Monday, February 28, 2011

Demanding change

Three powerful voices spoke out against labeling at tonight's jam-packed Board of Education meeting. Walt Whitman counselor Jennifer Higgins, Montgomery Blair student Kirstyn Ross-Roach, and Eastern Middle School parent Nora Cartland all testified to the damaging effects of labeling in our schools.

Higgins spoke about how she struggles to work with students who don't believe in themselves after having their self-esteem cut down by years of labeling and tracking. Even when they've proven that they can be successful in upper-level classes, students (and their parents!) have often internalized the years of messaging that they don't measure up.

Cartland shared from her experiences as a mother of two daughters in the MCPS system. Among other concerns, she drove home the way our system of labeling reinforces negative racial stereotypes that students of color aren't as smart as their white peers.

Finally, Ross-Roach offered her personal experiences as a student who didn't quite fit the mold of a "Gifted" student, and consequently missed out on the opportunity for a challenging and engaging academic experience.

These testimonies are the most recent addition to the series of stories and appeals brought before the Board over the past three months. Teachers, community members and alumni have already stepped forward to share their piece.

Also in attendance tonight was a tremendous showing of support for the hands-on, vocational programs at Thomas Edison High School. Their unique curriculum provides many students who might have otherwise fallen though the cracks a chance to rediscover school as a place where they can be successful. Many in attendance were curious and interested in the No Labels campaign.

Tonight certainly offered a powerful opportunity to bear witness to the community support behind creative, innovative instruction that provides our students with the equitable, empowering and high-quality education they deserve.

Video of the testimony will be posted on the Board of Education website.

Above: No Labels coalition members show their support at the Board of Education meeting. From left to right: Ed Hsu, Nafissatou Rouzaud, Kirstyn Ross-Roach, Jennifer Higgins, George Vlasits, and Mandy Xu.

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