Boston Suspends Advanced and Gifted Programs Over “Equity” Concerns

We recently discussed the condemnation of meritocracy in education as racist by one of the top officials in the San Francisco public school system. That position has fueled calls to end advanced or gifted programs around the country including in New York City.  Now, Boston has followed suit with a suspension of advanced learning program for its fourth, fifth and sixth graders. These measures will make our public schools less diverse over time in my view.While I do view the low number of minority students in such programs to be a serious problem, I have long opposed efforts to eliminate the programs or establish quota systems to rectify that problem. Students of all races benefit from such programs. While there is clearly less diversity, the best solution is not to eliminate such programs but to work harder in the earlier grades to allow minority students to excel (and ultimately gain admission to such programs).Nevertheless, according to WGBH and a few conservative sites, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is calling for a one-year enrollment suspension of the Advanced Work Class due to both the pandemic and “concerns about equity.”  Cassellius said “There’s a lot of work we have to do in the district to be antiracist and have policies where all of our students have a fair shot at an equitable and excellent education.”

To be sure, the Boston system is facing a sharp contrast in the racial makeup of the program as opposed to the district at large. The district is 80 percent Black and Hispanic but 70 percent of the programs are white and Asian. However, denying those gifted students this option does not advance educational or diversity policies.  Greater diversity is possible but the focus should be on working to help minority children to excel despite what are often adverse conditions in the communities or at home.

Gifted programs and elite academic schools are designed to allow students to reach their full academic potential with other students performing at the highest level of math and other disciplines. It is often difficult for such students to reach that potential in conventional settings. Teachers have to keep their classes as a whole moving forward in subject areas. That often means that academically gifted children are held back by conventional curricula or lesson plans. Those students can actually underperform due to boredom or the lack of challenging material. Many simply leave the public school system.  Moreover, students tend to perform better with students progressing at their similar level. Teachers can then focus on a lesson plan and discussions that are tailored to students at a similar performance level.

These concerns should be particularly acute in Boston which has seen 40 percent of its student population chronically absent from classes.

Eliminating such programs creates a false “equity” by lobbing off the top performing programs.  That does not advance true diversity in my view.  In fairness to educators like Cassellius, these programs do siphon off staff and money. However, a touchstone of a public school system is that children of different needs and backgrounds can excel.  The minority of white and Asian students in the district reflects in part the exodus from public schools by such families due to mistrust in the commitment to such policies.  Suspending these programs will only accelerate such departures in my view.


358 thoughts on “Boston Suspends Advanced and Gifted Programs Over “Equity” Concerns”

  1. You can’t tell “gifted” at 4th grade. You can tell type A competitive parents.

    1. No, you can tell high performing and low performing youngsters at just about any age level past kindergarten. If their performance improves later, you can bump them to a more rapid track.

        1. Yeah, and if you’re sometime wrong, f.. ’em.

          We have never done this before and for a good reason.

      1. WE have never before tracked kids from age one and then steered them to opitimize their educational achievements, We could, but choosing not to is nonethless the standard, and for good reasons. 4th grade is not quite as ridiculous, but in my opinion as father, kid once, and a human, a f…d up idea.

  2. To get a really different view, read the chapter “Schooling versus education” in Edward Banfield’s “The Unheavenly City Revisited.” He thought school for most should end around age 14–get rid of high school–and get the “non-learner” (his term) into a job or vocation, where the person can learn a lot more and is more likely to become a productive citizen. The other kids he says are ready to go to college.

    1. He did advocate lowering the school leaving age to 14, but I don’t recall that he thought most youngsters should leave school at 14. Nor do I recall that he recommended tertiary schooling at age 14.

      Drilling ordinary youngsters in basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic) with a side order of civic education (American history, geography, and civics – basic) strikes me as a sensible elementary program. That can continue until mastery is demonstrated. For some, that would mean secondary programs devoted to basics and life skills, for some that would mean basics until 14, VoTech later; and for some that would mean basics until some point between 10 and 14, academics later (or a mixed academic VoTech program later). What we do not need is to have the entire run of youths between the ages of 12 and 18 getting a diet of half-assed liberal education and then sending 2/3 of them into tertiary schooling because they don’t have any salable skills. Only 2% of the teaching manpower in this country is devoted to VoTech.

  3. I just published a highly relevant compelling novel, designed to help open the minds of college and high school kids and young adults who have been indoctrinated in nonsense. Republic of Equality – 2033: A Romantic Dystopian Satire. I’d be glad to email a free pdf for review. Or you can read the book description and use the Look Inside feature on the Amazon book site:

  4. Most students in the public sector have already missed entire year of education they will never recover. What exactly is “equity”: equally stupid? How much longer will Americans go along with the racist lie?

