A key component of the multi-year budget plan that the superintendent of schools presented to the Board of Education starting with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Operating Budget has been investments to close the achievement gap. It is important to note that the FY 2016 Recommended Operating Budget continues to fund strategic investments that were part of the FY 2014 and FY 2015 Operating Budgets. This includes, for example, strategic enhancements such as 30 middle school focus teachers, 21.2 high school English and mathematics focus teachers, and 10.5 English language development teachers to meet the needs of middle school students who are beginning to master the English language but are struggling in the classroom.
In addition, the FY 2016 Recommended Operating Budget continues the district's longstanding practice of providing additional funds to schools that serve the highest number of students living at or near the poverty line. For example the 67 elementary Focus schools receive, on average, approximately $1.9 million more than other schools. These funds are used to lower class size and provide more individualized instruction and support to bolster student achievement.
The superintendent's FY 2016 budget recommendation includes new strategic enhancements such as 5.0 math content coaches in elementary schools to build mathematics skills as early as possible. The budget adds 2.0 instructional specialists for the Equity Initiatives Unit to increase support to schools in developing the cultural competence and awareness of teachers and staff. The recommended budget includes 5.5 additional counselors at high schools that are more impacted by poverty and need extra staff to meet the social/emotional needs of students, coordinated academic support, and provide assistance with high school applications.
The budget adds a total of 12.5 additional elementary counselors, psychologists, and pupil personnel workers to continue the multi-year enhancement to improve the student services model to meet the social emotional needs of our students and reduce caseloads. The budget also adds a middle school coordinator position to continue implementation of our middle school improvement strategy and 5.8 teacher positions to allow middle school content specialists and team leaders more opportunities to serve staff. For high schools, the budget adds 10 teacher positions to provide additional release time for high school resource teachers to better fulfil their leadership responsibilities and 5 staff development teachers to provide additional time to help build professional learning communities and improving instruction and learning in high schools.
Other strategic enhancements that help close the achievement gap include two assistant school administrators to support the operations and management at two of our largest elementary schools as well as provide instructional leadership. The budget also adds 6 positions to help implement the redesign of our Interim Instructional Services unit providing instruction to students who temporarily cannot attend school due to illness or other circumstances. Funding is added to provide an upgraded version of READ 180, an effective reading intervention, to four additional schools.
Additional funding is included to support the establishment of the Children's Trust in Montgomery County that will support services to improve educational outcomes for children and families by addressing social determinants that impact the educational achievement gap. Funding is recommended to enhance teacher diversity through recruitment, selection, retention, and internal talent development.
There is funding to expand Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success, a collaborative program with Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove that supports students who come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education and those who are the first in their family to attend college. Additional funding is included to provide more staff with training in the use of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol model, a proven, research-based approach that helps meet the individual language attainment and academic needs of students.
Strategic enhancements are not the only efforts to close the achievement gap. The base budget includes numerous system-wide and individual school programs that are designed to support students who are struggling and need help. One example is $1.9 million budgeted for middle school extended day and extended year programs. These resources are provided to schools that run a variety of programs depending on the individual needs of schools.
In addition, a completely redesigned Program Budget has been issued that is organized to demonstrate how the MCPS Operating Budget is aligned with the Strategic Planning Framework, Building Our Future Together. To reflect this alignment, MCPS programs have been categorized into six areas. Three of the areas include programs that are targeted to close the achievement gap with our students. One of those areas is titled "Programs that Provide Additional Support to Improve Student Achievement." Programs in this category include those that provide direct services to students to close the achievement gap. The resources and services provided by these particular programs are over and above the core general education programs and services reflected elsewhere in the Program Budget. These programs total $637.4 million for FY 2016.
The second areas is titled "Collaborative Partnership Programs to Improve Student Achievement." Programs in this category are those that MCPS administers in partnership with other governmental, business, and community entities to support the instructional and social emotional needs of students and close the achievement gap. These program total $15.1 million for FY 2016.
The third area is titled "Programs to Support School Improvement and Ensure High Quality Instruction." Programs in this category include those that focus on building the capacity of schools and staff to deliver the highest quality instruction. These programs total $135.1 million for FY 2016.
The Program Budget reflecting the Superintendent's Recommended FY 2016 Operating Budget was distributed to the Board of Education on January 13, 2015. It can also be found at the following webpage: