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Group of White, Asian-American parents sue to block exam-school admissions that use Zip codes

A group of parents sued Boston Public Schools today over its decision to replace exam-school exams for one year with a system that uses pre-Covid GPAs and Zip codes to select students for Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O'Bryant School.

The suit, filed in US District Court in Boston by a group called Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp., alleges the new system is racially biased against White and Asian-American families because it gives more preference to students from more heavily Black and Latino Zip codes.

The group demands a judge declare the policy unconstitutional.

The suit is specifically on behalf of 14 families - 10 of them from West Roxbury.

More immediately, the group seeks injunctions to prevent BPS from using the new system for admission in the 2021-2022 school year and for ever trying it again in future years.

Although the School Committee emphasized its October decision was just for the upcoming school year, it also charged the task force that came up with the plan to continue working to come up with ways of reducing racial disparities at the exam schools, in particular Boston Latin School, at which a majority of students are White or Asian-American in a school district where the majority of students at Black or Hispanic.

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PDF icon Memo in support of the complaint398.86 KB

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Comments

Bottom line is the kids who deserve to excel to the top are the ones who want to work the hardest and use their gifted brains to do so and break through the barriers. Kids make yourselves heard!

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grades only and using only the number of current 6th graders for 7th grade admissions (and 8th graders for 9th grade admissions) as opposed to using the number of all school age children within each zip code, I don't think there would be a problem.

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Perhaps that's your point, but isn't that just locking in the status quo? The status quo is the issue here.

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Quota systems are prohibited

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You don't know what you are talking about.

So a zip code system is a quota? Legal citations, please.

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Quota systems are prohibited

Citation needed. Can you point to where this is specified in the Constitution?

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Just throwing a well know case that said that quotas are unconstitutional out there.

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There were six different opinions in Bakke. None were supported by the majority, and there was no finding that affirmative action is unconstitutional per se

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But let's be clear, Bakke said that numerical quotas were unconstitutional, which is why the Regents had to change their policies. That's also why BPS had to change policies with the exam school in the 1990s.

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...although arguably, you're moving them yourself with "numerical quotas". There were six separate opinions in Bakke, and no majority opinion. Perhaps you can provide a specific citation to which opinion you claim "said that numerical quotas were unconstitutional". Without that, you could be referring to any number of things that may or may not support your position, so there's really nothing to discuss.

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I mean, I didn't have to put the word "numerical" in, as it is superfluous, since a quota is a numerical absolute. At the end of the day, the regents set 16% of the seats aside for minorities, and that was seen as unconstitutional. But since you want something to read, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1979/76-811.

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Delete...Delete...Delete..

I hope the school committee members were circumspect with their communications. Now that this suit has been filed it will be interesting to learn how race played a factor in their decision making process. Let's see those public record emails and text messages.

Boston Public Schools are 14% white and will probably be 9% post COVID. Who is the real minority in Boston Public Schools?

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Wah wah wah tiger mamas trippin

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For your right to privvvvvlege!

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Tiger Mamas is an Asian stereotype -- why was this comment approved?

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Racist much?

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Then maybe just send little Bratleigh and Marshmallow Testchamp to private school instead?

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You think there's a lot of kids called Marshmallow in Chinatown? This isn't West Roxbury parents filing the suit you know.

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The suit is specifically on behalf of 14 families - 10 of them from West Roxbury.

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my bad, I was thinking of an earlier article about how Chinatown parents were pissed about this.

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Why the hell do we have an "elite" public school where everyone in the city is fighting (and literally leveraging their legal privilege and ability) to get their kids into?

Why can't we build a system where all the schools are good?

How the hell are we not just taking care of everyone. Like I know it's hard to build a better system but is pitting Bostonians against each other really the thing we've come to accept?

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Let's ban AP classes because not everyone can take advantage of them, like, not fair guys! Honors too, same story! Heck, let's ban regular classes as well and make everything remedial!

