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The Globe has launched a two-year initiative called The Great Divide to explore the deep inequalities in our public education system, examining both the challenges and possible solutions to creating equal opportunity for all students. This newsletter will update you on our investigative findings, with links to stories and other relevant information. If you know of anyone interested in this subject, tell them they can sign up for this newsletter here.

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff

Dig deep into the state's online treasure trove of education data, as the Great Divide team did for our story last week on the underrepresentation of Black students in Advanced Placement courses, and one thing becomes clear: the numbers reveal countless inequities in Massachusetts’ schools. Our report focused on Black students in Cambridge, but left other stories untold. Here are three other takeaways from our reporting. 

1) In many places around Massachusetts, the AP gap for Latinos is larger than for Black students. In Worcester, for example, schools citywide are 17 percent Black, as are nearly 20 percent of AP exam takers—a clear success. But 43 percent of Worcester students are Hispanic, compared to just 26 percent of AP exam takers, a large gap indicating lots of work to do. 

AP students Alexander Leith (left) and Amelie Jamanka at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF
2) It's tough to generalize about AP in Boston, where vastly different high schools show vastly different outcomes. At the mostly white and Asian Boston Latin School, a whopping 45 percent of all students took AP exams last year, while at the Burke High School, which is mostly Black, only 9 percent of students did. Meanwhile, at East Boston High, where 80 percent of students are Latino, 12 percent took at least one AP test. 

3) It takes more than policy to move the numbers. At Evanston Township High School in Illinois, which dramatically improved Black AP participation, educators first underwent training to learn how to talk about race, said Peter Bavis, an administrator. The district set formal goals for identifying racism, created new spaces for students of color, and established student "summits" to solicit input. In a recent survey, 90 percent of students reported a sense of belonging at the high school.

After Globe story, improvements come to Boston's school bathrooms—albeit slowly

Two months after exposing the sordid state of Boston's school bathrooms, Great Divide reporter Bianca Vasquez Toness checked back with BPS students for a follow-up story this week, and found a bit of good news—some of the bathroom conditions have improved. You can read the full story here.

Children at the Higginson-Lewis K-8 school have toilet paper again, and toilets haven't been flooding like they used to, according to students, some of whom said they are now more likely to use the school bathrooms. BPS officials have not acknowledged the Globe's scrutiny of their clogged commodes—but they have pledged to hire more custodians. 
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The Valedictorians Project
Boston's top students from 2005 to 2007 set out to change the world. But then life happened.
The Great Divide builds on the findings of the Globe's Valedictorians Project in January, which revealed that even the best students in Boston public schools often struggle after high school. An editor and a team of four investigative reporters are examining public education in the region, with humanity and empathy, and with a goal of provoking public discussion and exploring what might be done to fix core issues of inequality, social mobility, and economic opportunity. Please send ideas and suggestions to:

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