Every year, hundreds of middle and high school students around MCPS receive a life-changing letter: they got accepted to a magnet program of their choice. Though this program’s traditional purpose has been to find the most academically talented students of each grade, it has recently been undergoing some major changes to its admission process, such as adding race as a determining factor in gifted and talented and magnet admissions. Despite the promised improvement and diversity of these changes, these programs will detriment the quality of the magnet and gifted and talented programs revert back to its previous admission methods.
Race based programs often hurt Asian Americans the most. According to the Washington Post, Asian American students make up 14.2 percent of the students in the Montgomery County Public School system, while they consist of 34 percent of the county’s magnet programs. If a race based or quota program was implemented, the amount of Asian American students would be cut by two-thirds, removing the opportunity of a lifetime from over half of the Asian students, which will also amplify the discontent and frustration felt by Asian American community.
Though race-based programs are not the best solution to racial inequity in Montgomery County’s magnet programs, there are still many alternatives that promote the same values while not disadvantaging another group of minorities. One of the most promising examples is using location and income as a factor in magnet and gifted and talented admissions.
Students have no control over where they live and what income their parents earn, and lower income families tend to live in school districts with less funding and less qualified teachers. As a result, they tend to get a worse education and less opportunities than their counterparts in more well-funded schools. By taking location and income into account, it will benefit students who are in greater need of a better education, and it will also combat the lack of African Americans and Hispanics in the programs.
Diversity is extremely important and it helps create a future generation of tolerant and well-rounded individuals. However, it should not overshadow magnet programs’ original purpose: to provide a more advanced curriculum for academically advanced students. There are countless better alternatives to race based programs, but its foremost priority is to be merit based.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Ashley Ye of Richard Montgomery High School.