Don’t assume greater school diversity will improve student performance in Howard County

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Outside River Hill High School, people protest a plan to redraw boundaries in Howard County to bolster diversity.

I am a retired educator and a longtime Howard County resident. I support the funding of Howard County schools in provision of resources commensurate with the needs of their student populations. I support the findings of the Kirwan Commission, and I support Jim Rouse’s vision of neighborhood schools.

I think you should take a second look at the photograph that accompanies your editorial, “Howard County’s redistricting plan: Progress but not pain-free” (Sept. 10). Could the protesters be more diverse? Isn’t every shade represented?


Your statement that “racial and socioeconomic diversity improves student performance has been proven over and over again” is the key issue. Where are those studies? They are certainly not mentioned in Superintendent Michael Martirano’s report. I am aware of the data in the Kirwan report in support of funding to provide early education for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds when they fall into income levels that make the families eligible for FARM. Where are the data that say when you move students of all ages from one polygon to another that magic happens?

I think that we should be precise in our wording of what it is we are trying to achieve. Is it racial diversity or is it socioeconomic diversity? If racial diversity already exits (as in the picture at River Hill), what are we really talking about?


Here are the data I see in our superintendent’s plan for these 7,000-plus students to be transferred: With middle school PARCC math scores, eight schools go up, five go down and 11 stay the same. Of the eight schools, only two go up more than 1% or 2%. With high school PSAT math scores, six go up, five go down and one stays the same. Of the six that go up, two are greater than 1%. Two of the three top high schools’ scores go down, River Hill by 9 points.

And the question is, are some of these scores better because the students understand math better or are they better because different students, having been bused, are taking the tests? Is this equity or parity at a lower level of achievement?

How about in the under-performing schools we cut the size of classes, we add math and English tutors, and we provide test-taking coaching. Then we have a problem-based solution. Let’s test that model and report the data. I will bet it works!

Pam Foster, Ellicott City

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