Last April 2015, I was a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee to the Calvert County Board of Education. Our group received a presentation from school board officials about the achievement gap in the county. After reviewing the information and conducting further research on the topic, I discovered that there were likely at least 41 Calvert County African American fourth and fifth graders who were likely denied access to honor math courses because of a number of factors with race being a major contributor. Thus, I’ve identified them as the Calvert 41.
I don’t know if one of those 41 are any students you know. I don’t know if any of those 41 subsequently went into honors the next year. But, what I do know is: if there were 41 student denied honors access (with race playing a big factor) in 2015, there is a strong likelihood or maybe a certainty there’s another 41 or more coming-up this year.
There is something patently unfair about this situation. I know these kids didn’t do anything to have this happen to them. They didn’t score so poorly on tests or misbehave, as so often they’re tagged as being disruptive, discipline problems. What this speaks to is apathy, with enough blame to go around. This apathy simply means I am not going to invest time into this situation because it doesn’t affect me or pay off for me.
I’m not sure if that last statement is one of fact because it does affect everybody that allows this to continue. I’ve been on groups where one of the goals was to address these biases in the school. I’ve heard school officials skip over that and seemingly paint a rosy picture of building a new future.
Well 2015 was not such a bright new future for the Calvert 41, as they likely faced being considered not-worthy of more challenging curriculum by not being placed in last year’s honors classes. And, certainly they will have missed the academic rigor of last year’s more challenging coursework. So, that leaves them missing the development at the lower grade and facing more rigorous coursework at the higher grade. It is no wonder they don’t want to take honors courses, particularly if it’s been said “you’re not ready.”
And, if our school officials want to increase their honors and AP numbers, they can just assigned unprepared kids into more honors classes, even without the prep. I don’t understand. If I’m not being prepared at an early age, then how am I to be prepared later when the opportunity for development has passed.
In Calvert, the 2015 African American elementary enrollment in honors classes was one-half of its demographic- six percent versus a population demographic of 13 percent. So, in 2015, we sent less than half of our potential AA elementary school population to the next grade with honor rigors, while the White population sent nearly 85 percent of their kids to honors courses,and they are 72 percent of the population.
Doesn’t something about this look strange? Well for the Calvert 41, they just get lost in the numbers. We don’t know why or where they are now. If they hadn’t been denied honors in the fourth and fifth grade math, it likely they would have gone onto honors in the next grade. And, if they went onto honors then, it’s quite likely they would have gone onto honors in the next grade, until reaching the Algebra I and II courses which are gatekeepers for higher math. Some say Algebra II is also the gatekeeper for college and more rewarding technical careers.
That’s all for now, but I wish to track the Calvert 41 cohort into the upcoming years to see if they overcome the setback.