Moving Toward Equity at a PWI?
“What do you think should happen at Boston Latin School?” While that’s a loaded question, I do believe there are many places that we can improve.
Starting with admissions, I believe that the new upcoming system is a small step in the right direction. As we discussed (far too briefly) in the Zoom chat section, entrance exams are not suited to selecting the smartest or most capable students but rather those who were given the most opportunity to prepare, an idea that Alvin Chang’s article “The Fraught Racial Politics of Entrance Exams for Elite High Schools” also notes. He writes that “…it [the entrance tests] measure[s] who has the resources to prep for this test. Schoolwork isn’t enough to prepare you”, an issue also discussed in our Zoom chat. I remember specifically someone commenting that the MCAS tests content that isn’t even taught.
I think a more holistic system should be created, perhaps taking into account factors such as applicants’ grades, course load relative to their school’s curriculum, and activities outside of the classroom. Overall, much more like the structure of college admissions, which is rather appropriate considering that other historically PWI (primarily white institutions) like Harvard College and the other Ivy League colleges are dropping standardized testing requirements altogether for the same reasons that our policies are changing. On the other hand, if the exam school admissions test is kept, there needs to be a way to level the playing field. This would entail creating an exam that isn’t (as) “studyable” and making sure that all BPS students are given the same opportunity to take it. As many people suggested, mandating that all 6th and 8th-grade BPS students take the exams in their schools at a set time (maybe during a normal school day) would ensure that there would be no transportation barriers or any chance that students wouldn’t be aware of the opportunity.
As for curriculum, it’s important to continue incorporating antiracist teachings into either liberal arts classes or periods like extended homeroom or W Block (or both!). I think it’s also worth having more sit-ins from affinity groups. BLS BLACK, MESA, ASIA, TAG, ASA, and PRIMA (and I’m sure there are so many more that I’ve missed) are all great clubs that are focused on creating a community for BIPOC students at BLS who could teach cultural awareness and workshop education on racism and xenophobia on their respective communities. I really enjoyed BLS TAG’s presentation series for National Hispanic Heritage Month and would love to see a similar vein of activities for all the other clubs I listed. Additionally, teaching the history of BLS and racism is paramount. Change starts at home and I think many BLS students, regardless of race or ethnicity, are not aware of BLS's anti-Black past. I know I had very little idea of anything prior to 2016's exposure of racism and the creation of the Black at BLS hashtag, up until class on Friday.
Finally, “the future” is very vague and I’m not entirely sure how to answer that question. I think that my thoughts on additions to the curriculum also encompass the future of BLS, but I don’t have any solid stance on what a post-exam “elite high school” admissions process should look like. I hope that regardless of how the system is reformed, it is fair, equitable, and holistic to all applicants, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, and (dis)ability.