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Study on Choice and Special Academic Programs in Montgomery County Public Schools Released

March 7, 2016

Board of Education to Discuss Report March 8

Rockville, MD – Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) released on Monday its comprehensive study of choice and other special academic programs offered across the district. The study, conducted by Metis Associates, was commissioned by the Board of Education in January 2015 to analyze how well choice and special academic programs are positioned to advance MCPS’ mission, core purpose, and core values and to recommend ways the district can improve these programs.

Metis Associates gathered the comments and views of more than 7,000 MCPS stakeholders, in addition to visiting selected schools and programs; reviewing the history of choice programs; studying enrollment, application, and outcome data; and benchmarking with other districts. The study included MCPS’ full and partial language immersion programs at the elementary and middle school levels; the elementary school center program for highly gifted students; magnet and other application programs with selective admissions criteria at the middle and high school levels; and the schools in the three consortia (Northeast, Downcounty, and Middle School Magnet Consortium). These programs serve nearly 22,700 students (14.5 percent of the student population) in 43 programs housed in 36 schools. The study also examined the Change of School Assignment process.

“We appreciate the review conducted by Metis over the last year to help us more fully understand what is working well and where we can improve,” said Michael A. Durso, president of the Board of Education. “As a district committed to equity and excellence, we want to ensure that these programs are meeting their intended purposes of providing a rigorous education for all students and that every student has an opportunity to access them.”

In his memorandum transmitting the report to the Board, Interim Superintendent of Schools Larry A. Bowers wrote, “Metis’ report reminds us that the history of choice in MCPS is complicated and multilayered, and the consultants’ detailed analysis presents us with the opportunity to more fully understand the various decisions that led us to the current structure and offerings.  Metis found that the current array of choice and special academic programs within MCPS is the result of an ad hoc layering of decisions unique to the historical context in which they were made; the substantial demographic changes that the county has experienced; and court decisions that have made it more difficult for school districts to provide high-quality integrated educational opportunities. This amalgamation of decisions has resulted in a system that does not always align with MCPS’ commitment to equity and access to rigorous instruction for all students. Moreover, the report calls us to consider improvements in our processes and procedures to establish a clearer vision of the role of choice within MCPS.”

Metis will present its eight districtwide findings and recommendations to the Board of Education on Tuesday, March 8. After the Board presentation and discussion, staff will begin formulating a response to the report’s recommendations in collaboration with community stakeholders for the superintendent and Board’s consideration.

Over the next few months as a response is developed, MCPS staff will meet with different stakeholder groups of staff, parents, and community members to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations. MCPS also has created a public comment area on its website to gather feedback on the recommendations.

In addition, MCPS has scheduled three community dialogues open to the entire MCPS community. The three community dialogues will take place on April 6 at Gaithersburg High School, April 18 at Kennedy High School, and May 5 at Walter Johnson High School. These dialogues will be structured to both discuss the recommendations and the vision for choice for the district.

“This report rightly challenges us to rethink and reimagine some of our long-standing practices and programs to ensure they reflect our core values,” said Bowers. “Together, as a community, we can seize this opportunity to ensure our school system provides a high-quality and rigorous education for each and every student we serve.”

 

Read Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers Transmittal Memo

Read the Executive Summary of the Study (findings and recommendations)

Read the complete report

Offer your comments on the study

 

 

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