Montgomery County Board of Education President Blair Ewing last night proposed a seven-point plan to narrow the academic gap between minority and white students.
The plan, outlined in broad terms, follows an analysis last week of last fall's state math competency test results that showed a startling difference between the test scores of the county's black and Hispanic students and those of white students. Two out of three black students and more than one out of two Hispanic students failed the test. Seventy percent of the county's white students and 77 percent of the Asian students passed the exam.
Ewing and his four allies on the seven-member board were swept into office last fall promising to be more responsive and attentive to minorities than their predecessors. Ewing repeatedly has stated that improving the quality of education for minorities is one of his primary goals and one of the most pressing problems facing affluent suburban areas like Montgomery County.
More than a quarter of the 92,000 Montgomery students are from minority groups.
In his plan, Ewing calls for: a detailed staff analysis of where and how the school system may be failing in its attempts to educate minority students, developing test-taking skills that would focus on minority students, an investigation into why minorities are under-represented in more demanding classes and extracurricular activities, and discussions with teachers and counselors about their expectations for minority students. The plan also calls for modification of a board-appointed minority relations committee that has been a subject of controversy since it was created to replace another minority committee abolished by the prior board.
In his analysis of the poor showing of black and Hispanic students, Superintendent Edward Andrews last week called for immediate focus on remedial help for minority students. Ewing said in his report last night that remediation without an attempt to improve the self-esteem of minority students would not be enough to increase test scores.
The release last week of the math test scores highlights the changes the school system has undergone in the past decade as the number of minorities in the school has increased dramatically. In earlier test results from the California Achievement Tests, also taken in the fall, black students showed an improvement in test scores, but still lagged far behind white students. For example, using the 50th percentile to represent the national average, third grade black students scored in the 54th percentile, while white third graders scored in the 82d percentile.
On another matter, the board decided to begin discussions this summer on changes in its policy governing racial balance in the schools.