Boston Public Schools Suspends Advanced Learning Class in Part Because There were Too Many White Students

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A selective program for high-performing fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Boston has suspended enrollment due to the pandemic and concerns about equity in the program, television station WGBH News reports.

“Advanced placement courses were offered to everyone in the school system. This is incredibly unfair to those that worked hard to qualify,” one parent said.

A district analysis of the program found that more than 70 percent of students enrolled in the program were white and Asian, even though nearly 80 percent of all Boston public school students are Hispanic and Black.

“And then you have white flight,” one parent wrote. “Those that can afford to or will take a demotion in their living standards will go to where their child can get the advanced classes. It will just tank the districts scores as they lose their highest achievers. Been happening for decades anyway.”

School Committee member Lorna Rivera said at a January meeting that she was disturbed by the findings, noting that nearly 60 percent of fourth graders in the program at the Ohrenberger school in West Roxbury are white even though most third graders enrolled at the school are Black and Hispanic.

“This is just not acceptable,” Rivera said at a recent school committee meeting. “I’ve never heard these statistics before, and I’m very very disturbed by them.”

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told WGBH News  they would put the program on hiatus over the racial findings.

“There’s been a lot of inequities that have been brought to the light in the pandemic that we have to address,” Cassellius said. “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.”

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.