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Why not have a wide variety of AP classes available in all of the schools?

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And I think the answer was that with exam schools, there simply won’t be a demand for them in the other schools, if you get rid of exam schools, they should balance out. But......are you going to bus everyone around to different schools if you get rid of exam schools? Because if you do, you are back to 1970 again.

Lotteries sound “fair” but if (insert top public schools system here) doesn’t have lotteries, exams or busing, why does Boston need to?

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the same kids who are now at BLS will be filling the AP classes.

I’m baffled by the people who are all like “oh this is such a simple problem—just make all the schools good.” There’s always going to be some level of division, tracking etc. It’s complicated. But I do wish we could address the issue at a much younger grade level instead of fretting once kids get to 4th grade. There are huge inequities of opportunity that we don’t try hard enough to address early on.

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We can't build that system because the school system is built for the teachers union and the politicians--not the students. The union funds the elections of the mayor and city council, who in turn "negotiate" the pay and benefits of the teachers so that a great deal of money is spent making them the highest paid part time workers in the world. Since the primary interest of the system is election results, jobs and benefits for adults it is no wonder why the students best interest are not met.

If you factor out immigrant students and non-native English speakers from the racial makeup of the district, the racial discrepancy in the exam schools narrows considerably (not fully of course). Additionally, if you place a 7th grader in BLS who is unprepared for the rigor of the program and who does not have the parental support at home to help him/her/they through that child will fail and will be in a worse position than had they gone to an average school. Then the activists will say the program is racially biased and water down the rigor. Then the educational quality will suffer and the graduating kids will have less opportunity as colleges will learn the Boston exam school students potential is not what it used to be.

Then, parents will move out of the city before their kids get to school age, property values will drop, maintenance on the housing stock will be deferred, the tax base will drop and it will be the late 60's/early 70's here all over again. I wouldn't have raised my kids in the city if not for the potential of the exam schools. I would do anything in my power to keep my kids from having to go to English High, and any parent with options would do the same. Why do you think that there are nearly 100X the number of kids who enter charter school lotteries than there are seats?

If you can break the Mayor/City Council/Teachers Union industrial complex the kids may finally become the priority of the school system.

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1. The Teachers Union and the Mayor's office are constantly at odds. See: COVID19 safety protocols.
2. In my 20 years of living here, I'm willing to bet a majority of people move out of the city when kids hit school age anyway. Very few stay. So your tax base argument fails as well.
3. Referring to teachers as "part time workers" is so wildly insulting to every teacher you and your kids had (inferring from your statement of "I wouldn't have raised my kids...") that your MAGA is showing.
4. You clearly don't understand how negotiating works between the city and teachers union vs the city and every other priority. Time is a limited resource and the teacher's union does not take up as much as you want to believe.
5.The City Council has no power over the school committee or the Superintendent. They can "approve" the budget, but in reality it is the mayor that makes those decisions. If anything, the current format of an appointed Super should fit your MAGA belief of one-white-man-should control-everything, perfectly. How do you think the Mayor has been dismantling public schools and giving them over to charters for his entire term?

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First of all, if you want your opinion to be respected you should place your identity behind it. As an anon you have no rights to respect, so I will give you none.

Everyone who is a part of this community knows I am a libertarian, not a MAGA. There is a HUGE gap between me an Trump. That said, there is a HUGE gap between me and my SQUAD member Representative Pressley. As De Gaulle said, "I am neither left nor right, I am above." LOL.

Each of your numbers become more ridiculous as they go, but the first is the worst. Who cares what public face they place on their "odds". That is how they "negotiate". Yes, it is not a loving embrace, but it is a partnership. They have constituencies they need to play to in the media, but in reality in the back rooms they know their limited wiggle room. It is all a nice show, full of sound and fury, amounting to nothing.

