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LETTERS

Drawing universities into the pull of magnet schools

In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, the letters A and B are placed on desks at the Mildred Avenue K-8 in Mattapan for students to alternate on separate days during the week to keep a social distance.
In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, the letters A and B are placed on desks at the Mildred Avenue K-8 in Mattapan for students to alternate on separate days during the week to keep a social distance.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

If these efforts don’t lift all students, what’s the point?

Re “Boston schools are in crisis. Can Harvard (or BC or MGH) help?” (Ideas, March 28): I’d like to express my utter dismay at learning near the end of David Scharfenberg’s article that the student body at Penn Alexander in Philadelphia is 43 percent white, 22 percent Asian, 19 percent Black, 11 percent “two or more races,” and 5 percent Latino. Scharfenberg argues that university-partnered schools such as Penn Alexander could pull the Boston Public Schools out of “crisis” by holding up as a model a school that doesn’t represent BPS demographics (it doesn’t even represent the demographics of Philadelphia’s public schools). So, how would magnet schools like this one, which, even with its lottery is another example of elitist institutions like the Boston exam schools, help BPS, which is predominantly populated by students who are Black, Latinx, or people of color?

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If the answer is “by creating more competition,” then I have another question. The article opens with dramatic descriptions of families camping out in line for a chance to get their children into Penn Alexander. I’d be curious to know whether those families described are people of color.

The Globe editorial in the same section (“Fighting for fairness in vocational-ed admissions”) calls on the state’s vocational technical schools to admit more students of color, in response to a study that found that many schools appear to have been leaving out students of color, students whose first language is not English, and economically disadvantaged students. Once again, we see the impact of elitism, competition, and racism in education.

Scharfenberg even admits in one passing line of his article that Penn Alexander is causing the immediate neighborhood where it’s located to become gentrified.

I’m not saying university-partnered magnet schools aren’t a good idea, and I would be thrilled to see Boston’s many institutions of higher learning step up to help out city schools. But not if they don’t lift up all students in the city.

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Kelly Knopf-Goldner

Jamaica Plain

The writer, who works with WriteBoston, is an instructional writing coach at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.


Colleges, universities are having an impact on K-12 systems

While there have been examples of universities having a positive impact on K-12 systems, the strategy of a college or university “running” a school system is less than proven. I would contrast this with the work that many colleges and universities — two-year and four-year, public and private — have done in early college and dual enrollment programs. When all partners get to know students and families and work together on their behalf, transformational change can happen.

Russ Olwell

Providence

The writer is associate dean and a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College in North Andover.