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BPS makes entrance-exam change official: Asks for a new company to write the exam that helps determine who gets into exam schools

BPS today issued an RFP for a company that can write exam questions that will both ensure potential students are ready for the "rigorous" exam schools while also "furthering equitable access to the exam schools, particularly for Black and Latinx students who have historically been underrepresented."

BPS has to have a replacement for the ISEE text - which mainly sixth graders, but also some eighth and ninth graders - took last November - before this fall, when sixth graders would take it for admission in the 2021-2022 school year. The exam that gives Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O'Bryant School their collective names has counted for 50% of the criteria used to determine admission. Grades account for the rest.

In a statement, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said the new test will have to be focused on what's actually taught in Boston schools - and be aligned the Massachusetts statewide educational criteria. One of the criticisms of the ISEE, which is used in numerous districts around the world, is that some of its topics are not covered in Boston classrooms, leading to an advantage for well off kids whose parents can afford private tutoring for them before the test.

We believe the new RFP will help level the playing field for students seeking admission to our exam schools by offering a test that actually assesses student’s knowledge of content they’re taught in class and has been rigorously reviewed to ensure it is free of bias. This is a good next step in our efforts to make sure our exam school student body is representative of all the students BPS serves.

BPS says it began to consider a new test last year. BPS and the Education Records Bureau, which creates the ISEE each year, have been engaged in a he said/she said battle of words over who's to blame for inequities related to who gets accepted to the three exam schools.

In addition to changing the test, BPS has taken other steps to try to increase minority enrollment at the three schools, in particular BLS, such as providing greater access to free tutoring programs and by letting sixth-grade students take the exam in their home schools, rather than having to travel across the city to a test site.

Proposals are due to BPS by March 19.

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Comments

Forget the test, just name all of the schools Boston Latin School like when the state named most of their colleges UMass. The "elite" can still go to the campus on Avenue Louis Pasteur while the clever will seek out a less esteemed Boston Latin campus and become the valedictorian of let's say, Boston Latin at Charlestown or Boston Latin at Jeremiah Burke. Public school is an education itself, so those who make it through shouldn't be given an inferior diploma.

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Voting closed 28

Which is time consuming and not easy. Four (or perhaps three) years of the dead language will probably decrease interest in school, increase the dropout rate, and thus decrease equity.

On a similar line of thought, it makes no sense for Madison Park to devote itself to Latin as a vocational school (albeit a struggling one).

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To UMass Community College at Bunker Hill and UMass Community College at Roxbury, etc.

The core question to address is: it's clear that some schools are perpetually perceived as worse than others - how can we fix that?

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Who refuse to consider candidates from all but a handful of schools, even for back-office roles

From there it jumps to the Baron's and other ranking vehicles (which are more of a pay to play product)

Then to parents who are striving for little Johnny and little Suzy to meet and socialize with the right mix of students

To the students who want to parade around their academic pedigree like a pair of Manolo Blahniks

Etc etc etc

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Voting closed 3

Particularly given the fact that the free tutoring programs happen at BLS during the summer. Will a new test really be ready by then, and will preparation material be published by that point (and instructors trained on what to focus on)? Or, is BPS screwing this year's kids over by unilaterally ending the tutoring program?

I don't know how fast tests are/can be written, but given BPS' lofty standards of 'furthering equitable access', the final product doesn't sound like an overnight job.

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'Only 2 percent of America’s Latinos said they preferred the term.'

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/why-latinx-cant-catch-...

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Anyone who knows even a little Spanish sees how ridiculous an idea un-gendering the language is.

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For specific information about the content of this RFP #1118, contact [BPS]

In the name of transparency, why not make the RFP public?

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I guess this shows how damn old I am lol. As a Boston Latin Academy alum myself, that test was HARRRRRD. However, back then, I don't know if it really mattered what area the kids came from - what mattered were your scores. While attending, I had a variety of classmates from everywhere in the city. I attended parochial schools in both Cambridge and Dorchester until I took the test. I passed for all 3 exam schools and had the option (well, my mom did) of which one I wanted to attend.

I do agree with letting the students travel for the test. I had been up, studying like a mad person all night at my mom's instruction & my own thinking yes you can do this, prepared to make that travel for the test (and she made sure I was well fed that morning).

That being said, I have 2 teenagers in a charter school and frankly some of the curriculum I've seen leaves me shaking my damn head.

