Report: Black, Latino Students Being Kept From High-Performing Boston Schools

A new report shows that many black and Latino students are being prevented from attending some of the top public schools in Boston.

Dan O'Brien, the lead author of a new Northeastern University report, presented his findings to the School Committee on Monday night, which show that Boston has been unsuccessful in creating equal access to high quality schools.

Boston Public Schools member Regina Robinson says the presentation led to a "yup" moment.

The report found a computerized system the city uses to assign students to schools is only making segregation among the city’s schools—worse.

"Black students most so and Latino students as well saw less opportunity for access to quality schools than their white and Asian counterparts,” O'Brien said. 

The study found that more than 80-percent of kindergarten students in Boston's affluent and historically white neighborhoods like Charlestown and Back Bay attend high-quality public schools with higher test scores compared to only 5-percent in the historically black neighborhood of Mattapan.

“As a result, as you noted, those students who are lucky enough to attend a tier one school they have to travel to get there,” O'Brien said.

Those students commute almost twice the distance traveled by white and Asian students.

Members of the community expressed their concern following the report.

“Maddening. Why is it maddening? Because that report speaks to a huge failure in our system to provide equitable access to education and it’s a failure that didn’t need to be,” Kevin Murray said.

So what’s next? Northeastern University offered several recommendations.

"Two of them were straight forward and had to do with modifications to the algorithm and its implementation,” O'Brien said. 

The third had to do with the quantity and geographic distribution of quality schools in the city.

“Without making that more equitable, the school system and assignment system isn’t going to be able to solve the problem.”

During the meeting, public school officials said this discussion is far from over. They say they now plan to work with the mayor's office and the community to find ways to address the problem.

Boston School Superintendent Tommy Chang stepped down last month. His three-year tenure was marked by several controversies, including racial tension at Boston Latin, an IRS audit into financial issues and an attempt at changing school start and bus times that left many parents angry.

More recently, attorneys with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice filed a lawsuit against Chang and the school system after school officials allegedly sent information about a student to ICE. Chang denied that the school system shared student information with the agency.

Mayor Marty Walsh recently named Laura Perille, the head of the educational nonprofit EdVestors, as the interim superintendent. She will serve in the role until a new, permanent superintendent is chosen.

Contact Us