FEI supports evidence-based solutions and strongly encourages transparency
Members of HoCo FEI walked alongside thousands of parents and students at the September 14 walk outside the Mall in Columbia. Photo credit: Vipin Sahijwani, President of HoCo FEI
In response to Superintendent Michael Martirano’s Proposed Attendance Area Adjustment Plan, a widely diverse coalition is taking action to educate the community in the best interest of students – HoCo Families for Education Improvement (FEI). The quickly growing organization believes the superintendent’s plan, while well-intentioned, is ill-informed, will not improve the achievement gap in Howard County Public Schools, and may actually harm the very children the County is aiming to help.
“We support addressing overcrowding. We reject Superintendent Michael Martirano’s 2019 Proposed Area Adjustment Plan. A “No” vote is necessary on November 21, 2019 given the failed research and flawed public policy behind the superintendent’s plan, which, based on published, credible research, may cause significant harm to the most vulnerable children and their families,” explains Hemant Sharma, M.D., M.H.S., nationally-renowned pediatrician. Dr. Sharma is a lifelong Howard County resident and who cares deeply about the wellbeing of the County’s students, and whose research focuses on racial and socioeconomic health disparities.
A false narrative has been pushed that Howard County schools are the most segregated in the state. In fact, according to the Maryland Equity Project of the University of Maryland, Howard County is the most integrated school district in the region. HoCo FEI believes achievement gaps exist in Howard County Public Schools by race and socioeconomic status, DESPITE being the most integrated school district in the region. However, a misguided effort focusing on “integrating” an already integrated school system will completely miss the root causes of the opportunity gap and potentially harm children and their families.
Despite the Superintendent’s claims of “decades of research” supporting socioeconomic integration as a mechanism to address the achievement gap, according to an August 26, 2019 study published by Sarah A. Cordes, PhD, “A Reality Check on the Benefits of Economic Integration” of FutureEd at Georgetown University, “It’s not clear from the research available today that socioeconomic integration alone would produce the hoped-for gains on the academic side of the integration equation. The research on the effects of socioeconomic integration, including studies frequently cited by the strategy’s proponents, is inconclusive.”
Misguided attempts to address the opportunity gap through socioeconomic integration, without any understanding of its root causes, may pose significant harm to low-income students. A study of a nationally representative sample of 1,100 students by Robert Crosnoe, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin found that low-income students who attended higher income schools performed no better academically, had a slower progression through math and science courses, and had worse psychosocial outcomes.
In a study supported by the Center for Poverty at UC Davis, a Harvard researcher found that redistricting can “hurt already disadvantaged students and communities. Parents whose main mode of transportation was either walking or the bus system expressed concern about their future ability to reach their child’s school in the event of an emergency… Many parents felt the increased commute would also prevent them from being actively involved at the school, or from enrolling their children in after-school activities.”
The 2019 HCPSS Equity Report, itself, suggests negative impact of the proposed plan by removing low-income students from their familial and neighborhood supports and increasing geographic and transportation barriers to beyond school opportunities, both of which are correlated in HCPSS data with higher graduation rates.
“We firmly believe additional time is needed to fully analyze evidence-based solutions that directly addresses closing the achievement gap,” says Dr. Sharma. “And, we want to be part of the solution. The bottom line, a transparent inclusive process is needed to ensure our elected leaders get it right, the first time. Too many young, impressionable lives are in the balance.”
The organization urges families to take action and advocate for the Howard County Board of Education to vote “No” to the superintendent’s plan on November 21, and take the time to develop an inclusive, evidence-based plan that benefits Howard County’s young people.
HoCo FEI is a growing, several thousand-member diverse community coalition whose members span all regions of Howard County. The nonprofit provides advocacy resources for concerned Howard County residents, which are available publicly at hoco-fei.org. HoCo FEI is also actively involved in helping parents and students deliver testimony during the upcoming public hearings and events. FEI members will be available for interview while participating in peaceful protesting alongside independent organizers in opposition of the superintendent’s plan at the upcoming Department of Education hearings on September 17, September 24 and September 26 at 10910 Clarksville Pike in Ellicott City.
About HoCo Families for Education Improvement
Howard County Families for Education Improvement is a diverse, broad-based community coalition whose members span all regions of Howard County. Our sound alignment and strong unified voice stems from the core belief that every student in Howard County deserves an outstanding education. For more information, visit https://hoco-fei.org. I