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President Bush Visits Parkland Magnet School

April 18, 2006
Parkland Magnet Middle School is a Model for Academic Acceleration and Enrichment in Mathematics, Science, and Technology


President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings visited Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology on Tuesday, April 18. The purpose of the visit was the announcement of the president’s American Competitiveness Initiative, focusing on the importance of expertise in mathematics, science, and technology in the world marketplace.

“Parkland is an excellent example for the nation of what we can achieve in math, science, and technology education,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “The rigorous academic program here—and at Parkland’s partners in the Middle School Magnet Consortium, Argyle and Loiederman middle schools—underscores the strength of middle school reform in Montgomery County Public Schools.”

Before his announcement in the school’s gymnasium, President Bush was joined by Secretary Spellings, Superintendent Weast, and Parkland Principal Kevin Hobbs on a tour of three classrooms to observe the programs being offered to sixth grade students at Parkland.

Astronomy—Students used a sunspotter, telescope, and supporting research to identify sunspots and predict the likelihood and impact of solar flares. Teacher Dorian Janney was assisted by two of Parkland’s business and professional partners, Lou Mayo of Raytheon Corporation and Dr. Sten Odenwald, astronomer at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Algebra 1—Grade 6 and 7 students in teacher Jane Gibson’s class used a graphics calculator and a Smart Board to investigate quadratic functions numerically, algebraically, and graphically. In Montgomery County Public Schools, 48 percent of Grade 8 students in 2005 successfully completed Algebra 1, compared with the national average of 25 percent.

Problems in Robotic Engineering—In Robert Jones’ class, students used a HYDROBOT industrial arm to introduce Boyle’s Law and the basic operations of a hydraulic system. Later in the course, students will learn to program robots using C++ computer language, formerly considered a college-level skill.

Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology is part of the new Middle School Magnet Consortium (MSMC) that was launched in fall 2005. The consortium consists of Parkland and two other schools: A. Mario Loiederman Magnet Middle School for Creative and Performing Arts and Argyle Magnet Middle School for Information Technology. Each school has a whole-school magnet program, open to all students who attend. A rigorous core curriculum promotes college preparation and provides students with earlier access to challenging courses.

The consortium, which is funded in part through a $7.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is part of the overall plan to improve academic performance and narrow the achievement gap by race, ethnicity, and poverty. Students who reside within the boundaries of the consortium must choose one of the three schools to attend. In addition, Montgomery County students who reside outside of the consortium area may attend one of the three schools through a choice process. Components of the consortium program, such as accelerated curriculum, technology integration, parent outreach, professional development, and extended learning opportunities, will be evaluated as models for systemwide middle school reform.

When students complete their MSMC experience at the end of Grade 8, they have a choice to attend one of five high schools in the Downcounty Consortium (DCC), which include Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Northwood, and Wheaton high schools. Each high school offers unique courses and programs of study. (Students living outside the boundaries of the DCC may elect to return to their home high school.) Students also may choose to apply to one or more of the countywide programs available to all MCPS students, including the Poolesville Magnet High School; the International Baccalaureate Program at Richard Montgomery High School; the Science, Mathematics, Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School; or the Visual Art Center at Albert Einstein High School.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon/NASA, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, are among Parkland’s community and business partners.

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