Short changing African American studentsWhile we have...


November 28, 1999

Short changing African American students

While we have heard repeatedly that Howard County students earn the top scores in the state on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), there is another test that was given to Howard County elementary school students, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS).

An analysis of the CTBS showed that of 5th-grade students scoring in the 95-99 percentile for math, a high score, 64 percent of white students were in gifted and talented classes, 86 percent of Asian and only 30 percent of African American students.

In the reading area, of 5th grade students scoring in the 95-99 percentile, the rates of participation in the high level reading program were 56 percent of white students, 100 percent of Asians and only 20 percent of African American students.

What do you make of this?

Is it clear evidence of the deliberate and systematic steering of exceptionally academically talented African American students away from academically challenging courses as a result of systemic white supermacist practices that remain institutionalized in the education system?

Or is it evidence of gross incompetence on the part of some Howard County teachers and administrators who allowsignificant numbers of African American children to be sidetracked into less challenging course work?

If this is what happened to the most academically gifted African American students, what happened to those bright black students who scored at the commendable 80th percentile and above? What happens every school day to the average African American students and those who enter the school system less prepared? There is a proverb of the African people of Cameroon: "He who asks questions, cannot avoid the answers."

Additionally, there are schools where some students don't have textbooks. Students with textbooks are being programmed to succeed and students without textbooks are being programmed to receive a marginal education.

This was brought home to me personally over the past few days when we discovered that my grandson in second grade at Illchester Elementary has gone through this first quarter without a math book. Just over a generation ago, my grandson would have attended a racially segregated school in Howard County and at least would have had a hand-me down book no longer needed by the white kids. It appears that there is a question of equity within the schools as well as between schools.

The non-African American Howard County community has a role to play with us in its own self-interest. There are about 25 or more white kids in my grandson's class and they don't have math books either.

The Howard County non-African American community must use its influence along with us to make certain that African American and all other Howard County children are valued and receive the best education possible to ensure successful economic, political and social development of the entire county.

It is a matter of their own survival and prosperity as well as ours.

Ken Jennings, Columbia

The writer is vice president of operations for the African American Coalition of Howard County.

Judge Leasure qualified to hear Tripp case

A recent letter moaned about the appointment of Judge Diane Leasure to the trial of Linda Tripp on wire-tapping charges. The first paragraph charged that Judge Leasure is "the only judge serving in Howard County who was not nominated by the Republican Party as its nominee for judge in the general elections."

Is that supposed to be a standard of some sort? If you're not approved by the Republican Party. you can't be on the bench in Howard County?

How silly. The voters of Howard County wanted Judge Leasure on the Circuit Court. By all accounts, she is doing a fine job and will do just as good a job on this trial as well.

Carole Fisher, Ellicott City

Citizens Police

Academy was rewarding

Although this commendation letter is late, I could not let the year end without sending a special thanks to the Citizens Police Academy. I was a graduate last July, and I must say the Citizens Police Academy and Howard County police are some of Maryland's finest.

The Citizens Police Academy is an excellent way of developing a relationship between thecommunity and the police department. I commend Chief Wayne Livesay and Lt. Joseph Johnson on an enriching and memorable experience.

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