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Exam schools demand academic excellence

Melvin B. Miller

Fellow alumni of Boston Latin School used to greet one another as survivors of an intense academic barrage. In the old days, students admitted to the sixth class were told at the welcoming assembly, “Look to the left and to the right. Only one of you will make it to the graduation ceremony.”

Over the years, admission to BLS and the other exam schools was disproportionately low for Blacks and Latinos. Temporarily, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the admission test to the exam schools has been dropped in the hope that the new procedure will increase racial diversity. Entrance is now based on grammar school grades and the student’s zip code.

The change in the ethnicity of prospective exam school students is as follows: Asians from 21% to 16%, Blacks from 18% to 24%, Latinos from 24% to 28% and whites from 33% to 26%. Those are percentages of invitations to attend. It still remains to be seen what the diversity of acceptances are to BLS, Boston Latin Academy and the O’Bryant School of Math and Science.

Perhaps this temporary approach to exam school acceptance will encourage Blacks and Latinos to compete academically. There should be no intention to relax the academic rigor of the schools. While academic intensity is certainly not for everyone, the nation needs high school graduates who are qualified for the top colleges where they will acquire the skills to enhance America’s leadership in the world.