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Despite Progress At Montgomery County Schools, Black Students Still Struggle

Monday's annual "State of the Schools" address from Montgomery County Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr touted the accomplishments of students and laid out a rosy picture for the future of schools. Still, not everything in the speech was upbeat.

Starr started giving the speech last year, and has turned it into an event at Strathmore Music Hall featuring musical performances from students from Walter Johnson High singing the theme from last year's James Bond move "Skyfall."

And while most of Starr's speech focused on how the sky was not falling in the school system, not all of it painted a pretty picture.

One statistic in particular alarmed many: "Students of color are far more likely to be suspended than their white and Asian classmates. African-American students make up 21-percent of our student enrollment, but account for 54 percent of all non-mandatory suspensions," said Starr.

That left African-American county leaders like Board of Education President Christopher Barclay shaking their heads — but determined to fix it. "School's gotta be relevant. The more relevant it is, the more invested I am as a student to be in that classroom," he said.

"It means we have an awful lot of work here. But the message... I think was one that resonates. To get those kids earlier, make sure they are taught at the levels they need to be as early as 3rd grade," said County Executive Isiah Leggett.

In his speech, Dr. Starr noted a child's reading ability at the end of 3rd grade is the first of five milestones the district will use to measure academic progress in a student.

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