Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Troubling report highlights MCPS decline, achievement gap

The troubling results of a new survey of Montgomery County African-American youths highlight the failure of the County Council and Board of Education to close an achievement gap that has grown since 2010. Connecting Youth to Opportunity was produced by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, BETAH Associates, Inc. and Montgomery College.

Survey results showed that black students are 3 times as likely to drop out of Montgomery County Public Schools as white and Asian students. And black students are 3 times as likely to be suspended from school as whites and Asians.

The report also showed that Montgomery County's moribund economy, and weak job creation rate relative to Northern Virginia and the District, are disproportionately hurting African Americans. According to the survey results, only 8.7% of black high school students surveyed are employed, and only 30.7% of black high school dropouts have been able to obtain employment.

Even Montgomery County's young black high school graduates are being hard hit, with only 39.7% of those surveyed currently employed.

My suggestion for years has been to attract high-wage aerospace, defense and tech companies (and their accompanying research facilities) to the County - and have classroom space in those facilities as a provision for receiving County financial incentives. This would create internships, and high-tech skill acquisition, that would lead to high-wage jobs for students in our worst-performing schools.

Instead, our County leadership is doubling down on decline. What are we hearing the MoCo political machine's next moves are on declining schools and record exam failure rates? "Soft bigotry" moves like building more luxury apartments on top of demolished affordable housing complexes, putting more rich white people in places like White Oak and Wheaton while displacing lower income residents, redistricting school boundaries - the third rail of MoCo politics, and - by golly - just getting rid of those pesky exams the kids can't pass.

Let's hope this report provides them yet another wake-up call.

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