Education expert speaks at Blair about tracking and discrimination in education
Educator Bob Moses spoke as part of a meeting about academic tracking at Blair on Saturday, addressing issues of discrimination and equality in American education.
The meeting also featured commentary and testimony from Montgomery County high school students about their experience with the tracking system.
Moses, a renowned educator and fighter for civil rights, gave an abbreviated version of a longer college lecture about sharecropping after the Civil War and its relationship with the creation of the current educational climate in America. He traced the creation of the SAT – which was based on a specifically American "intelligence test" applied to World War II soldiers – and the birth of the ETS.
The main topic of the meeting was the practice of "academic tracking," in which students are placed, as early as elementary school, on academic paths that determine the difficulty and rigor of their education. A key element of this system is the labeling of some students as "gifted and talented" – a phrase Evie Frankl, Coordinator of the Montgomery County Education Forum, identified as originating with the early 20th century pseudoscience of eugenics. The percentage of students identified as "gifted and talented" varies vastly depending on the population, which several speakers cited as evidence that the system was arbitrary and essentially flawed.
Racism was cited as the main problem of many of the conflicts created by tracking. Nonwhite students are more likely to be placed in lower-level classes.
The meeting was opened by Frankl. Following this, Valerie Ervin, moderator of the event, introduced an array of students who spoke about their experiences with tracking.
Blair senior Peter Cirincione said that he felt his placement in the Magnet program had isolated from too many people of different races. "I've lost a great opportunity to form close bonds with people who don't look like me," Cirincione said.
Sophomore Sergio García explained that his placement in the ESOL program had been ultimately detrimental to his education. Said García, "ESOL was too slow, too simple, too short," restricting his access to higher-level classes he wanted to take.
The final student speaker was Kara Cayce, a college student who helped organize the program "Students 4 Justice" when she was in high school, identifying the racial disparity between course with differing difficulty levels.
Follow the students, Moses gave his lecture on America's "secret meritocracy" and essentially discriminatory education system.
The meeting ended with community comments and questions and a closing statement by Ana Sol Gutiérrez.
The meeting's audience included students, parents, and teachers from the Blair community. Also present was John Hoven, president of the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery county, a group which supports the G/T tracking system.
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