BALTIMORE Black high school students in Maryland dropped out at a rate twice as high as white students in 1997, and, on average, scored nearly 200 points lower on the national Scholastic Assessment Test, according to a report presented at Wednesday’s Maryland State Board of Education meeting.
An advisory council on multicultural issues wrote the draft report, which noted “definite and looming disparities” in academic performance among minorities and whites in the state.
“The most important fact in this report is that we’re not being successful with all of our students,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools. She called the gaps in performance intolerable and said she will develop a course of action, calling on all segments of the community, to help combat the disparities.
The report showed 7 percent of black public high school students dropped out in the 1996-97 school year, while 4 percent of whites dropped out. Five percent of Hispanics dropped out, and 2 percent of Asians.
The report also said black students in Maryland who took the SAT in 1997 scored an average of 857 out of 1,600. Whites scored an average of 1,052.
In addition, during the 1996-97 school year, only 82 percent of black high school students passed the Maryland Functional Tests, which are required for graduation, while 97 percent of whites passed, the report said.
The reported cited several reasons why blacks and other minorities may be faring worse in public schools: a lack of racially diverse teaching staffs, which could provide role models for minority students; a disproportionate level of poverty in Hispanic and black communities; and funding inequities between rich and poor school districts.
Case in point: More than 65 percent of federal Title 1 funds in Maryland pay for services for black students; only 26 percent of it goes to whites. A school qualifies for Title 1 money when 50 percent of its students come from low- income families.
The report also indicated that Maryland ranks 15th among other states for child poverty, and black children are more likely to live in urban poverty than other children.
“This report takes a stand,” said Barbara Dezmon, who chaired the council that wrote the report. “It’s not just documentation; it dares to call for action.”
Specifically, Dezmon referred to the report’s 13 recommendations. Among them: calling on parents to get more involved in their children’s education; giving awards to minorities who show progress; and asking for money from the Maryland State Department of Education to revamp curriculums and hire teachers.
“I want people who read this report” to throw open the window and say, `I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,’ ” Dezmon said.
Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, said although he agrees with the call to action, he doesn’t want teachers to view this report as a rebuke.
“I don’t feel defensive about these remarks,” he said. “In fact, I think it empowers teachers to fight for the thing we believe in a fair opportunity for each child to learn.” A final report will be submitted at October’s board meeting, when board members will develop an action plan. -30-