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Students to march in Montgomery County, urging school action on achievement gap

Montgomery County students and their supporters plan to march in Rockville on Sunday to bring attention to the school system’s achievement gap, which has left black and Hispanic students lagging behind their white and Asian peers on multiple measures of academic success.

The march, along a 1.1-mile route from the county’s school system headquarters to its old district courthouse, has been in the making for months by students from 11 high schools involved in minority scholars programs.

It comes as the achievement gap has gained attention in county budget hearings and political debates.

A recent county report also highlighted the gap in achievement between high-poverty and low-poverty high schools, noting widening disparities.

Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr plans to attend the march, as do all members of the Board of Education, schools officials said Friday.

Organizers of the march say they are seeking greater awareness and more action to close the gap for minorities in Montgomery’s 202 public schools. They have plastered schools with signs, recorded two videos, written chants and sent home fliers. Organizers have arranged for eight buses to bring students from Bethesda, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and Clarksburg.

“I think it’s a wake-up call,” said Gabriella Bianchi, 16, a student organizer from Thomas S. Wootton High School, who said she hopes that the public event will dismantle stereotypes, show the depth of student concern and spur efforts to make a difference.

“I think there is just a lack of push to really get on this issue,” Bianchi said.

Police said no streets will be closed for the march, which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at 850 Hungerford Dr. and proceed from Route 355 to North Washington Street, ending at 27 Courthouse Sq. There, speakers are scheduled to address the crowd until 3 p.m.

Mike Williams, a Walter Johnson High School teacher who is one of the founders of the Minority Scholars Program, said he is expecting that hundreds of students will attend, calling the student-inspired event “groundbreaking.”

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.



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