- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2019

The Montgomery County Council on Monday examined ways to improve educational outcomes for black, Latino, low-income and special education students and English learners in public schools in light of a recent report that noted difficulties in closing performance gaps among these groups in part because they are concentrated in poor schools.

“These children don’t have the luxury of time of waiting for us to figure things out,” council member Nancy Navarro, District 4 Democrat, said during an Education and Culture Committee work session.

An Office of Legislative Oversight report last week said that black and Latino students are only half as likely as Asian and white students to demonstrate proficiency in math or English language arts, or college-readiness based on their performance on the SAT or in advanced placement/international baccalaureate classes.

The report found that more than 70% of Asian, white and multiracial 10th graders were proficient in English in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, but only 39% of black and 30% of Latino students were similarly proficient this year.

The report also found that students who receive free and reduced priced meals, English learners and students with disabilities were less than half as likely as their peers to start kindergarten “school-ready,” and less than half as likely as all students to demonstrate proficiency in math or English.

The performance gaps have not narrowed over the last few years and have widened in some cases, said Elaine Bonner-Tompkins, a senior legislative analyst in the Office of Legislative Oversight.

Officials noted that three-quarters of black, Latino, English learners and more than 80% of low-income students were enrolled in poor schools, compared to only a third of white, Asian and multiracial students. In addition, the Montgomery County Public Schools system, with a budget of $2.59 billion, is underfunding compensatory education programs for English learners and students with disabilities.

“All other things being equal, students of color and low income students tend to experience better outcomes in more economically advantaged and mixed income schools than schools with high concentrations of poverty,” Ms. Bonner-Tompkins said.

Of the 162,680 students enrolled in county schools, nearly 57,000 participate in the free and reduced meal program, 28,000 are enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESOL) and about 19,000 receive special education services.

The Office of Legislative Oversight recommended that the council draft a resolution calling on the Board of Education to develop a plan for integrating the entire school system, more equitably allocate funds to poor schools, and continue discussions with the school system on assigning funds and keeping experienced teachers in poor schools.

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