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Students March to 'Close the Gap' in Montgomery County Schools

Participants marched to call attention to the increasingly stark performance differences based on income and race.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
More than 400 students marched through Rockville on Sunday to raise awareness of the achievement gap at Montgomery County Schools. The march comes in light of research that shows Montgomery County high schools have become increasingly divided by family income and race.

Wielding handmade posters and donning black T-shirts reading “United We Are,” marchers chanted along a 1.1-mile route from the school system’s headquarters to the Montgomery County’s district courthouse, the Washington Post reported. Students in the minority scholars programs at 11 of Montgomery County’s 25 high schools organized the event.

“Somewhere in a minority child’s life, a ball was dropped, and we need to pick the ball back up,” 17-year-old Angelique Ryan, an organizer, told the Post. “This is a problem, and we need to do something to fix it.”

A district report reveals stark performance differences based on race. In the graduating class of 2013 in Montgomery County, more than 80 percent of white and Asian students took at least one AP exam, while less than 40 percent of black students and about 52 percent of Hispanic students did. Dropout rates for black students are about 8 percent, and about 12 percent for Hispanic students — rates are 3 percent or less for white and Asian students, state data indicate.

School Board President Philip Kauffman (At Large) attended the event and said teachers and parents would “do whatever it takes to close the achievement gap.” Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, as well as the entire school board, also spoke at the event.

But debates and budget meetings haven’t improved the gap, organizers said, and they hoped the march would compel leaders to take action. Some people suggested getting students to study more, while others proposed more funding for the minority scholars program, which began in 2005 and is offered at 11 schools.

Vilma Nájera, a teacher and department head who leads the minority scholars program at Clarksburg High School, told the Post data was “predictable,” and emphasized the urgent need to make a change.

“People think of it as test scores, but they don’t know what it means and what it looks like,” Nájera told the Post. “These numbers have faces and names."

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