The Boston Latin School
is a public exam school
founded on April 23 1635
, in Boston
, making it the oldest public school
in the United States
The Public Latin School was a bastion for educating the sons of the Boston elite
, resulting in the school claiming many prominent Bostonians as alumni. Its curriculum follows that of the 18th century Latin-school movement, which holds the classics
to be the basis of an educated mind. Four years of Latin are mandatory for all pupils who enter the school in 7th grade, three years for those who enter in 9th. In 2007 the school was named one of the top twenty high-schools in the United States by U.S. News & World Report
The school's first class was in single figures, but it now has 2,400 pupils drawn from all parts of Boston. It has produced four Harvard
presidents, four Massachusetts governors, and five signers of the United States Declaration of Independence
. William Lloyd Garrison
, Benjamin Franklin
, and Louis Farrakhan
are its most famous dropouts
The school was modeled after Boston Grammar School in Lincolnshire, UK, from where many of Boston's original settlers derived. Current students assert with pride that Harvard College, founded a year later in 1636, was created for Boston Latin's first graduates. Whether or not that is true, Boston Latin had been a top feeder school for Harvard, and has consistently sent large numbers of students to Harvard, recently averaging about twenty-five students per year. More than 99% of Boston Latin's approximately 300 annual graduates are accepted by at least one four-year college.
Latin School admitted only male students and hired only male teachers teachers from its founding in 1635. The school's first female student was not until the nineteenth century. Helen Magill White was the school's first female graduate and first American woman to earn a Doctorate. However, soon after White's graduation in 1877, Girls' Latin School was founded. For nearly a century, all qualified female students would attend the all-girls institution. It was not until 1972, when Boston Latin would admit its first co-educational class.
Female teachers predated female students at Latin. In 1967 the school appointed Marie Frisardi Cleary
and Juanita Ponte
as the first two women in its academic faculty.
Cornelia Kelley, the school's first female Headmaster, served from 1998 to her retirement in 2007, after which Lynne Mooney Teta was selected to become the school's 28th Headmaster. Mooney Teta is a 1986 graduate of Boston Latin, and was formerly an Assistant Head Master at the school.
Boston Latin's motto is Sumus Primi
, Latin for we are the first
. This is meant as a double entendre
, referring both to the school's date of founding and its academic stature. Boston Latin has a history of pursuing the same standards as elite New England prep schools
while adopting the egalitarian attitude of a public school
. Academically, the school regularly outperforms public schools in rich Boston suburbs, particularly as measured by the yearly MCAS
assessment required of all Massachusetts public schools
. In 2006, Brooklyn Latin School
was founded in New York City, explicitly modeled on Boston Latin, borrowing much from its traditions and curriculum.
Admission is determined by a combination of a student's score on the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) and recent grades, and is limited to residents of the city of Boston. Although Boston Latin runs from the 7th through the 12th grade, it only admits students into the 7th and 9th grades. Consequently the higher grades have fewer students than the lower grades, as a relatively large number of students transfer out. The school has historically been described as having a sink-or-swim environment, but in recent years there have been notable efforts to create a more supportive atmosphere.
Because it is a high-performing and well-regarded school in a city school system that is among the worst in the state, Boston Latin has been at the center of controversy concerning its admissions process. Admissions are very competitive, and it is not uncommon for fewer than 20% of applicants to be admitted. Before the 1997 school year, Boston Latin set aside a 35% quota of places in its incoming class for under-represented minorities. The school was forced to drop this policy after a series of lawsuits involving non-minority girls who were not admitted despite ranking higher than admitted minorities.
