Black parents address school inequities at NAACP meeting

Dec. 2, 2005, midnight | By Anna Coughlan | 15 years, 1 month ago

Group discusses programs to boost minority achievement, Ervin criticizes tracking

Parents of black students met Tuesday for Blair's NAACP Parents' Council meeting to discuss strategies to increase black and Latino parental involvement in school and to pursue programs that will boost minority academic achievement.

Board of Education member Valerie Ervin, Blair PTSA co-president Fran Rothstein and Rosa Garcia, a staff member of Montgomery County Council President Tom Perez, also attended the meeting.

NAACP Parents' Council chair Yvette Butler cited that on the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) report for Blair in 2004, less than 30 percent of black students passed the math test. "Our students are missing the ball somewhere," she said.

Struggling to end disparity

Parents also discussed the low percentage of black and Latino students in honors, AP, CAP and Magnet courses. "My daughter is probably one of three black kids in the CAP," said parent Inga Skippings at the meeting. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Parent Dana Gaya told the group that she was upset with the feedback she was getting from academic support teachers and coaches for her son, who played JV football this fall. Butler said that part of the problem is that teachers do not have the time to work closely with each student. "What's happening is the teachers are getting burnt out," said Butler. "There is a lot of pressure on teachers."

Ervin believes that the main vehicle preventing equality in education is the MCPS tracking system. Students are labeled as "honors" or "non-honors" in second grade based on Global Access test results and are later placed into classes in middle and high school based upon how they performed when they were "little baby seven-year-olds," said Ervin. "The problem with tracking is that they can't get out," she said.

As a consequence of tracking, students are not challenged appropriately and have trouble getting into college. "Kids get assigned to certain courses that maybe aren't as hard or don't prepare students for college," said Garcia.

Ervin's goal is for every child to take Algebra One before high school. She said that all students are capable of passing the class in middle school. "Most children should live up to what is expected of them," said Ervin.

Blair parent Sandra Cobb-Foster said that the achievement gap begins before elementary school when students whose parents teach them outside of school come in to kindergarten already ahead. "The gap is so big, you don't know how to fix it," she said.

Some parents do not have the time or the money to help their children in school, according to Rothstein. "That's one of the reasons we need to take those issues on as a community," she said.

Taking action

Butler described some of the headway she is making in reducing education inequities. Her Leaders in Training program provides disadvantaged students with academic resources and free SAT preparation. At the latest meeting, seniors also worked with mentors to review their college essays.

In addition, Garcia encouraged parents to take action by attending a conference at Kennedy High School on Dec. 10 to voice their opinions and to listen to Kennedy minority students share their experiences. "It's a great opportunity for you all to participate and bring your issues to the table," said Garcia.

Pedro Noguera of New York University, who has studied academic tracking all over the country, will speak at the conference as well. "His work focuses specifically on students of color," said Garcia. "He's done a lot of work on inequity."

Ervin told parents that they also have the opportunity to share their stories in front of the Board of Education. In a few months, a group of Sherwood minority students will present the racial discrimination they have experienced at their school.

Even if parents are unable to make the conference, volunteer or testify, Blair Parents' Council representative Annette Joynes encouraged them to attend the council's meetings and to recruit more members. "The Parents' Council is really designed to help parents become better advocates for their children," she said.

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Anna Coughlan. Anna is a CAP junior who can't believe she's an upperclassman already. She likes to run Blair cross-country and track, do yoga, play soccer, and chill with fun-loving people. Anna is a big movie fan and loves the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star … More »

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