The Montgomery County school system, in an effort to provide integrated classrooms, has spent too much time concentrating on racial balance and not enough time on the education of minority students, board member Odessa Shannon said last night.
Shannon said the poor showing of county black and Hispanic students, in particular on a recent state math-competency test, may be traced to the disproportionately larger numbers of these minority students enrolled in low-level courses. Shannon said that while the county's long-standing commitment to integration has been commendable, the facts show that it is time for the school system to make a concerted effort to reverse these academic trends.
Shannon's comments came during a lengthy discussion among board members about how to narrow the gap between the performance of black and Hispanic students and white and Asian students.
The discussion reflected the type of self-analysis being conducted by many school systems across the nation now that desegregation, court- and self-imposed, have become a fact in most jurisdictions. The question they seek to answer is: Have integrated classrooms improved the performance of minority students?
Board members in Montgomery have been particularly concerned about minority performance since school officials announced last month that two out of three black students and more than one out of two Hispanic students failed a math skills test administered last fall.
Seventy percent of the county's white students and 77 percent of the Asian students passed the exam.
Blacks make up 13.3 percent of the county's 92,517 students; Hispanics, 4.6 percent, and Asians, 7.3 percent.
Last night's discussion evolved around a seven-point plan to improve education for minority students proposed last month by board President Blair Ewing.
Among the steps Ewing proposed were a detailed analysis of how the school system may be failing in its efforts to educate minority students and a nationwide search for programs that are succeeding. Shannon and other board members last night called for quicker action and suggested that evaluation teams be sent into every school to determine what types of teachers and programs are seeing good results. Shannon also called for a breakdown of the types of courses minorites are taking.
The board plans to consider Ewing's suggestions further in September.