Achievement Gap Grows

OneMongtomery, a newly-formed group of parents and local citizens determined to confront the problem of declining test scores in MCPSa�� Northeast Consortium, had their first official meeting Nov. 14 at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Silver Spring.

Ed Wetzlar, one of the key members and founders of the group, has a very specific goal for its future.

“What I hope for the group is that we will develop a political activism, a voice, that we will more and more demand change,” Wetzlar said.

There were three sections of the meeting: first, Dan Reed, a 2005 graduate of Blake High School, presented several statistics showing the recent increase of poorer students in MCPS. He explained that these poor students are not receiving sufficient financial support from MCPS, increasing the already sizeable achievement gap between white and upper-class dominated schools such as Whitman HS and typically Latino and African American schools such as Wheaton HS.

According to Reed, 26 percent of students attending Wheaton will take more than four years to graduatea��a rate considerably below state and national averages. In contrast, nearly all students in the “Top White” schools graduate on time.

“The perception of your school has a direct correlation to the value of your housea��The issue is that, as one school system, we have the same tax pays’ [and] we are supposed to have the same amenities a�� [But] we can’t have a school system where families feel like they have to go to a certain school to get a certain level of quality in their kids’ education,” Reed said.

Next, the meeting participants were randomly divided into discussion groups assessing the current state of the school systems and brainstorming ways to improve it.

Then, each of the groups presented their findings. Lastly, Wetzlar concluded the meeting with ways to spread OneMontgomery’s message.

“We need to join together as we have tonight a�� figure out what our message is, and then we need to press it,” Wetzlar said.

He suggested that members of the group use social media, school networks and connections to raise awareness of the issue among friends and family who would also be able to support the cause. Wetzlar would also like members and sympathizers to write the MCPS County and State leaders and attend MCPS forums to push the issue.

He closed the meeting with one final remark.

“We need to convince these people that we have a problem here, and that we all need to be part of the solution. We need to change the conversation. We want a bigger piece of the pie, and the only way to get a bigger piece of the pie is to ask for it,” Wetzlar said.

MCPS issued an official response to the formation of the OneMontgomery through Dana Tofig, the Public Information Officer.

“We certainly welcome that input, because our community is the ultimate beneficiary of a strong public school system. While MCPS students overall perform extremely well, we recognize that there are some studentsa��and some schoolsa��that are not performing as well as others. We are using multiple strategies to address these gaps and will continue to do so in the years to come,” Tofig said.

RHS Principal Billie-Jean Bensen believes that the issue is universal.

“All schools have achievement gaps, and all schools are working to reduce that achievement gap,” Bensen said.