On May 29, the last members of Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s Quality Education in Science and Technology (QUEST) program received diplomas marking the end of one of Prince George’s County Public Schools’ most successful programs.

The QUEST program was started as a way of giving out-of-district African-American boys an extra opportunity to be a part of Roosevelt’s science and tech program. After years of sustained success, the program is ending at Roosevelt because Prince George’s Public School officials say they can duplicate program at other schools throughout the county.

“It was a good program, no doubt about that, so we’re going to miss the program,” said Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP. “Any program involving upward mobility of minorities is a good thing.

The QUEST program began 21 years ago with the hopes of giving minority students a second chance to get placement into the school’s famed science and technology program. The rigorous four-year program called for students to complete 28 credits in specific mathematics, pre-engineering, technology, science, and research courses. Students had to be enrolled in seven classes per day throughout the entire four years and in order to complete the program, students had to complete a research project similar to a master’s thesis.

The result is an academic powerhouse that led the Greenbelt school to win a silver medal from {U.S. News and World Report} as one of the best high schools in the country.

The QUEST program was unique to Roosevelt, but in its dissolution has created opportunities to expand science and technology programs at C.H. Flowers High and Oxon Hill High.

Prince George’s Public Schools officials say the system now has more opportunities for all of its students to be involved in the program rendering the continuation of the QUEST program obsolete. Some say that while ending the program at Roosevelt could rub the wrong way, it could prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Specifically, Ross pointed to a case where former Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast earmarked underperforming schools for more resources. The outcome there was a drastic increase in student performance and a decrease in the achievement gap among Asian-American students and Black and Latino students. Ross says if that’s the motive here, then he supports the measure 100 percent.
“After a few years that started paying huge dividends,” Ross said when discussing that measure. “So if that’s the rationale for doing this then I think it’s a good thing. If it works then keep it here for the long haul.”

Not everyone is buying that. Roosevelt principal Reginald McNeill declined comment to the AFRO, but told the {Washington Post} that parents were constantly contacting him trying to get their kids into the program.

“I constantly get calls from parents asking, ‘Is there any way I can get my child in?’ ” McNeill said. “My wife got a call the other day from a young man who went through the program, and he wants to know how his younger sister can come to Roosevelt. They live in New Carrollton or Lanham. I had to let them know she can’t. . . . It’s difficult to hear parents pleading, and there’s nothing I can do to assist them.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO