The Ivy Coach Daily

July 15, 2021

Admission to Boston Exam Schools

Times are changing at Boston Latin, established in 1635.

The city of Boston is changing its admissions process to its elite exam schools, including the venerable Boston Latin School. This week, by a unanimous vote of the Boston School Committee, the admissions process to Boston’s three highly selective exam schools will be changed in an effort to increase the representation of Black and Latino applicants. As our readers may remember, just a few years ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a similar overhaul of the admissions process to New York City’s eight specialized schools, including most notably Stuyvesant High School and The Bronx High School of Science. The overhaul was intended to address the same issue — the lack of Black and Latino representation at these schools, schools largely populated by Asian Americans who aced the Specialized High School Admissions Test. And while Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate the SHSAT failed and incited quite a bit of controversy, it seems more concrete change is coming to the admissions process in Boston. Where New York City Mayor de Blasio may have failed, it has the appearance the Boston School Committee has succeeded.

As Ellen Barry reports for The New York Times in a piece entitled “Boston Overhauls Admissions to Exclusive Exam Schools,” “The new admissions system will still weigh test results and grades, but, following a model pioneered in Chicago, it will also introduce ways to select applicants who come from poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Under the new system, the applicant pool will be divided into eight groups based on the socioeconomic conditions of their neighborhoods. The admissions team will consider applicants within each group, admitting the top students in each tier in roughly equal numbers. The traditional admissions system, which its supporters defend as merit-based, ranked applicants according to grades and test scores. But it also gave rise to a culture of tutoring and test preparation, and resulted in incoming classes that were overwhelmingly white and Asian. Boston has joined a long list of school districts trying to address racial inequities in its selective academic programs. The debates have divided communities, raising painful questions about whose children deserve to be admitted. In New York City, the nation’s largest school district, a recent push to eliminate an admissions exam for its top high schools has sputtered, even as the city announced other changes to the way hundreds of selective middle and high schools choose their students.”

We understand why cities are seeking to make changes to the admissions process to their elite schools — whether they’re called exam schools or specialized schools. These are the best public high schools in these cities and these schools needs to represent the beautiful diversity of the populace should they wish to remain relevant in the years to come. So we applaud the Boston School Committee for ushering in this change in the admissions process to its exam schools. We hope it leads to greater representation of Black and Latino students at schools like Boston Latin and we hope this change impacts generations to come.

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