Exam School Admissions group will work to figure out this fall’s testing

Boston Public Schools (BPS) Supt. Brenda Cassellius announced last weekend the membership of a new Exam School Admissions Criteria Working Group. 

The Boston School Committee discussed the appointment of the group at the July 22 meeting to make recommendations regarding the 2020 – 2021 admissions criteria for the district’s three exam schools (for students who would start at an exam school in September 2021), in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on student learning. Students affected are mostly those that would be going into 6th grade or 8th grade this fall. Typically, they would take the Exam School test in October to see if they qualify for entry to the three schools – Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science.

However, that traditional schedule has been questioned and disrupted by COVID-19 and the selection of a new test provider – dispatching the long-used ISEE exam.

The Working Group is charged with developing and submitting a recommendation to the Superintendent on revised exam school admissions criteria for the school year starting in September 2021.

The membership of the Working Group includes:

•Samuel Acevedo, Opportunity and Achievement Gap Task Force Co-Chair

•Acacia Aguirre, John D. O’Bryant parent 

•Michael Contompasis, Former Boston Latin School Headmaster and Former BPS Interim Superintendent

•Matt Cregor, on behalf of NAACP

•Tanya Freeman-Wisdom, John D. O’Bryant Head of School 

•Katherine Grassa, Curley K-8 Principal

•Zena Lum, Boston Latin Academy parent

•Rachel Skerritt, Boston Latin School, Head of School

“The Boston School Committee appreciates the Superintendent’s focus on equity in forming this Working Group to address the urgent needs presented by the current pandemic,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “This Working Group is composed of deeply experienced and dedicated educators, parents, alumni and community advocates from across Boston, and we thank them for taking on this delicate task on behalf of our kids.”

The Working Group will hold its first meeting this week and will submit recommendations to the Superintendent by September 21. The eight-member Working Group will be facilitated by Monica Roberts, BPS Chief of Student, Family, and Community Advancement. Members were selected based on their knowledge and expertise and have agreed to serve through the completion of the charge, and possibly beyond. The Working Group will be supported by staff from the Office of Data and Accountability, the Office of Equity, and Welcome Services who are most knowledgeable about the exam schools’ admission process, criteria, and related efforts.

“In this time, as we examine all policies with an antiracist lens and with equity at the forefront, I am looking forward to a thoughtful and thorough discussion on exam school admissions with the goal of ensuring our Black and Brown students have the same opportunity and access. I’m grateful to this Working Group for dedicating their time to ensure we have a fair process,” said Superintendent Cassellius. “We must continue to do everything we can to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic does not prevent our students from access to the education they deserve.”

Last week, the Boston Coalition for Education Equity called on the School Department to suspend the usual admission requirements and postpone any testing this fall for entrance.

“Racial equity should be the top priority in deciding any interim process during this crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and LatinX families,” read a statement from the group. “Even our nation’s most elite colleges and universities are suspending the use of tests in the admissions process for the upcoming selection cycle. Moving forward with an admissions policy that includes a test perpetuates structural racism and fails to meet the calls of the current antiracist movement. This moment of widespread and deepening inequity demands that the School Committee disrupt the status quo and act intentionally to implement an explicitly antiracist admissions process.”

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