Boston School Committee Votes To Change Exam School Admissions

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Update: The Boston School Committee voted unanimously in favor of the superintendent's recommended policy shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Starting next year, Boston's exam schools will consider students' socioeconomic backgrounds — alongside their academic performance — in all admissions decisions.

The superintendent of Boston Public Schools is opposing last-minute changes to the proposed new system for exam-school admissions made under the shadow of political interference.

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius will recommend that, going forward, all applicants to Boston's three exam schools be judged against others from similar neighborhoods rather than allow 20% of seats to be filled by the city's top students regardless of their home neighborhoods.

Cassellius defended the move ahead of a final vote Wednesday night, saying it was partly justified by a need to build "trust in the integrity of our processes."

After six months of deliberation, a BPS task force on the policy had reached consensus that socio-economic factors should be considered in 100% of admissions decisions, alongside students' academic performance. But the task force co-chairs asked the group to add the 20% exception to their proposal the night it was finalized, with co-chair Tanisha Sullivan attributing it, vaguely, to "some not-so-good people" in the city's "political ecosystem."

Cassellius stressed Wednesday that she did not have a direct hand in the group's deliberations, but also said she sees this policy as part of BPS's broader push to become an "antiracist" school district. She also noted that, since the practical difference between the two policies would be relatively modest, she wanted to avoid "set-asides" that can "interfere with the trust of the community."

According to district projections, the 100% plan would result in roughly 25 additional low-income students winning seats in one of the three exam schools, which have tended to admit whiter and wealthier students than make up the district at large.

This article was originally published on July 14, 2021.

This segment aired on July 14, 2021.


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Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin is an education reporter.



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