posts 1 - 15 of 32
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 181

In class on Thursday/Friday, we talked about Boston Latin’s history within Boston and the ongoing debate about exam schools and who gets to attend them.

We divided into breakout rooms and looked at three articles:


1. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, “There’s Something wrong with the Exam School Tests--Not with Blac and Latinx Children,” Boston Globe, October 22, 2020

https://drive.google.com/file/d/17Ax9uiL371T1ngbGN...

or

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/10/22/opinion/tra...

2. Chester Finn, Jr., “A Progressive Assault on Selective High Schools,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2020.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BXGt7wlP1f4TEf...

3. Alvin Chang, “The Fraught Racial Politics of Entrance Exams for Elite High Schools,” Vox, June 14, 2018.

https://www.vox.com/2018/6/14/17458710/new-york-sh...


…which offered three perspectives on so-called “elite” selective high schools.


Here too is data that I shared with you in class on the current racial makeup of Boston Latin School, both for the 2020-2021 and the 2019-2020 school years. (Data is current as of 11 November 2020.)


Race

2020-2021 Number

2020-2021 Percentage

2019-2020 Number

2019-2020 Percentage

Black

192

7.74%

195

8.13%

White

1105

44.52%

1135

47.33%

Asian

732

29.49%

695

28.98%

Hispanic

333

13.42%

282

11.76%

Native Am.

2

0.08%

2

0.08%

Other

118

4.75%

89

3.71%

TOTAL

2482

100.0%

2398

100.0%

What we did not have a chance to do fully in class is to reconvene and link the history of race-related issues in Boston to the issue of who should attend exam schools and how those two issues are related or not.


So let’s hear your voices. Based on what you now know about the history of race-related issues in Boston, what do you think should happen at Boston Latin School? In terms of admissions? In terms of what we learn here? In terms of the future?


And as a PS: the Topol Fellows will be hosting an open forum on exam school admissions after school on Wednesday December 9, 2020 and you will receive extra credit for.
Noodles
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 15

Rather Than Changing Admissions Process, Focus On Improving Underfunded Schools

The new admissions process to BLS based on GPA and zip code is more equitable than the ISEE test, but it is far from perfect. As with any change, it helps one population and hurts another. In this case, it improves the admission chances of black students and students from low income families, but this is only possible by reducing the admission chances of white students. This isn’t caused by racial quotas, but rather as white students are significantly more likely to score higher on the ISEE than black students as the test covered topics not taught in public schools—rather, it required families to pay for tutoring, a luxury that more white families may be able to afford due to income inequality.


But the real issue isn’t with how the admissions process for BLS should work, but rather how resources are allocated. Outside of the three exam schools, most of Boston’s public schools are underfunded and understaffed—a predicament that results in many families (the majority of whom are white) resorting to private schools if their child gets rejected from the exam schools. This is an overused analogy, but if the US allocated some of the more than $700,000,000,000 spend on the military each year to be used to improve the public education system, there wouldn’t be such a fight over the admissions process of BLS as all Boston public schools would be able to provide a similar education. Families should not have to worry that their child won’t get a quality education if they don’t get admitted to an exam school, nor should they have to send their children to private schools in order to guarantee them one as all public schools should provide such an education. Quality education must become a constitutional right, as the right to an education is not sufficient enough.


As for BLS, it should stay as is. BLS is able to afford the resources required for an education through alumni donations, meaning BPS can use their funds elsewhere. The resources that BLS has should not be shared or split up amongst all BPS schools, instead the budget for public education has to increase—albeit achieving such a goal would be close to impossible.


The system of admissions into the exam schools is not by itself racially biased—but when the bigger picture is able to be seen, it is impossible to ignore how race-related issues in the past, such as redlining and segregated schools, have caused race to affect one’s chances of being admitted to BLS.

iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Closing Opportunity Gaps

Although I believe that this new policy surrounding admissions to exam schools is a step in the right direction, there is still much progress that needs to be made. The fact that it is now based more on only GPA and previous grades also shows some discrimination and inequity. Minorities often struggle to afford the same resources for tutoring and preparation that higher income families have the opportunity to invest in. This creates a huge disadvantage for those students who lack the support and help they need to succeed. Additionally, many families can't afford higher quality education and struggle to send their children to private schools. Based on the location and funding of schools, they receive a certain amount of materials and assets placing one student body above another. It is unfair for one student to get in over another based on income and what resources they can afford to strengthen their education.


I think that Boston Latin School should talk more about our history and the various racist incidents that have taken place. I feel like we glance over the schools past discriminatory events and we really should discuss them and work on improving. I also believe that there should be more opportunities for students to discuss these racial issues in Boston. Personally, I was unaware of some of the topics presented during the projects. It was really eye opening to learn about these and I think it would be very beneficial for others to have the same opportunity. Not enough courses include the racial history of our city and I think it is very crucial to reflect on how recent some of these events were.


The exam school admission process is very complicated and many factors are incorporated. The racial discrimination involved has been very prevelent and it is good that people are fighting to change this. The exclusion of the exam is a huge step towards more of an equal system that reflects the amount of diversity within Boston. It gives those without the access to tutoring a higher advantage of securing a seat. A quote that was really impactful in my reading was “as much as I care about my daughter, I care about fairness. I care about justice. I care about equity. I care about truth”. Although his daughter is smart and works hard in her schooling, her family has the money to get a private tutor and prep course. Ibram X. Kendi recognizes their privilege and the high extent to which minorities and those with lower income lack these same advantages. Even if it lowers his daughter’s acceptance to an exam school, he highlights his determination to change the corrupt system.


