The Maze of Boston's Advanced Work Class

In Boston, school starts tomorrow (except for K1 and K2, which starts on Monday). For those newcomers to the Boston Public Schools: Congratulations, you’ve survived the much-feared school lottery (see previous comments here, here, here, and here.)

Many lottery survivors are again tested by the Advanced Work Class “AWC”) program. Third grade students are tested, and those scoring highly enough are invited to participate in Advanced Work Class, described as “an accelerated academic curriculum for highly motivated and academically capable students” by the district. These classes are viewed as the gateway to the prestigious exam schools, and there’s clearly a link. About half the exam school students come from the public school (a surprisingly low number, in my view), and 60 percent of these public school students come from advanced work programs.

But here’s the catch. There are only a handful of schools in each zone that offer advanced work. And many only go up to fifth grade. What that means is a possible pathway for an advance-work student would be to enter the BPS at School A, test into advanced work and move to School B starting in fourth grade, move to School C for sixth grade, then (ideally) to an exam school starting in seventh grade.

Got all that? That means the possibility of three transitions and four schools in 4.5 years. This is considered a logical pathway for advanced students. (And one assumes that the district views the availability of AWC as a selling point for parents of high-achieving kids to keep them in the system.)

Would you choose that for your child? Many do, and I have no doubt their children do well, but it strikes me as as a awkward make-do, not an ideal configuration to serve students.


Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.