Middle Ground on Redistricting HOWARD COUNTY

February 05, 1993

Now that Howard County school officials have made official their recommendations for redistricting, parents can get a better idea of how their children will be affected. Of particular concern has been the redistricting of Centennial and Wilde Lake high schools, where a storm of protest followed an earlier, more tentative proposal.

Laced with tones of race and class bias, initial opposition was as intense as it was telling about the communities that make up these two school districts. Parents who had expected to send their children to Centennial, regarded as the system's leading high school, were instantly repelled by the idea of sending them to the image-tattered Wilde Lake.

Some of those concerns were justified and should be addressed under any redistricting plan.

The prime recommendation on the table, among two alternatives, appears to take a middle-of-the-road approach to redistricting the two high schools. Intentionally or not, it may serve to quiet some of the more vocal opponents of the earlier plan.

Not only would the new recommendation correct enrollment problems at both schools, it is expected to reduce the percentage of minority students at Wilde Lake and improve the school's overall test scores.

While suggesting a correlation between the number of minority students and low test scores is a crude and unfortunate device, the statistics nonetheless point in that direction. Any plan that would raise a school's overall achievement level should be applauded.

It should be noted, however, that one of the alternative proposals -- redistricting the communities of Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Dorsey Hall to Wilde Lake -- would do more to improve Wilde Lake test scores than the current recommendation.

School board members should consider choosing the more productive plan as a measure of their commitment to equity among schools, including their desire for racial balance and high achievement.

So far, school administrators have shown but a half-hearted attempt at reaching parity through redistricting.

Their recommendation falls short of a true push toward educational excellence at Wilde Lake. Absent a sudden change of heart, however, that may be as far as anyone is likely to go.

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