Boston Latin subsequently defeated a legal effort to do away with its admissions process entirely and conduct admissions by blind lottery. Since 1997, the percentage of under-represented minorities at Boston Latin has fallen from 35% to under 19% in 2005, despite efforts by Boston Latin, the Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Latin School Association to recruit more minority applicants and retain more minority students. Some advocate instituting a quota for the number of students that must be admitted from Boston's public middle schools.
is the most time-honored of the school's traditions. Pupils in the 7th to 10th grade are required to give an oration in their English class three times during the year. There is also Public Declamation, where pupils from all grades, or classes, are welcomed to try out for the chance to declaim a memorized piece in front of an assembly. During Public Declamation, declaimers are scored on aspects such as "Memorization" "Presentation", and "Voice and Delivery", and those who score well in three of the first four public declamations are given the chance to declaim in front of alumni judges for awards in "Prize Declamation". "Prize Declamation" was won back-to-back years (2007 and 2008) by Tim Colby, frequently declaming Shakepeare's most emphatic speeches brilliantly.
In addition to the well-known and time-honoured tradition of declamation in English classes, recently the Modern Languages department instituted an annual "World Language Declamation" competition. Once a year, during National Foreign Language Week (usually the first week of March), students from grades 8 through 12 perform orations in languages other than English. Most students choose to declaim in the modern language they are studying, though some choose Latin, Greek, or their native tongue. Judges are brought in from various institutions around the city, and mark the students in similar categories to those used in Public Declamation. Entrants are categorized by level, rather than language, such that all students declaiming at the first-year level of various languages are competing against each other, all students at the second-year level compete against each other, and so on. Students who regularly perform exceptionally well at World Language Declamation are honored at Prize Night with the Celia Gordon Malkiel Prize.
In a move that was controversial among some alumni, the school decided in 2001 to decrease the requirement for students' Latin instruction by one year, starting with the class of 2006. The mandatory minimum period of Latin instruction was decreased for students admitted for 7th grade from five years to four years, and for students admitted for 9th grade from four years to three years. This decision was made by the head of the school's Latin department, in recognition of the fact that the requirement was hampering students' ability to take enough courses in important modern subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science and modern languages. However, students still retain the ability to study Latin through their sixth year, and many do so, partly in order to maximize the number of AP courses in which they are enrolled.
In a 1789 codicil to his will, Benjamin Franklin established a legacy to fund the Franklin Medals, which are awarded to the school's top-ranking pupils at graduation. The second most prestigious awards, the Dixwell Prizes, are given to pupils excelling in Latin or Greek.
There are currently two main publications of the Boston Latin School: The Register
is the school's literary magazine, and The Argo
the school newspaper. George Santayana
founded The Register
in 1881 to serve as the school newspaper. Over the years, however, it evolved into a purely literary magazine, publishing prose and poetry written by members of the student body, as well as artwork. There are generally two editors-in-chief, and it is published twice per year. The Argo
, the school's newspaper, is far younger, having been founded after it was clear that the Register
had become a purely literary magazine. As of the 2006–2007 school year, it is published seven times a year. Both the Register
and the Argo
are entirely student-produced, and both have won awards from the New England Scholastic Press Association.
The Boston Latin Lampoon, a humor magazine, was published only sporadically, and has not appeared since 2005. A science publication, The Catapulta, was published four times since the Spring of the 2004-2005 school year, and a new edition is planned.
In the 2003–2004 school year, a publication entitled "Plebeians Speak" appeared once. The anonymous pamphlet featured articles that might have been censored from The Argo for being controversial or inflammatory. Its title referred to its editorial belief that students (and in some cases, teachers) were considered common, insignificant folk by the administration.
Boston Latin's teams are known as the Boston Latin Wolfpack; their colors are purple and white.
Boston Latin has played rival Boston English in Football every Thanksgiving since 1887, the oldest continuous high school rivalry in the United States.