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...there is no possibility it will be “rigorously reviewed.” And let’s hope the test doesn’t become a useless measure by gearing it to the average BPS 6th graders. It is supposed to identify the exceptional.

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About a quarter of the high schoolers in BPS go to an exam school. Do you consider 25% "exceptional?" I don't. All it needs to be is a good enough test, to pick kids for good enough schools.

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If you have two kids of the same academic ability, both of whom are capable of doing equally well at one of these schools, then there oughtn't be an advantage to the one whose parents can afford to have them tutored in subjects that aren't in the curriculum.

It's fine to make the test hard and differentiate between kids, but that differentiation shouldn't depend on having the money to buy an extra curriculum to study from.

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of a test question for a minority student?

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Because that's not the issue. The issue is a test that benefits kids whose parents have enough money to send them to ISEE tutoring programs, needed because the ISEE test has questions on topics not taught in Boston schools, in a district that, until the whole Black at BLS thing happened in 2016, went out of its way to hide its free tutoring program from kids at schools in largely black neighborhoods.

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You always come in with the right amount of heavy handedness when folks tend to think us marginalized folks are making up the fact that there isn't equal access.

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Ok, I ask... why do we have to try and increase the "minority" enrollment in these schools? Shouldn't we be trying to increase the enrollment of intelligent students in these schools? With nothing to do based on race or nationality? What does this have to do with education?

Is my child going to perform better in Algebra because his class is broken down into equal racial parts? What happened to people/students/job seekers getting ahead or what they want based on skill and smarts not just race and background?

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In a district that is at least 85% black and Hispanic (maybe more at this point), a majority of the kids at BLS are white and Asian.

Are you really saying black and Hispanic kids aren't intelligent?

Is it possible that, maybe, poor kids in general lose before they even get to the exam-school starting line? That for decades Boston has administered a test that effectively required outside tutoring because it covered things not taught in Boston schools, and that white kids in, oh, West Roxbury might have an advantage because their parents could afford that tutoring? Now throw in the sorry state of education in many elementary schools in black and Latino neighborhoods.

I say this as the whitest white-guy father (I don't tan, I just burn) of a BLS graduate, who took the free BPS test-prep course only because she went to an elementary school in West Roxbury where people went out of their way to alert parents to the course, even as the guy administering the program was going out of his way to not do anything to try to alert kids in schools in Roxbury or Mattapan about the course.

I'm very grateful for the education she got; I want kids in less fortunate circumstances to at least have a fair shot at the same thing.

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No-one ever talks about the city demographics, just the district demographics, which is bullshit.

There is still an imbalance at the exam schools, but the constant use of BPS stats is identity politics rearing its ugly head. Per this, 25% of children in Boston are white, not 15%.

https://www.bphc.org/healthdata/health-of-boston-report/Documents/4_C1_D...

If all the white kids who opt out of K-6 education opted in, we'd have huge BPS budget issues. The city benefits by only educating them for 7-12 in terms of budget at least.

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Are you really saying black and Hispanic kids aren't intelligent?

Not intelligent? Can't say. Worse students? Yes.

That's what the data says. It's hard to find data that doesn't say that.

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Worse students is a gross generalization. While the "data" does show there are achievement gaps, why do these achievement gaps exist. It comes back to access and opportunity, which is the root of what Adam was saying.

But the data can prove any racist theory if you really want it to, so go off.

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Careful. Replace "race" with "climate change" in your post, and it becomes readily recognizable as the language used by deniers when speaking about the subject.

An achievement gap exists. Calling the standardized test 'racist' is a distraction.

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Sounds like what needs to change is the state of education in the elementary schools that you speak of then, not the standards of the exam schools.

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Has nothing to do with changing the standards of exam schools. In fact, the test would now more reflect the standards we intend to teach.

Bottom line, if the BLS population doesn't mirror the student population as a whole something went wrong somewhere.

Are we going to accept this racist outcome as just fine? Of course not. If we want an outcome to change do we have to do something different? Of course.

This is the something different. And it all sound reasonable. Taking away an out-of-state test that didn't match up with MA standards makes total sense.

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This drives me nuts. The exam school make up should reflect racial breakdown of all city kids, not just those who have gone to BPS.

