Next week, you’ll have a chance to give feedback on MCPS’ new superintendent in Gaithersburg, and meet your Board of Education members in Burtonsville.
Montgomery County Public Schools’ search for a new superintendent is underway, and to collect community feedback, they’re holding a series of public forums around the county. Parents, students, staff, and community members will be able to talk to representatives from the executive search firm MCPS is using to find a new superintendent and discuss their hopes and wishes for the school system’s new leader.
The next one is this Tuesday, March 10 at 7pm at Gaithersburg High School, located at 101 Education Boulevard in Gaithersburg. Unfortunately, there won’t be another forum in East County; there were meetings at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring and Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda in last week, but a scheduled forum at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville was cancelled due to snow. If you’d like more information, or can’t attend the meeting in Gaithersburg and want to share your thoughts with the decision-makers who’ll hire the next superintendent, visit the MCPS website.
However, the Board of Education will be coming to Paint Branch on Thursday for a cluster meeting, the first one in four years. You’ll be able to talk to board members about issues affecting East County schools, including the superintendent search, the school system’s persistent achievement gap, next year’s budget, and other concerns. That meeting will be on Thursday, March 12 from 7 to 9pm at Paint Branch High School, located at 14121 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville. For more info, contact Larry Edmonds, Paint Branch cluster coordinator, at 240/381-3984 or by email at larrye14 at verizon dot net.
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.
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.
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.
East County elected representatives will be available for a public forum Tuesday night at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville. One Montgomery will be there, advocating school equity as a means for creating a stronger community. Stand up with us.
Several elected officials will be there, including state Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegates Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, and Craig Zucker, County Councilmember and Education Committee chair Valerie Ervin; and Mike Durso of the Board of Education. Larry Edmonds, Northeast Consortium Vice President of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs will be there as well.
While the format has not been announced, we expect time for audience questions and comments. Come ready with something to say. Here are some ideas (bring your own):
1. Why is it acceptable that NEC kids score so much lower than West County kids, year after year after year?
2. Why is it okay that students have such wildly different educational experiences, even within the same school?
3. What is MCPS doing about underperformance in high-poverty schools? Just the Innovation School pilot? How exactly is that going to help us?
4. People over here are starting to use words like “blight.” Does blight cause our schools to do worse? Or do our schools cause blight?
5. It is Board policy to provide more resources to high-poverty schools. Where are the resources?
6. Many NEC and DCC schools receive a subsidy for smaller K-2 class sizes. How much money is that, per school? Is the subsidy paid from taxpayer money, or just Title 1 money?
7. Why doesn’t MCPS subsidize smaller class sizes in Grades 3-5 and 6-8? Or do you have something better to do with the money?
8. What is MCPS doing to see that our high-poverty students have the most experienced teachers with a track record of success? It looks like the most experienced elementary teachers teach where the need is least.
9. Does MCPS have test score targets and a schedule for bringing our schools up to an equitable level of performance?
10. The White Oak Science Gateway seems like an excellent development for the County as a whole. How will it affect the demographic composition of our schools, and our students’ academic success? Has any thought even been given to this?
11. The Delegation seems to have the idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” How can our East County representatives possibly have that idea with respect to East County schools? And in Senator Montgomery and Delegate Kaiser, we have two of the most powerful education representatives in the Legislature. What’s going on?
12. Do you advocate meeting the needs of the East County, or do you discount these needs in favor of others’ interests or some conception of whole County good? If you discount, how do you strike a balance, and who will represent our needs?
The forum will run from 7 to 9pm at Paint Branch High School, 14121 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville. Meet us outside at 6:45 and wear a sign or nametag in our orange and blue colors proclaiming “One Montgomery.” You might add a slogan, like “Strong Schools=Strong Communities” or “Equity in Education is a Civil Right.” (We’ll try to bring some extras.)
Our East County neighbors and students need you! We’ll see you on Tuesday.
1. Community Concerns Forum: November 19, 2013, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Paint Branch HS
Room 1024 (enter the school by the bus parking lot).
Meet Your State & County Legislators – Congressman John Sarbanes, State Senator Karen Montgomery (member of the Education Subcommittee), House Representatives Anne Kaiser (Chair, MoCo Delegation), Eric Luedtke & Craig Zucker , Council Member Valerie Ervin, Board of Education Member Mike Durso
2. MCCPTA did not tweak its budget priorities resolution to address directly the needs of NEC, DCC and other underperforming schools (as had been suggested in a One Montgomery memo). See what MCCPTA wants.
3. The NEC, DCC, Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill and Seneca Valley (fka the red zone) are gap central. MCPS’ weapon against the gap is the Innovation School pilot. How’s that innovation thing working out for you? Watch and tell your Board of Education on November 12, mid-afternoon.
5. We need to join together, strategize and politic to get what our kids need. That is the goal of the November 14 One Montgomery meeting. Please come; please ask your friends to come; please publicize the meeting in your schools.