Historically, Boston Latin's hockey and volleyball teams, both boys' and girls', have been very good; for the most part, however, titles have been few and far between since the school left the Boston Public Schools league in Division V which it had dominated. Boston Latin now competes in Division II Dual County League against suburban schools with better facilities and greater funding. In 1995, the girls' soccer team won their first game after 11 years of losses.The girl's hockey team won the Division 1 State Championship in 2001 and has won the Dual County League for the past 9 years, and in doing so have become one of the most competitive girls hockey teams in the state. In 2001 Boston Latin Girls Tennis won their first ever Division I State Championship. They continued to dominate for the next two years and became the first team to go three seasons undefeated; gaining two more State Championships in both 2002 and 2003.
In 2005 Boston Latin Boys Hockey won the schools first ever boys ice hockey Division II State Championship. Boston Latin defeated the two time defending state champion Saugus in overtime. This feat was remarkable considering Boston Latin was the first ever exam entrance school to win the State Championship.
NU-TRONS Robotics Team
The NU-TRONS FIRST robotics team is a high school robotics team based out of Northeastern University, that competes with teams world wide. The purpose of the program is to build a robot in 6 weeks to compete in a specific game. Then you take it to competitions. In 2001 the NU-TRONS won the National Championship with students from Boston Latin School. In 2006 the NU-TRONS helped to get a FIRST competition in Boston, held at BU's Agganis Arena. The Boston Regional has been going strong for 3 years now.
Boston Latin Mock Trial Team
Boston Latin has participated in the Mock Trial program sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association since the programs' founding in 1987. The team has since won the State Championship twice: the first in 1987 and then again in 2006. BLS went on to rank 24th in the Nationals at Oklahoma City in 2006. The team receives a mock case each year and prepares drafts of openings, directs, crosses and closings for both prosecution and defense. They then compete at regionals in order to advance to the Championship series. In 2006, the team advanced and won the State Championship with the help of three lawyer coaches who were all alumni of BLS: Lauren McDonough, Michael Tumposky and Sean Cronin.
The internal television station of Boston Latin School is BLSTV
; it has been broadcasting since 2003. Every day BLSTV broadcasts the daily bulletin to all of BLS. All of the broadcasters are students, in either their Junior or Senior years. BLSTV also appears at most school events, filming and archiving all of their footage. Many of the producers of BLSTV who have graduated have moved on to college, where they are studying to become film and television producers.
Boston Latin Theatre Company
Boston Latin School's Theatre Company produces three to four plays per academic year, including a spring musical. Traditionally, the school also showcases a one-act play in the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild
Festival. The 2007 entry, Jordan Harrison's Kid Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh
, advanced to the semi-final level of the festival where it won multiple awards for acting, lighting design, and sound design. In 2004, the student director was awarded for Excellence in Directing, for Jon Klein's Dimly Perceived Threats to the System
. Other BLS entries in the MHSDG Festival have included Tristine Skyler's The Moonlight Room
(2006), Craig Lucas' Reckless
(2005), A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room
(2003), Jean-Claude van Itallie's T.V.
(2002) and Interview
(2001), Elaine May
(2000), Steve Martin
(1999), Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy
(1998), and The Romancers
(1997). In Winter 2008, the Boston Latin Theatre Company produced Tilt Angel
, which reached the State Finals of the 2008 MHSDG
Festival, the first finals appearance since 2004. Tilt Angel
won numerous awards for individual and ensemble acting, as well as for sound, makeup, and lighting design. Tilt Angel
was also selected by the MHSDG
to be one of two Massachusetts representatives at the 2008 New England Drama Festival, the first time BLS has advanced so far. In Spring 2008, the company will produce The Secret Garden
. The Boston Latin Theatre Company currently has alumni studying at Emerson College
, New York University
's Tisch School of the Arts
, Northwestern University
, Boston College
, Boston University
, and the University of Southern California
's School of Theatre.In addition, Boston Latin School has its own student-created, student-run improvisational theater group, the Yellow Submarine Improv Troupe, known for its practice of letting any student join without an audition. It was founded by three students, Josh Michel ('02), Michael Guerra ('03) and Jack Ferris ('02) in 1999.
