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Boston petitions: Keep the exam in exam schools, get the city to buy a wooded parcel in Roslindale

There are currently a couple of Boston-specific petitions circulating online:

One beseeches BPS to keep an exam as a requirement for exam-school entrance for 2021 - just the one BPS picked in July to replace the supposedly kinda-racist one it ditched in February. Last week, because of all the current Covid-19 craziness, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius proposed ditching exams for 2021 in favor of a system relying on class ranks in general and by Zip codes in particular.

Abandoning a test for Boston’s exam schools, with no viable alternative admissions process, only causes more uncertainty and disruption, not less. Boston's elected leaders should come out in favor of moving forward with MAP testing this fall and continue their efforts to provide quality preK-12 education for all students.

Also circulating online is a petition to have the city buy an acre of land between the Sherrin Woods urban wild and the Northeast Corridor train tracks on the Roslindale/Hyde Park line.

A broker recently started advertising the land for sale, possibly for construction of townhouses. Petitioners say the land is now effectively a continuation of Sherrin Woods, home to wildlife that includes deer, and that rather than letting a developer chop up the land, the city should buy it and make it part of the urban wild permanently.

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Comments

Is also currently occupied by a homeless man. He's been there for some time and has constructed a rather large shelter. Its against the chain-link fence abutting the tracks.

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What's interesting is that when you look up the parcel on the City website, it is labeled as Sherrin Woods II already - how long has the current owner had it?

Kind of.

When I saw that sign for the first time, I was amazed that it was not public land already. Looking at the deeds information, it has been passed around, though I believe it has been in the Van Dam family for a while.

As long as it's not too expensive, the City should buy. That said, it's an odd parcel, so we are talking about townhouses basically against the tracks.

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Rezoning from commercial to residential wiped out $100k of value back in 1990. Now it's crept back up to closer to the previous high.

I don't live near here so don't have a strong opinion by the current owner is certainly owed market value on the lot. The question then becomes if this particular lot is worth laying out city money on vs. other options. Not a lot of money in the city budget OTOH.

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The Sherrin Woods are fascinating, and while isolated, they are much more accessible than several urban wilds I can think of.

Are " Gone Baby Gone."

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And you think thats a GOOD thing?

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The schools will be there and continue to be a place where parents can send their children if they want a traditional education that is leveled or "tracked."

BPS is using the pandemic as an excuse to accelerate changes to admissions criteria and shove it down our throats. The total change needed should not be exacted on the backs of one year of students. They are administering an in person standardized test today.

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One way or another there are going to be students that are happy they got in, and ones that are disappointed that they didn't.

So what is your point? The only correct admissions criteria is the one that works specifically for your family?

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Did they listen to the proposal at school committee? They absolutely have a viable alternative. Sorry petitioners, the exam is done for this year and hopefully forever.

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BPS put out a RFP for it earlier this year, in the middle of the pandemic. BPS knew exactly what it was getting itself into - the impact of COVID on minority communities was already well-known by that point.

Boston taxpayers have paid for the exam; the vendor has guaranteed that the exam has passed numerous studies about its pro-equity outcomes. Not using it in the future is like buying a brand new car, only to let it rot in your driveway until it becomes 20+ years old and you have to sell it to the scrap lot.

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The only way to level the playing field and to assess kids is to use some form of standardized test. Using grades for 50% of the criteria opens the door for school level manipulation, especially for those schools built on the idea that they “prepare and send kids to the exam schools”. Trying to make up for systemic inequities in one year, by applying a zip code standard is arbitrary, unfair and unproven. There is a movement by colleges to not require the SAT this year, but that has been replaced by an emphasis on applicant’s personal statements, not different and arbitrary data.

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Does anyone have data on what the average GPAs are for 6th grades across the city in terms of distribution? If 20% get in regardless of zip code due to GPA, then that will really inform where the shifts in attendees will happen.

6th grader teacher meetings are going to be very unfun for teachers in places like West Roxbury when parents realize that their little Noah and Fiona are possibly on the wrong side of that GPA cut-off.

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Catholic elementary schools in Boston have already been accused of grade inflation for years.

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but why do their students kick ass on standardized tests?

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Their parents have the money for after school tutoring specifically designed for the test. Everyone in my sixth grade class had tutoring. Oh, and the strongest predictor of any standardized test scores is the student's parents' income.

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1 person in my class had a tutor and they ended up going to Fontbonne. I think everyone in my class was invited to 1 of the 3 exam schools.

While it's a frequent line of attack on charter schools, it's also true for parochial schools.

The other pieces of the puzzle which is conveniently ignored by both parochial and charter school defenders is that these schools by definition only have kids who have parents involved in the education enough to specifically chose a school for them. That's a huge, huge filter vs. BPS who has to take all comers (and should BTW.)

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As someone who attended both private and BPS, I specifically remember having exam prep for both the Stanford 9 and MCAST. Those prep classes took place in BPS, not the parochial.

Not sure where you're obtaining you information from, but my personal experience begs to differ. I cant speak on charters, however based on you comment and it's accuracy, I imagine it's biased rather than factual.

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My knowledge of parochial is anecdotal and experience with charters is that they don't teach to the standardized testing.

My second point is 100% true though and explains a lot of the differences in average outcomes for various types of Boston students.

I'm old now but my mom paid for my brother & I to attend prep classes at Kaplan in the early 80's. We did not have the $ but I think she scrimped & saved what she could and then borrowed the rest from a friend. Both of us passed the test but only 1 got in.

