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Achievement gap Events Montgomery County School equity

Students protest MCPS achievement gap in march on Rockville

March to Close the Gap Rally in Courthouse Square
Several hundred people came to march in protest of the achievement gap in Rockville yesterday.

Several hundred students, teachers and school administrators, parents, and local officials marched on Rockville yesterday in a call to close the growing achievement gap between white and Asian and black and Hispanic students in Montgomery County Public Schools.

The Minority Scholars Program, a student-driven initiative to close the achievement gap, began organizing the march several months ago. The group began at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda eight years ago as a way to reach out to minority students, and has since expanded to 10 other high schools in the county, including Northwood, Springbrook, and Wheaton. Organizers say the program has “data to support its success” in increasing the academic eligibility and honor roll placement of minority students.

About 400 people marched from the Carver Center, once the county’s black high school under segregation and now the MCPS central office, down Rockville Pike and North Washington Street. Students chanted and held signs with slogans like “Close the Gap,” as drivers honked their horns in approval. The march ended at Courthouse Square for a festive rally on the steps of the county courthouse with music and dancing.

Organizers hope the march will raise awareness about the achievement gap and spur the community to action. “For years, we have been watching and waiting and hoping and wishing for something to change,” said Mike Williams, a teacher at Walter Johnson who helped start the Minority Scholars Program.

Marchers on Rockville Pike as Dr. Starr (left) takes a photo.
Marchers on Rockville Pike as Dr. Starr (left) takes a photo.

Several MCPS and Montgomery County officials participated in the march and subsequent rally, including school board president Phil Kauffman and superintendent Joshua Starr, who tweeted selfies with the crowd and even briefly danced with MSP members on stage. “We care about you and we love you,” he said. “Everything we are doing is about how we can work harder to close the gap.”

Speakers during the rally made repeated comparisons to other youth movements in history, from the East Los Angeles Walkouts in 1968 to the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa. Tim Warner, Chief Engagement and Partnership Officer for MCPS, urged the students to offer their input and ideas. “You are the solution…you are what Montgomery County looks like today and you are our leaders,” he said. “You all need to tell us what to do.”

Student leader Gabi Bianchi called the march “the beginning of a revolution to close the achievement gap,” adding, “We have been heard.” She said the Minority Scholars Program will advocate for “institutional changes” at the federal, state, and county levels to give students and schools the resources they need to succeed.

That will be a challenge for the organization. School officials acknowledge that minority students are lagging their peers, and MCPS does have many good programs in place to help close the gap. But the achievement gap continues to grow and appears to be a direct result of de facto racial and socioeconomic segregation in MCPS.

Yet in recent months, Dr. Starr has both rejected a recent report from the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight about the achievement gap, while Starr and Kauffman both threatened to cut funding for additional programs to close the gap if the school system didn’t get a raise in their budget from the county. These actions really raise questions about the school system’s commitment.

Yesterday’s march was a great day for the Minority Scholars Project and for all of the hard-working students and staff who made it happen. But we all have to hold MCPS leaders accountable for their promises to listen to the community’s concerns and make the school system more equitable for all students.

Check out this slideshow of the march.

Categories
Achievement gap Events Montgomery County School equity

Students will march on Rockville to protest achievement gap this Sunday

Fed up with the growing gap in performance among minority students in Montgomery County Public Schools, members of the Minority Students Program, a student-driven initiative to close the achievement gap, will march in Rockville next Sunday. From their press release:

MSP March Flyer
Click for a larger version.

In a groundbreaking and historic move, on Sunday, April 27, members of MCPS’s Minority Scholars Program will march from MCPS headquarters to the steps of the Montgomery County District Court building in Rockville to raise awareness about the academic achievement gap among Black and Hispanic students that plagues our nation’s school systems.

Student leaders from the Minority Scholars Program have decided that the time is now to step up and truly address this most pressing issue,” said Michael Williams, one of the founders of MSP and history teacher at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.  “The march also will highlight the efforts and successes of MSP and garner support from citizens, businesses, politicians and other stakeholders.”

According to the Education Commission of the States—a non-partisan, non-advocacy organization, “Black and Hispanic students are much more likely than white students to fall behind in school and drop out, and much less likely to graduate from high school, acquire a college or advanced degree, or earn a middle-class living.”  The Commission attributes the disparity in academic achievement to “students’ racial and/or economic background, their parents’ education level, their access to high-quality preschool instruction, school funding, peer influences, teachers’ expectations, and curricular and instructional quality.”