Boston Latin School also has an extensive music program. Introductory, Junior, and Senior Concert Bands, Concert Choir, and String Orchestras are elective classes (although these grades do not contribute to GPA). After-school musical ensembles include the a cappella
Wolftones and Wolfettes, Football Pep Band, Show Choir, Chamber Choir, Big Band, Junior Big Band, Flute Ensemble, and the Honors Orchestra, among others. There are also fully academic music classes (for which grades are
factored into the GPA), such as Introduction to Music Theory
, and a very rigorous Advanced Placement
Music Theory class.
Each year, all of the musical groups display their talents at Boston Latin School's Holiday Concerts and Music Nights. The former is two nights in mid-December and the latter two nights in Spring, where students perform several selections of music that they have been working on for those who wish to attend.
Musical groups from Boston Latin School also perform at the Massachusetts Instrumental & Choral Conductors Association festival in April. In 2006, the Boston Latin School Senior String Orchestra received a gold medal for the second year in a row while the Senior Concert Band and Concert Choir received bronze medals. In 2007, the Senior Strings received a gold medal while the Wind Ensemble received a silver medal. The Boston Latin Big Band has made it to the International Association for Jazz Education State Finals six years in a row and has placed as high as second in the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival. In 2007, the Big Band won a gold medal at the IAJE state finals.
The Boston Latin School visual arts program, while not as extensively funded as the music program, still commands a viable part of the workload. Seventh and eighth grade students are expected to take regular basic art classes, meant as introductions to the visual arts. Older students then have the option of taking an elective arts course, including a regular foundations class and a rigorous two year Advanced Placement
course designed to prepare students for art college and build portfolios.
The Boston Latin School visual arts program boasts three large 2D art studios, a firing kiln, a computer lab, and a photography lab (although no photography classes are currently available). The program is staffed by two teachers, Mr. Stephen Harris and Mr. Carlos Byron, with additional pottery classes taught after school from alumna Kaitlyn Jolly. The art program hosts an Arts Night, similar to the Music Nights, which is dedicated to the work of students in the Advanced Placement program.
Junior Classical League
Since 2000, Boston Latin School has been an active participant on the local, state and national levels of the National Junior Classical League
, formed in 1936, fostering a tradition of deeper academic study of the classics, along with creative expression through visual and creative arts. Boston Latin School hosts a certamen
scrimmage (much like a quiz bowl competition) each year in late November or early December, and sends delegates to the State Convention in April, and often the National Convention, which takes places in July or August. In the past years, Boston Latin School's JCL chapter has grown substantially since its founding; Boston Latin School often contributes dedicated certamen players to represent Massachusetts on a national level in certamen.
Recently, the Boston Latin School JCL sent eight delegates to the MassJCL State Convention, held at Barnstable High School. There, the advanced certamen team won 1st place, and the intermediate certamen team won 2nd place. Olivia Schwob won 1st place overall in Art, and Jacob Meister won 1st place overall in Academics; he was elected as MassJCL's 2nd Vice President for the 2007-2008 school year. On a more recent note, the Boston Latin School JCL attended the National Junior Classical League Convention, held in Knoxville, Tennessee, from July 24th to July 29th, 2007. Two Latin School delegates, Olivia Schwob and Jacob Meister, placed 10th and 3rd respectively in overall individual achievement; Olivia Schwob won 5th overall in Art, and Jacob Meister won 3rd place in Academics and creative contests.
There are also many other extracurricular activities, such as Red Cross Club, Wolfpack Volunteers, Youth Climate Action Network, Clay Club, Dungeons & Dragons Club, the Gay/Straight Alliance, a Robotics team, a ski club and more.
