In an effort to increase diversity in Boston’s three exam schools, the Exam School Initiative aims to increase diversity with several changes made to its program this summer.
The program, which has been around since 2000, aims to prepare selected students for the rigorous exam which grants students entrance to Boston Latin, Boston Latin Academy, and John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Boston Latin School officials admitted to noticing a drop in diversity and disparity in racial makeup. In hopes of changing this, there was a call put out for black and Latino students to take the exam, specifically, students from elementary schools which were not sending anyone to the program. In April, officials announced the expansion of the program. Their goal was to recruit 300 students from underrepresented schools but they were not able to obtain more than 225.
In 2014, participants of the Exam School Initiative program were 44% white, 28% Asian, leaving only 24% of participants being black or Latino. In that same year, Boston Public Schools contained a high number of black and Latino students, with whites making up 14% of the population, and Asians only 9%. This year, 46% of students in the program were black or Latino, 28% were white, and 20% were Asian. According to Mayor Martin J. Walsh “…the breakdown is where we want to be as far as giving the kids the testing opportunities and the training opportunities.”
The program takes place for 2 weeks in the end of summer at Boston Latin School and previously maxed out at 450 participants. These students were selected based on standardized test scores. Additional students from underrepresented elementary schools were accepted in the program based on letters of recommendation from teachers, principals and other school officials.
This year, for the first time, the Exam School Initiative offered transportation to the program as well as free breakfast and lunch. This was done in hopes of breaching some of the barriers that black and Latino students might face that could prevent them from participating. Students are also invited to attend Saturday classes in the fall. When exam time rolls around, the program will provide free transportation to testing system, another new addition this year.
Looking to the future, the hope is to keep building on the work done for this year and improve the program while also ensuring that it remains diverse accessible to all.