Clarion Call: Committee Chair Says Now They Must Focus on All High Schools

One of the key discoveries coming out of the laborious Exam School Admissions process changes had very little to do with the exam schools.

As the months went on, long meetings played out, and tremendous thought went into the small group of people and students affected by the changes to the exam school process, the sobering message was that the district has 27 other high schools that have rarely gotten even a fraction of the attention that exam schools received.

That had been stated many times lately by Committee members and others involved in the process, but Chair Jeri Robinson laid it out during her comments prior to the vote on the new Exam School Admissions process. With only a few hundred students each year headed off to exam schools, she said they needed to start considering the thousands of other students at all of the other high schools.

It’s a call that has gotten louder and louder from students, parents and elected officials as many question whether they want to send their student to an exam school, but at the same time struggle with the perception, or the reality at times, that there are few other options.

Robinson said it’s time for that to change.

“We have to be in a place where we have 30 wonderful choices and not just three,” she said.

“There is no good reason that after tonight the clarion call doesn’t go out to all of us that we may be making a vote to move forward around access, but for every single classroom and to every single parent from Pre-K on, we need to look in the mirror and decide if we’re prepared to provide for all our students so we will have a myriad of students in 6th grade prepared to take on this wonderful opportunity,” she said. “This should not be a chance that some get to do and others are not prepared to do.”

Robinson, who attended the former Girls Latin School (which transformed into a co-ed Boston Latin Academy), said the Committee needs to focus on bringing up rigor in the high schools by instituting the MassCore and focusing on high school re-design. She said it’s time that there are rigorous options for those that don’t want an exam school or don’t get into an exam school – and part of that is hard work and part of that is changing perceptions in parent circles.

“We have 30 high schools,” she said. “There’s no reason that we only have three that people feel that they want to be able to go to. For me, tonight this vote is a step, just a step, but the work is yet to be done in every department, in every school and in every home.”

She said she would like to see Task Forces initiated soon that spend just as much time sorting out issues at Madison Park, or the McKinley Schools, as was dedicated to the exam school issue.

High School re-design actually started in Charlestown and East Boston, and the pilot of that change begins this fall when Charlestown High adds grades 7 and 8 to the school. That change goes hand-in-hand with re-designing the high school to handle more programming, more extra-curricular activities, and honors programming like the International Baccalaureate diploma.

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