Report: BPS needs better approach to black and Latino students

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) released last month the second phase of a study looking at the low academic performance of black and Latino males in the school system. The second phase found that a “more systematic focus” is needed to educating black and Latino males, and that most teachers lack cultural knowledge of that population.

“A report such as this is long overdue for our city,” said Mayor Martin Walsh in a press release. “Its findings shine a light on our issues and our challenges, but they also allow us to see that there is a way forward.”

The study is a collaboration between BPS, the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR) and the Barr Foundation.

The first phase of study, which was released late last year, found that black and Latino males had lower attendance rates, higher suspension and dropout rates, and lower proficiency and graduation rates compared to females and white and Asian males.

The second phase of the study was conducted to find policies and practices that might close the achievement gaps shown in the first study. Four schools—an elementary school, a K-8 school and two high schools—were chosen that had better performance of black and Latino males compared to similar schools in BPS. The study used pseudonyms for the schools for privacy concerns.

The study found that the case schools “exemplified many of the hallmarks of good or effective schools” that have been shown by research, but that “overall there was a lack of intentionality in supporting Black or Latino success,” notwithstanding some individual teachers.

The study found four themes of strength across the schools:

  • Ensuring strong and caring relationships among teachers, students and families
  • Building professional collaborative learning communities
  • Individualizing instruction to the students
  • Engaging families

The challenges facing those schools, the study found, are: a lack of knowledge about students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds; moving from colorblind to explicit and responsive approaches to race and gender; and developing a systemic approach to culturally responsive schools.

To highlight the lack of cultural knowledge, the study gave an anecdote of an elementary school class celebrating a Mexican holiday as part of a “feasts and festivals” approach to incorporate multicultural education. But the class had no students of Mexican descent.

The study states that “a more systematic focus on the education success of Black and Latino males is needed. Research suggests that a more comprehensive, school-wide and district-wide approach to Black and Latino males could lead to even stronger Black and Latino male student outcome than those posted by the case schools.”

To read the full report, see

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