After three decades, Montgomery group still worried about disparities for black students -- Gazette.Net


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In 1977, a group of residents gave the Montgomery County Board of Education goals for educating black students.

Thirty-six years later, some group members are still not satisfied with the work Montgomery County Public Schools has done.

Two reports produced by the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight, in 2008 and in March this year, revealed still gaping disparities between the success of black students in comparison to their white peers.

Seeing the data about issues such as academic achievement, discipline rates, graduation rates and ineligibility, the group, which calls itself “1977-II,” has reconvened.

The residents are scheduled to meet with the school board on May 21 to hear what the school system’s plans are in closing the gaps, and to give suggestions, said Ruby Rubens of Colesville, a member of the group who is also the past ombudsman for the school board and a past Montgomery County employee.

When the residents first got together, it was part of a Black Relations Action Committee. That group submitted 33 proposals to the board that were meant to increase outcomes for black students and the board adopted the goals, Rubens said.

Some of the items were regarding discipline, special education, drop out rates, academic grouping, vocational education, reporting and monitoring.

Some of the members of the group got back together in 2008 when a discipline report produced by the school system showed that black students were suspended at a much higher rate than their white and Asian peers.

The group of about 15 residents now meets monthly and includes well-known figures such as Odessa Shannon, a past member of the school board.

When the group saw the OLO report in March, which showed how gaps between racial groups widened on state tests, Algebra 1 completion by grade 8, Advanced Placement and IB performance and SAT/ACT performance, it decided to set up a meeting with the board, Rubens said.

The group wants to know: what interventions are being put in place to help black students; what the culture of expectations are for black students; what lessons can be learned from schools who have made progress and what kind of timeline the school system is setting for its goals.

“We are more and more concerned that we are becoming viewed as a system that only addresses the needs for students who are ready for advanced curriculum,” Rubens said.

jbondeson@gazette.net