  5. Marva Collins, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Sen. Tim Scott; Dr. Ben Carson, Condaleesa Rice, Dr. Carol Swain. Not everyone came from the background where they could afford the cost of private school (the going rate now at the local Catholic high school is $10K at minimum, so prep schools you know are higher). Some of the parents/caretakers of the above names had received minimal education and some not at all; but they knew the value of education and that you did not need a lot of fancy gadgets to learn–books, a public library. To limit and restrict a child’s education is criminal.

  6. After some thought, this is logical next step after ending the former exam schools’ entrance exams. The former exam schools now admit students based on GPA. If a child was in the advance working group and received a B average, how do you compare them to a child that received an A average in one of the many Boston government schools where 20% of students are proficient or better at English/math/science? It is really an apples and oranges comparison. If they kept the advance working groups, there would need to be some adjustment for rigor. Once they do that, they are right back to the racial composition of the advanced working groups being carried over to the former exam schools.

    1. Extending this out further. It also takes away the advantage of sending your child to private school or a charter school that is more rigorous. Many Boston parents send their kids to private elementary schools, then would test into the former exam schools. Now, if your child goes to more rigorous private or charter school, they will be disadvantaged when applying to the former exam school.

      2019 grade 6 statistics for the MCAS (Boston schools are prefaced with Boston and clustered):

      All the schools with <25% M+E (meets plus exceeds expectations), guess who goes to those schools? The numbers for Boston government schools are atrocious. It is an embarrassment that superintendent is "working" on this "problem" when she is failing to educate the vast majority of African American and Latino students. Why parents in Boston are not outraged (all parents regardless of race) is beyond me.

  7. While I do view the low number of minority students in such programs to be a serious problem,

    It’s not a problem at all. It’s just where the chips fall.

    It can be indicative of other problems, such as defects in the domestic situation of the youths in question, defects in the pedagogy of the schools they attend, or defects in the disciplinary situation of the schools where they attend. Unless there is near criminal conduct taking place, public employees have no business delving into anyone’s family dynamics. If there are defects in the pedagogy of the schools, you have the teachers colleges, the teachers, and the administrators to blame, in about that order. If you have defects in the disciplinary situation, you have the public interest bar and their judge collaborators, the school administrators, the teachers colleges, the teachers, and the parents to blame, in about that order. The twits in the superintendent’s office are deeply implicated in what problems there are. They will admit nothing.

    Note another factor. Thos Sowell has noted that Ed School graduates are often demonstrably mediocre intellectually. They identify with indifferent students because they themselves were indifferent students. And you can bet dollars to doughnuts your principal and your superintendent had as little to do with academic subjects as they could during their years of tertiary schooling. They have degrees in ‘education’ or in ‘guidance and counseling’. They kept close to the Ed school self-enclosure.

    Note also another factor: teachers can be remarkably self-centered (see their reaction to COVID). Marva Collins noted that when she was an elementary schoolteacher in Chicago Public Schools, the other teachers had no use for phonics and she found Open Court readers thrown in the trash. The problem, per Collins, is that phonics is monotonous to teach. That it’s the effective method didn’t deter them.

    And again, Sowell. Fads in pedagogy have nine lives. The late Cathy Seipp asked one of her daughter’s teachers why a particularly inane pedagogy was being followed and the teacher told her, “That’s where we are in the cycle right now…I’ve been doing this so long I can see the same wheel just keep turning round and round.”

    Kids vary a great deal in their performance, for a variety of reasons. If you don’t track, it’s a recipe for massive inefficiency in the delivery of educational services. You’ll have 15% of the class zoning out because the instructional pace is too slow and they’re marking time for the rest to get up to speed and another 15% zoning out because the pace is too quick and they cannot absorb it. Instead of seeking optimal resource use, these worthless administrators are fretting that statistical data will subvert the status hierarchies they’re promoting and discredit them. Fire the lot of them.

    1. ‘You’ll have 15% of the class zoning out because the instructional pace is too slow and they’re marking time for the rest to get up to speed and another 15% zoning out because the pace is too quick and they cannot absorb it..

      That is the perfect description of how ‘inclusion’ policies have impacted education. The result has been classrooms that don’t really benefit *any* students in terms of real education (i.e. in tailored settings the lower students would legitimately make progress with an appropriate curriculum as would the higher students, and in the end, there’d likely be something resembling a genuine parity between them on a general level).

      Tiered approaches have become taboo if not labeled outright hateful. There is nothing wrong with a tiered approach, but until we give that more priority than ‘feelings’, as we used to and as other countries still do, we will continue to see our numbers falling through the floor in relation to this topic, and our future populace will continue to lag behind with eventual serious ramifications for the well-being of all society.

  8. “…Boston has followed suit with a suspension of advanced learning program for its fourth, fifth and sixth graders.”

