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Kennedy Project: Collaborating to close the gap

Watch: Education Matters TV program focuses on Kennedy Cluster project (recent episode) video icon 

How do we achieve change that leads to improved academic achievement for African American students? The answer to that question is broader than the school system’s efforts alone—and it’s being sought through the Kennedy Project, a joint effort of MCPS and the Montgomery County government. “Closing the achievement gap is no longer just a school system issue,” said Don Kress, MCPS project manager. “It is a county issue.”

A project team composed of MCPS staff members and leaders of key county and state agencies has been meeting regularly to review data and formulate recommendations. Team members have been discussing the complex issues surrounding the achievement gap and how each agency can play a role in addressing the factors that cause it. Participants hope there will be an increase in the use of equitable practices, improved student health and well-being, and more parent engagement. Recommendations for the future include providing full-day universal prekindergarten for all four-year-olds in the project area and expanding Linkages to Learning to all project middle and elementary schools.

Elements of the project are in place at John F. Kennedy High School; Argyle Middle School; and Bel Pre, Georgian Forest and Strathmore elementary schools. They include staff participation in the MCPS Professional Learning Communities Institute at the three elementary schools and professional development related to institutional racism, equitable classrooms and high expectations at all five schools. An open summer lunch program for students in the project area and a family resource fair are among the accomplishments to date.

The Kennedy Cluster Project's next step is to ensure that information on individual students and families being served by various county and state agencies is shared collaboratively. The sharing of information will serve to better coordinate these services; however, federal laws and state regulations place restrictions on the types of information that can be shared. Attorneys for the county and MCPS have been working with appropriate agency heads to develop a memorandum of understanding that will help address some of those restrictions.

The Board of Education discussed the Kennedy Project at its December meeting. The project originated with Nancy Navarro, Board member and past Board president, and Valerie Ervin, member of the County Council. The Kennedy Cluster was chosen for the project because it has one of the highest African American populations of any of the school clusters in MCPS.

For more information about the project, contact Don Kress.


Last Updated: 1/5/2009