As far as the tax base side of things, I know many families who have stayed in the city and feel similarly to me. Most of them are decidedly on the left, but we have stuck it out. Don't imagine it doesn't make a difference. If the families following us make different choices and leave in the future when their kids will start school this place will turn into the Boston of the early 1970's very quickly. I hope I don't have to prove myself right on that. I want to stay here.

Fuck you and the rest of your MAGA crap. I've NEVER offered support for Trump here. Go cancel someone else like that motherfucking governor of NY whose press conferences you loved while he was sexually abusing his female staff. I HATE THE HYPOTICRITICAL ELITE! TRUMP, CUOMO(S) AND THE REST.

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your legal name is “Terrapin”?

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I always assumed they were actually a turtle. Have I been misreading this situation this whole time?

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but i can’t abide the mononym, it’s just too pretentious.

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As De Gaulle said, "I am neither left nor right, I am above." LOL

...above it all and beside the point.

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I wouldn't have raised my kids in the city if not for the potential of the exam schools. I would do anything in my power to keep my kids from having to go to English High, and any parent with options would do the same.

Right, and that's the problem right here. Why are there empty seats at Madison while there are huge waiting lists to get in voc/tech programs elsewhere in the state that don't have as strong of facilities or internship options? Why are families not talking about one day sending their preschooler to Boston Arts Academy or Boston Community Leadership Academy?

Why are there not schools that are exciting for kids with strong academy profiles AND kids who aren't going to have one no matter what? Other communities manage to run high schools that are a great fit for college-bound strong academic students and take all students.

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Presumably because those other voc-tech schools, while maybe not having as good of facilities, can provide their students with SCHEDULES sometime within the first two weeks of school.

If people spent 10% of the time they spend fighting about BLS right now on cracking down on any, ANY of the other schools, demanding accountability, working on equity, etc, the demand for BLS would not be so high, because children would no longer face a choice between the three exam schools and utter failure.

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Why the hell do we have an "elite" public school

Because that school has existed longer than Harvard.

The parents haven't got a shot of winning. But it will be interesting to study the dynamics of a single class containing many lower performing students moving its way through BLS among a stack of classes with more of higher performing students.

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I suspect that the students from Dorchester, Roxbury, East Boston and other Boston neighborhoods will do fine at the exam schools.

The students from W. Roxbury will do well as well. In BPS, private schools, or elsewhere.

A big question will be - What happens to those parochial/private schools that have been inflating grades for decades for big money to enable some parents to scam the system?

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Wish there was a way to determine if students really know the material or if their grades were just inflated. If only there was some sort of way that BPS could measure the students from all the different elementary schools to see which of them really knows the material taught in their schools...

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Just have everyone take MCAS, then allocate around zip codes

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It is called gaming the system.

I wonder how much HOLY NAME took in on this fraud?

"Last year the Catholic school in West Roxbury sent more students to Latin than any other private school, according to Boston public schools. Out of a class of 405, 43 — or 10 percent — of students came from Holy Name. Those 43 students make up the majority of the graduating class at Holy Name, which last year totaled 51 students.

And here’s the remarkable thing about Holy Name students: They get really good grades.

Sixty-nine percent of the students applying from Holy Name last year had A plus averages, according to the Exam School Enrollment Data Group report.

Compare that to the students applying from public schools with the best track records of getting into Latin. Only 22 percent of those students had those kinds of grades."

https://www.wgbh.org/news/2017/09/05/local-news/boston-public-school-stu...

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/02/22/metro/sacred-cow-bostons-educatio...

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Unlike Harvard (and their grade inflation issues) who is at the top of the educational food chain, Holy name is at the bottom, and if their grades were fraudulent wouldn’t that reflect with their grades/performance at Latin?

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It is no secret that showing up to class at the parochial schools and not stepping out of line landed you with an A. The inflated gpa brought up lower exam scores and boosted students over the cut for Latin. While the phrase "look to your left, look to your right- two of you are not going to be here by graduation" isn't as true today as it may have been forty years ago, for kids coming from the parochial schools, there is still a noticeable drop out/transfer rate compared to kids from BPS and charter schools. This is not to say there aren't wicked smart kids being churned out of the parochial schools, it's just there are others who are carried up along the way as well.