    This is pretty early stratification and did not exists when I was in school, nor when my kids – now adults for awhile – were in school. I don’t think any of us suffered, and in fact my kids were in advanced programs later in high school.

    Not and expert on education, but I question if stratification at those ages is a good idea.

    1. I don’t think any of us suffered

      You’re not thinking hard enough.

  9. The left and Democrats claim to believe in education, but they don’t. When it comes to social policy they are uneducated and ignorant.

    1. What they believe in is tossing bon bons to people with Ed degrees. That can include psychic income as well as material benefits.

  10. “The district is 80 percent Black and Hispanic but 70 percent of the programs are white and Asian.”
    Doesn’t that mean that 30% of the participants are Black and Hispanic?
    This decision is the definition of the bigotry of low expectations

    1. That’s what it means. There’s no dearth of black and hispanic youngsters who perform well. The administrators do not care for it because the proportions embarrass them. Remember the reaction of certain college administrators to those trolling signs that said ‘it’s OK to be white’. As far as those administrators were concerned, no white person has the right to assert that his character is satisfactory without permission from gentry liberals. They are low caste. The mentality’s the same in superintendent’s offices. The performance of the white students is an act of effrontery and subversion. The Oriental and East Indian students are almost as bad because they demonstrably do not need patrons, which leaves wannabe patrons with nothing to do. Here’s a suggestion: fire the gentry liberals.

  11. This hideous policy is the egalitarianism of the Left. It never was about raising the less talented to achieve “equality of results.” It was always about chopping down the more talented. That their desire to destroy is directed at bright, ambitious children is particularly revolting.

    1. There is no egalitarianism in it whatsoever, just a hostility to operational measures of performance. Gentry liberals fancy they define strata. They’re on top and they’ve decided that their mascots are next. Oriental, East Indian, and white-Anglo families are not their clientele. The white-Anglo families are deplorables who disrespect their clientele by having aggregate performance scores which are embarrassing.

      1. “There is no egalitarianism in it whatsoever . . .”

        Except at its foundation and in its results.

        The basic goal of egalitarianism is “equality of results.” Outcomes must be equal for all, regardless of intelligence, talent, effort. When you cannot redistribute a value, e.g., intelligence or knowledge or ambition, you destroy that value — e.g., you jettison talented and gifted programs.

        It’s textbook egalitarianism, and Rawls would be happy.

  12. I know he would be canceled today but Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase “defining deviancy down”.
    This is its ultimate conclusion.

    1. t1317, “defining deviancy down” says it all. Thanks for the reminder of Moynihan’s quote.

    2. In Moynihan’s day there was no “advanced” classes for kids in grades 4-6. That’s too early. This is not overturning long practiced traditional schooling, it’s overturning over baked programs meant to appeal to competitive parents, not students. Are we looking for type A personalities in 4th grade now?

        1. Yes it is. Being able to is not the same thing as doing it.

          You’re turn.

          1. My turn what? You have performance differentials at every age and psychometricians can identify them readily. There is no reason to not track. If you can get one group of students to master a specific curriculum in 5 years, another in 6-7 years, and another in 8 years, no point in holding back the first two in favor of the third. Each can go at it’s own pace and then start on their secondary schooling.

            1. “no point in holding back the first two in favor of the third.”

              There is a point according to the left. Equality in outcome. They didn’t want to leave JF behind.

              1. His high school yearbook has been digitized. Evidently not in voTech. Orchestra in his sophomore year, French Club and Literary Club as a senior. Took a civics class in his senior year as well.

      1. China’s looking for the gifted early on.

        See, the purpose of gifted child education is to strengthen the nation. But in America, we have lost the concept of the nation, so we are lost, tied up in knots, fools now.

        We did have some good gifted-child education for a time. It seems that time is over. The billionaires perhaps now think “the gifted” are useless, even dangerous, should be curtailed.
        They will get their new ideas from AI perhaps?

        Sal Sar

        1. Sieg heil Kurtz. All to the gory of the Reich and the Volk.

          Carry on with your blood and soil fantasies.

        2. Sal, look at how the Gates are now pushing the lie that math is racist. Gates and his billionaire friends got theirs, so now they want to close the door to anyone else. It’s shameful that the MS founder and his horse-face wife are trying to jam into our schools such a dismal and defeatist program.

  13. Parents are going to have to move to a much more powerful position in the way they are served for their children’s education. The radical progressives in k12 have to be overpowered since their hyper-defensive mental-emotional fortress is unpersuadable. This battle could end the great k12 public education system — which is already more than flirting with mediocrity in many places. Parental choice with educational vouchers is where we are headed — radical progressives are willing to “bet the farm” on their naive idealism.