MSP members, along with students, teachers, parents, community members and stakeholders from all over Montgomery County will take to the streets of Rockville on Sunday, April 27, from 1 to 3 p.m., to “March to Close the Gap.”  The march will originate at the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive and proceed south along Rockville Pike until Downtown Rockville.  The march will culminate at 27 Courthouse Square.  Among invited guests are Dr. Joshua Starr, Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools; Mr. Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive; and various County Council members. The culminating rally will feature Student leaders addressing the achievement gap at their schools and various student artistic performances.

The Minority Scholars Program was launched eight years ago as a student-driven initiative whose primary objective is to bring an end to the academic achievement gap among minority students in Montgomery County.  MSP has chapters at 10 high schools and membership continues to expand to additional schools.

It’s exciting that student leaders in MCPS are taking charge and pushing for a more equitable school system that can prepare all students, regardless of race or background, for success. For more information, visit the Minority Scholars Program’s website.

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Achievement gap School equity

Washington Post calls on MCPS to get serious about the achievement gap

Attacking the Achievement GapLast week, the Office of Legislative Oversight issued a report that Montgomery County Public Schools are increasingly becoming a system of haves and have-nots. In response, the Washington Post editorial board called on school officials and superintendent Joshua Starr to get serious about the achievement gap and make programs for disadvantaged students a priority:

The entrenchment of a two-tier system of have and have-not schools is troubling. Without a doubt, some demographic forces are beyond the control of school officials, and some demographic changes occurred faster than expected. And the achievement gap is neither new nor unique to Montgomery. But given the promising progress made in previous years in attacking the gap, particularly under the sustained focus of former superintendent Jerry Weast, the stagnation now is alarming.

Joshua P. Starr, who took over as superintendent from Mr. Weast in 2011, seems to have directed his efforts elsewhere — deemphasizing standardized tests, for example, and urging more “hopefulness” and innovation in education. He acknowledged to us that the system’s efforts in attacking the achievement gap have been akin to “treading water” in recent years, but he said that is not for lack of commitment or interest…

We hope Mr. Starr will recommit the system to this cause.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

Categories
Achievement gap Consortia Economic development Montgomery County School equity Uncategorized

Montgomery County schools are segregating, but Starr won’t admit it

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.

Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville. A new study says that Montgomery County schools are becoming segregated by class and race.

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.

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Achievement gap Budget Montgomery County School equity

High-needs students should be a priority regardless of MCPS’ budget

County Executive Ike Leggett’s $4.9 billion 2015 budget is out today. Included is a proposal to give MCPS $2.08 billion, an increase of $80 million from the previous year.

However, it’s still $15 million less than the school system asked for. In a letter to Leggett, Superintendent Joshua Starr and school board president Phil Kauffman say the difference between their request and his proposal would affect programs for high-needs students:

“Those funds were specifically targeted to benefit our most vulnerable students by, among other things, reducing class sizes in high-need high schools, improving services to English Language Learners, adding prekindergarten classes, expanding community partnerships that serve students and families, and hiring more counselors and student support staff.”

Over half of the school system’s low-income students are in the Northeast and Downcounty consortia and in a handful of Upcounty clusters, Gaithersburg, Seneca Valley, and Watkins Mill. These schools aren’t performing as well as those in more affluent parts of the county, because their students come with greater needs.

Closing the achievement gap between these schools and the rest of MCPS is integral to our school system’s and our county’s continued success. That means making programs to serve high-needs students a priority no matter what.

Some of the programs Dr. Starr has recommended to serve these schools sound promising. But MCPS already makes up nearly half of the county’s total budget, and our highest-need students shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip to raise the school system’s budget.

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Achievement gap Consortia Montgomery County School equity

East County and Downcounty students took fewer AP exams in 2013

Students in Montgomery County Public Schools made some gains on the Advanced Placement exams last year, which allow students to earn college credit. But in East County and Downcounty schools, test participation and scores have fallen, in some cases dramatically.

Northeast and Downcounty consortia students are taking fewer Advanced Placement exams.
Northeast and Downcounty consortia students are taking fewer Advanced Placement exams.

Last week, the College Board released its Advanced Placement test scores for 2013. In a memo to the Board of Education, Superintendent Joshua Starr said that the Class of 2013 “continued to maintain the high rates of participation and performance” on AP exams and claimed that “MCPS high schools continued to support AP exam participation and performance of minority graduates,” noting that many schools saw increased numbers of black and Hispanic students taking the exams.

But the actual data isn’t as encouraging. Across MCPS, 66% of the class of 2013 took AP exams, a small decrease from the previous year, when 67.3% of graduates took the exams. Meanwhile, the percentage of black and Hispanic students taking AP exams fell. 39.6% of black students and 51.6% of Hispanic students sat for the exams in 2013, compared to 43% and 54.2%, respectively.

