"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.