NAGC Files Amicus Brief in Support of Equitable Access to Exam Schools in Boston


On Friday, September 9, 2022, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) submitted an amicus brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of the City of Boston. In its brief, the Association presented published position statements, articles, and policy positions in support of the Boston School Committee’s efforts to remove barriers of access and ensure greater equity for all students in the admissions process for its three exam schools.

Because there are many nuances and strong opinions surrounding this case, NAGC wants to share with the membership how and why it came to the decision to file this brief.


During the summer of 2022, NAGC was approached by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) to discuss several cases it is working on related to equity and access to advanced education. The NAACP LDF was aware of the Association’s statements on championing equity and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students and believed our various positions on equity in gifted education would provide beneficial information for the Court. After discussions among leadership and staff, NAGC recognized that this was an opportunity to act on its commitment to equity in gifted education and decided to proceed with filing the brief.

The Boston School Committee was already reviewing its admission processes for the exam schools when the pandemic hit. This situation made it impossible to safely administer the admissions tests in person for entrance to Boston’s exam schools.  In 2021, they approved a plan that eliminated the admissions test and moved towards a tiered system that utilized zip codes and local norms for admission. The plaintiff, Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp (BCPAEC), is suing on behalf of 14 white and Asian American parents and children, alleging that the admissions process racially discriminated against them. Opposing the plaintiff’s arguments are the Boston branch of the NAACP and several other civil rights organizations who joined with the defendants in opposition to the plaintiff’s claims.

In April 2021, a federal judge upheld the Boston School Committee’s new admission procedures. That ruling is being appealed by the parent coalition in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, where NAGC filed the brief.

What is an amicus brief?

An amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief is a formal document submitted to an appellate court in support of a particular issue or cause by a third party that has an interest in the outcome of a particular court case. In this instance, NAGC is supporting the Boston School Committee’s decision to alter their exam school admissions process to provide greater equity for students.

An amicus brief is intended to influence the outcome of a case by providing relevant information to the court. NAGC’s brief, for example, was based on the Association’s formal positions concerning equity and identification practices for gifted children and provided the court with information based solely on the Association’s formal positions and published research.

Why did NAGC file the brief in support of the Boston School Committee?

As with nearly all amicus briefs, they must be filed in support of one party in any given court case. At its core, this lawsuit is about steps that were taken to make admissions to the Boston’s exam schools more equitable. Massachusetts is one of only a few states in the nation that has no mandate to serve gifted students or fund gifted programs. Due to the lack of services in Boston and throughout the state, the original admissions criteria created competition for limited seats, a practice that does not serve students. NAGC strongly advocates for and believes in expanded services throughout all schools to better serve gifted and talented students.

The use of local norms by the Boston School Committee is one of many different methods used in the field to advance equity. The school committee’s approach to improve equity through the use of multiple measures for admission into their exam schools, while not perfect, is more congruent with the Association’s mission and vision for serving gifted children. NAGC strongly believes that its support in this case will help amplify the conversations being held around gifted education, while motivating state and local leaders to expand access and remove barriers to gifted education programs.

Does supporting the School Committee of the City of Boston in this case mean that NAGC is endorsing the district’s entire approach to serving gifted and talented children?

No. As stated in the brief itself, “NAGC supports the intent of [Boston Public Schools] in crafting the Interim Plan and thereby pursuing alternative, more equitable admissions policies for the Exam Schools, but NAGC also recognizes that significant work remains to be done by Boston Public Schools to address severe inequities in educational opportunity that currently exist in the City such as expanding gifted and talented programs and services to meet the needs of all students who require them.”

Did any other organizations file amicus briefs?

Yes, many groups also filed briefs in support of the school committee including:

  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Amplify Latinx
  • Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
  • Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
  • King Boston
  • Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
  • Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce
  • Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
  • New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund

Who wrote the brief?

The law firm of Ballard Spahr, LLP wrote and filed the brief in direct consultation with NAGC staff and attorneys.

Who paid for the attorney’s fees to write and file the brief?

The work to write, prepare, and file the brief was done pro bono, i.e., at no expense to NAGC.

As a 501(c)(3), is NAGC allowed to participate in this kind of advocacy?

Yes. While NAGC is a tax-exempt non-profit corporation, the Association, like all citizens and organizations, has the right to petition the courts.