AP participation rates decreased at all three Northeast Consortium high schools, Blake, Paint Branch, and Springbrook, and four out of the five Downcounty Consortium high schools, Einstein, Kennedy, Northwood, and Wheaton. At Einstein, the percentage of students taking AP exams fell from 61.2% to 50%, a difference of 11 points. At Wheaton, it fell from 66.7% to 58.9%, a difference of 9 points. 57.8% of graduates took the exams at Blair High School, an increase of one point from the previous year.

Students at consortia schools also aren’t performing as well. The percentage of students scoring 3 or more on AP exams fell at every Northeast and Downcounty consortia high school except for Blair. (AP exams are graded on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the highest score.) At Springbrook, it fell 7 points, from 28.7% in 2012 to 21.7% in 2012.

Participation among black and Hispanic students has fallen as well. The percentage of black students sitting for the AP exam fell from 50.7% to 32.9% at Einstein, a difference of 18 points. At Northwood, it fell 12 points from 52.4% to 40.2%, and at Paint Branch, it fell from 49.5% to 40.7%. Meanwhile, the rate increased 4 points at Springbrook, from 33.7% to 37.3%, and 1 point at Blake, from 35.4% to 36.6%. And the percentage of Hispanic students taking the exams fell 10 points at Springbrook, 8 points at Blake, Einstein, and Wheaton, and 7 points at Kennedy.

White students are also taking fewer AP exams across the consortia. The percentage fell 13 points at Wheaton, 9 points at Northwood, 8 points at Kennedy, and 3 points at Blake. But the rate of white students sitting for AP exams did increase 17 points at Paint Branch.

Meanwhile, schools on the western side of the county are doing better than ever. Black and Hispanic students took more tests, and received more high scores, at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Rockville, and Poolesville high schools.

Later this month, the College Board will release data for the state of Maryland and the nation as a whole, allowing us to see how our students compete on a state and national level. AP scores are just one measurement of student performance, and not always the best one. But they do indicate a growing achievement gap within Montgomery County Public Schools, which is not only hurting our students, but our communities as well.

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Achievement gap Consortia Events Montgomery County School equity

Join us for a discussion on community engagement at Springbrook

Our public schools have a huge impact on our neighborhoods and our local economy. But how do we get people who are affected by our schools engaged in education issues, even if they don’t have kids?

Springbrook High SignNext week, join us for a discussion about community engagement, hosted by the Northeast Consortium PTA. We’ll give a presentation about the state of East County’s schools and how we can get our community members more involved.

Then, we’ll have a group discussion alongside the Greater Colesville Citizens Association and Hope Restored about the struggle to promote academic excellence and social-emotional learning in our schools, two of the three competencies MCPS officials say students need to be successful in the 21st century. The results will be sent to the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA), MCPS, and the Board of Education.

The meeting will be next Monday, January 13 from 6:30 to 9pm at Springbrook High School, located at 201 Valley Brook Drive in Silver Spring. You don’t have to be a PTA member or live in the Northeast Consortium area to attend. Here’s a description of the event from Ann Coletti and Christina McWilson, Springbrook Cluster coordinators:

As citizens, we have a vested interest in improving our schools, which are an integral part of our community. Not only do our young citizens need a good education to become the new leaders, the success in our schools has a direct impact on our property values and the decisions of businesses to locate in our neighborhoods.

Our schools need your help in addressing the persistent achievement gap, which is evidenced by low scores on county, state and national tests. We need your input to harness our collective ideas and knowledge to better advocate for our common needs with the Montgomery County Council Parent Teacher Association (MCCPTA), the Board of Education, the Montgomery County Council and the State of Maryland.

The state of the schools reflects the state of the community, which is why it is important to pull together as a community to find our inspiration and strength to affect change in our schools.

We hope to see you on the 13th at Springbrook High School! Details are below.

Monday, January 13, 2014
Meet and Greet 6:30pm
Meeting 7-9pm
Springbrook High School Media Center
201 Valley Brook Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20904

Categories
Achievement gap School equity

Minority, low-income students lag peers in AP exam participation

Last month, Montgomery County Public Schools announced that high school students had taken a record number of Advanced Placement exams, which allow them to receive college credit. But as with many measures of success in the school system, there remains a huge gap in performance between minority and low-income students and their counterparts. Our own Fred Stichnoth breaks down the results in a letter to the Gazette:

Today, very roughly, the proportion of MCPS AP exams taken by blacks and Hispanics is only half their representation among MCPS high school students; and the proportion of 3 or higher scores earned by blacks and Hispanics is only a third their representation among MCPS high school students.

