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Boston Public Schools Weighing Proposal To Bar Applications From Parochial, Private, And Charter Schools

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Events at Boston Latin School have triggered a reappraisal of how all three of the city's exam school admit students.
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In an effort to increase diversity at Boston’s 3 exam schools, school superintendent Tommy Chang is considering a proposal that would essentially prevent students enrolled in Catholic or private schools from seeking admission.

Depending on how the guidelines are interpreted, the proposal would appear to also bar charter and METCO students.

The proposal would not explicitly forbid such applications. Rather, in the draft language of the proposal – a copy of which has been obtained by WGBH News – it would:

“Restrict exam school enrollment to students who were enrolled in at least the fifth and sixth grades in BPS elementary schools.”

The draft report is titled “BPS Strategic Implementation Plan 2016/Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force‏”.

The proposal’s most sweeping instructional recommendation calls for all 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes to upgrade to advance work (AWC) standards with “high expectations and rigorous coursework.”

It contains 3 other action proposals:

In addition, the proposal calls for a close look at exam school enrollment, “to better understand the demographic characteristics of those who enroll, those who leave before twelfth grade (attrition), and those who succeed in and graduate from them.”

The draft to Chang is intended “to remedy the lack of opportunity to enroll in AWC and exam schools for Black and Latino males.”

In recent months, allegations of racial insensitivity leveled by two students of color at Boston Latin School have roiled the nation's oldest public school, the superintendent's office, and involved Mayor Marty Walsh. In the wake of the turmoil, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz launched a civil rights investigation.

Earlier today, I wrote that Chang was expected to release the plan at Wednesday’s 6 p.m. School Committee Meeting at Dudley Square’s Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building. He didn't. Although some members of the exam-school community expected that he would.

As a matter of course, the School Committee doesn't release documents, reports, or written material before its meetings.

The school department took strong exception to the above story. It denied, in fact, that the document I wrote about existed.

Dan O'Brien, press secretary for the Boston Public Schools, issued the following statement: "The Boston Public Schools does not have a report, in draft or final form, entitled: 'BPS Strategic Implementation Plan 2016/Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force.' The article issued by WGBH is false. There are no proposals to prevent any students from enrolling into the district’s three exam schools. BPS is disappointed that the media outlet who reported this erroneous information did not attempt to verify any facts with the school district before posting the article."

The Mayor's office was equally – but more narrowly – dismissive. "There is absolutely no truth to a report published on WGBH today that claims that the Boston Public Schools are proposing changes to the admissions process of our exam schools," read a statement from a mayoral spokeswoman.

An earlier version of this story had a slightly stronger headline that may have suggested the considered change was a done deal. It is not, or was not. And if Mayor Walsh's statement is any indication, the recommendations from the supposedly non-existent document I wrote about will never come to pass.

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