On the other hand my "rich" friends w/ 2 parents always had help, tutoring, etc. All of them got into BLS. It makes a difference when you have the means.

schools who may just be under the 20% mark in their schools? Shouldn't they have the chance to take the test in order to qualify for the exam schools??

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This is a couple of decades ago, but my son went from BPS to a parochial school, took the exam, and finished at BLA. We were told when the exam was being given and where, and picked a convenient option and he took it. I was not aware that the exam was not available to all students. BTW, he was an inner-city kid and received no extra prep beyond growing up in a middle-class household of voracious readers.

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The only way to level the playing field and to assess kids is to use some form of standardized test. Using grades for 50% of the criteria opens the door for school level manipulation, especially for those schools built on the idea that they “prepare and send kids to the exam schools”. Trying to make up for systemic inequities in one year, by applying a zip code standard is arbitrary, unfair and unproven. There is a movement by colleges to not require the SAT this year, but that has been replaced by an emphasis on applicant’s personal statements, not different and arbitrary data.

Like with the lottery to join the district in the first place, BPS has introduced a new algorithm, this time applied to “exam”school placement. The algorithm is specifically opaque, no way for accountability. As applied to grades, there is no accounting for inflation at individual schools. As it applies to zip codes, this is an arbitrary denomination, applied without proof of effectiveness.

Changing the admissions criteria at this extremely late date injects unacceptable uncertainty for families who are drowning in a system that seems unresponsive to families needs. No parent of a sixth grader was included in the advisory committee. Further, families have been reacting since the ISEE exam administer cancelled its contract with BPS. We waited months and were told the MAP test, an assessment aligned with BPS standards, would be used. Now, a month before the test was set to be administered, BPS has announced a major upheaval.

Further, the burden placed on 6th graders is horrible. And we know that BPS will be doing assessments on these kids this year. The number of students affected could absolutely be administered a test even in a pandemic. For example, the ISEE is still being administered this year. A student can either take it at home or in a secure, Covid appropriate setting.

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I am conflicted about this. I want to preserve greenery but I also don't want to be a NIMBY who doesn't want development. What are the pros of developing this site as housing?
a) semi-close to transit
b) adds housing stock which we need.

Cons:
a) would realistically be car dependant
b) cuts down trees

Further thoughts?

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The fact that this is about 500' from the Stony Brook res makes it nice for locals but far from vital in terms of tree density, etc... If this was in the middle of Roxbury or somewhere with a lot less mature trees, it would be different.

In the very meeting where this zip code based admissions process was proposed, BPS acknowledged they have bad addresses for possibly as much as 50% of students - this was the explained reason why they are not mailing student MBTA passes.

So WHY on earth should we trust the school department address data when it comes to admissions for the exam schools?

The proposal to allocate 80% of seats largely by zip code rather than achievement is a RADICAL one for a school department that has trouble with small adjustments in a NORMAL year. The school department hasn't even altered bus routes to adjust for the non- attendance of the majority of students. The very same school department messed up admissions for 2020 based on long existing factors. And they expect such a huge admissions change to be taken in stride?

The deliberate choice to exclude kids from "wealthier" zip codes at the exam schools is a MAJOR policy change that should not be done under cover of a pandemic. While true that poorer zip codes are typically less represented, no one made a policy choice to admit or exclude people previously based on wealth of their neighborhood.

Basing the "qualified pool" on a B average is a joke. It fails to acknowledge that anyone admitted with a B average also must have placed incredibly high on the admissions test to balance out a mid level grade, which a B is.

Notably, BPS offered no data projections based on prior year data. Residents and the school department should know how many children and how many neighborhoods from the "qualified pool" would be completely excluded from any 80% slot.

Long term, a decision like this is yet another reason people decide to leave the Boston Public Schools. The real problem is that most schools do not offer an excellent education, and rather than dealing with that issue, BPS leaders spend time tearing down or punishing attendees at those which do.

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"While true that poorer zip codes are typically less represented, no one made a policy choice to admit or exclude people previously based on wealth of their neighborhood."

If you think BPS doesn't have policy choices in its recent past related to neighborhood wealth, that's a doozy.

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The zipcode allocation is not excluding any child from a "wealthy" zip code from exam schools. It is merely an acknowledgment that a kid who is performing at top 5% of their class in East Boston is just as smart as a kid in West Roxbury who is at top 5% of their class. It eliminates the misconception that there is a concentration of smart, more qualified kids in certain neighborhoods or schools.

It is leveling the playing field which, for years, has been biased against low income neighborhoods with so-called underperforming and under-resourced schools and no access to additional supports such as tutors or academic enrichment that wealthier neighborhoods and families have access to. There is no concentration of smart kids in certain neighborhoods, just a concentration of wealth and opportunities. 

Even if BPS decides to use MAP test rather than (or in addition to) GPA, I hope that they keep the neighborhood quota.

I am a parent of a BPS 6th grader who probably would have done fine on the test. I have no idea where my child stands with this new algorithm, but I welcome this change. I won't say that the proposal is without flaws -- in fact there are some big issues I'd like to see addressed -- but I think it's a step in the right direction.

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Roslindale residents love to call themselves quirky and proclaim “All Are Welcome Here” but the moment anyone proposes any new housing, every vacant overgrown lot suddenly becomes sacred greenspace that must be untouched lest anyone new actually be allowed to move to the neighborhood.