A Tale of Two Montgomerys

As Montgomery County Public Schools become more diverse, our school system is becoming a place of haves and have-nots. But what does that look like from a student’s perspective? We’re excited to share the following essay from Michael Robinson, a 2011 Springbrook graduate and a senior at Yale.

Also, don’t forget to join us for Thursday’s panel discussion on “Leadership and the Achievement Gap” with County Councilmember Craig Rice, Sonja Santelises from the Education Trust, and Dr. Maria Navarro, MCPS Chief Academic Officer. We’ll be at the Silver Spring Civic Building from 7 to 9pm with a meet-and-greet at 6:30pm. For more information, click here.

A Tale of Two Montgomerys
written by Michael Robinson

Springbrook High Sign

As I prepare to graduate from Yale University this spring, there is one peculiar thing that has stood out to me during my time here. Whenever I talk to my fellow graduates from Montgomery County Public Schools, there seem to be two competing views of what the school system is.

Some of my peers have described MCPS as comparable, if not better, to a private school education. I have heard these students talk about how their schools are full of resources, happy teachers, eager students, and an engaged community. Many of these same individuals attended the renowned “W” schools, such as Whitman or Winston Churchill, on the wealthier side of Montgomery County or the magnet program at Blair High School.

My experience with Montgomery County Schools has been, to say the least, slightly different. MCPS gave me the platform and the school environment, coming from a lower socioeconomic background, to have the credentials to get into a college like Yale. But for too many of my similar classmates at Springbrook High School and schools like it, this has not been the case.

Whereas some schools have test scores outpacing the national average, Springbrook struggles to meet these numbers. Whereas some schools have state-of-the-art facilities, my school seemed to be the last to get needed funds for facilities. Whereas some schools in MCPS seek to groom their students into the leaders of tomorrow, others have accepted what one MCPS employee in the Northeast Consortium described to me as the “Baltimorization” of certain schools. One need only revisit the problematic Washington Post article on the Springbrook football program (of which I was a two-year varsity starter) and its acceptance of the use of the ‘n-word’ to understand this point.

In short, many have accepted that the issues at high-needs schools, both academic and behavioral, are unsolvable.

These two opposing viewpoints are both very accurate. For some students in MCPS, schools offer a world-class education, a path for social mobility, or a way to succeed in life. But for other students, the schools are failing to educate them and to aid their success in life. For some, the schools reinforce socioeconomic and racial statistical predictions that they will fail.

How can citizens of our county accept these Two Montgomerys? The business of our schools is to supply educated and prepared students, regardless of race, income, or where they came from. As a first-generation Black American from a low socioeconomic background, I stand in the achievement gap between black and Latino and white and Asian students, and between the rich and the poor. And as this gap grows, my future – the county’s future – is at risk.

There has been much work on the achievement gap, but when is this problem actually going to be solved? Some may say that this is a matter of parents and student personal responsibility. They will point to my academic success and others like me as vindication of their viewpoint. But if one accepts that students from different races or economic statuses were born equal, there can be no disagreement that imbalances in academic achievement are caused by factors outside the individual.

Therefore, it is incumbent on the schools and our public officials to do more to remove these academic barriers—to remove skin color and residential areas as helpful predictors of whether you will pass an AP test, go to college, or simply graduate from high school.

Even if these matters do not invoke you to demand change and bold action, one must consider the economic outcome. If we fail to fix some of the problems in the ‘other’ MCPS, those problems will ripple into other parts of the county. House values may plummet, county budgets may unnecessarily skyrocket causing cuts in other programs, and the whole county may feel the effect. One way or another, these Two Montgomerys will become one.

There are two paths before us. One involves the continued failure of our school system to deal with the economic imperative of doing more for our underserved schools and communities, bringing the whole county down. The other path involves bold action by our system’s leaders and community members to deal with our difficult problems. We need to bring our underserved schools up to par with the entire system and accept nothing less. If MCPS employees, from the school level to the Board of Education level cannot deliver this, we must instate those that can.

