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Annual Report Shows Sustained Improvements

March 1, 2006
The recently released 2005 edition of Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) Annual Report on Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence is being distributed and is available on the MCPS Web site. The report shows that the school system continues to make significant progress in implementing strategic actions and improvement initiatives.

Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence establishes the strategic course of the school system’s overall operation, including the operating budget. The plan reflects an effective organization, implementation, and accountability process that was recognized last year when MCPS won the U.S. Senate Productivity Award for Maryland.

The strategic plan, initially developed in 1999 and updated in June 2003, lays the foundation for an unprecedented effort to improve the instructional program in each school. Each year, schools develop and implement improvement plans based on the Board of Education’s strategic plan using the Baldrige-guided school improvement planning process. Each office and department also develops a strategic plan that is aligned with Our Call to Action.

The 2005 overall trend data point to significant progress in all goal areas. “The strong student performance and operational achievements identified in the report are evidence of rigorous academic standards and comprehensive organizational goals that are the foundation for long-lasting success,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said.

Success at all levels
For example, early childhood reform initiatives—including expanded prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs, a reading initiative in all first and second grade classes, and a standards-based curriculum revision—continue to demonstrate significant results. For 2005, 81 percent of kindergarten, 76 percent of grade 1, and 72 percent of grade 2 students were able to perform at or above the benchmark on the MCPS Assessment Program in Primary Reading. In addition, more than 77 percent of MCPS students achieved proficiency in reading and more than 73 percent achieved proficiency in mathematics on the 2005 Maryland School Assessment.

At the middle school level, 76 percent of students were proficient or advanced on the reading MSA, and 67 percent were proficient or advanced in mathematics. An ongoing initiative to improve performance in middle schools is under way.

New standards and increased rigor at the high school level are helping prepare all students for postsecondary education and work. Gains include an increase in the number of students taking at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam by almost 5,000 from 2000-2005. The number of African American, Hispanic, limited English proficient, and Free and Reduced-price Meals System students who take at least one AP exam has doubled during this same time period. The number of students who scored 3 or higher on the AP exam also more than doubled during this time period.

Since the baseline year 2001, there has been a 5.5 percent increase in the percentage of students who successfully completed Algebra I by the end of ninth grade, with African American and Hispanic students showing the largest gains (12 and 13 percentage points, respectively).

Addressing challenges
MCPS is the largest, most diverse school district in Maryland and among the largest in the United States, with some of the highest levels of student performance. Still, the report notes, additional effort and focus are needed to sustain and build upon the gains of African American and Hispanic students and to continue to narrow the achievement gap.

The data highlight areas of continuing concern and underscore the work that remains to be done to close the achievement gap by race and ethnicity and to address related issues among children challenged by poverty, disabilities, and limited English proficiency. For example, suspension rates from 2000-2005 are significantly disproportionate each year by race/ethnicity and gender. The school system continues to examine the data and work with schools to implement strategies to reduce the disproportional suspension rates by race and ethnicity.

MCPS also has increased the number of students with disabilities who receive special education services in environments for nondisabled students by 9 percent over the past three years.

The school system continues to strengthen parent and community partnerships to support student achievement through a range of programs and activities. Higher education collaborations also are helping develop a high-quality workforce and promote student success. The University Partnership Program has grown from 15 partnerships in 1999 to 31 in 2004. Last year, about 118 participants graduated from various partnership programs.

MCPS has made significant investments in creating Professional Growth Systems for employees. The total number of teachers with National Board Certification increased from eight teachers in 2000 to 178 teachers in 2005. The Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence has been adopted as a model for continuous improvement for all offices and schools, with total system implementation planned during 2006.

Setting targets
During the past year, MCPS established targets for several high school data areas, such as SAT, Honors, and AP participation. Further refinement, identification, and monitoring of realistic targets that increase expectations for higher achievement for all MCPS students will remain a focus for the coming year. The 2005 Annual Report on Our Call to Action is available at the link below.

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