Clash over how to address equity in Boston exam schools
School equity argument defends a flawed, racially biased BPS system
Re “Tackling equity issues at our exam schools” (Ideas, Aug. 4): The Boston Branch of the NAACP and Lawyers for Civil Rights, as the organizations leading an effort to diversify and democratize access to Boston’s exam schools, strongly believe that the Pioneer Institute’s suggestions are racially problematic. The ideas advanced by executive director Jim Stergios may be aligned with the institute’s “free market” principles, but they fail to fully acknowledge the systemic barriers experienced by black and Latinx students.
In his Ideas piece, Stergios essentially defends a flawed system that produces racial inequities in Boston Public Schools. He suggests that we don’t have a racial access problem in exam schools because black and Latinx students are fairly well represented, for the most part, in two of the city’s three exam schools. This is tantamount to supporting separate but equal policies. We believe the opposite: Black and Latinx students belong — and are capable of achieving — in each of the three exam schools, and our diverse communities will not be satisfied until we meaningfully reintegrate Boston Latin School.
We appreciate that Stergios concedes that he doesn’t have a substantive disagreement with our recommendations. This makes sense, because our solutions are informed by legal precedent and data. More important, our proposals are not just theoretical or academic. We actually incorporate the voice and perspective of black and Latinx students and families across Boston who don’t see themselves reflected in our public institutions.
Instead of perpetuating racially offensive and harmful policies, we invite the Pioneer Institute to join us in not just calling for racial diversity in our exam schools but also advancing policies that will actually get us there. Separate is not equal.
Boston Branch of the NAACP
Lawyers for Civil Rights
Competition for exam school seats is more heated than analysis shows
Jim Stergios’s Ideas piece concerning minority representation at the Boston exam schools is worthy of the attention of everyone who is concerned with the quality of education in the Boston Public Schools (“Tackling equity issues at our exam schools”). But I must argue with the use of statistics that are based on only BPS-enrolled students. Rather, the comparison should be with all children of school age in the city of Boston.
Many parents choose to send their sons and daughters to private schools rather than to public schools that are perceived as underperforming. But when presented with the opportunity to attend an exam school, especially Boston Latin School, a different mind-set takes over. As a result, the competition for seats at these academically prestigious schools is with students from the entire city, not only those previously enrolled in BPS institutions, and the statistics should reflect this reality.
Of course, every attempt should be made to level the playing field by increasing the level of educational efficacy for all BPS students. This is something with which I have had personal experience. My mother taught for many years at what was at the time a majority minority school in New Bedford that was staffed by some of the best teachers the city had to offer. I take pride in the assumption that, in some way, she was part of the reason that so many of the students at the former Acushnet Avenue School left her classroom and achieved such tremendous success in the world.
John J. Finni