News & Politics

UPDATE: Boston Schools Releases Statement, Discredits Reports It Suspended Advanced Learning Classes

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Editor’s note: The school has since released a statement disputing reports that they canceled the classes for racial inequity reasons and offered a different explanation, saying that the Advanced Work Class program will continue next school year.”

“BPS was unable to administer the exam that is included as part of the program’s policy this past fall because most of our students were learning remotely,” the district said. “As a result, the Boston School Committee approved a one-year pause of the testing component of the policy.”

Original article: 

A program at Boston Public Schools (BPS) for high-performing 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-graders will be suspended for a year while administrators figure out how to reduce the number of whites and Asians in the selective program.

Boston schools are nearly 80 percent black and Hispanic while the program, known as Advanced Work Classes, has 70 percent white and Asian enrollment. Obviously, the reason for that is plain-as-day racism… or something.

Boston PBS station GBH:

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius recommended the one-year hiatus for the program, known as Advanced Work Classes, saying the district would not proceed with the program for new students next year.

“There’s been a lot of inequities that have been brought to the light in the pandemic that we have to address,” Cassellius told GBH News. “There’s a lot of work we have to do in the district to be antiracist and have policies where all of our students have a fair shot at an equitable and excellent education.”

New students will be admitted in the fourth grade by standards to be determined at the school level, according to a BPS spokesman.

There will be no new students admitted in the fifth or sixth grades, the spokesman said, but those already in advanced work will be allowed to continue.

Maybe there’s racism in the way the kids were chosen for the advanced learning classes?

The program was open to all students in the Boston Public Schools who took a test known as Terra Nova in the third grade and received a high score. Those students were placed in a lottery conducted by the central administration office, and lottery winners received letters inviting them to apply to the program. Last fall, 453 students received invitations, 143 students applied and 116 enrolled this year, officials said.

If they look hard enough, I’m sure they’ll find racism in the lottery.

The fallback position when playing the numbers game is always racism. There can be no other rational explanation. And if there is, it’s because the person pointing out the rational explanation is racist.

A rational person might look at the 453 students receiving invitations and ask why more blacks and Hispanics didn’t even apply. Not all of those 453 students could have been white and Asian. Why did black and Hispanic kids not want to take the advanced classes?

As far as the method of choosing candidates, the idea that the Terra Nova test is racist is so 20th century. Testing companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to hire experts and develop questions to remove all possible biases from these standardized tests.

Once again, we’re faced with the uncomfortable truth that maybe — just maybe — it is differences in the culture that account for the discrepancy in numbers. It shouldn’t and doesn’t suggest inferiority. It suggests that other forces are at work in some communities of color that make appearing to be intelligent something to avoid — even a stigma — and high achievement is frowned upon by peers.

Perhaps you could blame those attitudes on the impact of racial inequities over the centuries and how it affects children. But to make the argument that there is something inherently racist in encouraging excellence is wrong for any reason. That’s the message Boston schools are sending to children and parents of all colors.

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