Should Boston Public Schools continue using the Independent School Entrance Exam to decide who gets into the city’s elite exam schools, despite calls from civil rights groups to switch to either the state’s MCAS test or a college “portfolio” approach to admissions?

Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, made the case last week that the district should stick with the ISEE, in part because almost half of the 23,000 school-aged Boston children who do not attend city schools are homeschooled or attend parochial and other private schools that don’t align their curricula to MCAS standards. Stergios also said a switch to MCAS could hurt exam school students’ chances of admission to elite colleges.


An online commenter who goes by the name “Antietem” thought the MCAS switch made sense:

“Why not better serve the larger number of students? Stergios writes, “These (private) school options do not align their curricula with state frameworks and tests.” Well, the curricula in public, charter, and METCO schools do align with the state frameworks (which meet the national core curriculum). The public exam school entrance process uses an exam that favors students attending private and parochial schools, many of whom are from 2 or 3 zip codes, and heavily white.

Using the MCAS means students in attending public schools will have more familiarity with the material covered, and they are overwhelmingly students of color. The cheaper option is to use the MCAS, which public, charter, and METCO students have already taken at state expense, and have the private school students sit for MCAS.