Parents upset by disparities in test scores

Baltimore County board urged by black parents to devise specific plan

March 14, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Black parents in Baltimore County said last night that they want the school board to come up with a specific plan to end disparities in scores for black students on state standardized tests.

About 75 people attended a town hall meeting at Randallstown High School held by the Baltimore County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Judy Grier Smylie gained a round of applause when she said she wants the school board to devise a plan that would allow parents to hold officials accountable for the poor test scores.

On the most recent Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, about one in four black third-graders in the county - 28.9 percent - met or surpassed state standards for reading. The rate for white students was 50.7 percent. "Those MSPAP scores were appalling," Smylie said. "But no one has a sense of urgency."

In addition, parents rose to express concern over Woodlawn Middle School, which is close to becoming the first Baltimore County school eligible for state takeover.

On the state tests, 15 percent of the school's pupils met or exceeded standards. The school is 99 percent black.

Woodlawn had the poorest scores of any comprehensive middle school in the county. Among eight-graders, 6.7 percent met state standards in reading in a county where 32.7 percent of middle school pupils met or exceeded that goal this year.

Charisse Mallory-Grier, president of the school's PTA, said she is worried that the county isn't moving fast enough to address the school's needs. The school has three years to turn itself around, Grier said.

"And this year counts as one year," Grier said. "I don't see the school board moving as quickly to resolve these issues."

The gap in reading scores in the school system between black first-grade boys and their white counterparts has shrunk. Over the past three years, the gap has narrowed from 26 percentage points to 11 percentage points.

Last month, the school board approved an $803 million budget that includes close to $2 million to pay teachers at 10 struggling schools to work during the summer. The proposal by County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston includes $412,000 for an academic intervention team to work with struggling schools. The budget now goes to the County Council.

Anthony Fugett, president of the Baltimore County Chapter of the NAACP, said he intends to send the comments to the school board, which was holding its regular meeting last night.

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