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Kennedy High School Highlighted in Achievement Gap Discussion

The Wheaton high school principal spoke before the Montgomery County Board of Education last Tuesday about efforts to close the achievement gap.

"Frustration." That's the first word that comes to Dr. Eric Minus's mind when he thinks about the achievement gap--the disparity in academic successes between white or Asian students and African American or Latino students.

Minus is the principal at John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton, a school where 84 percent of the students are African American or Latino, he said.

Speaking before the Montgomery County Board of Education on Feb. 12, Minus shared his school's approach, which is to emphasize ninth grade students.

Minus has assembled a "Destination Graduation" team that includes teachers, administrators and counselors focused on helping ninth grade students succeed. The school is also working with a nonprofit that conducted home visits for 60 students in the fall, he said. Furthermore, the school did individual interviews with each one of its ninth grade students and took them on a day trip to Hood College, he said.

School board members commended Minus and his strategy, and board member Patricia O'Neill asked Minus what would be on his "wish list" for closing the achievement gap. His response? More focus on pre-k and elementary school students from a social-emotional perspective. 

By the time these students reach high school, he said, entrenched behavior problems can be difficult to reverse. "We're struggling with how these kids are coming to us," he said.

Margarete Levy February 20, 2013 at 10:12 PM
I applaud Dr. Minus' efforts to increase student achievements at Kennedy HS. The school had it's ups & downs.It takes a leader w/vision for success, & a plan for student, family, and community motivation,to be able to achieve those goals. My husband & I have been actively involved in the history of the school, since the '80s. Our son, Jonathan,was Class of '89, & made the most of his time at Kennedy, despite illness. In his memory, we got speakers to the school (such as US astronauts Katherine Sullivan, & Ron Parise), created & ran a Medieval fair fundraiser in'95, got Star Trek writer, Howard Weinstein to present a program on how Star Trek relates to Science, arranged that the school received one of the FIRST weather stations in the Greater Washington Area, awarded an annual recognition for a student that, despite hardship, achieved a good way to live life (the Jonathan Noah Levy Carpe Diem Award). The school renamed their media center , to Jonathan N Levy Media Center, we donated hundreds of books, more hundreds that we solicited from writers Jonathan knew, & their publishers,to add to the books for the students. We can only plead that other community members, parents, former students, feeder schools, & local business, join in and be part of the team that helps our Kennedy students become great achievers. Please contact Dr. Minus, to let him know how you can contribute. Our students are worth it.Our children are worth it. All children are OUR children.Thanks
MichelleKGross February 21, 2013 at 01:41 PM
http://jonathancarpediem.blogspot.com/ Mission: To give Jonathan Levy a voice that still proclaims his philosphy and the name of the Kennedy High School award in his memory "Carpe Diem." Margarete--Please contact me about updating the scholarship announcement web-site that I set up for you. -- MichelleKGross
Frank Galton February 25, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Kudos to this principal! He is right to focus on the social and moral deficits of black and Hispanic children, rather than their cognitive deficits. Research, especially on early childhood education, show that the social and moral deficits are more remediable through interventions than the cognitive ones. We can't raise the low IQ's of these children, but that doesn't mean that the battle is lost. IQ is only part, albeit a big part, of the story of scholastic achievement. Non-cognitive character skills -- such as honesty, consideration for others, perseverance, and self-control -- also play a determining role in whether black and Hispanic children will graduate from school and go on to steady employment -- or end up in prison or on welfare with many out-of-wedlock children. The non-cognitive skills are much more teachable -- and much more malleable if the intervention begins early.

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