The future should hold equal and accessible opportunities for all no matter the race or income. Everyone who wishes to have a good quality education should have the chance to receive it. This is easier said than done, but I think through educating others on this discrimination and fighting to close this opportunity gap we can make a difference.


squirrelluver123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Equal Opportunities for all BPS Students

I was surprised by a lot of what we have been talking about in class over the past few weeks. We learned about things that I had never heard of before, but that I think everyone should know. It was enlightening to learn about all these events that took place in Boston, and even in our own school. I think as a city and as a school we tend to focus on racial inequalities in other places, but can forget that they are still prominent in our city and even in our schools. I had never really thought about the racial issues we have as a school, but I think it is important for everyone at the school to understand the problems we face ourselves, not just outside of the school. I was very surprised that the percentage of white students is almost 50%, while the percentages of people of color are significantly lower. This was surprising because the percentages of people of color is much higher in BPS as a whole, which shows a significant problem with the admissions to the exam schools. Boston has a long history of racism that has not gone away as much as we like to think, and BLS is not immune to these issues.


I think it is very important that there is a change in the way students are accepted into BLS and the other exam schools. While in theory a test for acceptance is a good idea, it has not worked well. In general white students have more resources that would help them prepare for the test. Not all Boston students have access to high quality test preparation. As shown in court cases in the 90s, many people were not in favor of the “set-aside” system. It is understandable for someone to be upset if they do not get into a school even though they get a better score than someone else, but this does not make it fair. The only way the test would be fair would be if all students who wanted to attend an exam school were given the same resources and access to test prep, but this would be very likely to ever happen. Everyone wants what is best for their children, but like Ibram X. Kendi said in his article, we have “to do what’s best for all Boston children.” Clearly something is not working if these disparities in race within the exam schools are so prevalent. A lot of kids want to attend BLS, or an exam school like it, but are not able to and do not get in because they lack resources that others have.


We need to have more classes that teach us about the deep seated racism that exists in Boston because it affects us. We often think of Boston as a changed place, but it has not changed that much, as we can see in the exam school admissions. Most of the stuff we learned about race in Boston was completely new to me, and that should not be the case. All students at BLS and even in BPS should be learning about these things. I also think it is important that as a school we address the racist history of BLS. Students need to be taught about the events that happened in 2016 and before so that we can work together as a school community to prevent it from ever happening again. School should be a safe and welcoming place for everyone, and if people feel differently, something needs to change.


In the future, the racial makeup of BLS should reflect the racial makeup of the Boston Public Schools. All students in the city, regardless of race, should be given equal access and opportunities to attend the exam schools and receive a good education. This starts by educating students on these topics and how we can fight against them.

yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Is Our "Meritocracy" Just?

“The children who have the least in their homes often have the least in their schools,” writes Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in his Boston Globe article, and I have to agree. It is no secret to us in Boston that while, in places like West Roxbury, there are a plethora of high-performing private and public elementary schools, in many other low-income neighborhoods, there is a complete lack of support that is needed to gain admission into a so-called “elite,” selective exam school.


I can remember, before coming to Boston Latin School, the amount of preparation I, and my classmates, sought out for the ISEE, being from a rather higher-income neighborhood in Boston. Is the exam truly a symbol of meritocracy, if our education systems reflect inequity? Dr. Kendi warns us that there will be those who claim that the white and Asian kids who score higher on average are “smarter or work harder,” that this can be translated into the implication: “Black and Latinx kids are not as smart or not as hard-working.” This is what our “meritocracy” allowed us to do — discriminate against those who have less privilege in a way where we can maintain a clear conscience. I was able to pay. I don’t think it occurred to me, back then, that there were children from specifically redlined neighborhoods and underfunded schools who could not do the same. I hadn’t known how you could be limited by where you lived, at least not in America. It was only through years of learning about Boston and America's racism that I could recognize this — that there is a clear need for a more structured curriculum, motivating and motivated teachers, and more resources and guidance counselors, in all of Boston Public Schools’ elementary schools. In this way, students from all neighborhoods could receive the education they deserve, and the seed will be planted for a love of learning in the future.


In addition to reframing elementary schools, however, I think there is much change needed at Boston Latin School specifically. I made a friend over the summer at a biomedical research program. Of course, it was completely virtual, but we bonded and soon began talking about our lives at school since I went to Latin School, and he went to Latin Academy. He began telling me about his disappointment at the lack of resources at Boston Latin Academy — how he’d thought he would have more opportunities in college applications at his school. I was shocked to discover he’d taken the test for entry as a Bsie, got into Boston Latin School, and rejected the invitation. Of so many people my age in Boston, he’s definitely one of the smartest, quick-thinking, and dedicated students I’d met, and he’s also Black. This last point probably meant more than I thought it did, because he continued to say that his mother asked him not to come to our school because it was too much pressure. From an Asian perspective, not accepting the invitation was practically unheard of. For a Black person, however, with all the racial inequities aired in the media, with the reputation as an “elite” school, with the common, white supremacist notion taught to our society that Black and Latinx students are naturally underperforming, perhaps Boston Latin School is not the welcoming environment for everyone that we assume it is, and now we have to recognize this. If we want students from all races, backgrounds, and zipcodes to be excited about Boston Latin School next year, we have to actually make an effort — not just with homeroom slideshow presentations, but with widespread engaging education courses (like Facing) or with creative immersions into cultures, with active facilitation of welcoming sixes, with less competitive and burn-out culture and more community building.