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At no point was it said that children of black or hispanic backgrounds were not intelligent. Do I think they should get a "head start" based on that? No. Maybe when they are young and can't think for themselves, but at the age of exam testing? They should be able to look for resources.

My son (so pale he is see through) goes to a predominantly black/hispanic school in a predominantly black neighborhood and is thriving. His school was a turn-around and is now one of the best in the City. Why? Not because of the color of the skin in the classes but the mentality of the teachers and Principal and the parents who work 2 jobs who make it a point to do something.

I don't think parents in Westie are any different than HP or Roxbury when it comes to honestly caring about their kids education. Be it private tutoring or not, you CAN find a way to help your child succeed. Where you live and the color of your skin does not do that, your mind does.

But to answer the actual post-its about time they administer a test that actually tests the kids on what is actually taught. What a novel concept!

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Amongst City of Boston residents, the ISEE has been a big joke for decades because it absolutely did not align with ANY Massachusetts public curricula.

What a "savvy" parent used to do was either pay for a lot of private tutoring or enroll their kids in a parochial school where they drill mainly on math and grammar. Forget contextual information like history, art or science. Forget study skills. Forget encouraging socio-emotional attributes like being a team player and kind to your classmates. It was also a big eye-roll about what constitutes an "A' at parochial school (e.g. read massive grade inflation).

I was sent to a now-defunct parochial school 30-years-ago and then got into Boston Latin School. I have felt for years that the exam school process was massively unfair to a lot of families in Boston. So as a Boston parent, I'm glad BPS will finally drop this test.

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I agree fine to drop the test but to do it in this timeframe with stated standards that are impossible- again in this timeframe is such a disservice to families and kids in the system. Current 5th graders are absolutely screwed. And I don’t see how they can justify this years scores either. BPS is a disaster. Changes made now should be implemented in the 21/22 school year. We need an elected school committee. And Marty Walsh just sucks in his handling of the public schools. Do nothing, no accomplishments. No changes. It’s been so long.

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Current 5th graders were already "screwed."

The test didn't work. We now know that. Why would we continue to administer a test that we've determined didn't work?

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One way to help your kid have a better shot at going to an exam school is to do the bare minimum— Ask them if they have any homework. Get involved. Or you can blame the testing process. Whatever you do, don’t put any mirrors in your home or you might see the real reason why the kid can’t compete.

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Voting closed 18

what if you are:
-single parent working two jobs
-don't speak enough English to offer homework help
-insert other circumstances here...

yes, support is needed at home for kids to succeed but unfortunately not all kids get that help and it's not because parents are too busy eating bon bons

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And no one is going to mention the “student?” Perhaps they are just too lazy to care? Maybe they know they can get just a little bit ahead on their race etc so why even bother?

I am that single mother busting her butt, working, taking him to practices but I join parent council, I stay up and do homework and let dishes and laundry pile up. Priorities. There is plenty of help for “poor” kids if they care to look for it. I was a poor kid and I found it. I don’t care where you live in the city, if you want a great education—fight for it! Beg your parents to get involved! Go to your principle, teachers and councilors. They are a wealth of information. Oh yeah and that free thing—called the Library.

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Hey 9 year old. Go call your city councilor.

Thanks for this helpful advice. I truly never thought of that. I will spread the word and we surely will overcome the achievement gap in no time.

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Well, 9 year olds ARE doing a lot more these days now aren't they!

But since that was not at all the point of that post, Anon. I'm guess they can go to a library or ask a teacher to help them navigate the resources that are out there. The achievement gap is just that- "achievement." Some want to achieve, some don't. I get it, you want to blame the schools, parents, the city but really isn't it the student? These kids taking the test are teens. Old enough to know how to ask for help if they need it. They are not 9. I know when I took it, honestly, I didn't want to go to Latin. Did I need extra help in math? Sure did! But did I ask for it? Nope. Did I know where to look for it or who to ask? Yes.

No one is disputing the test needs to dictate what is actually being taught in the school-as to make sure the kids can keep up. But to keep saying things need to be "diversified?" is just getting old. Why even bother trying if you are just going to get passed by with your awesome grades for someone who is a different race because there isn't enough of that race in the class? Come on now.

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No one's "blaming," at least not in the way that you're using it (assigning fault based on an emotional reaction with no evidence).

Did you read through it all? The test didn't match state standards. So we're switching to one that does. Simple.

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