CHARLES TOWN — During Monday evening’s Jefferson County Board of Education meeting, held via Zoom only, following the announcement of a protest rally against Critical Race Theory at the board office, members of the board approved the renaming of the controversial summer program titled “Black Math Genius.”
Following concerns raised by several members of the public, as well as at least one board member, the program that had been scheduled earlier this summer was placed on hold until further discussions could be had.
To address concerns and hear from members of the community, the school system hosted several equity forums geared toward “informing and revising Jefferson County Schools program objectives to address student academic performance for subgroups.”
Superintendent Bondy Gibson provided board members with a report on the forums, saying the topic was one of interest to a lot of people, including students, parents and staff.
Gibson explained again that the school system had looked at trend data over the last five years and determined student proficiency in math was at a low in the subgroup of Black students.
“Over time, our teachers have worked hard teaching ideas behind the math, not just memorization,” Gibson said. “They have had enormous gains from that, but looking at subgroups, not all benefit equally.”
According to Gibson, the school system has been looking at multiple data sets, including poverty, which shows that of the six percent Black population in the county, a significant percentage qualify for free lunch.
Staff reflective of the subgroup population was also looked at, Gibson said.
“Black students with one Black teacher by third grade get better grades,” Gibson said.
Gibson continued her presentation, saying that most of the people attending the forums agreed with the basic concepts of the Black Math Genius program.
“Most of the conflict or frustration or fear has been based on how it was communicated. I take responsibility for that,” Gibson said, mentioning the program does not replace any current math program in the school system, but is simply a supplemental program.
That program uses different teaching techniques, tying math concepts back to African American cultural references.
“But any student can benefit from this program,” Gibson said. “We inadvertently gave the message to some students that this program wasn’t for them. We need to be better stewards of getting that information out.”
At the conclusion of her program, Gibson indicated the program would now be renamed as the “Culturally Responsive Math Intervention Program” rather than Black Math Genius.
“We need to rename the program, so as not to disrespect any group,” she said.
The only board discussion, following Gibson’s presentation, was information provided by board member Donna Joy, who researched the data of Black students in the county and found that only one school, Jefferson High School, showed a high percentage of Black students who were not proficient in math.
“This one school, in particular, weighs down the numbers,” Joy said. “The data does not show that Black students overall are failing. I feel like you are racializing achievement and distracting from the true performance of students.”
No other board members showed concern over Joy’s findings or had any comment on the renaming of the controversial program.