  14. ‘They are cancelling Dr Seuss while they push children’s books written by high-level Democrats and subversive far-left propagandists

    Are you paying attention yet?’ @jackposobiec

    1. “They are cancelling Dr Seuss”

      No, it’s the Seuss estate that decided to stop publishing a few of Seuss’s books, while continuing to publish dozens of other of his books.

      1. No, it’s collectivist-racist intellectuals, who see everything through the lens of race, who are condemning Seuss. The Biden administration, school districts (e.g., in Virginia), the Seuss estate, and many others are merely following their tribalist lead.

        In that lead is disgusting organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who argued that _The Sneetches_, for example, should be rejected because it “promotes a race-neutral approach.” When your goal is to smear race everywhere, and to use it as a cudgel, such a story is unacceptable.

        1. Sam, take a cold shower. Anonymous is correct. The Seuss estate scrubbed the books.

          1. You talk but you don’t know. Likely there was some crazy inducement that they do so. Getting rid of 6 books isn’t a big deal financially to the organization. The alternative was likely some type of cancel culture.

            Those 6 books go for a premium. I saw one for sale at over $300.

            The left is essentially doing what the Nazi’s did, book burning.

          1. “No, Sam, it’s the Seuss estate”

            I grant the premise that some make superficial observations of human actions, while others identify the underlying ideas that cause those actions.

            1. I grant the premise that you believe that the Seuss Estate has no agency of its own.

              What’s really funny is that the GOP is now ordering copies of The Cat in the Hat to give to people who donate. The Cat in the Hat was not among the books that the Estate decided to stop publishing, and this benefits them financially. Fine by me that foolish Republicans are promoting Dr. Seuss to own the libs.

  15. This is the latest step in the Boston. Earlier this year, they ended the entrance exam for the former exam schools (e.g. Boston Latin School). Like you mention, the problem is not lack of diversity, one of the problems is the very poor job Boston government schools do preparing students for these schools/programs. Additionally the biggest problem is the total absence of quality government schools in Boston, outside the three former exam schools. The bright side of ending exam schools, the Boston government schools will fail at educating the same number of students, they will be different students, but still the same number (everyone that does not get into a former exam school). Unfortunately, with ending the gifted program, they will fail at educating more students. I guess it is easier to lower the bar and screw all children, than work harder and raise the bar help minority students. Progress.

  16. Thank God I live in the racist South. 2 of my youngest daughter’s 3 sons were beneficiaries of gifted programs and one of them took advantage of Florida’s Bright Futures program to complete his degree at the University of Florida.
    The other availed himself of dual enrollment to graduate HS with and AA as well before he went west to complete his studies.
    If Florida had been as woke as MA, 2 talented young black men would have had a harder time getting a start in life.

  17. “but to work harder in the earlier grades to allow minority students to excel (and ultimately gain admission to such programs).”

    In NYC that means support charter schools that Democrat’s wish to destroy. Give NYC minority students a chance and their numbers will increase in these advanced classrooms. That possibility was proven in NYC by one of the finest studies ever performed.

    1. And it was proven over some 30 years by the remarkable educator Marva Collins. She created the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago, specifically for low income black children. Her decades of smashing success is a testament to having high standards, good content, and a conviction that the individual student’s mind is important.

  18. Let’s see how upwardly-mobile, suburban, Biden-voter mom likes this one. Little Jonah and Emily out of the TAG program? Like Churchill noted, they always eat their own first.

    1. If they’re a core city resident with their kid in an enrichment program, I’ll wager you that voting Democratic is an identity affirmation for them and their voting behavior will prove quite insensitive to these sorts of injuries.

      1. Arty:

        I don’t know. Like the teacher’s union official who was caught dropping their kid off at private school during the “lockdown” they tend to value their kids above ideology. We’ll see how long this “principled stand” lasts.

    2. Mespo,

      It seems to me those Commie/Fascist type fools are doing much the same with TAG programs as they’re going though Biden/Obama’s affirmatively further fair housing (affh) policies that President Trump recended, that Biden just reinstated.

      Like some sort of modern day Tower of Babel story Biden & his Amer Hating Commies wish now to flood the Real American with their GD Big City Gettos that came in because P. Johnson & his Commies “Great Society BS of the 60’s.

      With a new twist this time Biden’s people, like Obama will flood our communities with people from every 3rd world sh*t hole, like Somalia, that don’t & won’t speak English & never assimilate to our culture.

      People need to push back against that crap at there State County & Cities’ Zoning right now.

  19. Redundant because we all know it, but liberals are a plague on society.

    Rather than build up the country, they try to tear down the most gifted to create “equality”.

    Pathetic, destructive, and stupid.

    1. Will these school districts cancel varsity basketball and football because blacks are over represented in those activities?

      1. Remember that behind every double standard is an unconfessed single standard.

    2. They are trying to tear down the gifted who cannot be assimilated into their social ideology. They want selectivity for their own children.

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