Exam School Admissions and COVID-19

Coronavirus, Education

The Exam School Admissions Working Group for Boston Public Schools (BPS) recently presented its recommendations to the School Committee regarding how the district should alter the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. If adopted, the recommendations would address many of concerns surrounding equity and exam school admissions, particularly in light of COVID-19. Although the recommendations would alter the admissions process only for the 2021-22 school year, they reflect an encouraging step in the right direction toward eliminating disparities along pronounced racial, ethnic, class, and geographic lines that have long plagued BPS’ most elite schools.

The Working Group’s recommendations focus on creating greater racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity for the 2021-22 cycle compared to previous years. If the School Committee approves the plan, BPS will not administer an exam as part of its admissions process this year. Rather, the student applicant pool would be identified based on grades earned and State assessments made pre-COVID — this would be an appropriate change given the disproportionate impact of the concurrent and overlapping public health, racial justice, and economic crises on Black and Latinx communities and the added burden placed on students of color. Additionally, under the proposed plan, 80% of invitations would be distributed using pre-COVID GPAs and zip code data to ensure meaningful geographic diversity of exam school students. 

“We applaud BPS leadership for convening the Working Group and we applaud the Group’s recommendations,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR). “We are hopeful that the School Committee will approve the proposed plan. It would do so much good for students of color who wish to attend an exam school next year,” added Espinoza-Madrigal. 

“These recommendations could help mitigate the longstanding disparate impact of the student opportunity gap on Black and Latinx students for next year’s exam school admissions cycle,” said Janelle Dempsey, an attorney at LCR. “LCR stands with student leaders and our community partners in urging BPS and the School Committee to recognize that these vital reforms must extend beyond the 2021-22 school year in order to fully address the racial and ethnic inequities that have existed long before COVID-19,” added Dempsey. 

The School Committee will vote on whether to approve the Working Group’s recommendations during its next remote meeting on October 21, 2020.