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Appeals court says BPS's examless exam-school entrance process is fine; rejects demand to stop it

A federal appeals court today upheld a judge's decision to let Boston Public Schools use a combination of pre-Covid GPAs and Zip codes to determine who is offered admission to the city's three exam schools for the coming school year, saying the plan is fair and the parents who sued waited so long that a ruling in their favor would have caused "chaos" that would disrupt the lives of thousands of Boston families.

As US District Court Judge William Young had earlier ruled, the US District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the plan developed by a BPS task force was race neutral and rejected a request by a group of mostly White and Asian-American West Roxbury parents to issue an emergency injunction against it.

The Plan employs only uncontrived criteria that could easily be adopted in a world in which there were no races. One can readily see why a school system would prefer to curry city-wide support for high-profile, pace-setting schools. And one can easily see why selective schools might favor students who achieve academic success without the resources available to those who are capable of paying for summer schooling, tutoring, and the like. ...

The court continued by blasting the parents group that brought the suit for waiting some four months until after the School Committee approved the plan to file its suit:

In assessing plaintiff's request for an injunction, we consider also the balance of potential harms that confront us as a result of plaintiff sitting on its collective hands. Plaintiff waited over four months after the Plan's long-anticipated adoption before filing this lawsuit,even though all involved knew that admissions invitations needed to go out to families early this spring. Notwithstanding the district court's Herculean efforts, plaintiff has put itself in the position of now asking us on short notice to enjoin implementation of the Plan,just days before parents are to be informed of the admissions results. The school system would then be left with no plan at a time when it would normally be assigning teachers and resources across the city based on how attendance figures pan out at each school in the wake of matriculation decisions at the Exam Schools. ...

Due to plaintiff's delay, plaintiff's requested injunctive relief threatens to injure the other interested parties and the public. Enjoining defendants from making Exam School admissions decisions based on the Plan at this juncture would unsettle important expectations and the plans of thousands of families awaiting those decisions. The public interest is best served by permitting defendants to finalize and communicate admissions decisions based on the Plan, not by entering plaintiff's proposed injunction and throwing the Exam School admissions process into chaos.

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Comments

Thanks! This is an important issue and you’ve kept us well informed.

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Sorry about that. In my haste to get the basic news out, I forgot to do that.

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The testing system is both unfair and uneccessary. Next step is focusing on making the rest of Boston's schools better.

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The testing system is both unfair and uneccessary.

We can argue about the fairness of the testing, but it is most certainly necessary. There should be universal agreement that the exam schools should be for the "best and brightest". How "the best" kids are chosen should be a level playing field for every Boston kid, regardless of their race, economic status or zip code.

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"Today, nearly 25 percent of district high school students attend an exam school, an extraordinarily high percentage compared with most cities. By contrast, fewer than 5 percent of public high schoolers in New York attend selective enrollment schools." https://apps.bostonglobe.com/magazine/graphics/2019/01/17/valedictorians...

I don't agree that we should preserve the current system. It's clear to me that taking the most traditionally successful and easiest to teach top 25% of students and walling them off from almost all the ELL and Sped students affects the rest of the system. If you love the concept of the exam schools you should advocate for shrinking them.

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Because the district can offer dozens of advance material classes in high schools where only 5-10 kids per grade have the ability/interest to take them? Because forcing teachers to expand their lesson plans to challenge kids working at 2 grades above level is going to help them focus on helping kids that are 2 grades behind, instead of just watering down the amount of targeted instruction?

Just say you'd rather drag successful kids down in a totally bullshit attempt to use school averages to say "the school has improved." Bumping those MCAS averages doesn't make below grade kids more successful, actually HELPING those kids makes them more successful.

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This is a really good point because IQ and school performance are heavily impacted by income outside the extreme ends (top and bottom 5%).

The difference between the top 25% and the top 35% usually just comes down to income, where as the difference between the top 5% and 10% is much less correlated with wealth. So schools that select for any more than the top 5% will basically be selecting for income.

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It's clear to me that taking the most traditionally successful and easiest to teach top 25% of students and walling them off from almost all the ELL and Sped students affects the rest of the system.

It lets the strongest students learn in an environment that is geared to the strongest students, rather than one where the content is watered down to be compatible with a population of more variable ability.

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If you can design a single test that can accurately and precisely determine which students are the "best" and "brightest" then you would be able to retire the next day.

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Hasn't ever been implemented yet. BPS was planning to switch to an exam that was contractually guaranteed to ensure equity, but this plan was disrupted by Covid. Among other provisions, the exam would only contain content taught in all BPS schools, thus requiring no preparation, no tutoring, etc.

How do you know that the testing system is unfair?

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My single family home in the leafy southwestern part of Boston is now worthless! All the 'working families' left for Westwood and Dedham or Galt's Gulch or wherever and my 4th grader is doomed to be conscripted into a street gang any day now instead of getting a quality education!

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The students at a grade-inflated school (located at a certain rotary across from a police station) will likely capture all of the exam school seats allocated to that leafy southwestern part of Boston, since the "temporary" system uses only GPA to compare students within a neighborhood.

In other words, the public school students in that neighborhood are actually the ones getting the short end of the stick.

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Was the icing on the cake of this whole brouhaha.

