Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, Mar. 8
A group of black parents has asked the Montgomery County school board to suspend the middle school magnet application process on the grounds that too few black students are accepted into some of the specialized programs.
In a memo e-mailed to school board members last week, a group calling itself the African American Parents of Magnet School Applicants said that a three-year review of data found that African American students are admitted to middle school magnet programs in smaller numbers than whites and Asians. In 2004, for example, five of the 82 black students who applied were admitted to the Takoma Park Middle School magnet, while 62 of 248 white students got in, the memo stated.
Montgomery County school officials acknowledged yesterday that there are too few minority students in their magnet programs, which offer specialized classes. “These are very serious complaints and allegations, and it seems to me that they have some very good data that they have presented and the numbers are very disturbing,” said school board member Valerie Ervin (Silver Spring).
Yet officials said they have made progress. The number of black students accepted into the three middle school magnets this year is 51, up from the 24 who enrolled last year, said Frieda Lacey, deputy superintendent of schools.
Still, O’Neill and School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said they were committed to reversing what they called a disturbing trend.
Weast said he hopes to see the number of black and Hispanic students in the county’s magnet program increase and he expects the system’s initiatives to boost elementary schools with large numbers of poor and minority students to trickle into the upper grades.
“Whatever the numbers are, they will be bigger,” he said.