Thoughts On Boston Latin School: Do Racial Numbers Show Racism At School

() wisecatA black student wondered why people of color were the majority at every other Boston Public School (BPS) high school “except the one with the most opportunity.” She was referring to Boston Latin School (BLS) which the Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has decided in an unprecedented move to investigate.

To help Ortiz understand this and to preserve the gem of the BPS system I will note the answer to her question has nothing to do with racism. It is due to large number of applicants who were not part of the BPS system who compete with the BPS students for seats at BLS.

It is not correct to compare the racial makeup of the student body at BLS with the number of students in the BPS system. BLS has a large white student population because many of those students are not products of the BPS. They are students who live, or come to live, with their families in Boston who were enrolled previously in parochial, private, charter or other type schooling. They seek to go to BLS because of the desirability of the school with its stellar reputation and its low-cost. They have little to no interest in going to the other two examination schools or any other BPS school.

The Boston population is about 52% white, 22% black, 17% Hispanic, and 8% Asian.  The student body at BLS is 47.4% white, 8% black, 11.6% Hispanic, and 29% Asian. In proportion to their numbers in the population, the whites and Hispanics are underrepresented by 5%, blacks by 14% while the Asians are three and a half times above their population numbers.

It would seem there should be little question about the representation of the whites while the focus should be upon the Asian students. How is it that they number just about 3 out of every 10 students in the school? Looking at the makeup of the teachers, principals and staff there are very few Asians present so it cannot be that they are being favored over other groups.

Those who want to suggest there is racism that accounts for the low number of blacks at BLS do not talk about the population of Boston as a whole but about the population in the BPS which is: Hispanic 41%; black 35%, white 14%, and Asian 9%.

The BPS notes that for the school year 2015-2016 there are 56,650 students in its system. It also estimates more than one-third of school age children (20,780) n Boston do not attend their schools. Of this amount it says 45% are black, 30% white, 18% Hispanic, and 4% are Asian.  It divides them further into where some attend: 8,100 go to public charter schools, 5,160 go to parochial schools, 4,120 go to private schools, 2800 go to METCO, 510 in special education placements and 90 are home schooled.

Each year applicants test for the 400 seats at BLS. I assume there are some who are better off than others who have tutors or take special courses that prepare them for this examination. I suggest that many of these students educated outside the BPS system will outperform their peers in the application process at BLS for the simple reason they are going to those schools because their parents feel the education is better in those places. From that I conclude one with a better education and more parental involvement will do better than one without those benefits.

As this report notes that regardless of family income or background: “Students with involved parents are more likely to: Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs; Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits; Attend school regularly; Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school; Graduate and go on to postsecondary education.” 

One other thing – why the high percentage of Asians at BLS? I suggest a clue for this lies in an article by a Chinese mother that I read a long time ago.  It is quite simple: their parents demand that they work and study harder than others where a mark in a grade below A is unacceptable. The reward for their hard studying and persistence is the admission to a highly sought after school.

Racism is not the reason: it is parental involvement and student exertion. I doubt however that will be recognized when the federal government gets through “investigating” BLS. I’ll write about this in greater detail.






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  2. “Racism is not the reason: it is parental involvement and student exertion.” I learned this at Girls’ Latin School and I was taught it by some of the finest educators I have ever met.
    This is the heart of the issue.

    • Helen:

      Agreed. I only wish those who will are running the system or who will be investigating the system would also agree but I’m afraid they don’t.

  3. My first cousin went to Boston Latin.
    Works for the State now.

  4. Matt- Off topic- Did anyone have an oppurtunity to view the 30 for 30 espn doc on Duke lacrosse, titled”Fanstastic Lies”? It really is the perfect storm, it turned very quickly to an “Social Disaster”. The prosecutor named NiFong is one of the most evil individuals you will come across. When a prosecutor supresses exculpatory DNA evidence and does 1 day in jail, it stinks, losing a license to practice law is not a punishment, it is a given. The prostitute/stripper who lied and lied and lied, is now doing 18yrs for murder. Dirty cop in the case Sgt. Gottlieb committed suicide. It was one of the most chilling cases i can remember.

    • Doubting:

      I id not view the documentary but had an idea of all of that stuff. Nifong was running for DA in a district with a large black population so he forgot his job was to do justice and thought it was to get himself elected. Some people like the ubiquitous Wendy Murphy think the only wrong in the case was letting the innocent Duke players go free. It was as you say a most chilling case.

  5. New York City has nine elite high schools. Eight have competitive tests. The 9th, a high school for the performing arts, makes prospective students audition! Asian students perform extremely well, so Latin School is no aberration. It was interesting to hear from CGL, who has two daughters at Latin.

  6. May the unsubstantiated stance by the two young black women at BLS fade quickly in the face of such factual analysis as yours, Mr. C.

    • For what it’s worth, the girls did not have any issue at all with the percentage of minorities admitted to Latin. Their concern was racist comments and actions by students and teachers toward minorities, and the perceived lack of attention given to it by the administration. My two daughters are currently at Latin and we have been following the issue closely.

      It was community leaders outside of BLS who raised the separate issue of whether admission to BLS is also in need of change, not these girls.

      • Good point, CGL. Thanks.

      • CGL:

        As part of the presentation it was noted that only one black was in AP American History and that all the other high schools were a majority of people of color except for Boston Latin which actually does have a majority of non-white students. The disparity of blacks in BLS will be an issue, a big issue, in the coming federal investigation. I sense that it will change BLS. I will post more on this in greater detail. Congrats in having your two daughters there.

    • GOK:

      No such luck – Ortiz is on the war path and if there is nothing there she will find something.