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
- engaging, inquiry-based curricula
- mastery of a second language beginning in kindergarten
- highly-trained teaching staff
- exploration via high-impact field trips, and
- 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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2016
Contact: Dan Reed
One Montgomery endorses Sebastian Johnson for the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education at-large seat in the April 26 primary election.
Organized in 2013, One Montgomery is a grassroots organization of parents, teachers, and community members in Montgomery County that is dedicated to public school improvement as a means for creating a stronger community. The group seeks a school system committed to school equity, transparency, collaboration, and accountability.
As a recent MCPS student, a former student member of the Board, and a former teacher in a high-needs school, Sebastian brings new, much-needed perspective and dedication to the Board of Education. His story illustrates how strong schools can help close the achievement gap for disadvantaged students and help them excel. He has a keen understanding of the challenges our school system faces. He is willing to work with all parties, from parents to Board colleagues and MCPS leaders to the County Council and state leaders, to make sure that MCPS is equipped and accountable to help every student, regardless of background or zip code.
Candidates endorsed by One Montgomery have records of community and political activism that prove their commitment to closing the achievement gap. This endorsement was made based on candidate questionnaires, interviews, and public statements.
A recent report on school performance by Montgomery County’s Office of Legislative Oversight shows that the achievement gap in county schools has grown in recent years, particularly between schools in the Northeast and Downcounty consortia and the Upcounty and schools in the more affluent western side of the county. Because geographical boundaries almost always determine school assignments, school quality is closely tied to neighborhood stability and the health of our local economy.
As a result, Montgomery County Public Schools needs to dedicate adequate staffing and implement programs for high-needs schools to ensure high-performance by schools in all parts of the county. We endorse Sebastian Johnson because he understands these needs and can be expected to hold MCPS accountable to address them. One Montgomery has produced a set of recommendations for ways MCPS can do that, using feedback from community workshops and education forums it has organized or participated in over the past two years.
For further information on One Montgomery, visit its website or Facebook page. Follow One Montgomery on Twitter @onemontschools, or join One Montgomery’s listserv. One Montgomery can be contacted at email@example.com.
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.
One Montgomery core members:
A new report says that Montgomery County schools are becoming segregated by income, race, and ethnicity and that “white flight” is occurring in the system’s lowest-performing schools. But officials deny that it’s even happening.
This week, the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight released their findings on the achievement gap in Montgomery County Pubic Schools. Researchers note that low-income, black, and Latino students are still trailing their more affluent, white, and Asian peers, but even more so now that both groups are increasingly concentrated in different parts of the school system.
While MCPS as a whole is a majority-minority school system and has been for over a decade, most low-income, black, and Latino students attend one of 11 high schools, mostly in Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Gaithersburg. Meanwhile, higher-income students, as well as 80% of the school system’s white students and 67% of its Asian students, now cluster at schools on the western side of the county.
We are a group of concerned parents and local citizens coming together to better understand, support and improve our schools, especially those that are failing to meet the high academic standards for which Montgomery County has traditionally been well known.
Schools are the centerpiece of a thriving community and are directly linked to the development of our children into contributing members of our community. The success and perception of our schools also affects our property values, safety and local economic development.
We are committed to understanding why our schools are struggling and informing our neighbors; we will volunteer to help our schools, their students and families; we will seek additional support for our struggling schools from the school system, County government, and legislative leaders; and we will work in coalition with all who share our concern and commitment.
If you share our concerns and would like to help us work toward achieving high academic performance and quality schools for all students of Montgomery County, contact:Ed Wetzlar, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Fred Stichnoth, email@example.com.