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City councilors call for hearing on admissions process for exam schools

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/file/Globe Staff

Two Boston city councilors are calling for a hearing into the admissions process at the city’s public exam schools following a recent report that found that black and Latino students who perform as well on the MCAS exam as their white and Asian peers still have a much lower chance of being admitted.

Council president Andrea Campbell and councilor Kim Janey said Monday that admission policies at the school system’s three exam schools — Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the O’Bryant School of Math and Science — are “not working for students of color.”

“Our exam schools are among the best public schools in the country, yet they do not reflect the great diversity of the Boston public schools,” Janey said in a statement.


Campbell said the council must “take action to level the playing field for our students.”

Campbell and Janey urged the council to discuss the issue at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

Students who apply to the three exam schools must take a test that is designed for private institutions. A report by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that black and Latino students do worse on that test and take it at lower rates.

“MCAS scores in fifth grade identify a substantial number of high-skilled black and Hispanic students who currently do not enroll in exam schools,” the report said. “Assigning students to exam schools based on such scores could increase the number of black and Latino students at BLS by up to 50 percent.”

Black and Hispanic students represent nearly three-quarters of students in the Boston public schools, but make up only 40 percent of exam school students, Campbell and Janey said.

The school system has been using the private school exam for decades. Litigation by white families in the 1990s halted the use of race as a factor in assigning students to exam schools.


James Vaznis of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at Follow her on twitter @aimee_ortiz.