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That certain school is not the only one that has grade inflation. Every 4th, 5th and 6th grade teacher in Boston understands that grade inflation leads to exam school admission, and they disregard that at their peril, especially in the neighborhoods that traditionally have high exam school admission rates.

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The opposite of grade inflation is also true. I have known some BPS teachers who resent the "skimming of the cream" to the exam schools. They either consciously or unconsciously grade prospective students harder than average thereby decreasing their chances of admission.

Meanwhile, the BPS kids are competing with kids from private or parochial schools who promote admission.

If it was legal, I would advocate for years in BPS to be weighted in favor of admission. But, that will never happen.

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Top 20% of all city kids get in, then it's by zip code. So it depends on what percentage of kids go to _oly _ame? Anyone know how many 6th graders they have?

From BPS... 3196 sixth graders in the BPS system. BPS is about 80% of the school age kids in the city so lets assume 3995 sixth graders.

Local 6th grades:
118 at the Ohrenberger
67 at the Lyndon
52 at the Irving
24 at the Conley
46 at the Haley

That's 7% of the estimated population of Boston 6th graders. Seems like the odds are still pretty faovrable for kids with good grades?

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All of the holy rotary kids got in! So did many home schooled kids (with parents responsible for grading the kids). The ones who did not get are from families who made the mistake of staying in the city, wanting to integrate.

Well, these families got their just desserts. Integration is overrated.Time to move out of the city. Plenty of places with cheaper housing and better schools(and far less crime).

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about who got in?

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It's 20% of the exam school seats, not the top 20% of all the kids in the city. There were only 1,025 seats for 7th grade last year across all three exam schools, so the top 20% only represents ~200 seats; the remaining ~800 seats would be distributed by zip code.

I don't know how many 6th graders Holy Name has. While it's probably less than 200, it's also not the only grade-inflating private school in Boston, so let's assume that all 200 seats are taken. Let's also assume that all of these well-off students choose BLS (not unreasonable), which leaves ~280 BLS seats for zip-code allocation.

Your own calculation suggests there are 300+ BPS students in the southwestern part of Boston (Roslindale, WR, HP) alone, so it's safe to further assume that other parts of Boston, such as Dorchester and Roxbury, have even more. Since West Roxbury is zip code number 21 out of 29, and assuming that most (not all) students in other neighborhoods designate BLS or BLA as their first choices, it's easy to see that there won't be any BLS/BLA seats left for the best and brightest of the public school students who live in West Roxbury. Ditto for Roslindale (17 out of 29) and Jamaica Plain (20 out of 29), both of which have greater socioeconomic diversity than West Roxbury due to the presence of public housing.

While there is nothing wrong with the O'Bryant, there is something wrong with the fact that equally-talented students from the same neighborhood, whose parents have different incomes or different attitudes toward public elementary schools, are being segregated into different high schools (by an allegedly fair, equitable, merit-based process) based on the elementary school they attended...

Also, you're missing the Kilmer from your list of local schools.

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I'd be very willing to bet there are plenty of kids at the Parkway k-8 schools who also get straight As so it's not a total lockout for Holy Name.

What's more problematic is that if your kid goes to a more challenging schools (for example a charter), they will be effectively penalized for your choice vs. sending them to a cupcake parochial school. It used to be that exam school admissions would weight where students were coming from but I assume that's eliminated now.

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While I disagree that students at Holy Name have any more chance during this 2021 exam school admissions process than other students... I do understand what the OP was conveying in their post: GPAs at parochial schools (esp. in West Roxbury - hello St. Theresas!) do suffer from inflation.

(insert shocked_face emoji here)

EDIT:
I big-time misspoke - the Holy Name students have no more more chance than other students EXCEPT their inflated GPAs. It’s not the students fault... they are surely benefiting from it though

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at that school? Is there some proof of that or are you just repeating hearsay? Do you actually know of students there who should be getting Bs but are getting As instead?

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"For example, in 2016, 69% of the students applying to BLS from Holy Name Parish School in West Roxbury had A+ averages, and 10% of BLS’ entering class came from Holy Name. By contrast, only 22% of students applying from BPS—who are disproportionately diverse students such as M.S., H.D., E.J.S. and E.S.—had those grades. Indeed, BPS students are only awarded the highest possible grade if they are deemed to be performing at a full grade level ahead of their current year."

If 69% of your students are getting A+, then the fix is in. Let me guess, white privilege isn't real either?

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&u...

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Sincerely, parent of a BPS rising 7th grader.

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I believe the correct, internet approved sentiment is "eat a bag of salted horse d!€£$".

Both because it gets rid of any homophobia and sex shaming, and because it's more evocative.

Okay..I'll show myself out.

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how all the BPS kids, who have been remote for most of the year, do in exam schools next year. Wonder if BPS will have mandatory summer learning to help the accepted students get up to speed. Otherwise,many of those students will have a difficult time of it. Many new students in the exam schools have a difficult time in "regular" years.

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Due to plaintiff's delay

Blame the victim.

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Timeliness is not a new issue in the courts. You may recall how it kept coming up with all those frothing lawsuits against the election results.

If you have enough money to hire the former solicitor general for the Commonwealth of Virginia as your lead attorney, this shouldn't be an issue.

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Parents sued BPS this year for what they think is lack of fairness.

Can other parents sue parochial schools for grade inflation? Cause... erm... that’s pretty damn unfair as it was a critical data point in admissions this year.

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