NAACP to rally against truancy

Increased dropout rates prompt concern and action in county

Effort begins tomorrow

August 27, 1999|By Zanto Peabody | Zanto Peabody,SUN STAFF

The Howard County chapter didn't sign on when the NAACP began back-to-school rallies in 1990 to encourage students to stay in school; dropouts were not a Columbia problem.

County high schools stayed within the 1.25 percent dropout rate considered acceptable by the state.

This year, though, the chapter kicks off the school year with five rallies, beginning tomorrow. The NAACP will hand out school supplies at the rallies.

"In certain schools, the dropout rate -- especially among African-American males -- has gone to double and triple the state standard," said Natalie Woodson, who chairs the education committee of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The theme of the local rallies for the national "Back to School/Stay in School Project" is REACH -- Reaching Educational Achievement by Completing High school, she said. Singers, dancers, clowns, the NAACP Cheer Leaders, the Trojans cheerleading squad and county leaders will be featured.

"You don't expect the affluent communities of Howard County and Columbia to experience this kind of problem,"

Woodson said. "But we are looking at a lot of diversity in our economic structure here. And you'll find the same kind of situations wherever you find schoolchildren.

"Public schools have always done a good job educating middle-class students. In the last 40 to 50 years, though, we have done an awful job of educating children whose families have low incomes. Being poor has become synonymous with doing poorly in school. We are going to encourage [students], inspire them and let them know that's just plain garbage."

The rallies are set up where a number of the residents receive housing assistance -- Stevens Forest Apartments, Roslyn Rise, Sierra Woods, Waverly Winds and Guilford Gardens. Some of the students who live there, Woodson said, "feel unwelcome and unappreciated by the schools."

"For the most part, the failure to learn and the desire to not be part of the school system," she said, "often indicates alienation from the whole learning environment."

That is why the rallies will focus on children attending school every day, making good grades and conducting themselves properly in class. The rallies are an extension of the parent handbook originally published by the NAACP in 1995.

This year, the rallies target elementary through high school students in Columbia schools. The NAACP plans to extend the program next year to include Ellicott City, Elkridge, North Laurel and western Howard County.

The public is invited to attend the rallies. The schedule:

2 p.m. tomorrow at Stevens Forest Apartments, 5866 Stevens Forest Road.

4 p.m. tomorrow at Roslyn Rise, 10000 block of Twin Rivers Road.

2 p.m. Sunday at Sierra Woods, 5800 block of Airy Brink Road.

4 p.m. Sunday at Waverly Winds, 5600 block of Cedar Lane.

2 p.m. Sept. 4 at Guilford Gardens, 7300 block of Oakland Mills Road.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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