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Maryland Panel Urges Strategies To Raise Black Male Achievement

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The Prince George's County, Md., school district should reduce class sizes, hire more black male teachers and administrators, and replace its "Eurocentric" curriculum with one that illustrates the experiences and culture of minorities and women, a community report recommends.

Released last month by the county's Advisory Committee on Black Male Achievement, the report argued that changes are necessary to reverse the longstanding trend in which black males are suspended and drop out in disproportionate numbers. Steps must also be taken to address the overrepresentation of black males in special-education classes, the report concluded.

The commission--composed of business, religious, and education leaders--was convened in December by Superintendent John A. Murphy to explore methods to boost performance by black males. Sixty-five percent of the 106,000-student school system is black.

But the panel's 10 recommendations could cost more than $100 million, and at least one county official said the county's $561-million education budget leaves little room for additional services.

"It's one thing to do a study and another thing to fund it, and that is going to be a problem," said Rebecca Reid, a spokesman for County Executive Parris N. Glendening.

The advisory panel found that, although black males make up 33 percent of the student body, they constitute 47 percent of all special-education placements.

Moreover, the report--titled "Black Male Achievement: From Peril to Promise"--said that, although black males make up 31 percent of the enrollment in the 12th grade, only 12 percent of the seniors taking calculus are black males.

By contrast, black males constitute 48 percent of the students taking algebra I in the 12th grade, a course college-bound students should complete at least by the end of the 10th grade, the report said.

The report also called for an increased emphasis on such classes as math, science, and English; an examination of the referral, assessment, and remedial strategies used in special-education programs; and an expansion in day-care and middle-school extracurricular programs.

In addition, the report said, the district should coordinate counseling programs for children from dysfunctional families; develop a database to better assess school needs and performance; establish a mentoring program; and extend the school year by one month for teachers so they can attend training programs, develop new programs, and study teaching strategies.--MP

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