But how do we actually admit students into exam schools, if not through exams? Well, I don’t think we should have exam schools at all. I think our three “elite” schools are a mechanism many privileged and affluent residents can use in order to not properly address the lack of support in teachers, curriculum, and physical conditions for other high schools in Boston. Before, I mentioned giving elementary schools enough resources should they want to attend exam schools, but what is better, in my opinion, is abolishing them altogether, to invest in all high schools so each and every one of them is equipped to handle various needs of students. Since this doesn’t seem to be an option right now in Boston Public Schools, I suppose we have to focus on the exams and admissions process of selective schools. As a whole, I support the new shift our school has adopted. I’m not sure it is sustainable yet, because we never know with new initiatives what the result would be, but I am hopeful about it. Truly, what is the harm in trying? What is the harm in taking strides towards equality? Since the desegregation of Boston’s schools, we have found ways to obstruct Black children from receiving decent education — why must we argue and delay equality any longer? I think the new system this year, if anything, is a great experiment.


This opinion is obviously very controversial. And people might see my bias as someone who’s already been accepted into Boston Latin School, which is valid. But the fact is I can recognize that I, and many like me, would have resources and opportunities even if we weren’t accepted into Boston Latin School. From private high schools to places like Brookline or Newton, we have opportunities which, may be different, but are undoubtedly abundant. There are very many real people in our city, who do not have opportunities outside of exam schools like Boston Latin School. I think we ought to remember that when considering admissions. Another argument I’ve seen many people in the Asian community make is that setting aside seats based upon race is discrimination against them. Though I am Asian, I don’t see it that way at all — and I think it’s detrimental for our community to consider the advancements of opportunities for Black students and their families as a slight against our own. I also find it frustrating that the Asian representation in Boston exam schools can be double that in other Boston Public Schools, that Asian representation in New York City’s selective schools can be almost five times that in all other NYC high schools according to the data in Alvin Chang’s article, and we do not think that this is inequitable. Our community’s failings to recognize discrimination against Black, Latinx, and Indigenous groups are really awful to see. We have to look at the numbers, because they don’t lie, and realize the change we can create in education is far beyond the individual; but rather, for a future of equity.


I think we need to look critically at our past — how often in regards to education people have protested desegregation in Boston. I think by understanding the lack of equality that has always existed in our city, we can see the big picture of racism in our country and recognize the value in advocating for each other. We can be motivated enough to enact more substantial change, even if, like the new policy at Boston Latin School, we are not yet sure how it will turn out. I have hope that we can make our city better and brighter — but this will not happen until we take the racial faults in our system upon ourselves as a priority, instead of profiting from these injustices.

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

In class, Ms. Freeman mentioned how when she first started teaching at BLS, she would hear parents talking about how greatful they are that their children go to the school because "where else would they go?". Yes, going to this school does give my peers and I a lot of advantages that other students at our same grade don't get handed to them. We all were admitted to one of the best public schools in the country through the form of a standardized test, known as the ISEE, as well as our GPAs based on report cards administered leading up to the test. We are able to utilize the wealth of resources that our school offers such as travel abroad opportunities, school-led internships, and a wide array of courses to take. We are the top feeder school to Harvard, one of the most prestigeous research universities in the world. However, while we sit in all this privilege in the halls, and as of now, the zoom classes of Boston Latin School, we fail to recognize the many kids in the Boston Public School system that aren't getting the same education we are. The endowment of this institution is $53 million dollars, well above any other school within the district. Other schools, even the BLA or the O'Bryant, don't have access to the opportunities that we do. As I mentioned above, we are a member of one of the most coveted educational institutions in the country. But is ranking schools based on which ones we think are better or worse healthy for society as a whole?

One way we can make amends for this stark miscalculation is by redistributing some of our funds around the school district to schools who are really in need of more money. Technically, BLS is a public school due to the fact that it is free of tuition and part of the Boston Public Schools network of high schools. However, the way the school raises money very much resembles private school funding mechanisms. The institution has it's own association known as the B.L.S.A., or in other terms the Boston Latin School Association, from which we raise money from our alumni. Every year, the association hosts a dinner for alumni that essentially functions as a fundraiser. We even have enough money from this type of bundling that every member of the graduating class gets some scholarship money in some form of the organization. As I also mentioned above, our school has an endowment of $53 million; all of which will certainly not be utilized. In order to create more equity for everyone in our district and not just the students at BLS and other exam schools, we must funnel some of our unnecessary dollars to other high schools with a larger make-up of disadvantaged students in their community to ensure that everyone is getting equal access to similar resources.