List of Extracurricular Activities at Boston Latin School
African Cultural Society,
Anime Culture Club,
Aporia Philosophy Club,
Argo (School Newspaper),
Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence (A.S.P.I.R.E.),
Asian Students In Action (A.S.I.A.),
Blue Line Club,
Cape Verdian Club,
Catapulta (science publication),
Chinese Arts and Crafts,
Chinese Culture and Language Society,
Classical International Films and Trivia,
Computer Construction and Repair,
Cooks Who Care,
Cultural Orientation Dance,
Dance Dance Revolution,
Fashion Modeling Life (FML) Club,
Fashion Talent Club,
Film Appreciation Society,
Greek Cultural Society,
Haitian Studies Club,
Hope Through Crafts,
International Performing Arts,
Irish Historical Society,
Junior Classical League,
Liber actorum (year book),
Martial Arts Club,
Mock Trial Team,
Model United Nations,
NSb1 Junior Chapter,
Piano Players Society,
Project Book-Net, Inc.,
Register (The school literary magazine),
Roots and Shoots,
Russian Culture Club,
Supporting Aids Victims Everywhere (S.A.V.E.),
Society, Earth, Animals, Life (SEAL) ,
Table Tennis Society,
Talented and Gifted Hispanic Program (T.A.G.)***,
Think Tank of Geopolitics,
Ultimate Frisbee Club,
Vietnamese Student Society,
Walt Disney Club,
Yellow Submarine Improv Troupe,
Young Conservative Leaders of America,
Young Leaders of Color,
- In Season 1, Episode 18 of The West Wing, Rob Lowe's character, Sam Seaborn mentioned Boston Latin School in a discussion of public school reform and school vouchers. He said, “Boston Latin, the oldest public school in America, is still the best secondary school in New England.” Mallory O'Brien replies "They all can't be Boston Latin and Bronx Science."
- On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush visited Boston Latin School after signing the No Child Left Behind Act earlier that day.
- In Season 1, Episode 12 of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matthew Perry's character Matt Albie mentioned that his nephew had a 3.8 GPA at Boston Latin. While this was portrayed as a top-notch GPA, the school's use of above-4.0 grade point averages for its many honors and AP classes would actually put such a student in the second quarter of his class, and would thus be an unlikely Merit Scholar, as the show claims.
Boston Latin has graduated notable Americans in the fields of politics (both local and national), religion, science, journalism, philosophy, and music. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence
, five were educated at Latin: Adams, Franklin, Hancock, Hooper, and Paine. Graduates and students fought in the Revolutionary War
, American Civil War
, World War I
, World War II
, and the Vietnam War
, and plaques and statues in the school building honor those who died.
Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame, known casually as "The Wall," refers to the upper frieze
in the school's auditorium, where the last names of famous alumni are painted. These names include Adams
, and many others. The most recent name, Wade H. McCree
Jr., was added to the frieze
in 1999, and the selection of the name involved a conscious effort to choose a graduate of color. There are no names of female graduates, mostly because females have attended the school for just 34 years and the honor is only bestowed posthumously
. Currently there is only space for one more name, and the Head Master enjoys telling incoming students that if they work hard enough, one of their names might end up on "The Wall" some day. There is also a lower frieze with the names of many other distinguished graduates, and a place on the lower frieze can be awarded while the person is still alive.
Hall of Fame Alumni can be viewed here: Boston Latin School's Hall of Fame
Alumni Association (BLSA)
Boston Latin has benefited enormously from the efforts of the Boston Latin School Association (BLSA), a private charity dedicated to fostering involvement by and donations from the school's substantial alumni base. The BLSA recently completed its major Pons Privatus
(Private Bridge) fund-raising campaign, which raised nearly $37 million in donations from alumni and an additional $20 million in planned gift intentions. At the time, it was the largest fundraising effort in the history of public secondary education. This endowment is mostly supplementary, on top of the roughly $10 million per year in untaxed operating grants the school receives from the Boston Public Schools
, which covers most teacher salaries and maintenance. The school also received a $34.6 million multiyear grant in the late 1990s for a major expansion project.