Charlestown Would Lose 17 Seats Under the New Exam School Admissions Formula

The Exam School Admissions Criteria Working Group has released the most accurate simulation of available seats per neighborhood under the new, one-year admissions policy and that simulations shows that while some neighborhoods would gain many seats, Charlestown would lose approximately 17 seats, or 30 percent, from last year’s allotment.

The Working Group had been meeting extensively over the summer about what to do with the Exam School admissions to Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and O’Bryan School of Math & Science in the era of COVID-19. Last fall, they recommended cancelling the traditional admissions test for this year’s class, and implementing a system that allocated seats on student population in that zip code.

“The continued goal of the Working Group was to identify opportunities to ensure more equitable access to the three exam schools, so each school’s enrollment would more closely reflect the district’s overall enrollment,” read a memo from the Working Group presented last week.

“There are predicted changes in neighborhoods across the city, with some seeing an increase in enrollment, while others will see a decline,” read the memo. “The Working Group made its recommendation for this model after reviewing other simulations. While there has been a discussion of adding priority for current BPS students, the School Committee ultimately decided that all Boston students – from BPS or other schools – should be considered equally for the next round of admissions.”

That round of admissions has already started and 6th graders, incoming 7th graders, to the three schools have enrolled and are now being considered if they meet the new criteria.

At issue now is how many seats will be available in the three schools for qualifying children under the new process. Many simulations were batted around over the past months, but the Working Group did decide on a simulation that was presented last week to the School Committee.

In that simulation, Charlestown would be allotted 39 seats for next year, after having had 56 seats last year. That is a reduction of approximately 30 percent over the typical year in the past.

That seems to be about the middle of the pack for neighborhoods that have lost seats over last year. Chinatown last 58 percent of its seats, or 10 seats. West Roxbury had the biggest loss, losing 57 seats or 43 percent over last year. Jamaica Plain lost 16 seats, or 21 percent, of the seats allotted there last year.

Meanwhile, areas like Dorchester Center increased its number of seats by 39, or 46 percent. Roxbury zip code 02121 gained 51 seats, which was a 189 percent increase. Mattapan also gained 38 seats, or a 190 percent increase.

The Working Group indicated it requested multiple simulations in their review to understand the impacts of the proposal. However, there was no way to run a full simulation due to the constraints of information. The simulations indicated the following information was available:

•Changes to SY20-21 invitations for all SY19-20 actual applicants (BPS and

non-BPS) using GPA (last year spring + 1st two terms of the current year) and

ISEE scores (the district’s previous exam provider).

•Changes to SY20-21 invitations for all BPS students using other available data

sources (e.g., grades prior to COVID).

•Potential invitations for SY21-22 for BPS students only.

However, what wasn’t available in this simulation was the following:

•Changes to SY20-21 invitations for non-BPS students using data outside of GPA and ISEE scores.

•Exam scores if an exam was administered in Fall 2020.

•Student preferences for SY21-22.

The memo indicated the Working Group would continue to meet to advise on any permanent changes to the admissions process beyond this year’s COVID-19 accommodations.

“The Working Group recommended that they continue convening to advise on permanent efforts to expand the applicant pool, making use of the new NWEA test and other factors,” read the memo. “This rationale is based on what can be learned from applying the recommendations to this year’s admissions and incorporating what the working group has learned in reviewing practices from other districts.”

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