On the Recent News about the Elimination of the ISEE Test for BPS Exam Schools

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On Feb. 5, 2020, The Boston Globe published an article describing how the Education Records Bureau (ERB) had severed its relationship with Boston Public Schools over its administration of the ISEE test for entrance into the city’s three exam schools. The timing of ERB’s statement is surprising and raises more questions than it gives answers: How exactly was the decision to move away from the ISEE made and by whom? 

Regardless of how the decision was made—or even what exam will be used in the future—we firmly believe that when a school requires a test for admission, there will always be inequity. Ultimately, removing an existing barrier to access—and rethinking the entire exam schools’ admissions process—is a big win for marginalized Boston families who just want a fair chance at a high quality education for their children.

There’s no denying that access to Boston’s exam schools has been historically inequitable and the controversy over exam school admissions is an inherited issue that predates Dr. Cassellius’ new leadership. That’s why we have been encouraged by how open Dr. Cassellius has been about the district’s intent to seek an alternative to the ISEE. 

BPS now has a tremendous opportunity ahead of itself to show real commitment to Dr. Cassellius’ Strategic Plan: developing an exam school entrance standard that expands high quality access to every student in the district—regardless of race or privilege. Moving away from the ISEE aligns with several major elements of the Strategic Plan, specifically, goals around achievement gap elimination, accelerated learning, and expanded opportunities. The district’s goal to “amplify all voices” also provides a unique opportunity to include families and partners in the district’s process to find the most equitable exam school entrance standard.

Our mission as an organization is centered on connecting families to the information they need to make the most informed decisions they can about great-fit schools for their families—and, more importantly how to access those schools. 

No matter what that new exam school entrance standard will be, our work remains the same: We look forward to continuing to partner with BPS to get the word out to families about what those new testing standards will be, and how and when they can sign up and prepare. Given our unique frontline perspective, we invite BPS to leverage our deep understanding of where families struggle most with the exam school admission process to help them choose the most equitable process for all.

Moving forward, we hope the district honors its commitment to be more transparent as they explore their options to find a solution centered on families, that pushes the quality needle across the entire district—and not just at exam schools.

Latoya Gayle
Executive Director, Boston School Finder

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