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Race Can Be Another Hurdle to Quality Education

(By Julie Zhu -- Montgomery Blair High School)
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

I really enjoyed your Feb. 28 column ["Sorry For the Bickering; Let's Pick a Good School"]. As a parent of three children, I employed the methods you listed in picking a school for my children more than 10 years ago. I selected the school before I found a house. However, in districts that are very "vertical," elementary schools do matter. They are the gateway to the more selective high schools and high school programs.

I have also found that for African American parents, there should be an 11th criterion. The teacher expectations for black students are sometimes different. I have had teachers tell me that I am very articulate for an "African American parent." (I have degrees from two top-tier universities. All of my peers are "articulate.")

It has been a fight I had not had until my children reached high school. I have found that most of the highly educated black parents at my children's high school walk around with a list of unacceptable teachers, simply because their expectations are not there for the black students in the classroom.

My son, with an IQ of 129, was deemed unable to do high-school-level work by one health teacher. He has been reading at a 12th-grade level since the fifth grade. Asked about this, she could not point to one assignment or classroom discussion that supported the comment.

These types of comment are often made to other teachers in break rooms. It is very ugly. Few school districts do anything to address the problem. Most parents don't acknowledge it. A school with a small concentrated population of black students living in one community/neighborhood is quite ripe for it. The leadership of the school's administration will tell whether the behavior is accepted or actively discouraged.

Stephanie Segue

Montgomery County

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