BSAP: Too Separate and Better than Equal?

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 12, 1995

I am the parent of two graduates of the Howard County schools and the grandparent of three children who soon will be attending those schools. This letter is in response to the editorial titled "Black Student Program at Crossroads" in The Sun for Howard County (Feb. 20) and the article that same day on the academic monitors in the Black Student Achievement Program.

The editorial states the position that the academic monitor program's focus on African-American students is a conundrum, as is the BSAP. However, there is no conundrum -- no mystery -- as to why there was, is and will continue to be a clear need for BSAP and innovative components such as the academic monitor program in the Howard County school system. The regular academic system has not performed adequately for many, if not most, African-American students from the earliest grades on through high school.

BSAP has been a well thought-out and praiseworthy effort to address the systemic inadequacies of the educational process with respect to African-American children. Superintendent Michael Hickey and his staff and those board members who have strongly supported BSAP in the face of hostility from some regressive elements in the community are to be commended.

We must understand that in the current political and social environment there are those people who will attempt to undercut efforts focused on the ongoing crisis in education of African-American children. Such people will call for termination of BSAP if by some arbitrary date it cannot be proven, to their satisfaction, that the meager resources being spent, coupled with the efforts of dedicated educators, have not solved the problem.

Such people long have been with us. They vigorously objected to African people having access to books during the holocaust of enslavement in America; severely limited funding to African-American schools in the "separate but equal" period, and in the "integration" period, they manage to overlook the raised hand of the African-American boy or girl in the classroom or find any articulation of African culture or history threatening. We are becoming increasingly effective in dealing with such people.

But I am most concerned about those normally well-meaning people who are swayed by the protestations and pseudo-scientific social analyses of those hostile to providing adequate resources specifically targeted at African-American students. African-American students, as a group, clearly remain

in a deep and well documented crisis in a school system that nevertheless celebrates its overall performance on tests such as the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

The MSPAP data for 1993-1994 is particularly illustrative of the crisis in the Howard schools for African-American boys and girls, in comparison to other ethnic groups. A school system that in its daily functioning has hobbled African-American students -- particularly the boys -- while they are at the starting line of their formal educational development is a system that has a clear and compelling responsibility to focus fully adequate resources on that group of students until the problems have been fully solved -- for all of our sakes.

Kenneth M. Jennings Jr.

Columbia

The Black Student Achievement Program monitors such as Easter Hawkins, Mary Tatum and Karen Stone are to be commended for their hard work, dedication and initiative in dealing with a problem that affects the black community.

However, I must agree with school board member Karen Campbell that the problem of poor performance among students is a universal one. In public schools, where the quality of education is also supposed to be universal, we cannot deny special help to children because of their race.

. . . The objective of the BSAP is a worthy one, but can we, in the process of closing an educational gap, risk widening a social one? . . . I hope that the school board will see the importance of hands-on interaction with students by parents, and when it comes time to make cuts in next year's budget will instead expand the program to encompass all of those who would benefit by it.

Ryan Donohue

Columbia

I am writing in response to the article, "Black Help Program Scrutinized" in The Sun for Howard County on Feb. 20. I applaud this program for the progress that it has so far achieved. However, the program should be scrutinized. I realize that African-Americans have been historically disadvantaged compared to students of other races, but I am sure that there are some cases in which those "others" are in need of help. . . .

Superintendent Michael Hickey wants to spend $80,000 of the $228.9 million school budget on this program. This is less than .03 percent of the total. Why can't we spend more money and help all needy students? After all, it would probably be more costly and not as effective to establish separate ethnic programs for needy white, Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern students. . . .

Mindy Levit

Ellicott City

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