Who Goes There?

Dropping off kids at both the Hernández and Boston Latin can make you wonder if both children are going to school in the same city. Even the Parent Imperfect can observe that the student populations at the two schools are REALLY different.

According to statistics collected by the state for 2007 (the last year for which the PI can find numbers), the Hernández was 87% Latino and two groups (White and Asian) made up 80% of the student population at Boston Latin.

One of the great strengths of the Boston Public Schools is the system’s diverse student population, but are schools like the ones attended by the PI’s children diverse? By any measure, they are not, but parents such as the PI continue to try to get into such schools, despite their lack of diversity. The Hernández is one of the more difficult lottery schools to get your child into, and admission to Boston Latin is certainly no piece of cake.

The reasons for the lack of diversity at the two schools are very different. With its two-way, Spanish-English curriculum, the Hernández attracts a huge number of Latino families as applicants, but few African-Americans and almost no Asians. Up until a few years ago, the BPS used a complicated race-sensitive assignment system that ensured a bit more diversity, but since the city ended that system in the face of a lawsuit, the school has gotten less diverse, quickly. Even four years ago, Vincent”s third grade class was much more diverse than C’onnie’s is, today. Is this a bad thing about the school?

Lack of diversity at Boston Latin comes from a very different source. Since one must take a test called the ISEE to get in to Boston Latin and the other exam schools, it is anything but the luck of the draw. Boston Latin’s student population reflects the educational opportunities students have had through grade six, more than the composition of the Boston Public Schools. The PI can’t find out how many, but a solid percentage of Boston Latin students come from parochial and other private schools, rather than the BPS. The lack of diversity at the elite exam schools was one of the factors that led a Federal judge to impose a de-segregation order on the Boston Public Schools in 1974, and enrollment seems to be moving steadily back in that direction.

Almost exactly four years ago, Mayor Menino said this when asked by The Boston Globe about diversity at the exam schools.

Yeah, I’d like to see all students have the opportunity to go to one of the preferred schools in Boston.

I can remember growing up in this city. You only had one preferred school, in Boston Latin. But now you have other schools people want to go to. There’s Arts Academy, the O’Bryant, Fenway. It’s a different school system. But it’s true, we have to figure out a system that allows the diversity of Boston into the Latin schools.

Yeah, from where the PI sits, as we move toward yet another mayoral election, that system remains to be “figured out.”

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