Dear MCPS Community:
The end of a school year is a time for celebration, reflection, and planning for the future. As I reflect on my first year as Superintendent of Schools, I am excited that we have so much to celebrate and even more to look forward to for the 2017-2018 school year.
What We Have Achieved
The 2016-2017 school year brought new resources and schools. Thanks to the commitment of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett; Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner; Education Chairman Craig Rice; the entire County Council; and the Board of Education, Montgomery County Public Schools began the year with a significant increase in the operating budget. These targeted funds helped us begin the process of reducing class size and provided us with the resources to advance our efforts to close the achievement gap and increase opportunities for our students. We also started the year with a new school—Hallie Wells Middle School in Clarksburg—to help address unprecedented growth in student enrollment, as well as a new bus camera safety program to ensure students get to school safely.
Inside our 204 schools, students explored science, English, languages, art, mathematics, digital citizenship and so much more. The results of this commitment to learning: 10,500 students who graduated from MCPS. These graduates earned $350 million in scholarships; 44 are National Merit Scholar recipients (with an additional round of winners to be announced in July); 10 won full-tuition Posse Foundation scholarships; and three were named Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists, just to name a few.
Outside the classroom, MCPS athletic teams won a total of 212 championships, including 18 state championships, 38 district or regional championships, 112 division or county championships, and 44 sectional championships. In addition, 150 MCPS student-athletes won individual state championships.
Our schools and teachers also earned regional and national recognition. Five schools received gold medals and four schools received silver medals in the U.S. News Best High Schools Rankings; Farmland and Ronald McNair elementary schools were named Maryland Blue Ribbon schools; William Tyler Page Elementary School and John Poole Middle School were selected as recipients of the 2017 U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award; and all 25 high schools were ranked in the 2017 America’s Most Challenging High Schools list published by The Washington Post. The Washington Post selected Rockville High School’s Sean Pang as Teacher of the Year and Rock Creek Forest Elementary School’s Jennifer Lowndes as a finalist for Principal of the Year.
Our longstanding commitment to equality and diversity also played a significant role during the year. The Board of Education is revising Policy ACA to strengthen its commitment to equity, cultural competency and nondiscrimination. MCPS hosted a systemwide contest where hundreds of students used art, poetry, music and dance to combat hate and explore issues of diversity, bias and prejudice. Several schools also tackled issues of diversity and tolerance head on through Study Circles and other school-based dialogue.
The Summer Strategy
While summer can mean vacation, camps and beaches for some, it also means additional opportunities for student enrichment. This summer, we start the second year of the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) program. The program, which is a partnership with the Montgomery County Council and the Norman R. Rales and Ruth Rales Foundation, provides summer academic enrichment to rising grades 3 4, and 5 students in Title I schools who indicate an academic need. This program complements our longstanding ELO STEP and ELO SAIL summer education programs. We are also excited for the inaugural year of Summer R.I.S.E., a program created in partnership with Workforce Montgomery that offers students a three-week career shadowing experience that introduces them to the structures of businesses, technical skills, the role of technology, and the importance of customer service. Last, but not least, we are beginning a series of Career Technology Education (CTE) summer camps for middle school students.
On the Horizon
As the summer wanes and families prepare to return to school, our teachers, principals and staff will be preparing to welcome students back with a renewed focus on safety; new funding and facilities; and a steadfast commitment to equity and academic excellence for all students.
Providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for our students will remain our first priority each day. Our work continues as we review safety procedures and protocols in all of our schools. As I have shared previously, MCPS is engaged in a systematic security review of our schools. The on-site assessment portions of the review have been completed for all high schools and we will begin our review of middle and elementary schools this summer. Upon completion, we will provide a summary of our review and share next steps with our school communities.
We will also remain vigilant in our longstanding efforts to combat bullying, harassment, child abuse and neglect. Under the direction of our new compliance office, we will provide staff with resources and training on preventing, recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect; preventing and addressing sexual harassment, and ensuring schools are free of bullying, harassment and intimidation.
MCPS will open a new school—Silver Creek Middle School in Bethesda—and the critical resources to serve the needs of all students. The Board of Education has adopted a $2.52 billion operating budget, which will help us keep pace with student growth, continue our reductions in class size, and accelerate our efforts to close the achievement and opportunity gaps.
In the classroom, we will maintain high levels of student achievement and continue to take meaningful steps toward ensuring all students are learning. This will include enhanced strategies and tools to track the progress of schools and individual students to improve outcomes. At the secondary level, six new Equal Opportunity Schools will provide more than 1,000 traditionally underrepresented students exposure to rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. At the elementary level, we will continue to identify students with exceptional academic potential for the Centers for Enriched Studies by expanding universal screenings to include all third grade students. Additionally, two new local two-way immersion programs will open at Brown Station and Washington Grove elementary schools. These programs, in addition to the eight other elementary immersion programs across the county (seven immersion and one two-way immersion), will place young students on the path to biliteracy and bilingualism.
MCPS will also focus on career pathways and readiness. We recently launched Naviance, a new online high school planner for college and career readiness, for all current eighth graders and will expand access in the coming years. We will increase access and completion of CTE programs and start the implementation of apprenticeship programs that will result in more students who will have an industry certification and be prepared to enter the world of work upon graduation.
In addition to student development, we will also focus on staff development. MCPS will provide focused training for teachers on effective practices and content knowledge. We will also implement required professional learning for teachers and paraeducators to address issues of equity, including cultural competence, implicit bias and restorative practice.
Thank you for your support for our students and schools throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Have a great summer!
Jack R. Smith
Superintendent of Schools