field of intelligence research. In fact, there is nothing in all of social science that is better replicated and validated than our knowledge of intelligence.

Of course, as a matter of policy, you can choose to jump unprepared/incompetent students up the list and give them seats. Within weeks, they'll be lost in class. So you can give them 'social' passing grades and 'social' promotions.. What you can't do is give them the ability to learn at a rate that high-intelligence classmates find easy.

Boston Latin is not meant to be equitable - it is meant to be for a cognitive elite. Many people who graduated from BL and went on to be leaders of industry and academia came from working class and poor families. Socioeconomic status has noting to do with cognitive ability. A free school with an elite program serves the interests of lower income children more than anyone else. The children of the comfortable classes will just go to a private school if they don't get into BL. The children of low income parents have no where else to go.

Please note: back in the bad old days, a group of classmates and I were discouraged from taking the BL entrance exam by our principal. Apparently, she was judged on the pass rate, so she didn't want us borderline students screwing up her next review. I don't hold it against Boston Latin - I wouldn't have been happy there anyway.

up
Voting closed 3

"Socioeconomic status has noting to do with cognitive ability."

ohhhhhhhh lorrdyyyyy here we go

bro, 4chan is not a verified source of quality research and analysis on intelligence or pretty much any other social phenomena.

up
Voting closed 6

Not quite. It’s mostly the same wizened curriculum as other public schools, just graded harder, plus Latin. Memorizing factoids and spitting them back on tests doesn’t require much intelligence, just a good memory and study habits. So mediocre intellects who can cram their way to a halfway decent standardized test score are the majority and the right target.

You want elite education in this century, look elsewhere. BUA, Commonwealth, Andover...

Not to say they don’t serve a purpose. Helping smart poor kids get a leg up is fine. Noble, even. Great for first generation Americans.

up
Voting closed 7

this pre-emptive release by the testing company smells like a dead animal. I'm sure no potential candidate would be wooed into dropping the hammer on the current mayor and sandbagging the 150th BPS superintendent of the month.

up
Voting closed 6

Let's begin with an unchangeable fact:
Boston despite having more residents than in the recent past has fewer students who are enrolled in Boston Public Schools

Now some additional facts:

  1. Boston spends more per student than many of the "Cream of the Crop" Suburban School Districts
  2. With the exception of the Exam Schools -- Boston's High School Students -- exhibit the same proficiency problems [albeit in a softer form] as do some of the worst School Districts such as Baltimore*1.
  3. Boston is much richer per capita today than it was when Boston Schools produced the "Greatest Generation"
    • most of the "Greatest Generation" students today would be classified as having come from underprivileged homes
    • essentially none of these students could afford "tutoring"
    • many of them had to work real-jobs to help with family income

By the way while not Boston specific -- in the late 40's and early 50's Harlem Highschool was perennially on the top 10 list of NYC Highschools

So what happened??
There are many potential factors which need to be considered.

However -- the first thing that needs to be done is to remove all Political Correctness from the discussion. We need to speak honestly and freely about government policies which have destroyed the concept of "family". We need to speak honestly and freely about why we need to have Charter Schools -- what forced even the Teachers Union to admit that ordinary Public Schools were essentially beyond repair.

Full disclosure -- my father taught at the Jr. Highschool, and at the Highschool level in public schools in a rather-less than affluent suburb of Hartford Ct. He was teaching for several decades during which Federal Support and Control and State Funding and Control went from nothing to near totalitarian levels. Near simultaneously to the growth of external funding and control -- the local teachers unions went from being essentially a professional association to the worst kind of adversarial labor union. Subsequent to his retireing from teaching nearly 30 years ago the teachers have become bonded to the political class -- this converted the adversary from the bosses of the teacher to the public paying their salaries.

A lot of things need to change to make the schools in Boston an attractant rather than a repellent to the new crop of people moving into Boston. Many of these are young individuals and families who are attracted by the opportunity of Boston -- one of the World's most important Hubs of the Knowledge-driven economy. Here's a very short list from where we could start:

  1. Start to fix the schools in Boston -- restore neighborhood control and patronage [in the good sense] so that local communities will take pride in their local schools.
  2. Make Families the most important "Special Interest Group" -- which all politicians will respect and take heed of the importance of acting on their behalf.

*1
Baltimore has more than 10 highschools where students essentially have learned nothing -- with essentially 0% reading, writing and doing math at Grade Level

up
Voting closed 6