This week's news that more black male high school students fail state functional tests than their white and Asian counterparts is no news to black parents.
It's been known for years, Pinkie Strother, whose son attends Howard High School, said last night. "This is the reason why the Black Student Achievement Program is meeting and has met."
Results of the Maryland School Performance tests taken by ninth-graders last year show that 88 percent of black males passed the tests, compared with 97 percent of Asian-American males and 98 percent of white males.
Black female high school students did better than their male counterparts, with 96 percent passing the tests. Their scores compared favorably with Asian-American females, 96 percent of whom passed the tests, and white females, 98 percent of whom passed.
Among first-time takers, 41 percent of black males at Wilde Lake High School passed the math test; 52 percent at Oakland Mills High School, and 69 percent at Howard High. Figures from other high schools were not available because fewer than 20 black male students at those schools took the tests.
At a meeting last night of the Howard High chapter of the Black Student Achievement Program in Ellicott City, some parents pointed the finger at elementary school teachers who assign their children to lower level math classes; others faulted neglectful parents, and others blamed teaching methods.
"I feel this isn't just a child-parent problem, but also a student-teacher problem," said Ms. Strother.
"I believe [black males] have a learning style different from the bulk of their peers," she said. "And these learning styles are not being met."
School officials don't know why black males score lower, but say they are looking for the answer. They have begun looking at how they teach students and grade them, according to Jacqueline F. Brown, director of human relations for the county school system.
"The teaching style is one reason," Ms. Brown said, "but there are things like, are we measuring adequately? Are the measurements of assessments accurate? Do the kids know more than what we are measuring? If we ask questions in a different way, would their answers be different?"
Parents in the program are responding to the test results by sponsoring tutoring sessions for students who need extra help, said Bobbi Crews, president of the group's executive board. "There is a problem here in Howard County," she said. "The parents are saying we're together, and we're working together."