Posted on June 1, 2022

Brookline’s Black Students Have the Right to Achieve. Why Won’t the Schools Let Us?

Azavia Barsky-Elnour, Boston Globe, May 30, 2022

In October, the Brookline Tab reported that 68 percent of white students in Brookline met expectations on the math MCAS last year. The number for Black students? Seventeen percent.

Members of the Brookline School Committee were “shocked and horrified,” but amid hundreds of millions of dollars of spending on new construction, the school committee has produced no tangible measures to address these disparities. They have effectively swept it under the rug.

To be clear, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this discrepancy, but this problem has been well documented.

About 49 percent of students in Brookline identify as non-white, 6.4 percent of whom identify as Black. But in 2011, the MCAS math achievement gap between Black and white students was 40 percentage points, and by 2016, that gap was 43 percentage points.

Though MCAS scores, on their own, cannot measure the success of a school district, enrollment rates in high-level classes are another indicator of the ways in which the Brookline public school system privileges some students over others.

In 2018, a study showed that white students at Brookline High School are 3.8 times more likely to take an AP class than Black students. Brookline has a policy of recommending rising ninth-graders for class levels. In 2017, a study found a 0 percent recommendation rate for advanced or AP math classes for Black students, versus a 20 percent rate for white students, and 35 percent for Asian American students. In tracked subjects, like math, there is no way to diversify high-level classes when Black students aren’t even making it into the classroom.

These statistics do not signify that Brookline’s Black students have a lower capacity for achievement. I know because I am one of them. Structural racism perpetuates, creates, and exacerbates disparity. My experience bears this out.

{snip} Black people have often been deterred from STEM and led to believe that Blackness is an inherent ailment to intelligence, so such messages from educators, compounded over time, reinforce the insecurities Black youth have grown up internalizing.


The Brookline School Committee should immediately submit to an audit from an external source and draft a comprehensive, transparent, and easily-accessible action plan, with the input of experienced consultants and Black people. All students, especially students of color, deserve no less.