Boston’s tracking system leaves Black and Latino students behind
A new Boston report shows just how far the city has come since the desegregation of public schools. That is, not too far at all.
The city known for higher education is being criticized for a primary education system that provides white and Asian male students with more opportunities than Black and Latino male students, who account for two-thirds of the city’s male youth.
According to the report by the Center for Collaborative Education, Boston’s two-track system enrolls some students in early advanced programs that prepare them for highly-regarded exam schools, while others receive a basic education. Just 8.6 percent of Black males and 8 percent of Latino males were enrolled in an exam school in 2012, compared to 45 percent of white males and 47.8 percent of Asian males. The report found that Black and Latino males were disproportionately placed in special education classrooms where the instruction fell behind even regular courses.
Tracking isn’t unique to Boston, either, although it comes in different forms. In Pennsylvania, some students are enrolled in gifted and talented programs, but in cities like Philadelphia where 74 percent of students are Black or Latino, more than half of the students selected for those programs are white or Asian. In several states, students are tracked in mathematics. In Philadelphia, Black and Latino students account for fewer than 23 percent of students enrolled in middle school Algebra classes, which are required as prerequisites to take advanced math courses in high school.
A 2013 report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights argued that educational tracking, particularly of mathematics in California, was unconstitutional because it disproportionately impacted Black, Latino and Pacific Islander students.