Another element of our institution that I find troubling is that there is pervasive ignorance within the school community when it comes to its history with race and racially charged incidents. All archeologists' digs into the first site of Boston Latin School as the oldest public school in the country, cowrie shells were found, which were used in Africa as currency. This likely means that during this time, African Americans, who were commonly owned as slaves in the colonies and around the Western World, were present on campus. This is confirmed by the ownership of two slaves by Nathaniel Williams, one of the first headmasters (although we don't use that coded terminology anymore). Fast forward to the court cases of McLaughlin v. Boston Latin School and Wessman v. Gibbons. In the former case, Jessica McLaughlin was represented by her father, who was an attorney, who argued that she should be granted admission to the school and that the racial quota put in place after the Racial Imbalance Act was enacted should be eliminated. Ultimately, the function known as "set asides", which meant that 35% of BLS's admitted students for Black and Latinx students, was eradicated. A new system, in which the top 50% of applicants were accepted and the other 50% were accepted based on racial data, was enacted. However, two year's later, Jessica's father represented another rejected applicant named Sarah Wessman in a lawsuit against the Boston School Committee. In Wessman v. Gibbons, Wessman argued that the 50%-50% system should be removed as well and the application process should be entirely based on merit. Many students today, as well as teachers, are unaware of this dark part of are past that has allowed the segregation to go unchecked for the past two decades. In order to fix this problem, I think the administration should implement a mandatory course about the full history of Boston Latin so that we can all fully grapple with the mistakes in society's blood that our school is no exception to.

thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 14

Legal Cheating Will Continue.

We live in a world based on climbing to the top ranks, it’s how our society runs, there are people of lower class in order to determine that someone is of the higher class. Although I do believe that one’s worth ethic and one’s effort to get ahead is important and is a big contributor to where people end up, the story isn’t that simple. As we all know, it will be easier for certain people to achieve than others due to their resources, and one’s formal education is only a fraction of the equation.

Upon reading “ There’s Something Wrong with the Exam School Test - Not with Black and Latinx Children,” it bluntly states “all Boston Children do not have equal access to high-quality test preparation - and it's impossible to create equal access. We’re not supposed to talk about all this legal cheating.” Legal cheating refers to the unfair advantage that predominantly white and asian children have as they are systematically put into better schools, have tutors, and much more. The purpose of creating an admission policy that creates equal opportunity for all is unobtainable. If admission decides to determine acceptance on the test scores of a standardized test, certain groups of higher status will be able to hire tutors, or helpers. If scores are determined solely on the grades of the individual, there is nothing to compare a student who goes to a competitive private school versus a student who goes to a less than stellar public school. Due to legal cheating, of different families given certain resources, there will be nothing equal about the opportunities that students will obtain.

In my opinion, the system that they are testing this year will lead to a diverse group due to the separation of zip codes although it is not a fair system. Yes, you are giving the first half of the spots to people who were ranked by a standardized test, but you are depleting the chance for other students who could grow through the experience by giving the other half to the ranking by zip codes. If they had followed this system the year of my acceptance as a sixie, I would not have gotten in. I know that this school has changed me to become a better student, speaker, and overall person. So for me, to think that a person who did not go to the best school up until my time at Boston Latin, and not being able to be given a chance due to the fact that I am of asian descent is sickening. Which brings me back to the point made in class today, we all want a more diverse and want to give a fair chance to everyone, although no one is willing to give up their own seat.

I think so much plays a part in everyone’s actions and achievements in school that it is impossible to create an equal chance for everyone. The environment that you are exposed to can cause so many problems: living in an apartment may mean more distractions and noise, living in an neighborhood with violence, living in a neighborhood with drug problems, living in a small house with many siblings causing too much noise, living in a low income family lacking nutrition that can affect the brain. There are so many small intricacies that can determine how a child places on a rank that are chosen even before they are born.

I honestly don’t think that any system that they choose to follow will effectively and fairly accept students accurately. Because the school system is only a part of the whole equation. Instead, I think Boston Latin should focus on what they can control, the students that they have. Teaching the kids that have gotten in about the racist issues in the school’s past and present should not be an elective. I had a very big shock when I first came to this school, as people were so polite and there was a negative correlation from the amount of black and hispanic kids from my old school to Boston Latin. These things go right under your nose unless you actively have conversations and become involved. This shouldn’t be an option to get involved because this affects the cultural makeup of our school and what we as a community stand for and look like. If we create an environment of students who are educated about these racial issues, they will carry it with them as they move forward.


bebe
Posts: 11

We Cannot Stop Here

For the last 30 years, the exam school admission process has been solely based on merit. To be accepted, all that was judged was your score on the ISEE, and your GPA for fifth and sixth grade. This became the process after the ruling in 1988 to get rid of the 35% racial quota in place. To most people who chose to remain ignorant to the racist policies they supported, this ruling sounded great. They thought they were extremely progressive to remain “colorblind.”


However, the truth is the exact opposite. In Ibram X Kendi’s public statement given at the recent BPS committee meeting in regards to the proposal to discontinue the entrance exam, he discussed the racist history of standardized tests. These tests are ultimately just an excuse for people to claim that White and Asian children are just smarter. After all, if everyone is taking the same test, and White and Asian students perform disproportionately better than Black and Latinx students, then this must be the case. This is how they ignore the fact that as a country, we are disadvantaging students of color from the day they are born.


