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07/10/20

Suspend Boston Exam School Admissions Testing for One Year!

Below is information on the petition the NAACP started yesterday urging BPS to uphold the recommendation made by the OAG (Opportunity and Achievement Gaps) Taskforce to halt testing students this year for entry into the 3 BPS exam schools. If you agree, you may sign the petition here.

Suspend Boston Exam School Admissions Testing for One Year!

NAACP – Boston Branch started this petition to Boston School Committee.

On June 30, 2020, the BPS School Committee Opportunity Gap taskforce voted to formally recommend the suspension of an admissions test.  On July 2, 2020, Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced the selection of a new standardized test for admission to its three exam schools ignoring the recommendation of the Boston School Committee Opportunity Gap Task Force to suspend the test for one year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the interest of racial justice, we oppose the central office decision, and strongly support the Task Force recommendation.

In 2016, the NAACP Boston Branch, in collaboration with several civil rights and advocacy organizations including BEAM, Lawyers for Civil Rights, ACLU of MA and Mass Advocates for Children began strong research based advocacy for alternatives to “exam” based admissions citing the adverse impact and potentially discriminatory impact on Black and LatinX students.  After years of this advocacy, published white papers and neighborhood town halls, in 2018 the Harvard Kennedy School Rappaport Institute released a report that supported our position and highlighted how the admissions process, including the test, disadvantages BPS students (who are predominantly Black and LatinX).  As the advocacy groups wrote to the Mayor, Superintendent and School Committee in 2019, “The  Harvard  researchers  concluded  that  the  substantial  racial  gaps  in  ISEE-taking  rates,  ISEE scores,  and  GPAs  could  not  be  explained  by  or  attributed  solely  to  “underlying  differences  in academic  strength,”  given  that  high-achieving  African-American  and  Latinx  students  were “substantially  less  likely  to  be  invited  to  exam  schools”  than  peers  of  “similar  academic strengths.”  Goodman  and  Rucinski  concluded  that  “many  talented  [African-American]  and [Latinx]  students  in  BPS  do  not  enroll  at  the  exam  schools  due  to  various  factors  that  make  it more  difficult  for  them  to  succeed  in  the  admissions  process”  and  that  alternative  means  of admitting  students  could  be  accomplished  “while  maintaining  the  high  academic  requirements  of the  current  admissions  process.” The BPS response was to identify a new test provider for the ‘20-’21 school year without addressing the disparities highlighted in the report.

In March 2020 BPS closed its building doors to students and faculty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For three months students, families and the school district have struggled to continue the learning process.  The Boston Globe reported that up to 20% of BPS students were “virtual dropouts” having not engaged in online learning.  The reality of students and families balancing the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, coupled with the ineffective ad-hoc implementation of virtual instruction, without accurately measuring learning, through the pandemic make this executive decision against the recommendations of the taskforce patently unfair and unjust. To now force low-income students to compete with middle income and wealthy students for “golden ticket” seats at the exam schools when we are fully aware of the gaps and disparate impact of the admissions process is the definition of racial injustice.  If the Boston School Committee does not suspend the test for this year, the students who are harmed will potentially feel the impact for a lifetime. In previous years, errors made by BPS algorithms resulted in irreversible harm to hundreds of families. Our families should not bear additional and new irreversible harm due to deliberate choices.

04/29/20

Inclusion Done Right Meeting Notes 4_28_20

Dear Educators and Parents,

It was great to see so many of you at yesterday’s Inclusion Done Right meeting! We had 83 people in attendance, our largest meeting yet!

We promised to send out the instructions for how to sign up to testify at the City Council Hearing on Inclusion, Special Education and English Language Learners – scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, starting at 1:00pm.

Instructions for Signing up to Testify

You can testify “live” via zoom by  emailing michelle.a. goldberg@boston.gov.  Your testimony should be 2 minutes max.

You can also appear at the Hearing by uploading a 2 min. video.  Your video testimony will be played at the Hearing if it is received by 12:00 pm this Friday, 5/1.  Instructions for how to upload a video can be found under #3 in this document. Here is the link:

https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/how-testify-city-council-budget-hearing .  (It is also possible to email your remarks, however, testimony connected to a person is far more powerful!)

The Hearing will begin with a presentation by BPS where we’ll hear their version of how inclusion, special education and ESL services are being implemented in the district.  Our comments will follow.

Please contact me if you would like support with crafting your testimony. We’d be delighted to provide assistance.

Reaching out to City Councilors

We want to strongly encourage that every member of the City Council be present at next Tuesday’s Hearing, sponsored by Councilor Essabai-George.  At the meeting yesterday, participants volunteered to be point people for emailing/calling each City Councilor to urge them to show up.  It would be great if everyone could reach out to one or more  members of the City Council.  Here is the link we provided yesterday for info on contacting City Council members:   https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council.  We encourage you to email, and then follow up with a phone call if you don’t get a positive response.

Sample message:

My name is _________ and I am an educator/parent at the ___________ in your district (or I live in your district.) I am emailing/calling to say how important it is to me that you attend the upcoming City Council Hearing on Inclusion, Special Education and English Language Learners, Tuesday, May 5 at 1:00.

School closures have made it even more challenging for our most vulnerable students to receive the education and services they deserve.  We are counting on your support for Inclusion Done Right!  Please let me know that you will attend the Hearing. Thank you.

Slides on DESE Findings on BPS Special Education

Here is the link to the slides on the DESE Findings prepared by BTU member and Inclusion activist, Emma Fialka-Feldman.  There were a number of requests to share these slides.

Please reach out with any questions!   Hope to see you many of you next Tuesday!

Thanks,
Ilene

01/27/20

1/29/20: Inclusion Done Right @ School Committee

Dear Educators and Parents,

This Wednesday we go to School Committee to stand up for Inclusion Done Right.  Please meet at 5:30 on the first floor of the Bolling Building if you want pizza before the meeting.  Make sure to RSVP here to let us know you will be there.

We have bright red “Inclusion Done Right” T-shirts for everyone who is there to stand with us.

Parents and educators will be speaking up about the need to improve the teaching and learning conditions in our inclusion classrooms and schools now.

The public comment period is from 6:00 – 7:00pm.  We hope you will join us!

Thank you,
Ilene Carver
BTU Organizer