NEWS & ANALYSIS

Boston schools place ‘color of our skin’ above ‘content of our intellect’ in halting advanced program


Boston Public Schools announced they will suspend advanced classes for one shocking reason: too many students in them are white or Asian. 

Essentially, for the next year, fourth, fifth and sixth graders will be punished for their intellectual capabilities and be prohibited from pursuing their academic talents on the proper level. 

The selective program, called Advanced Work Classes, will suspend enrollment, partly because of the pandemic but also because of “concerns about equity,” GBH News reports.

Upon analyzing the demographics of the advanced academic program, the school district found that over 70 percent of students enrolled were white and Asian, even though nearly 80 percent of all Boston public school students are Hispanic and black. 

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

Certainly forcing children to learn at the same level is not the solution. Every student – no matter the age, race, gender, religion – learns in a different way and at a different speed. 

Cassellius explained that only five schools in the district offer the advanced classes and that interest has declined over the past few years. 

But, that doesn’t mean they should stop it altogether. 

A Boston Public Schools spokesman said that new students will still be admitted into the advanced program in fourth grade, but that admittance standards would be determined by the schools. However, no new fifth or sixth graders will be admitted, the Daily Wire reports. 

According to GBH, School Committee member Lorna Rivera expressed concern over the findings at a meeting in January while noting that nearly 60 percent of fourth graders in the advanced program at a West Roxbury school are white. 

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

The advanced program, however, is open to every student enrolled in Boston Public Schools. Each student who wants to participate takes a test, known as Terra Nova, in third grade and if they receive a high score, they are placed in a lottery. The winners of the lottery receive an invite to join the program. 

Last fall, 453 students received invitations. 

Students in the program are given the opportunity to study subjects in greater detail and are offered more schoolwork than the traditional curriculum requires. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of students being punished based on race. 

At Public School 9 in Brooklyn, students will no longer be able to enroll in ‘gifted and talented’ classes.

This particular school is one of the most diverse elementary schools in Brooklyn: out of 940 students, 40 percent are black, 31 percent are white, 17 percent are Hispanic and 9 percent are Asian. 

But, students learn in separate groups: the gifted and talented classes are filled with mostly white and Asian kids, while the general education classes are mostly black, USA Today reports. 

Starting in the fall, there will be no offered gifted track for the school’s incoming kindergarteners. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s school diversity panel has long encouraged elementary schools to do away with gifted programs in the city. 

The panel’s rationale is that gifted programs are biased and serve to segregate children along the lines of race and class. 

But again, that’s not the case. Advanced and gifted classes have one sole purpose: to provide more advanced students with more rigorous coursework. It’s not about race, it’s about intellectual ability and stripping students of the opportunity to excel is not the way to solve racism.