The deep rooted history of racist economic and housing inequality comes full circle and right back to education. How can we say it is fair to suddenly judge students of all racial backgrounds in the same way, when we have been depriving and discluding some for their entire lives? White and Asian students do much better on the ISEE because they have had access to the necessary schools and tutors to ensure their success from day one.


It is fair to say that if there is one good thing to come from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that the BPS school committee was forced to reevaluate the exam schools admissions process. They could no longer ignore it as a non urgent matter to be dealt with at some point in the ever so vague future.


As a white student at BLS, I took the ISEE, sat in the expensive prep classes, and fought with my academic parents as they went over practice tests with me. I recognize the immense privilege that I hold, and I am completely in favor of the decision to discontinue the exam, reserve 20% of the seats for BPS students, and divide the rest of the spots up by the density of students in each zip code. However, that is not to say that I think we can stop there. Yes, this would definitely diversify the exam schools, but what about the unequal opportunities between White and Asian students, and Black and Latinx students? Just because the schools now would have a more equal racial representation, does not mean there will be an equitable one. The standard curriculum offered at the exam schools will need to be adjusted to account for the fact that now there will be students coming from completely different upbringings and academic backgrounds, not just the White ones who can afford tutoring.


This education crisis starts in Kindergarten. It is naive and ignorant of anyone to think that by making one adjustment to the exam schools admission process, the whole system will be fixed. There is so much more work to be done, and it is up to us to initiate it.


BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

The root of the problem

This is obviously a very complex problem which does not seem to have a clearly effective solution. The issue is that the exam school entry test discriminates against black and hispanic students along with lower income students as a whole and students who go to lesser funded schools. These students have far fewer resources to help get them into exam schools so the most prestigious schools tend to be majority white and more well off financially students. This creates a big problem because going to an exam school can provide you with way more opportunities and resources which have the potential to affect what college you go to or what job you get which can in essence change your whole life.

I think most people agree there is a problem with the equity of these institutions but what people cant agree on is what the solution is.

The main proposal in Boston right now, which is being tried out due to coronavirus is essentially allocating a certain number of spots to each neighborhood. The argument against this however is that its unfair to students who would have made it in if given the test. A more random system is also unfair to anyone who doesn't make it in because their neighborhood ran out of spots so now they will have fewer future opportunities purely because of bad luck.

A more radical opinion is that by their very nature exam schools are elitist and discriminatory and should be abolished entirely. Theres two problems with this idea, the first is that this is simply never going to happen, Exam schools are incredibly old institution and there would be huge backlash and zero cooperation in trying to remove them entirely. The second problem is that the removal of these higher prestige schools could actually hurt equity in education overall, If there was no higher level of public education than the schools with the most resources and best opportunities would very likely all be private schools which would be by their nature would only have the wealthiest students as opposed to exam schools which just tend to be that way but at least have opportunity for students with less resources to make it.

The third and in my opinion the best solution is to go straight to root of the problem which goes far deeper than just exam schools. The problem really stems from a lack of education resources for lower income and especially black and hispanic students wether that be no tutoring opportunities or underfunding for schools which desperately need it. The problem with this is how it would be approached because solutions like this have been attempted in the past providing free tutoring to help get into exam schools but it was open to everybody so students who already had their own resources used the program as well and nothing changed. If this is done it needs to be publicly funded at a state or national level and implemented so thats its used on a need based basis. While this isnt easy to pull off it seems like the most logical and fair solution and it could potentially help deal with other problems faced by lower income communities for instance it could potentially lower rates of gang violence in youth which is a big problem for a lot of communities.

speedyninja
BOSTON, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

speedyninja v. board of education

From an early age, we learn about the importance of education: that with a good one, we can go anywhere and do anything. We also have come to see education as an equalizing force, with the power to bridge social and economic gaps in our society. However, it is important to recognize that the opposite is true too; differences in educational opportunity can perpetuate or even widen these inequalities. Although most of us agree that the failures in Boston’s educational system begin far before students enter high school, the exam schools, and Boston Latin School especially, still present a significant problem in providing equal educational opportunity.


In learning about the history of Boston Latin, it became apparent to me that no system involving selective admission into exam schools will be fair to everyone or make everyone happy. Basing admissions solely on ranked performance on an entrance test and or middle school grades was clearly unfair to lower income students, who most often are African American or Latinx. These students tend to live in lower income neighborhoods, have lower quality early schooling, have less access to tutoring, and get the short end of the stick in many other ways due to America’s deeply rooted systemic issues. As mentioned in the Vox article, high school entrance exams seem to be less of a measure of students’ aptitude, and more of a measure of who has the best resources to ace the test. Thanks to these inequalities, as we saw, this method of admissions was changed, but the issue was not resolved. The alternative systems, for example setting aside seats for students of certain races, were also unfair, but this time to students who were left out of the exam schools because of a need to fill seats set aside for certain racial and ethnic groups, despite the possibility of these students having scored worse on the exam.


This leaves us with the system used for admissions this year, which uses zip codes paired with grades and standardized test scores to fill the exam schools seats. While I would argue that this is the most fair system to date, because it is expected to bridge the racial gap at the exam schools while selecting for kids who live in certain neighborhoods and not necessarily are members of certain racial groups, I agree with @Noodles in that it is not perfect, and it could bring about new problems. First of all, it can still be argued that this system is unfair to students who have higher grades and test scores but will be left out to fill seats for students from other neighborhoods. Additionally, this method does not change the fact that students from different neighborhoods will be entering the exam schools with very different educational backgrounds and experiences, which could mean that there is a very wide range of starting points.


