Diversity in Admissions Upheld

K-12 Testing

A federal district court recently upheld a Boston public school admissions policy which allows the prestigious Boston Latin and other exam schools to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions. US District Court Chief Joseph L. Tauro concluded that the policy provides "academic excellence in a diverse setting."


Under the policy, applicants are ranked according to a composite score of grade point average and entrance exam results. The first fifty percent of the slots are distributed based on this score alone. The remaining half are filled based on the scores and the proportional representation of each ethnic/racial group in the top half of the applicant pool. For example, if there were 100 admits, the first 50 slots would be filled according to scores. Then, if 20% of the top scoring applicants were Hispanic, 20% of the remaining 50 slots would be allotted to Hispanics. Students must score above the 50th percentile on the entrance exam to qualify for consideration.


Judge Tauro endorsed the School Department's claim that the policy is needed to undo the effects of past discrimination and the ongoing low expectations of minority students. Tauro wrote, "diversity can be an important factor contributing to students' intellectual and moral development thereby preparing them to survive and thrive in a pluralistic society," and added that diversity is "a compelling state interest in intermediate and secondary public education."


The case was brought by student Sarah Wessman who did not gain admittance as a freshman to Boston Latin School though she scored higher than 10 minority students who were offered enrollment. The decision has been appealed to the US First Circuit Court of Appeals.