It’s time to make MCPS choice programs more equitable, too

As Montgomery County’s schools resegregate by race and class, special “choice programs” (including magnets, language immersion programs, and the Northeast and Downcounty consortia) designed to create advanced learning opportunities and integrate schools aren’t working. That’s the message from a report MCPS released earlier this year, and it’s time for school officials to start making our choice programs more equitable. Here’s our full response:

One Montgomery encourages MCPS’ ongoing evaluation of its gifted and talented, consortia, and language immersion programs and their conformity with the school system’s Core Values. These programs are afflicted with access and equity problems, as noted in the MCPS Choice study report.

Montgomery County citizens have tolerated a system that exacerbates the achievement gap by offering to only some of our County students extraordinary programs and an excellent K-12 education. The remaining students, segregated by MCPS’ residence-based school assignment policy, are left with a separate and unequal education. Not only are those segregated students, families and neighborhoods injured, but the whole County suffers.

The County’s future is impaired when the public school system fails to prepare all County students to be productive members of our community. Instead of launching these students, college- and career-ready, to higher education or skilled careers to eventually participate as County taxpayers with stable, thriving families, too many of our students are consigned by failed MCPS education to struggle to find gainful employment or to pay for remedial classes to learn what they should have mastered in the public education system.

The data and analyses contained in the MCPS Choice Study make clear that MCPS is not serving all students equitably. The programs are too limited, information is available preferentially to parents who know how to go find it, and application processes are cumbersome, set up—whether intentional or not—to leave certain students out. As a result, students have very different educational opportunities and experiences within the same school system, and sometimes within the same school.

MCPS gives white and high SES students priority access to these special academic programs and minority and underserved students are left out. We ask: what child would not benefit from

  1. engaging, inquiry-based curricula
  2. mastery of a second language beginning in kindergarten
  3. highly-trained teaching staff
  4. exploration via high-impact field trips, and
  5. participating in regional and national competitions?

Why are these outstanding opportunities only available to a small segment of the student population?

One of the reasons for this disparity is that politics drive decision-making about education, which rewards the “squeaky wheels” of politically-savvy, well-connected and often affluent parents- those families whose children already have distinct education advantages. We intend to add another voice to the conversation, perhaps one that has not been heard from . One Montgomery supports MCPS’ professed Vision, “We inspire learning by providing the greatest public education to each and every student.” We are committed to holding the Board of Education and MCPS leadership accountable to deliver on this promise.

It is incumbent upon the community and public services, including MCPS, to make up for various disadvantages faced by students, and that this is the only way to truly address the achievement gap.  In accord with the Metis Report findings, One Montgomery Leadership Team member Will Jawando, recently filed a civil action with the Office for Civil Rights charging that “MCPS has violated and continues to violate Title VI with respect to the manner in which it administers recruitment and selection of students for admission to its highly-popular, language immersion programs at the elementary school level.” He specifically argues that his child and other children of color are excluded from MCPS special programs. This civil rights charge makes clear that it is time for MCPS to take action on the MCPS Choice Study findings.

MCPS needs to expand the capacity of choice programs, both to meet growth in enrollment and demand, and to improve outreach to underserved communities. Our school system is the cornerstone of our county’s success, and it only works when all students have access to a high-quality education regardless of race or background.

 


Join us and MCEF for a community forum on the superintendent search

mcef flyer

As Montgomery County Public Schools seeks a new superintendent, how can we ensure that high-needs schools will have the leadership they need? Join us and the Montgomery County Education Forum for “What the Next Superintendent Must Deliver,” a community forum on how the next superintendent of MCPS can best meet the needs of a growing and diverse school population. We’ll have speakers including both education experts and MCPS students and take a detailed look at our 13 questions that the Board of Education should consider in finding a new superintendent.

The meeting’s next Thursday, March 19 from 7 to 9:30pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at One Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring. For more information or to RSVP, check out our Facebook event page.


Join One Montgomery for a panel discussion on “Leadership and the Achievement Gap”

UPDATE: Please note our time change! Join us at 6:30pm for a meet-and-greet with refreshments, followed by the meeting itself from 7 to 9pm.

While Montgomery County Public Schools remains one of the nation’s top-ranked school systems, it faces new challenges, such as a growing population, an increasingly diverse student body with varied needs, and a persistent achievement gap across race and socioeconomic levels. These issues are especially significant in our local East County schools, affecting not only student performance but neighborhood stability and economic development.

To stay strong, our schools need strong leaders. But where will that leadership come from?

Join One Montgomery next month at the Silver Spring Civic Building for a community workshop on “Leadership and the Achievement Gap.” We’ll look at the issues facing the school system and have a panel discussion with:

  • Craig Rice, county councilmember and chair of the council’s education committee
  • Sonja Santelises, Education Trust Vice President for K-12 Policy and Practice
  • Dr. Maria Navarro, MCPS Chief Academic Officer

The meeting will be held Thursday, January 22 at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at One Veterans Place (intersection of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street). Doors will open at 6:30pm and the meeting will run from 7 to 9pm. Parking is free if you stay after 8pm. Click here for a printable flyer.

 

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Barclay calls for a “conversation” about MCPS achievement gap

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.

Summary

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.”

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