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NAACP asks school system to drop low-achiever classes


The Howard County branch of the NAACP has issued a report calling on the school system to demonstrate high expectations for all students by eliminating classes aimed at low achievers.

The report -- presented to the school board last week by the county National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- urges the school system to make a greater effort to ensure that all students are taught at their appropriate grade level and are not labeled "low achievers."

"There are disproportionate numbers of African-American students who end up being taken out of their grade level and put in general education classes, skills classes or special education classes," said Natalie Woodson, chairwoman of the county NAACP's education committee. "It is rather foolish to expect they are going to pass their tests if they are not going to be taught on their appropriate level."

A school board report released earlier this year found that 31 percent of black students were low achievers, compared to 12 percent of white students and 7 percent of Asian-American students.

The NAACP report has not drawn much response from school officials, because they have been making final decisions on the budget this week.

But School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he expects school officials to meet with members of the NAACP education committee this summer to discuss the recommendations.

After a preliminary look at the report, Dr. Hickey said yesterday he believes that many of the philosophical changes suggested by the report are similar to ideas already under consideration by the school system.

"I think that much of what they are asking for in their recommendations already is part of the principles and vision of 'Beyond The Year 2000,' " Dr. Hickey said.

"Beyond The Year 2000" is the strategic planning effort initiated last year by Dr. Hickey to launch the school system into the next century.

Like the NAACP report, the "Beyond The Year 2000" project's "vision statement" calls for the school system to recognize the uniqueness of every student and to set high expectations for all students.

But Dr. Hickey declined to comment on the NAACP's recommendation to eliminate classes designed for low achievers -- as well as ethnic comparisons in reports on students' achievement.

The report states: "The NAACP views placement in skills, general education and special education classes of disproportionate numbers of African-American students as evidence of re-segregation within the integrated school setting. This practice effectively deprives students of the quality of education provided to students not placed in those categories."

It also says that the comparison of achievement by students' ethnic backgrounds in the school system testing reports perpetuates "stereotypes about the academic achievement of students."

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