Parham's dare Superintendent tackles task of lifting black student academic achievement.

November 17, 1998

CAROL S. PARHAM is taking on what may be her toughest challenge since becoming superintendent of the Anne Arundel County school system four years ago. She wants to raise the academic performance of African-American students in the county, which is worse than the national average in a variety of areas: test scores, truancy, expulsion, graduation and dropout rates.

Her focus on this issue may make some people uncomfortable. Indeed, many would prefer to have the problem remain under the rug.

Dr. Parham is taking a risk by focusing on this area. She is calling attention to failure -- from black students who don't take studies seriously to a school board that has passively accepted subpar performance. Many people would prefer to have her aim spotlight on successes only -- frankly, the too-common course of someone in her position. By flagging a problem and vowing a strong response to fix it, Dr. Parham is going out on a limb. Without improvement, blame will flow to her.

Turning around the performance of African-American students has bedeviled other school systems, from impoverished communities in Baltimore to affluent schools in Howard County.

Behavior of students, and the adults they depend on, must change. Students have to attend school, pay attention in class and complete their assignments. Parents must take greater responsibility for their children's growth. Teachers have to identify students with problems and provide them with, or refer them for, remedial help. Administrators have to allocate resources and personnel. The new county executive and council must provide the money for teachers, counselors and others.

It is not a new problem, but Dr. Parham is right to invest emphasis on it. The process will be long and difficult, but must be done. The alternative is unacceptable.

Pub Date: 11/17/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.