No Excuses on SAT Disparity HOWARD COUNTY

December 17, 1992

From this month's issue of American Demographics magazine comes news that Howard County is the sixth wealthiest jurisdiction in the nation, with 56 percent of its households earning $50,000 or more. Not only that, but the county's black population is also among the wealthiest in the country, with nearly 43 percent meeting the magazine's standard for affluence.

Given those demographics, we are dismayed and frustrated by the fact that African-American children in Howard County schools continue to fall significantly behind other groups of students in the classroom.

The latest evidence of this problem comes from the results of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. In both mathematics and verbal skills, black students consistently scored lower than Asian, white and Hispanic students who took the test. That information comes on the heels of results from the Maryland Functional Test, which also showed blacks trailing other students in Howard.

With an African-American student population of 14 percent, we do not believe it unreasonable to expect the county's school system to teach more effectively a group that is relatively small and easily identified. We expect as much from the Baltimore City schools every day. Moreover, Howard's scores indicate that all of the efforts mounted thus far to find and administer a remedy to this problem have been inadequate.

The only thing heartening that can be said about this is that Superintendent Michael Hickey has recognized that the problem is not going away. He has called for his top advisers to take another look.

"We are beginning to question ourselves about what really is the problem," Mr. Hickey says, admitting that "I am at a loss."

Perhaps in admitting there is a problem, answers will come. We hope so. As solutions appear, they should address forthrightly the social and economic conditions that contribute to this educational anomaly. Above all, educators must be certain that their expectations for black student achievement are equal to that which they confer on all other students.

It would be unconscionable if a county as wealthy as Howard were unable to marshal the resources, the expertise and the moral conviction to turn around this gnawing problem.

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