The Montgomery County School System was taken to task this week for failing to improve the poor academic performance of black and Hispanic students.
The major problems are low test scores, a high number of student suspensions, low praticipation in extracurricular activities other than athletics, insufficient minority representation in developing curriculum and inadequate quidance counseling, according to the annual report of the school system's minority relations monitoring committee.
"Achievement test scores tell us how poorly the system is working for certain students," John Smith, co-chairman of the committee, told the school board and about 100 persons who attended the meeting to hear the report. He says that the system's most recent summary of test scores characterized results as being stable at a high level of performance, but that this was "a gross oversimplification." Black and Hispanic students' scores were "stable at lowest levels of performance," he said.
"The primary blame for this disaster rests on the shoulders of the Montgomery County Board of Education for their failure to develop a comprehensive, definitive strategy for attacking the problem," he added.
The 23-member committee, first appointed in 1973 at a time of an increasing number of racial incidents in schools, asked that some money be set aside in the budget to improve reading and mathematics proficiency of minority students, that student progress be more carefully monitored and that parents be kept better informed of student performance.
The committee looked at the results of the Maryland Functional Reading Test (MFRT), which is part of the state Minimum Competency Testing Program and is designed to measure minimum literacy skills needed for a high school diploma. Passing the MFRT will be a graduation requirement starting with the class of 1982.
The committee report said that during 1977-78 black students in grade nine had a failure rate four times greater than that of white students taking the MFRT. The committee said that the school system must imporve the reading program for minority students, but it also criticized the MFRT for examining students on information not relevant to the backgrounds of minority youth, for example, by asking questions based on 4-H Club material.
The committee recommended that the MFRT be suspended, an action that would have to be taken by the Maryland State Board of Education rather than by the local body. Superintendent Edward Andrews invited committee members to express their views in a forum Tuesday evening at the Educational Services Center with State Superintendent of Schools David Hornbeck.