The Facts About the Districtwide
Dear Montgomery County Public Schools Community:
As many of you may know, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) hired an external consultant to conduct an in-depth, districtwide analysis of school and cluster boundaries. Unfortunately, inaccurate information has been shared in our community about the purpose of the analysis. We would like to take a few moments of your time to share the facts about this effort—specifically, what it is intended to accomplish and what it is not.
The Purpose of the Districtwide Boundary Analysis: Over the last 20 years, MCPS student enrollment has increased by more than 30,000 students. This growth has helped MCPS become one of the largest and most diverse districts in the nation. Unfortunately, facility construction has not been able to keep pace with this significant growth. The overcapacity of many schools, paired with our continued focus on equity and excellence, prompted the Board of Education to initiate an assessment of current school boundaries to ensure that MCPS can continue to provide high-quality facilities that support the educational programming needed to reinforce MCPS’ core values. The goal of the districtwide boundary analysis is to help MCPS better understand the impact existing boundaries have on school overcrowding, student diversity and proximity to school. The analysis will result in an interactive online tool and a final report to the school system in June 2020. The interactive tool will help the community better understand the complexities and challenges of school assignment.
No Recommendations for Boundary Changes: Contrary to misinformation that is circulating in our community, the final report WILL NOT include recommendations for boundary changes/student reassignment. MCPS did not request and will not accept any recommendations for boundary changes/student reassignment. MCPS will use the data and research in the report to inform future boundary studies.
Boundary Changes are Common: While districtwide analyses of boundaries are infrequent, MCPS regularly engages in boundary studies for student reassignment in response to the opening of new or expanded schools.
A Focus on Adjacency: We have received messages from some community members who have heard rumors that the districtwide boundary analysis will result in a “busing plan” that will reassign students from one end of the county to the other to address issues of overcrowding and diverse learning environments. First, as stated above, the analysis will not result in any specific recommendations for student reassignments. Second, as the Board’s resolution references and the consultant will show, at the regional meetings, schools and school clusters adjacent to one another across the county can have significantly different levels of utilization and student diversity. Finally, MCPS has and will continue to maximize walkers, in no small part, because it is economically efficient. However, there always will be a need for some students to ride buses to school. Currently, the majority of our student body (more than 100,000 students) is eligible to ride a school bus every day.
Benefits of Diverse Schools: Diversity is one of the four factors considered by the school system when reviewing boundaries because research shows that diverse schools benefit all students. The benefits, as described in the research, suggest:
- Students in integrated schools have higher average test scores.
- Integrated classrooms encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
- Attending a diverse school can help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes.
In addition, reducing socioeconomic isolation can help the school system meet the needs of all students. As the Montgomery County Council has stated, “Our diversity is our strength and is key to our continued success as a community.” When practical, we should leverage this strength in our schools and classrooms to ensure we reap the benefits of our diverse county.
Student Learning Is Our Mission: As the public education provider for Montgomery County, our mission is to ensure every student will have the academic, creative problem solving, and social emotional skills to be successful in college and career. This mission requires that the school system seek ways to maximize meeting the needs of all students. While we understand that individuals may have many interests—from property values to traffic management—the school system is committed to its mission, providing all students with access and opportunity to a high quality education.
We encourage you to visit the MCPS districtwide boundary analysis webpage and attend one of the remaining districtwide boundary analysis public meetings to learn firsthand about the goals of the analysis; examine data and maps that reflect the state of utilization, diversity and proximity; have facilitated table discussions about the actual data; and share your feedback to inform the consultant’s work. We encourage you to RSVP for one of the meetings. If you are unable to attend, the presentation will be posted online in the coming weeks.
It is important to note that the regional meetings are intended to build an understanding of why the districtwide analysis is needed and what it will entail. The regional meetings are not hearings and there will not be an opportunity to speak outside of your table group.
As a community, we have challenges and opportunities in front of us related to our use of facilities. These are complex issues that require thoughtful solutions and a fully engaged community. We look forward to working together to craft those solutions.
Shebra L. Evans
President, Board of Education
Jack R. Smith
Superintendent of Schools