Boston Public Schools admits it sent incorrect exam school eligibility letters

Officials at Boston Public Schools are backtracking this week after sending erroneous notices to dozens of sixth graders regarding their eligibility to apply to the district's competitive exam schools.

The so-called "eligibility notices" are sent out in early April to confirm that a student’s grade point average and MAP Growth exam score are high enough to apply to the district's selective high schools, which include the Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

Under district policy students interested in applying to a selective school must maintain a B average or higher in English, math, science, and social studies to start the current school year, as well as in English and math at the end of the previous school year.

But this spring, 26 students who received such letters were wrongly informed their GPAs were high enough to qualify when they weren’t. Meanwhile, 41 students were incorrectly told their scores were too low to qualify.

Superintendent Mary Skipper explained the issue to the Boston School Committee Wednesday evening. Skipper said her team spent the day contacting affected families individually, and that corrected notices are forthcoming later this week.

"We recognize that this mistake impacts not just the students most directly affected, but it also impacts the trust our families have in us," Skipper added.

In a letter sent to families, district officials said “neither the external auditor nor BPS’ Office of Data and Accountability caught the error before notices were sent out.” The mix-up was first reported by The Boston Globe early Wednesday.

The eligibility notices are just the first step in a successful application to the exam schools, but the confusion is bound to prompt anxiety and disappointment for some affected students and their families.

The school system has already come under state scrutiny since last summer for compiling untidy or inaccurate data on graduation rates, transportation and more, with an external auditor appointed to oversee its record-keeping and communications.

The letter to families states that the error affected rising seventh graders, and that the district is "confident" that applicants entering eighth and ninth grades should not be affected, but that they are "double-checking all grading data to ensure accuracy."

District officials said they plan to send out new eligibility notices by the end of the week, with formal exam school invitations to come in early May.

The exam schools, which serve grades 7 to 12, have worked to revamp their admissions policies to foster racial and socioeconomic diversity in the past two years, but admissions mix-ups of this kind pre-date that change. Dozens of students were affected by a similar error in 2020, the Globe reported.


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Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin was an education reporter for WBUR.



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