Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Elder Has Spoken. . .

. . .Will we listen, and more importantly will we respond?

On December 10th one of my elders, (and dare I say-- a community elder), gave testimony before the Montgomery County Board of Education.  Her comments were directed at the persistent achievement (opportunity) gap that has persisted for generations in our county.  She correctly and courageously argues that the problem of the gap is indeed a problem of race.  To the extent that we are willing and able to engage this tough but necessary conversation (and action), we will be able to resolve this and other affronts to human and community potential.

Thank you Mother Odessa Shannon for saying so!  Your comments and your struggle will not go in vain. A growing nation stands in solidarity with you.  Her testimony is below:


December 10, 2013

Members of the Board:

I am Odessa Shannon, representing the 1977 II Action Group.  Two minutes does not allow enough time to express my continuing concern about the academic achievement gap, especially that of black boys, in MCPS.

With the necessary and increased focus on acclimating and training staff for the new standards, core curriculum and subjective student assessments, the achievement gap of black children could substantially widen.

I am aware that policies have been developed, resources allocated and programs initiated to close the gap.  But they have not achieved the expected results, either because of incomplete implementation, staff expectations, lack of monitoring and accountability, or by not addressing what I believe to be a root problem.

It is time to address the elephant in the room: race, as evidenced by and reflected in the disproportionate number of black children suspended, placed  in Special Ed,  warehoused in  Alternative schools,  and, of course ,the achievement gap.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, there are persons who, despite   extraordinary evidence to the contrary, are still mired in and influenced by the deplorable US history and legacy of slavery, which denigrated and stereotyped black persons.

I am imploring the Board to look seriously at this situation.  Reinstate previously mandated training that addressed the issue of race; reinstate the Board appointed Citizen Monitoring Committee which was eliminated by a previous Board; encourage all employees to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test, which will reveal unrecognized, ingrained or repressed biases. And finally, make use of the rich and knowledgeable resources available in our region, especially Howard University, instead of bringing in out of state consultants whose comparability with and understanding of our system and issues seem at best superficial. 
Unless race becomes a subject of substantive discussion, the future of our black children will be compromised. We will have a tsunami of citizens who have been marginalized, ignored, undereducated, unprepared for the future, and unable to make a significant contribution to society.


You, the Board, have the authority and the responsibility to acknowledge and seriously discuss the issue of race as it is impacting black student performance in MCPS. I urge you to do so expeditiously, with specific goals, objectives, desired outcomes, close monitoring and feedback followed by action.   Thank you for your attention.