Prep for the ISEE: Is every student equally prepared?

Author: Jill Shah


Boston Public Schools will offer the ISEE exam to all students during the school day, and free of charge for the first time ever this November. This is a terrific first step in ensuring that all students have a more equitable opportunity to attend one of BPS’ three exam schools. At the same time, it provokes questions about preparation for this test. While some families pay thousands of dollars for ISEE prep tutors and programs, many of our students and families cannot afford to do this, and can be left behind simply because they are not as prepared as their peers with greater means.

BPS does offer students the chance to prepare for the ISEE exam through a free service called the Exam School Initiative, which is offered for two weeks the summer before rising BPS 6th graders take the ISEE exam. The Exam School Initiative is an invitation-only program extended to approximately the top fifteen percent of rising 6th grade BPS students.


An additional free, but private, ISEE prep program is offered by The Steppingstone Foundation. Founded in 1990, Steppingstone aims to provide support and tutoring services to diverse students who are working to attend some of the top high schools in Massachusetts. Steppingstone’s scholars attend high performing schools, including Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, O’Bryant, Roxbury Latin, Newton Country Day, Winsor, and Belmont Hill. Steppingstone also has a parallel program that helps BPS students gain acceptance to top tier colleges. Both programs deserve a more intensive review as potential models for supporting all BPS students as the city moves to offering the ISEE test to all 6th graders.

This podcast features a conversation with Kelly Glew, President of The Steppingstone Foundation, and Chris Parris, its Chief Program Officer, who talk about their program, its expansion, and the support they offer to students across Boston Public Schools.