The educational experience for a rich white child at Churchill High School should be no different than the experience for a poor black or Latino child at Springbrook High School. If we achieve this, then maybe, when kids from these schools convene at a college like Yale they will no longer tell a tale of Two Montgomerys, but One Montgomery.


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.

 

january workshop flyer january workshop flyer2


MCPS talks the talk about school equity, but do they walk the walk?

Montgomery County Public Schools prides itself on a commitment to “social justice,” working to ensure that disadvantaged students in the school system have the resources they need. But a new report and mapping tool from the Fordham Institute reveals that MCPS spends less on low-income students than other DC-area school systems.

Per-pupil spending at Springbrook High School. Image from the Fordham Institute EdExcellence mapping tool.

Per-pupil spending at Springbrook High School. Image from the Metro DC School Spending Explorer mapping tool.

MCPS spends an average of $13,613 per student at its high-poverty schools (defined as schools where more than 75% of students are on free or reduced lunch) compared to $13,821 in Fairfax County, $14,497 in DC, and $18,216 in Arlington. When low-poverty schools are compared to high-poverty schools, MCPS spends an average of 32% more per student at its high-poverty schools, compared to 34% in Fairfax and 81% in Arlington.

Researcher (and MCPS parent) Michael Petrilli says these figures speak volumes about the school system’s priorities. “These findings are more than a little embarrassing for Montgomery County, which prides itself on its commitment to “social justice,” and has an explicit policy of sending extra resources to its highest poverty schools. Yet it is bested by Fairfax County (by a little) and Arlington (by a lot),” he writes. “If Superintendent Josh Starr is an “equity warrior,” what does that make the folks across the river?”

Most of the county’s high-poverty students are concentrated at schools in East County. That’s one of the major contributors of school system’s persistent achievement gap between low- and high-income students, as schools tasked with educating students with the greatest needs don’t always have the resources they need. School spending isn’t a direct indicator of a student’s performance, but it determines everything from teacher compensation to the quality and availability of educational materials in the classroom. And if our schools aren’t getting the resources they need, they can’t prepare our students for success later in life.

Getting our students ready for the workforce is the theme of a summit Councilmember Nancy Navarro’s organizing tomorrow in White Oak called Ready for Tomorrow, with speakers including Dr. Starr and Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The event runs from 9 am to 2 pm at the White Oak Community Recreation Center, located at 1710 April Lane. To sign up or for more information, visit the event’s website.

The strength of our communities and our economy depends on having well-educated students. MCPS talks the talk, but can they walk the walk? That’s one question we hope to get the answer to tomorrow.


Meet your Board of Education candidates at events this fall

While the primary election feels like a distant memory, the general election is less than six weeks away! Because Board of Education races are non-partisan, there are still competitive races for all four seats on the ballot (Districts 1, 3, 5, and At-Large) this year.

You’ve seen our endorsements for Board of Education, and now here’s your chance to meet the candidates. This page will be updated throughout the fall with debates and candidate events as we hear about them.

Don’t forget: Election Day is Tuesday, November 4 from 7am to 8pm. Early voting runs from October 23 through October 30 at polling places around Montgomery County. And you’ve got until October 14 to register to vote.

Upcoming Board of Education Candidate Events

Saturday, October 11th: 8:45 – 11:00 a.m.,
Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Dr. Rockville
Sponsored by NAACP Parents Council

Tuesday, October 14th: 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.,
Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring
Sponsored by the Montgomery County Education Forum (MCEF)

Wednesday, October 15th: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
River Falls Club House 7915 Horseshoe Lane, Potomac, MD.
Sponsored by the Whitman High School Cluster

Tuesday, October 21: 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.,
Long Branch Community Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring
Sponsored by Safe Silver Spring and MCCPTA

Passed Events

Monday, September 29: The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations are hosting a candidate forum with both incumbents and challengers. The event starts at 6:30pm at the Carver Educational Services Center, located at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville.