Heck, when students are told their ranking numbers when they get their acceptance letter, the incoming students all know their acceptance rank is bs after the first couple weeks of school since everyone is graded under the same weight now. Those who benefited from the inflation tended to be caught off guard by the new workload they had, but a lot of the student tutoring and Saturday success school helped retain a lot of the students. It would be really fun to calculate the retention rates of students from certain schools however.

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Holy Name is an exception, it’s astonishing that they have such “gifted” students.
This... “it is no secret that showing up to class at the parochial schools and not stepping out of line landed you with an A” is compete BS. Not all parochial school kids are trying to get into Latin, they also apply to Catholic/ private high schools. Inflating grades does no one any favors once they get to an exam school.

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And is also a problem when you don't have an exam or weigh an exam properly for admission.

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If only there was some way to evaluate potential BLS (or BLA or O’Bryant) students on their verbal and mathematical skills. I mean, they could test the candidates. Just throwing it out there.

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MCAS is designed to do just that.

This is getting real easy now.

1. MCAS
2. Allocate by ZIP
3. Done

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The WGBH article states that 43 Holy Name graduates attend BLS - out of their Holy Name graduating class of 51. The article was written September 2017 and refers to the graduation class of last year. Am I correct to assume these stats are for the HN class of 2016?
If so, I think they should be checking their numbers.
This would mean that only 8 children went to different schools such as BLA, O'Bryant, local catholic schools like CM, Mount Alvernia High School, Ursuline, Kilmer/Lyndon, other.

If this article references the class of 2016 or class of 2017 - these numbers are 100% false. But they fit the narrative that so many folks want to believe.

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Respectfully. Having litigated cases involving constitutional issues, including equal protection, the city faces an uphill battle here. Even in the first circuit.

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Respectfully. Tell us more how the city faces an uphill battle by doing pretty much what UT did in response to Fisher.

The reason for the lawsuit appears mostly to be political, throwing an accusation of reverse racism at the decision makers, hoping it pressures them to change.

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If the School Committee/BPS administration intended admissions by ZIP code to act as a racial quota system, then it may fail strict scrutiny under Bakke.

One other wrinkle is that not all UT students are admitted via the automatic admissions policy -- it would appear this policy will apply to all students entering BLS.

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Free and/or subsidized daycare and preschool for all would work much better. In the "bad" old days, plenty of people I know graduated from high schools in Boston other than Latin, and did quite well in life. That doesn't mean everyone, but far more than today. The differences were primarily economic. Today it is virtually impossible to live on one income, and difficult to live on two. I would gladly pay something similar to the CPA assessment, in a substantially higher amount, if the funds were dedicated to a well-planned and executed system of caring for and teaching our youngest citizens.

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Governor Patrick was focused on that. He knew all the stats that showed how the kids that entered kindergarten trailing behind had maybe a couple of years to catch up, and if they didn't then the gap would continue to grow through their school years. Those same kids were less likely to graduate from high school. People without a high school degree make up a disproportionate amount of people in our prison system.

The problem is that if you're a politician advocating for lots of early intervention like universal pre-K at three years old, inexpensive or subsidized pre- and after-school care that includes other early intervention education you're looking at spending a ton of money and maybe being able to show some benefit to the program in fifteen to twenty years. That's a tough call for a politician to stick his neck out for when the payback is unlikely to benefit them at the polls. I wish there were universal programs like that to give every kid in BPS the best opportunity from the starting gate, but I think the push for it has to come from the population rather than the pols.

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The methodology was completely wrong on this.

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Magoo remembers taking the SAT exam many moons ago. One of Magoo’s crushes was sitting behind Magoo. Magoo had an upset tummy and a toot squeaked out. Magoo was so embarrassed. Magoo.

