The program, identified as Advanced Work Classes (AWC), will be halted for a year, reported PBS-affiliate WGBH.
“There’s been a lot of inequities that have been brought to the light in the pandemic that we have to address,” Superintendent Brenda Cassellius explained. “There’s a lot of work we have to do in the district to be anti-racist and have policies where all of our students have a fair shot at an equitable and excellent education.”
According to the school district’s website, the AWC is a full-time program that gives an “accelerated academic curriculum for highly motivated and academically capable students.” Students who want to participate have to take the famous Terra Nova 3 standardized test, and those who reach the necessary score will be put into a lottery conducted by the central administration office, and lottery victors get letters inviting them to apply to the program.
Last fall, 453 students got the invitations, 143 students applied and 116 registered for this year, officials explained.
The choice to halt the AWC is based on a district analysis of the program, which discovered that over 70 percent of the students enrolled were Asian or white. By contrast, a Massachusetts state analysis of the BPS shows that out of the district’s 48,000 students in school year 2020-21, 42 percent are Hispanic, 29 percent are black, 15 percent are white, and just 9 percent are Asian.
A BPS spokesperson explained that there will be no new students accepted for fifth or sixth grade yet those already in class will be permitted to proceed. New fourth-grade students will be admitted by standards to be determined by individual schools.
The fate of the AWC will be determined by a district working group by May, the spokesperson explained.
Furthermore, New York City last month succeeded the admission test to its Gifted and Talented program with a lottery, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempt to ease what he considers is a "difficulty of racial disparity."
The G&T program, which suggests specialized instruction and enrichment possibilities for young students deemed exceptional, admits students based on a single, high-stakes entrance exam. The de Blasio administration, over the past two years, has claimed that the program’s admission format "unjustly" prefers affluent white and Asian middle-class families.
In 2019, de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group, which was tasked with providing advice to reduce segregation in city schools, urged the removal of the G&T program. The advisory panel highlighted the fact that black and Hispanic students cover only 27 percent of students in those gifted classes, even though they account for about 70 percent of students citywide.