Years of initiatives fail to address racial disparities in Brookline schools


Graphic by Rowan Roudebush

For decades, administrators have come in and out Brookline’s town hall. In the past seven years, Brookline has had six superintendents. This revolving door of leadership undermines substantial equity work.

Sofia Hauser, Brookline High School

NESPA Winner: Localizing, 2021

The Sagamore, Brookline High School, Brookline, Mass.

The first day of high school brings a potent mix of fear and anticipation. The towering columns framing the main entrance and busy, intense atmosphere intimidate even the bravest freshmen. And yet, year after year, students pour into the building to chase their dreams of higher education. However, Brookline is failing its students of color by many measures.

The racial disparities in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) have been evident for many years. In standardized testing scores and overidentification for special education, the inequalities persistently fester.

In the 2018 MCAS results, over 75 percent of white students in 3rd through 8th grade scored in the “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” categories for the English Language Arts test. Less than 50 percent of African-American students fell within those categories.

The disparity between Latino and White students is also apparent in the 2018 MCAS results, as 51 percent were within the “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” categories for the English Language Arts test.

Three years later, in the 2021 results from the tests this past spring, the racial disparities have worsened. While the percentage of white students “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” in the English Language Arts test in 3rd through 8th grade remained the same, the percentage of African-American students “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” has fallen to 32 percent in the 2021 results. The disparities in the results from the Mathematics MCAS test are even higher. 68 percent of white students achieved a score equal to or higher than “Meeting Expectations”, in comparison to 17 percent of African-American students.

The 2021 results show the continued disparity between White students and Latino students. The percentage of Latino students “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” is 38 percent for the Mathematics exam and 57 percent for the English Language Arts exam.

In both the 2018 and 2021 results, Asian and Multi-Race, Non-Latino students match or exceed the percentages of white students scoring in the “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations” categories in the Mathematics and English Language Arts tests.

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