The Boston Public Schools will be suspending an advanced learning program for its fourth, fifth and sixth graders because too many white and Asian students are participating.
According to WGBH, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius recommended a one-year enrollment suspension for what’s known as the Advanced Work Class due to COVID-19 worries and “concerns about equity.”
According to the district website, the Advanced Work Class “provides an accelerated academic curriculum” for students in the grades noted. Those enrolled study “in greater depth” [with] more schoolwork and more home study than the traditional curriculum.” (More information is here.)
Over 70 percent of students in the AWC are white and Asian, despite the district being 80 percent black and Hispanic. Acceptance to the program is (was) decided via third-grade test scores on the popular TerraNova standardized test. Those who obtain the necessary scores are then put into a lottery for admission.
School Committee member Lorna Rivera said she was “very disturbed” by the AWC’s (racial) statistics and noted they are “just not acceptable.”
Superintendent 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.” She added students already in the program can continue, but future programming decisions will be made “at the principal level.”
The overall future of the AWC is in the hands of a district working group which is expected to make a decision by May.
BPS’s concerns over “equity” certainly are not novel. Advanced programs for gifted students often are targets either for complete abolition or restructuring due to “incorrect” racial and ethnic demographics.
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