Walsh, Chang dispute report of exam school application change

Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang deny a report that significant changes to the admission policies for exam schools are planned.
Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang deny a report that significant changes to the admission policies for exam schools are planned. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Public Schools on Wednesday strongly denied a WGBH report saying the city was considering a proposal to alter the exam schools admissions policy to bar private or Catholic school students from applying.

“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 to our exam schools,” Walsh said in a statement.

But Peter Kadzis, the author of the story, defended his reporting, saying Wednesday evening that he talked with several people with deep knowledge of the issue and that the story wasn’t based on a single piece of paper.


“What is this Donald Trump trial by fire?” Kadzis said. “We published the story. They asked us to take it down. We republished with a few modest changes.”

The updated story noted the city’s response but retained the assertions of the changes under consideration.

The prospect that the school system might alter its admission requirements for Boston Latin and the other two exam schools — in an effort to bolster the enrollment of black and Latino students — has been a lightning-rod issue, and the WGBH report created a firestorm among parents.

Many parents and alumni view the current requirements, based exclusively on standardized test scores and grades, as the ideal meritocracy. But other parents and civil rights advocates worry the requirements reduce the chances of minorities gaining admission.

Earlier this month, the Globe reported the superintendent’s office had quietly assembled a working group to explore a variety of issues, including whether to change exam school admission requirements in an effort to bolster diversity. But Walsh quickly shot down the idea, saying the time was not right to hold that kind of discussion. Latin School has been embroiled in controversy over racial allegations.


The WGBH story said that Superintendent Tommy Chang was planning to present the proposal at Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting. Instead, Chang discounted the story.

In its report, WGBH cited a draft copy of a proposal titled “BPS Strategic Implementation Plan 2016/Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force.” But the School Department said in a statement it does not have a report by that name in draft or final form.

“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 statement said.

The quoted recommendations in the WGBH story, however, appear verbatim in another report from more than a year ago, when John McDonough was interim superintendent, on the lagging achievement of black and Latino male students. That report, by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute and the Center for Collaborative Education, was produced at the request of the city.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.