(03/04/2021): New admission testing has been suspended, but the program and classes will continue.
The Boston Public School System is suspending enrollment in their Advanced Work Classes for one year due to concerns over racial inequity. The advanced program provides high-achieving students in grades 4-6 a more rigorous academic program, with additional coursework and a deeper analysis of study topics.
According to Boston’s school district, “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,” GBH News reports.
In an effort to be “anti-racist,” Superintendent Brenda Cassellius decided to discontinue enrollment in the program to take a closer look at the racial makeup of its participants.
“There’s been a lot of inequities that have been brought to the light in the pandemic that we have to address,” Cassellius said. “There’s a lot of work we have to do in the district to be antiracist and have policies where all of our students have a fair shot at an equitable and excellent education.”
Student enrollment in the Advanced Work program is based on an invitation and lottery system. All students take the Terra Nova test in 3rd grade. The test is norm-referenced, which means the scale scores are adjusted to mirror the scores of the population in general. Students scoring well on the Terra Nova test are then invited to participate in the advanced program. Interested families then enter a lottery, during which eligible students are randomly selected to participate.
Children currently enrolled in the Advanced Work program will be allowed to complete their coursework, but a moratorium has been placed on new enrollments until it is determined why the program’s demographics are so different from that of the district’s. School committee member Lorna Rivera voiced concerns at a recent school board meeting because almost 60 percent of students in the program at the Ohrenberger School in West Roxbury are white, while “most” children enrolled in the school are black & Hispanic. “This is just not acceptable,” stated Rivera, adding, “I’ve never heard these statistics before, and I’m very very disturbed by them.”
The Boston School District has created a committee to look into the demographics of the academic program and is expected to make recommendations on its fate before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Amendment From Daily Wire: After GBH published its initial report, Cassellius reached out to clarify that the test suspension this year was only a consequence of the pandemic, not “equity concerns.”
GBH explained how students are enrolled in the program:
The program was open to all students in the Boston Public Schools who took a test known as Terra Nova in the third grade and received a high score. Those students were placed in a lottery conducted by the central administration office, and lottery winners received letters inviting them to apply to the program. Last fall, 453 students received invitations, 143 students applied and 116 enrolled this year, officials said.
Students in the program have the opportunity to study subjects in greater depth and are offered more schoolwork than the traditional curriculum requires.
GBH added that “District officials have launched a working group to determine the long-term future of the program and are expected to make a recommendation in May.”
The suspension of the program comes as schools across the country have begun teaching radical critical race theory, creating more classes insisting white supremacy can be found everywhere and denouncing merit-based systems as racist. In San Francisco, for example, the competitive Lowell High School will no longer include a merit-based admissions program, opting instead for a random lottery.