Six principles for school equity in next year’s MCPS operating budget

Each spring, the Board of Education crafts its operating budget for the following school year, which is then submitted to the County Council for approval in May. Here’s our testimony for the 2015-2016 operating budget, which One Montgomery’s Dan Reed delivered to the Board of Education last month:

Good evening. My name is Dan Reed and I live in Silver Spring. I’m a 2005 graduate of James Hubert Blake High School and my brother is a current student at Paint Branch High School. I’m here on behalf of One Montgomery, a new organization of parents, community members, and educators coming together to better understand, support and improve Montgomery County
Public Schools.

We are deeply concerned about the growing inequality of our school system, which is turning MCPS into a system of haves- and have-nots. While I’m a proud product of MCPS, I’ve seen both firsthand and through the experiences of my brother that not all students in this school system are receiving what they need to excel, particularly minority, immigrant, or low-income students. A strong, equitable school system is the foundation of Montgomery County’s success, and school quality, whether real or perceived, effects everything from student performance to property values and the strength of our county’s economy.

As a new, volunteer organization, we don’t have the resources to give this budget the careful review and inspection it deserves. But we have outlined a set of six principles for closing the achievement gap that we urge you to consider as you develop the budget. For us, the issue is less about increasing the budget than it is ensuring that MCPS has the correct priorities and delivers the resources to where the needs are greatest, not simply to the people with the loudest voices.

These principles are:

EQUITY. Allocate resources according to educational load to ensure that each child receives instruction and supports according to her needs in order to receive a world-class education.

LEADERSHIP. Competent and effective leadership at all levels, with commitment to accountability, transparency and results.

ACCESS. Ensure that all students are able to access the excellent opportunities MCPS has to offer, according to ability and desire, and are actively recruited and encouraged to achieve.

DIVERSITY. Promote hiring practices so that professional staffing reflects student population.

COMMUNITY. Stimulate (support) use of school facilities as a center of community activities.

PARTNERSHIP. Actively seek to establish and maintain partnerships with businesses and non-profits for the benefit of students.

We urge you to consider these principles as you craft the budget. For many families, including my own, Montgomery County Public Schools have long offered the promise of a better future for our kids and for our county. It’s time that we ensure that this promise is delivered to everyone in Montgomery County. Thank you for your time.


Here are 13 questions for candidates to be the next MCPS superintendent

Attacking the Achievement Gap

MCPS is launching a national search for a new superintendent after Dr. Josh Starr stepped down last week. What kind of superintendent can lead MCPS in solving the challenges our school system faces? We sent the following letter to the Board of Education with questions we’d like them ask of candidates for superintendent, based on our six principles for school equity:

One Montgomery is a community organization focused on promoting equity in education for all students based on our belief that strong schools create strong communities resulting in a stronger local economy.

As you explore your options in hiring the next MCPS superintendent, we encourage you to carefully consider the following questions that align with One Montgomery’s six principles:

Equity: What is the candidate’s experience in leading a large, diverse school system that has many low-income and high need students that are geographically segregated, resulting (as the Office of Legislative Oversight says) in an “us vs. them debate”? How was success measured?

How would the candidate lead existing MCPS staff to make changes in systems, processes and approaches to close opportunity gaps, going beyond words to measurable actions?

What is the best formula for allocating resources to ensure equity? Can the candidate provide specific examples of resource reallocation that achieved positive impact?

Leadership: What is the candidate’s plan for ensuring that all schools, but especially high-needs schools have skilled, effective leadership?

How does the candidate envision being able to provide necessary resources to address needs of under-performing students without negatively impacting high-performing students?

What is the candidate’s experience in managing a large organization with disparate, conflicting perspectives (i.e, principal, executive administration, unions, etc.)?

Access: What does the candidate believe are the value of mentoring and student support programs such as Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID) in improving student achievement? Is he or she willing to make the investments necessary in this area?

Diversity: How will the candidate work to modify professional staffing to more closely reflect changing diversity of the county’s population, ensure greater language capabilities in schools to address community needs and prepare all students to be successful global citizens?

Community: How does candidate believe power and decision-making should be balanced between the local school communities and central MCPS administration? Can he or she speak from personal experience to different models and their results? How much autonomy should be given to individual school principals and the local community?

What is the candidate’s experience with community engagement and how would he or she involve parents and community members to understand local needs and support locally developed programs, policies and structures to improve student achievement and expand opportunity?

What is candidate’s commitment to accountability, transparency and results? Would candidate support the hiring of an inspector general for the school district?

Partnership: What is the candidate’s view on the correct balance between respecting teachers’ autonomy and professionalism vs. directed lesson plans, curriculum delivery and assessment timelines?

How would the candidate leverage untapped potential of partnerships with local business, government and community resources for the benefit of all students?

For each candidate, we urge that you look beyond his or her stated philosophy to find concrete examples from past work experience that show the candidate’s commitment to addressing issues of equity in education and proven leadership in achieving significant results.

Signed,

One Montgomery core members:
Sharon Brown
Therese Gibson
Kathleen Indart
Will Jawando
Dan Reed
Michael Robinson
Frederick Stichnoth
Cori Vanchieri
Edward Wetzlar