Ultimately, because there does not seem to be a truly fair admissions process, I agree with @yvesIKB, that there should be no exam schools. First, as the Vox article mentions, admissions processes for selective high schools seemingly pit minority groups against each other, which I do not think is good for promoting unity and easing pre existing racial and political tensions. Next, the notion that an unfair admissions process should decide students' quality of high school education makes no sense. Boston Latin and the other exam schools should not be, or be seen as, the only quality options for public schools in Boston. Instead, funding and other resources should be more evenly distributed to other public schools to make each a viable choice for every student. Additionally, I think there needs to be reform in elementary and middle schools, so that again, each offers an adequate education. However, this does not mean each school should be exactly the same. There should still be a variety of schools, similar to the expansive choices of colleges, most of which are thought to offer a quality education. But students and parents in Boston should not prefer any public school over another due to the quality of education offered, but rather due to location and perhaps which they think is the best fit. Ultimately, I can not see this happening unless exam schools are scrapped completely for now. If we were able to flip a switch to ensure every Boston Public School student truly had equal opportunity to get into BLS and the other exam schools with an admissions test, then I think this system could be kept. I also think that if this equality were the case, it would mean that other high schools would change as a result and would be seen as quality options for education, and the exam schools would not be seen as the only option for some students and parents. However, because there is no telling when or if these systemic inequalities will be destroyed, and exam schools in a sense reinforce these inequalities, the exam schools have to go.


As far as what we learn at BLS, I think especially recently, the school has done a good job of making sure students are aware of the dark side of the admissions process. From our economic inequality projects in 10th grade English, to discussions such as this one in Facing and other classes, I think most students are aware of the racial divide between BLS and the rest of BPS. I think we are also able to recognize that many of us are here in part due to the privilege and resources we have. Simply being aware and gaining this information allows us to have a much better understanding of what our school really is and why we are here. It also gives us more informed opinions on what the admissions process should look like moving forward, and what the future of the exam schools should be. Regardless of what changes are made, I think it is great that we are having discussions such as this one and thinking about how education can be made more equitable.

ernest.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

There’s much to be said on this issue, but I struggle to come up with any kind of answer for what the best admissions process would be. I just don’t know. Neither the previous one nor the current temporary one are enough, but neither, it seems, can any other solution be. As @Noodles perfectly encapsulated, much of the problem lies beyond the arena of admissions, and in segregated and inconsistent public schooling system in Boston. If we plan on improving the racial makeup of BLS to reflect the makeup of Boston/BPS, the only true path to success is bettering the schools around BPS themselves. Chester Finn, in the 2nd article from the Wall Street Journal, gave a similar assessment:

"[Solutions that impose quotas or similar ratios based on income level or neighborhood] fiddle with the rationing system instead of adding to the supply of selective schools—fewer than 170 nationwide at last count, among more than 20,000 U.S. high schools—or ensuring that more poor and minority kids are prepared to compete for entry."

But of course, here at BLS, we don’t have the power to reallocate funds and improve the standards of elementary schools around Boston. Our (or at least, the boards making these decisions) power is determining the admissions process, which brings me back to that question. Regardless of whether or not we can gave a truly successful solution, we do still need a solution. I have not heard other people say this, and maybe this sounds a bit draconian, but I think it would be worth considering exam schools only being open to kids already in the public system. I was always at a public school, and my parents, as Ms. Freeman discussed in class, were worried about what would happen if my sister and I did not get into an exam school- they couldn’t afford a private school, and we’d heard only bad things about Boston’s high schools. If you can afford to send your child to a $20,000-a-year private school, why do you need to come to BLS in the first place? You’re certainly already getting a great education a private school. I recognize I have a very limited perspective as someone with practically zero experience with private schools, so I welcome some pushback on this, but I really don’t see why kids going to private schools won’t get just as fine an education if they stay at their private school instead of going to BLS.

And on the @yvesIKB’s argument that exam schools should be abolished altogether, I’d like to disagree. I do agree that abolishing them might lead to greater investment in other public schools, and that exam schools are always going to privilege the wealthy and white. The benefits of exam schools, however, outweigh the drawbacks in my opinion (though this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the drawbacks). BLS has given me so many opportunities and has helped me grow a lot, even if it was at the expense of a lot of stress/anxiety. I’ve been involved in a lot of successful extracurriculars that even good-quality public schools don’t wouldn’t usually offer, and I really like the BLS student body as well. I don’t want to ramble too long about this but I think that putting together students who really care about their education / are interested in learning is a really powerful thing, and does immense good to those students. And of course, I recognize that the flawed admissions process means that not all students who get in love learning, and not all students who love learning get in, but I think this stands true broadly as a trend. When I compare my own school experience to that of my cousins, who live in an affluent white suburb and go to a good quality public school, the differences are still huge.

yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Originally posted by Cookie Monster on December 03, 2020 19:17