The proportions are worse for students in poverty: their proportion of MCPS’ exams is only a quarter of their proportion of MCPS high school students; and their proportion of tests scored 3 or higher is only a fifth of their representation in MCPS high schools.

In MCPS’ celebratory Dec. 6 announcement “MCPS Students Take a Record Number of AP Exams,” Dr. Joshua Starr pronounces himself “very pleased.” His “there are still significant gaps” is merely an increasingly common, fine print, boilerplate add-on.

The superintendent’s comparison of black and Hispanic performance in MCPS to that in the state and nation is a bit like comparing Division I to Division III: It ignores the superior resources at MCPS’ disposal and MCPS’ Core Value commitment to closing the gaps among its own students.

Montgomery County Public Schools is known as one of the best school systems in the country. But we can’t hold on to that reputation if we hold different groups of students to different standards.

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Education policy Events Montgomery County School equity

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.”

Categories
Achievement gap Events School equity

Residents come together at workshop

The crowd at our first community workshop at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Colesville. Photo by Dan Reed.
The crowd at our first community workshop at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Colesville. Photo by Dan Reed.

Last Thursday, approximately 40 activist parents and residents came together for One Montgomery’s first community workshop at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Colesville. Reporters from the student and professional press were there as well.

People discussed issues affecting Montgomery County schools in breakout sessions. Photo by Adrienne Lees.
People discussed issues affecting Montgomery County schools in breakout sessions. Photo by Adrienne Lees.

Following time for initial greetings, the interrelated issues of residential and school socio-economic segregation, underfunding of schools with concentrated poverty and school academic underperformance were presented through PowerPoint pictures, words and graphs.

Workshop participants separated into groups to discuss and later present the strengths and weakness and opportunities and threats characterizing our schools; and the causes of and solutions for our current situation. The groups’ findings are outlined below.

The meeting concluded with observations regarding the political nature of school improvement. Change will require formation of an active community and its insistent communication of the request for change.

What are our schools’ present strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths

1. New facilities
2. Every school has honors and AP programs
3. Strong principals at individual schools (e.g., Blair and Springbrook)
4. Some strong PTAs engaging parents with cultural barriers
5. Diversity

Weaknesses

1. Politics for resource distribution
2. Weak community engagement
3. Wide gap in scores across individual schools
4. Cultural misconceptions of students within school (e.g., withheld opportunities, more minorities with suspensions)
5. Public perception that schools are bad – middle class flight

What opportunities and threats do our schools face in the future?

Opportunities

1. Increase SAT scores and graduation rates
2. Strong leadership: Maryland-school-community
3. Safety—a priority
4. Maintenance of effort—increase base funding
5. Reputation of success of school
6. Better branding
7. Good social interaction
8. More libraries/music programs: allow leadership opportunities for students
9. Head Start/Pre-K
10 Build on diversity for global citizens
11. Language, tech

Threats

1. More violence
2. People move out of neighborhoods
3. Economic vulnerability
4. Imbalance – population growth
5. Continuing low level of involvement by parents
6. Perception and reality of inequalities
7. Can’t increase enrollment without parent involvement
8. Middle schools lose ability to meet student needs
9. Bad branding – identify issues and make adjustments

What are the causes of current issues in our schools?

1. Economic disparities

a. Demographic changes to economy
b. Consortium maintains economic status quo
c. Correlation between race proportions and economic opportunity

2. Cultural differences

a. Not understanding differences in students, unique needs
b. Staff cultural competency

3. Continual staff training; necessary supports

4. Standardized testing teaching vs. engagement in learning

5. Home life

a. Lack of wrap around service
b. Lack of early childhood education
c. Lack of resources to support and advocate

What are some possible solutions for improving our schools?

1. Greater access for Head-Start: advocate for funds
2. Advocate for resources from Annapolis for our County
3. Volunteer program from qualified high school students, local colleges/universities
4. Solutions aren’t necessarily easy
5. Alternative programs for students with behavior problems
6. Stop changing the curriculum
7. Formula needs to match needs of the school; fair does not mean equal
8. Candid communication between MCPS and community
9. Greater resources for high needs schools
10. Proactive with population trends

Group Members

Strengths,Weaknesses Opportunities,Threats Causes Solutions
Facilitator Debbie Ed All Ralph
Scribe Stephanie Stephanie Dee Evelyn
Time keeper Thalia Jewru Rosina Lulu
Presenter Bernice Core Jay Jill
Members Dan David TeddySharon Fred Kyle Otto BobAdrienne Josh Evan AdamDiana Neal Mark, Ann