MCPS Board of Education President Chris Barclay and County Councilmember George Leventhal led a discussion about education issues at the District 20 Breakfast Club in Silver Spring last month. Barclay said that Montgomery County must have a serious “conversation” about the achievement gap and allocating scarce resources to meet students’ growing needs. But is he, the school board, and the community as a whole ready to do it? One Montgomery’s Fred Stichnoth offers this recap of the meeting.
In his brief opening remarks, Mr. Barclay addressed growth and demographic change, resources and the achievement gap. The student population has grown rapidly, particularly the numbers of ESOL and FARMS students. Our challenge is how to focus on them. (Mr. Barclay made referred to old discussions of the “educational load at Blair.”) MCPS is not growing in resources. Mr. Barclay does not know of anyone who has solved the achievement gap problem. Solutions include quality and caring teachers. Mr. Barclay made an unconnected reference to “middle class white women.” (He made the same reference at the Paint Branch Legislative Forum. Leadership by middle class white women prompted him to become a “PTA crasher” and to assert that “my child is as valuable as your child.”)
Mr. Barclay referred to disproportionate suspension of students of color, and teachers’ lack of facility in controlling behavior through lesser means. Black students in AP classes may experience lack of teacher respect. There is no way that MCPS “can do this alone.” We must “redefine the conversation” so that all students can be successful. The Kennedy Cluster project, Linkages to Learning and wellness centers allow us to “deal with kids at a different level” – to deal with the whole person.
He referred to the Maintenance of Effort law and the “finite County pie”: we must figure out together, as a community, how to give students the resources they need to survive. We must have a “serious conversation” about how to fund the needs of FARMS students.
A questioner mentioned Superintendent Dr. Starr’s reference to “social justice” and asked how the Board of Education was acting on this. She also asked about the drop in the number of white students. Mr. Barclay said that the Board had struggled over its Core Values, in order to make success more attainable for all. (The particularly relevant Core Value commits MCPS to “distribute resources as necessary to provide extra supports and interventions so all students can achieve….”) We must put resources where they are needed; the Board had committed to this “more than 10 years ago” (an apparent reference to Policy ACD—Quality Integrated Education). As evidence of MCPS’ commitment, Mr. Barclay cited the Innovation Schools and Intervention Schools pilot programs. MCPS must improve its Alternative Schools program. Mr. Barclay acknowledged a “significant drop” in the number of white students, but said “I couldn’t tell you why—I am not a demographer.”