The mission of the Study Circles Program is to identify, examine, and eliminate institutional barriers to African American and Latino student achievement in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The program provides a structure for diverse stakeholders to:
- Engage in honest and productive dialogue around race and equity
- Hear a broad range of experiences and perspectives
- Identify and examine institutional barriers (beliefs, practices, and policies)
- Collaboratively work to eliminate the barriers.
The Study Circles program offers a variety of formats to meet the specific needs of schools and offices. This past year, the program has focused mostly on school and office leadership teams. Seventeen leadership teams are engaged in a year-long process that includes two full-day retreats, monthly coaching sessions, and sessions during summer Leadership Week. Additionally, Study Circles program staff have organized Student/Teacher Circles to hear student voices; Spanish Language Circles that bring together Spanish speaking parents and English speaking staff; Principal Advisory Committees to help students, parents, staff, and administrators work together to address institutional barriers; and department-level Study Circles with central office personnel. While the specific activities change with each format, all Study Circles follow the same three steps:
- Develop trust and begin to understand each other's experience.
- Explore different racial experiences and viewpoints.
- Collaborate on action to address beliefs, practices, and policies.
Each Study Circle has two facilitators and an average of 20 participants. Study Circles also may utilize substitutes, childcare providers, and interpretation services.
The amount budgeted for the FY 2016 Study Circles Program is $464,405. This amount covers three fulltime staff, stipends, substitute teachers, and contractual expenses that enable MCPS to conduct 22 Study Circles per year for approximately 500 participants. This includes thirteen Instructional Leadership Team Study Circles, four Parent/Staff Study Circles, and five Student/Staff Study Circles.
The cost of expanding Study Circles will vary according to the format and number of participants. Were MCPS to offer ten additional Instructional Leadership Team Study Circles, the cost would be approximately $130,985 for facilitators, substitute teachers, administrative support, and a 1.0 FTE equity specialist to lead and coach instructional leadership teams. Ten additional Parent/Staff Study Circles would cost $99,887 for facilitators, substitutes, childcare, interpretation services, and a 1.0 FTE parent community coordinator to recruit families to participate, handle logistics and communication, and support action steps. The additional FTEs would be required because the staff that currently manages the Study Circles program has the capacity to conduct a maximum of 22 circles of varying formats per year.