In class, Ms. Freeman mentioned how when she first started teaching at BLS, she would hear parents talking about how greatful they are that their children go to the school because "where else would they go?". Yes, going to this school does give my peers and I a lot of advantages that other students at our same grade don't get handed to them. We all were admitted to one of the best public schools in the country through the form of a standardized test, known as the ISEE, as well as our GPAs based on report cards administered leading up to the test. We are able to utilize the wealth of resources that our school offers such as travel abroad opportunities, school-led internships, and a wide array of courses to take. We are the top feeder school to Harvard, one of the most prestigeous research universities in the world. However, while we sit in all this privilege in the halls, and as of now, the zoom classes of Boston Latin School, we fail to recognize the many kids in the Boston Public School system that aren't getting the same education we are. The endowment of this institution is $53 million dollars, well above any other school within the district. Other schools, even the BLA or the O'Bryant, don't have access to the opportunities that we do. As I mentioned above, we are a member of one of the most coveted educational institutions in the country. But is ranking schools based on which ones we think are better or worse healthy for society as a whole?

One way we can make amends for this stark miscalculation is by redistributing some of our funds around the school district to schools who are really in need of more money. Technically, BLS is a public school due to the fact that it is free of tuition and part of the Boston Public Schools network of high schools. However, the way the school raises money very much resembles private school funding mechanisms. The institution has it's own association known as the B.L.S.A., or in other terms the Boston Latin School Association, from which we raise money from our alumni. Every year, the association hosts a dinner for alumni that essentially functions as a fundraiser. We even have enough money from this type of bundling that every member of the graduating class gets some scholarship money in some form of the organization. As I also mentioned above, our school has an endowment of $53 million; all of which will certainly not be utilized. In order to create more equity for everyone in our district and not just the students at BLS and other exam schools, we must funnel some of our unnecessary dollars to other high schools with a larger make-up of disadvantaged students in their community to ensure that everyone is getting equal access to similar resources.

Another element of our institution that I find troubling is that there is pervasive ignorance within the school community when it comes to its history with race and racially charged incidents. All archeologists' digs into the first site of Boston Latin School as the oldest public school in the country, cowrie shells were found, which were used in Africa as currency. This likely means that during this time, African Americans, who were commonly owned as slaves in the colonies and around the Western World, were present on campus. This is confirmed by the ownership of two slaves by Nathaniel Williams, one of the first headmasters (although we don't use that coded terminology anymore) [...]

Thank you @Cookie Monster, your post made me consider so much. I think that your point that even BLA and the O'Bryant don't have the same time of opportunities BLS students do is so important — we group BLS, BLA, and the O'Bryant as "elite" schools, but if even these other two could use more resources and funding, then how are the high schools in Boston expected to thrive as "not elite" schools? And it also raised the question for me of whether these exam schools being grouped together has facilitated the lack of proper reform with BLS in our past, despite how we saw in class the major racial disparities between BLS and the other two exam schools.

I didn't know that BLS has an endowment of $53 million! Wow. And I never really considered the role of BLSA before. I don't know if BLS is actually allowed to allocate funds, since these Alumni have donated for the purpose of their alma mater and I think there are restrictions for where the money is allowed to go (though if anyone knows differently please let me know!). I think maybe a separate organization or fundraiser event might be needed to raise money for BPS as a whole — though there is the issue of getting BLS alumni to invest in the system versus just their school.

I too was shocked to learn about the cowrie shells and their origin, also that Nathaniel Williams owned enslaved peoples. It is just so interesting that physical evidence of slavery here is entrenched in our ground, that we walk around everyday in these same places. We see the effects segregation and racism in our systems, but these physical shells — though so small — I think help illustrate that our past is closer than we think.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Ensuring a Brighter Future for BLS and Other Exam Schools

I learned a lot from the class lecture on BLS and its history of admissions, as many parts of our school’s history shocked me. It is important for me and my peers to look deeply into the racist history of our school, which is reflective of the racism in Boston. The city was strongly against the desegregation of schools, shown through the violence that took place during the process of bussing in 1974. This racist attitude at the time can be connected to BLS in how the number of Black students enrolled at BLS declined in the years leading up to 1974, while the number of Black students increased in the other exam schools. What I found even more unsettling was the finding of cowries (common in Africa) during an archaeological dig at the old BLS site on School Street, which gave evidence of slaves being present at BLS. I believe that it is crucial for BLS to acknowledge its racist past by informing all of its students, as it will help us better understand the racism that still exists in the school and allow us to make connections between the past and current discrimination and inequalities at BLS. By doing this, we can create a more accepting and diverse environment that strives to be anti-racist.


However, this effort should not be limited to our school. All schools in BPS should incorporate classes where students learn about discrimination and systemic racism, particularly the racism in Boston both in the past and present. This enables students to become more aware of racism and discrimination at a young age so that they can better recognize it in their community and actively fight against it.


The newly implemented admissions process for the exam schools is a good start, since it will give the opportunity for more Black and Latinx students to enroll into the exam schools, specifically BLS. However, there is still much to improve in this process. As many people mentioned in class, most students think that if they have the score and the grades, they should be able to attend BLS or the two other exam schools. Therefore, there will be much strong disapproval of this proposal. Despite this, I believe that the ISEE is not the best way to measure a student's intelligence or preparedness for BLS. First, the test contains material that most students have not seen before. Second, success at BLS is not solely determined by your ability to take tests, but also your time management, organizational and communication skills, and your ability to work with others. BLS should have a more holistic process of determining enrollment. This could include their grades, letters of recommendation, and possibly an interview with the student to get a better sense of who they are and their personality.