Tuesday, September 30: The Montgomery County Taxpayers League, Montgomery County Civic Federation, and Parents Coalition of Montgomery County host a forum for challengers only. That event starts at 7:00pm at the Rockville Library, located at 21 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.

Saturday, October 5th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.,
Garrett Park Town Hall, 10814 Kenilworth Avenue, Garrett Park
Sponsored by Start School Later, Inc.

Wednesday, October 8th:7:30 – 9:00 p.m.,
Aspen Hill Library, 4407 Aspen Hill Road, Rockville
Sponsored by The Library Advisory Committee and the Strathmore-Bel Pre Civic Association


One way to help your local school this month: hand out One Montgomery sample ballots

one montgomery stickerIn order for all of Montgomery County’s students to get the resources they need, we need elected officials who are willing to advocate for our schools and demand accountability from Montgomery County Public Schools. That’s why One Montgomery has made endorsements for the 2014 primaries in select County Council, State Delegate, and Board of Education races.

The election is June 24, but from this Thursday, June 12, to next Thursday, June 19, there will be early voting at nine sites throughout Montgomery County. We’re looking for volunteers to hand out our sample ballot at the Silver Spring Civic Building and the Praisner Recreation Center in Burtonsville at the following times:

  • Thursday, June 12 from 6-8pm
  • Monday, June 16 from 6-8pm
  • Tuesday, June 17 from 6-8pm
  • Wednesday, June 18 from 6-8pm
  • Thursday, June 18 from 6-8pm

This is a great way to get the word out about candidates who are truly committed to making our schools stronger. If you’re willing to give even an hour of your time to help, please send us an email at onemontschools at gmail dot com.

 


Join One Montgomery at upcoming events around East County

Summer is coming, but One Montgomery isn’t taking a vacation. We hope to use the next few months as an opportunity to continue our conversation about the state of Montgomery County’s public schools and how we can ensure stronger, more equitable schools for everyone. Here’s what we have going on:

Tonight, we are cosponsoring a County Council District 5 candidates forum hosted by the Coalition of East County Citizens. Hear the candidates talk about their plans for education in District 5, which includes Burtonsville, White Oak, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park. That event will be at 7pm at the East County Regional Services Center, located at 3300 Briggs Chaney Road.

– On Saturday, we’ll be at IMPACT Silver Spring’s East County Family Reunion, a free event with food, games, a live DJ, and a basketball tournament. We’ll have a table and would love to meet you and hear your thoughts on Montgomery County schools. Join us from 11am to 3pm at the East County Community Center, located at 3310 Gateshead Manor Way.

-Help us elect candidates who are committed to school equity! We’re looking for volunteers to help pass out sample ballots at early voting centers. Early voting runs from June 12 to June 19 and we’d like to have people at the Silver Spring Civic Building and Fairland Recreation Center on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. Please email us at onemontschools at gmail dot com if you’re interested in helping.

– We won’t be having another community workshop until the fall, but until then, we’re interested in having smaller house meetings where we can get to know the people who are active in local school communities and talk about the issues facing our public schools. Would you be interested in attending or hosting one? Send an email to onemontschools at gmail dot com and let us know.


One Montgomery announces endorsements for the 2014 primary election

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2014

Contact: Dan Reed
ph: 202/256-7238
onemontschools@gmail.com

One Montgomery announces candidate endorsements for 2014 primary elections in Montgomery County, Maryland.

One Montgomery endorses the following local candidates for the June 24th primary elections in Montgomery County:

one montgomery stickerOrganized 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.

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 within the Northeast and Downcounty consortia. 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 programs for high-needs schools to ensure high-performing schools in all parts of the county. 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 year.

Candidates endorsed by One Montgomery have records of community and political activism that prove their commitment to closing the achievement gap. Legislative and council endorsements were made based on candidate questionnaires, interviews, and public statements. For school board endorsements, One Montgomery teamed with a Takoma Park education group to interview candidates.

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 onemontschools@gmail.com.

See our sample ballot below. Click here or on the ballot for a printable copy.

one montgomery ballot_front