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doing it again, but apparently not embarrassed.

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meh, a little levity in a otherwise argumentative thread. i welcome the quick happy distraction.

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We'll all try to remember to insert a fart joke into any discussion that's in danger of becoming too serious for you.

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What is the correct term for moving into neighborhoods where the number of slots allocated by zip code is higher called?

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How about "desegregation?"

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Only in the strange world of public education, there is such a thing as "too white or Asian"

https://www.wgbh.org/news/education/2021/02/26/citing-racial-inequities-...

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This made up "thing" has to do with protecting white privilege by using a minority to make it sound real.

File under BUT ASIANS TOO!

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Your response makes no sense, but then probably nothing does in your world.

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It makes all kinds of sense. It's called using a minority group as a fig leaf for your own purposes, without any genuine interest in outcomes that benefit them. It's much like Islamophobic bigots who feign outrage over how gay men are treated in Chechnya, when you know they'd love to do the same if they could get away with it.

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If the minority group is actively involved is it really the same?

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It makes no sense whatsoever because the "too white or Asian" quote is from BPS. Given that the white percentage at BLS matches the white percentage of Boston population (40+something), it becomes clear that white is not a real problem here. What demographics is really overrepresented at BLS vs Boston population at large?

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A district analysis of the program found that more than 70 percent of students enrolled in the program were white and Asian, even though nearly 80 percent of all Boston public school students are Hispanic and Black.

i suppose if you’ve never been on the internet before then “too white or asian” would sound strange, but this concept has been part of the discourse for what’s going on a year now. at this point you’re either under a rock, or you know it’s true but you don’t think it’s a problem.

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It's both.

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to address the racial disparity between zip codes, which on the surface would seem to satisfy their complaint. ;-)

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Exactly. It's the zip codes that are racist. Zip codes should be redrawn to be more diverse.

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...I like the creativity here. :-P

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Gentrification

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It will be interesting to see if any of the mayoral candidates start to pander to this group to separate themselves from the pack.

It would be tough to sell.

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Majority of Bostonians? Majority of voting Bostonians?

I'm sure some have factored in the fact that the uneven distribution of voting in the city mirrors the uneven distribution of ethnic groups.

I suspect a mayoral candidate who favors ending the current tradition of privileged access to exam schools will be less welcome at the Holy Name political meet-and-greet.

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Whites, Asian-Americans and West Roxburians are underrepresented at Latin?

I find that hard to believe.

-BLS Alum

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BPS should look at whether a student is using public benefits (e.g. Medicaid, SNAP) to prioritize lower-income students in the enrollment process. There could be a set-aside of maybe 25% for such students (plus homeless and undocumented students), guaranteeing socioeconomic diversity while also being lawsuit-proof. The best part is the ease of implementation: up until several years ago, BPS was actively pulling this data from state sources to determine free/reduced-lunch eligibility.

This would be a much better approach than ZIP codes to assess family-level income. For instance, right now, a student living in a South End brownstone has the same ZIP code as a student living in Villa Victoria. Same can be said for students living in new-build luxury apartments in Chinatown competing with students in tenement and public housing.

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plus homeless and undocumented students

To qualify, your application must include documentation proving a lack of documentation.

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One part of the meeting was about how kids in K-1st grade do well in reading/phonics but in 2nd grade black and latinx students score lower in oral reading expectations. This is the real issue and this is what needs to be worked on before anything else. Why do black and latinx students begin to falter in reading in 2nd grade and what can be done to change that. There was a proposal for new curriculum surrounding reading/phonics which hopefully will truly help and not be just another bandaid.

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j/k

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Maybe I’m dumb, but couldn’t this problem be solved by moving teachers and administrators around and creating two more city wide exam schools?

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Create some method to balance out extra school funds. Not every public school has its own endowment.

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You should be fighting for an elected school committee. You get what you ask for with the current appointed committee.

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