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Exam School Initiative prep program expands seats for under-served youth in Boston Public Schools

BOSTON - (Wednesday, April 26, 2016) - Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced today that the Exam School Initiative, a free study program for students seeking admission to the district's three exam schools, will expand the number of seats in the program this summer from 450 to 750 to provide more equitable access to academic rigor for students from the district's traditionally underrepresented schools.

 "The expansion of the Exam School Initiative is an important step forward in helping build a more diverse student body in our most highly sought schools," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "It is critical that all of the city's youth have access to a high-quality education - they deserve nothing less."
 
The Exam School Initiative is a free preparation course offered to any student living in Boston who is eligible to take the "ISEE" exam to gain admission into the district's three exam schools: Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. The annual program begins in August and has been hosted at Boston Latin School since it began in 2000.

 
"Operating through the lens of equity is at the core of what we do in Boston Public Schools," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O'Neill. "We know that an important aspect to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps is providing students of color access to programs with strong academic rigor like the Exam School Initiative. I am proud of our work and thankful of the support of Mayor Walsh and the Boston Latin School Association in this tremendous effort."
 
A charitable foundation that Mayor Walsh helped form and the Boston Latin School Association will account for the 300 additional seats, as well as communication and recruitment outreach, specifically for Boston students who attend public schools that have been traditionally under-represented in the Exam School Initiative program.
 
"Thoughtfully expanding this tremendously impactful program will help students who need it the most," said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. "I applaud the work of the Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for taking a critical look at better providing meaningful academic experiences for all of our students."
 
Each year, approximately 600 BPS students who score above a certain threshold on the TerraNova standardized exam are invited to participate in the Exam School Initiative Open House in the spring. Students attend the Exam School Initiative courses in the summer and through the fall, typically of their sixth-grade year, when they take the "ISEE" exam to gain admittance to one of the three BPS exam schools.
 
The Exam School Initiative began in 2000 with a goal of helping BPS students of color gain entrance into the exam schools and to understand the benefits of an exam school education. However, 2014 enrollment data shows that 44% of the participants were White; 28% were Asian; 14% were Hispanic; and 10% were Black.
 
"Having additional seats proportional to students who are best served by the Exam School Initiative is an important step in the right direction," said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for BPS. "We will continue to analyze the impact of these changes to guide our efforts of providing equitable access for all students."
 
Peter G. Kelly, president of the Boston Latin School Association and a 1983 alumnus of Boston Latin School, said supporting the Exam School Initiative expansion is imperative.
 
"The Boston Latin School Association is proud to collaborate with Mayor Walsh and to expand its partnership with the Boston Public Schools in providing opportunities for quality learning for students of all backgrounds," Kelly said. "This investment reflects the core values and the fundamental mission of the BLSA to ensure that all BPS students have the opportunity to achieve through exam school education."
 



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