Post by Kimberly Rusnak, Project Director for the Children's Opportunity Fund
“Everyone wins if we can tackle the achievement gap,” said Diego Uriburu, the Executive Director of Identity and a key leader in the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence.
As I sat in the auditorium at Gaithersburg High School for the Black and Brown Forum for Educational Equity and Excellence on the night of October 15, I was amazed by the power and energy in the room. The Black and Brown Coalition—a group of nonprofit partners led by Identity, a Montgomery County nonprofit serving Latino youth and families, and the NAACP of Montgomery County — shared moving data points, told stories, and led the audience to understand how black and brown children do not have access to the same opportunities as their peers.
Their data came from the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, where educators commissioned a resource study that showed three dramatic inequities:
Black and Latino students in MCPS from low-income families are 1.5 times more likely to have a novice teacher than their peers.
Lower-income elementary and middle schools are much more likely to attend schools led by novice principals. In Title 1 elementary schools, more than half of the principals have less than 3 years of experience in MCPS, and more than 60% of low-income middle schools have a novice principal.
Black and Latino students are less likely to have access to the most rigorous curriculum than their peers.
If you were not at the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence forum yesterday, this was the clearest evidence of opportunity gap faced by minority students who are routinely tracked low in math. @naacp_pcmd @IdentityYouthMD pic.twitter.com/PkrXhu9rcS— Sunil Dasgupta (@sunildasgupta4) October 16, 2019
In addition to these powerful statistics, students shared stories about how this inequality affected their own educational experiences. Giankarlo Vera, an MCPS graduate, shared how he once dreamed of becoming a doctor. Despite an excellent GPA in honors classes, none of the counselors ever encouraged him to look at four-year universities or provided guidance on how to pursue his dream. He reflected,
“Where was all the support that I was promised when I enrolled in MCPS schools?”
Education is a key factor that impacts all aspects of life. A great education can pull an individual out of poverty. It is especially important in Montgomery County, a county with a reputation for an excellent school system, that everyone benefits.
One especially moving moment occurred when Ruby Rubens, a long-time education activist, shared that a group of concerned parents named 1977 made similar requests of MCPS 42 years ago. Despite a positive response from the administration at the time, not much has improved.
“Even when Black and Latino students from low-income families have the SAME score at the end of 6th grade as their peers, they are less likely to be enrolled in Algebra 1 in 7th grade”. Y’all this is us in 2019!— Nicolle Grayson (@nyckieg) October 16, 2019
The time to act is now. Approximately 1,000 people attended the event on a Tuesday night – including elected officials, community organizations, parents, students, educators, and other groups of concerned citizens. They sent a message, loud and clear, that the Montgomery County community cares about equity in education.
I was proud to participate and represent the Children’s Opportunity Fund to pledge our support to strengthen education for all Montgomery County students. The Children’s Opportunity Fund is a proud partner, planner, and supporter of the Coalition’s work, including this forum. Through the Children’s Opportunity Fund, we will continue to invest in evidence-informed solutions to drive our community toward better outcomes for all. We recognize that no one person or organization can do this work alone. There is power in numbers.
We can no longer stand idly by and wait for others to get this right. We need to get loud. We need to push. We need to influence and demand positive change. The Children’s Opportunity Fund is ready to catalyze this change. In partnership with the Black and Brown Coalition, the Children’s Opportunity Fund will continue working to amplify community voice and ensure that county officials understand the importance of closing the achievement gap for all students in Montgomery County.
If you have questions or would like to support with the Children’s Opportunity Fund, please contact Kimberly Rusnak, Project Director for the Children's Opportunity Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org.