The Globe reports today that the Boston Public Schools are “exploring the idea of replacing the controversial exam” that determines acceptance to the city’s three selective-admission schools.

Interim superintendent Laura Perille shared that news at a City Council hearing yesterday that was called to look at exam-school admission policies. But if the test used to determine admission to Boston Latin School and the city’s two other exam schools is controversial, so is any talk of changing the system that families have learned to master to funnel their offspring into one of the schools.

Admission to the exam schools relies heavily on scores on a test used for private school admissions. A Harvard study last year said use of the test disadvantages minority students. The test includes material not covered in the standard Boston school’s curriculum, making test prep classes a valuable part of students’ readiness for the exam. Critics say that gives an edge to better-off families that can pay for private tutors. The study found that black and Hispanic students with MCAS scores comparable to their white and Asian peers performed worse on the Independent School Entrance Exam, or ISEE.

One proposed reform would be to replace use of the ISEE with MCAS scores, a change that would see many more black and Latino students admitted to exam schools. While all public school students in the state take MCAS, Perille said there may be legal issues to work out if the test is going to be made available to Boston private school students, who don’t take MCAS at their schools, many of whom seek admission to a Boston exam school.

School officials said no change is being made for exam school admissions in the coming 2019-2020 school year and that there is “no timeline for any potential changes at this moment.”

If it looks like school officials are tiptoeing gingerly into the issue, it’s because they are.

Former superintendent Tommy Chang raised the idea three years ago of revising the exam school admission policies — and practically had his head handed to him. Chang announced that he was forming an advisory committee to study the issue, but Mayor Marty Walsh said he had no idea such an effort was being launched and said, “I don’t think it’s the right time to be talking about it.”

Perille presumably cleared with the mayor the idea of at least talking about changes to the system.

Looming over the debate is the zero-sum quality to the whole exam school issue. There are many more students interested in seats than there are slots available at Boston Latin, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science.

For many middle-class Boston families, the only public school option they’ll consider for the upper grades is one of the three 7-12 grade exam schools. Without a slot at one of them, they look to private or parochial schools — or leave the city for a suburban school district.

For families without those options, there are seats at a charter school, many of which have waiting lists, or one of the city’s “open enrollment” high schools. But those schools struggle with low achievement and a host of other problems documented in a devastating report last year.

The study laid bare an uncomfortable truth that better-off Boston families all recognize — and are largely helped by: The city effectively operates two separate public high school systems, one that puts most students on track toward college success, while the other falls far short of that.

That background is crucial to understanding why the exam school admission debate is so charged.



Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield offers up a Massachusetts model for reaching neglected America. (CommonWealth)

Union officials urged state campaign finance regulator Michael Sullivan to reverse his recent ruling that will impose new limits on union donations to campaigns. (Boston Globe) Sullivan defended his decision on this recent episode of The Codcast.

Heated testimony unfolded at a State House hearing on a bill to ban “conversion therapy” efforts to get people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Boston Herald)


Pittsfield wants to partner with banks to offer zero-interest loans to homeowners who spruce up the exteriors of their homes. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Worcester City Council signed a five-year contract extension with Edward Augustus Jr. that will give him a 2 percent raise each year. His current salary is $213,324. (Telegram & Gazette)

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and her choice for the city’s police chief, Edward Conley III, have agreed on a five-year contract but neither will discuss the salary before the city council has a chance to review the deal. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Residents and business owners in Chatham say they are concerned about the reconstruction of a stretch of Route 28 in the town at a Department of Transportation public hearing. (Cape Cod Times)

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has withdrawn his request to contact seven “lenders” who invested in his SnoOwl app to repay them $306,000, saying federal prosecutors had refused to let him contact them, which is a bit different from what prosecutors are saying. (Herald News)

The Holyoke City Council approves the sale of a former geriatric hospital to a joint venture of Baystate Health and US Healthvest for $250,000. (MassLive)


The New York Times chronicles President Trump’s interspersing of presidential duties on particular days and the signing of checks to his former lawyer Michael Cohen that Cohen says were reimbursement for hush money payments Cohen made to two women Trump had affairs with.

In the days after Donald Trump challenged Barack Obama to release his school records in 2011, alleging that the president was a horrible student, powerful friends of Trump’s mounted a high-pressure effort to secure against release Trump’s record from the New York military high school he attended. (Washington Post)

Trump’s national security team and Republican allies are often “struggling to defend or even explain the president” when it comes to backing up statements he makes in foreign affairs, mostly recently his claim that he takes North Korean Kim Jong Un “at his word” that he had nothing to do with torture leading to the death of an American student held in prison by his regime. (Washington Post)


Donald Trump’s would-be Republican primary challenger, Bill Weld, has largely disappeared from view after his initial splash, his first weeks as a possible candidate described charitably by Politico’s Stephanie Murray as following a “laissez-faire style.”


An online petition is calling on Gillette — which gained widespread attention for a recent ad promoting better behavior by men in response to the #MeToo movement — to take its name off the New England Patriots Foxborough football stadium in the wake of charges that team owner Robert Kraft solicited prostitutes at a Florida spa engaged in sex trafficking. (Boston Herald)

The Ocean Alliance is looking into building a maker space on Gloucester’s waterfront. (Gloucester Daily Times)


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was likely the target of Chinese hackers, along with 27 universities across the United States, Canada, and Southeast Asia. Several of the universities, including MIT and Penn State, were affiliated with a part of the Cape Cod research center that works on underseas communication. (Cape Cod Times)

Brockton superintendent Kathleen Smith will retire June 30, and will work with Deputy Superintendent Michael Thomas, who will be taking over temporarily, on the transition. (Brockton Enterprise)

Lots of small New England colleges are not only contending with shaky finances; they also have poor graduation rates. (Boston Globe)


In the world of philanthropy, there are those who carefully plan how they will give away their money, and then there are people like Paul English who act largely on impulse. English is the man behind the effort to build a monument to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King on the Boston Common. (CommonWealth)


Will 2019 be a turning point for the T? An outside group tracking the transit authority’s progress on its strategic plan is doubtful. (CommonWealth)

Prosecutors in Arizona say they don’t plan to charge Uber in connection with an accident where one of its autonomous vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian walking her bike at night. (New York Times)

A judge upholds a ticket issued to a woman for honking her horn at an Auburn traffic officer riding in an unmarked vehicle. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Herald editorial says the MBTA needs to broom homeless people out of T stations.


Combined sewage overflows discharged more than 29 million gallons of sewage into the Charles River in 2017, which is a sharp decline from the 3 billion gallons dumped annually into the river before a major cleanup. Now a group of lawmakers wants to mandate public disclosure every time one of those discharges occurs. (WBUR)


The Globe takes stock of where things stand with the Wynn Resorts casino license.


Selectmen in Stoughton say they could decide as early as next week on a proposed $125,000 settlement with former town manager Michael Hartman, whose multi-year wrongful termination suit against the board has made its way into the state Appeals Court. (Patriot Ledger)

Attorney Michael Brophy is facing charges that he forged and backdated a deed transferring his father’s home to himself, but he claims he drafted the deed at his dying father’s request. (Salem News)

Judge Lynn Rooney granted $75,000 bail to the Lawrence police officer accused of raping a boy and demanded to know the whereabouts of a missing firearm. (Eagle-Tribune)


Jill Abramson, an author and the former New York Times executive editor, appeared on Greater Boston where she addressed charges of plagiarism that she says have been painful and made her worried that the scandal will “engulf the rest of my career.” In regard to Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s proposal to assign a commission to help local news outlets, Abramson said she is “not a fan of government solutions for news issues in general.”