The issue is not only the flaws with exam school admissions, but also the fact that BLS is the only “substantial” public education you can get for high school in Boston. Many parents worry saying, “ Where will my child go, if they do not get accepted into BLS?.” I see this first-hand as my mother stressed about the chances of my brother getting accepted into BLS before the change in the admissions process and even more after. It is troubling to know that this is the reality of our education system, in which certain groups have more resources and advantages than other groups. A good education should be given to every child, and the color of their skin should not determine the quality of their schooling. Thus, what can our school and the city do to move towards that kind of future? Boston should put more funds into the schools within BPS in order to ensure that every student is getting the quality education that they deserve. In doing this, the opportunity for each student to get into an exam school will be more equal, since they will receive the same standard of education. In addition, to address Ibram X Kendi, we must also recognize that most White students and some Asian students have access to more resources, like test prep, than Black and Latinx students and are often placed into better schools. Consequently, more Black and Latinx students will have a lower score on the ISEE and other standardized tests. This discrepancy is rooted from economic inequality, and not from the idea that White and Asian students work harder or are smarter. We need to consider fairness and justice over everything else. We need to take into account the needs of all the children in Boston and not just our own children.


babypluto9
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

Boston Latin and Application

By all means Boston Latin has earned the title of a elitist school. Although some attempts have been made to lead Boston Latin in the direction of inclusivity, Boston Latin is still very much elitist. In order to compromise with COVID-19, the ISEE will not be considered when making a choice of entering a exam school. This year exam schools are it's based on GPA and location. In my opinion, both the Covid and regular requirements are wrong.

In my experience, even if it has lessened recently, Boston Latin gives the highest work load and has the highest expectations in any public high school. In order to retain the reputation as a top high school and to keep it's legacy, this is mandatory. I believe getting into a exam school should have a GPA requirement as well as a ISEE score, much like applying to college. With these two factors, it would give more of a chance then just a test score. Although this option gives more room for kids to be accepted, those in the middle class and above will still have more to benefit from. Since they have always had a better education in properly funded schools, they will have more experience with workload and a higher education already. They are already set to do well, but most likely a student from a underfunded school coming to BLS would have a much harder time adjusting and being successful.

To help those without the resources available, I think there should be more programs in low income areas and underfunded schools. Since their is such a large disparity in income between black and white families, these programs should be put in place after school and should be free for those who actually need it. This would help everyone be on a more equal playing field and put my idea of a GPA requirement and ISEE score as reasonable.

In terms of education and what is taught, BLS is already giving a high level of education most public schools in America can't achieve. In terms of quality of education, BLS is pretty high up and obviously there is a reason for that. There's still room to grow in terms of inclusive learning, but attempts of this have been made. For the future of BLS and schools in general, we need to attack the issue in elementary and middle school. We need to equip everyone with a solid foundation and basic education in order to make getting into top high schools and colleges fair for everyone.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Originally posted by Noodles on December 03, 2020 16:56

The new admissions process to BLS based on GPA and zip code is more equitable than the ISEE test, but it is far from perfect. As with any change, it helps one population and hurts another. In this case, it improves the admission chances of black students and students from low income families, but this is only possible by reducing the admission chances of white students. This isn’t caused by racial quotas, but rather as white students are significantly more likely to score higher on the ISEE than black students as the test covered topics not taught in public schools—rather, it required families to pay for tutoring, a luxury that more white families may be able to afford due to income inequality.


But the real issue isn’t with how the admissions process for BLS should work, but rather how resources are allocated. Outside of the three exam schools, most of Boston’s public schools are underfunded and understaffed—a predicament that results in many families (the majority of whom are white) resorting to private schools if their child gets rejected from the exam schools. This is an overused analogy, but if the US allocated some of the more than $700,000,000,000 spend on the military each year to be used to improve the public education system, there wouldn’t be such a fight over the admissions process of BLS as all Boston public schools would be able to provide a similar education. Families should not have to worry that their child won’t get a quality education if they don’t get admitted to an exam school, nor should they have to send their children to private schools in order to guarantee them one as all public schools should provide such an education. Quality education must become a constitutional right, as the right to an education is not sufficient enough.


As for BLS, it should stay as is. BLS is able to afford the resources required for an education through alumni donations, meaning BPS can use their funds elsewhere. The resources that BLS has should not be shared or split up amongst all BPS schools, instead the budget for public education has to increase—albeit achieving such a goal would be close to impossible.


The system of admissions into the exam schools is not by itself racially biased—but when the bigger picture is able to be seen, it is impossible to ignore how race-related issues in the past, such as redlining and segregated schools, have caused race to affect one’s chances of being admitted to BLS.

I agree with @Noodles about how the large funds in the military, could be put into better use by redirecting it to improve our education systems. Making the education system better will give individual more resources to succeed life, allowing for higher education (college), more job opportunities, and then better housing in the future. I also think you made a great point about BLS receiving funds through alumni donations in addition to BPS funding. It leaves me with the question: Does BLS still receive more funding from BPS than other BPS schools, even though it already gets funding from alumni?

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