A group of Montgomery County parents who monitor minority issues in the school system said yesterday that the school board's four-year-old plan to improve minority student achievement has been, "in large measure, a failure."

The report by the Citizens' Minority Relations Monitoring Committee cites what it calls the school system's inability to significantly improve the test scores of black and Hispanic students, its failure to hire more minority teachers and the continued overrepresentation of black students in special education classes.

James L. Robinson, committee chairman and author of the report, said the school board and former school superintendent Wilmer S. Cody are to blame for the school system's lack of progress in improving minority student performance, a task that the board has identified as a key goal.

"The fact is the Board of Education has taken a hands-off, distant and aloof management approach to this," said Robinson, one of about a dozen members of the committee, which was formerly an official part of the school system but has functioned on its own since 1981, when it was dissolved by the school board.

The school board "undertook this {minority education} effort and then just let it float along," Robinson added.

Four years ago, when the school board hired Cody, an Alabama native, it designated improving minority test scores as one of his main tasks. His lack of progress in this area was cited by some sources as a main reason for the board members' disenchantment with the performance of Cody, who left the job in June.

The committee's 43-page report, while highly critical, is considerably less harsh in tone than in years past, and was released this year without the usual fanfare of a news conference.

Robinson said he deliberately toned down this year's report to give new School Superintendent Harry Pitt a chance to pursue his plan for improving minority achievement by holding individual schools accountable for the progress of black and Hispanic students on functional and achievement tests. Pitt, who previously was deputy superintendent, presented his plan to an enthusiastic school board last month.

Pitt would not comment on the report, saying he had not yet had a chance to read it. "I think that they {the committee} are responsible citizens and, for that reason, whatever the report says, I'll give it serious consideration," he said.

School board member Blair Ewing, a longtime proponent of addressing minority issues, said: "I don't see {the minority education plan} as a failure, but the school board has not taken all of the opportunities it had to make as much progress as it should have." He said some individual schools have established successful programs for improving minority performance.

The report says the following areas show the school system's lack of progress in improving minority achievement:

Minority teachers: The report said that despite the board's efforts to recruit minorities, a significant number of schools still have far fewer minority teachers and staff members than the minority representation in the student body. In the inner Beltway area, for example, 11 of 54 schools last year had three or fewer minority instructors although the representation of minority students ranged from 8 to 57 percent. In the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area, 21 of 45 schools -- an increase of three over the previous year -- had three or fewer minority staff members while the representation of minority students ranged from 3 to 34 percent. In the upper county, 24 of 47 schools had three or fewer minority staff members with minority student representation ranging from 6 to 36 percent.

Test scores: Black and Hispanic students still trail white and Asian students on the California Achievement Test at grades three, five, eight and 11. Last year, Hispanic students did not achieve any gain in any subject area on the test over the previous year. Moreover, the scores of black students in math, language and reading declined in the eighth grade.

"If the CAT results for the 1986-87 school year are valid indicators, the minority student improvement program seems to be dead in the water," the report said.

Special education: The report said that despite school system efforts to improve the way students are selected for special education classes, black students, especially males, continue to be overrepresented in these classes, and their representation has increased since 1983, when the minority education plan was initiated. While black students are about 15 percent of the student population, in 1983-84, they represented 23.5 percent of emotionally impaired students in special education. Last year that went up to 27.6 percent.