2007 Math Adv
2007 Reading Adv
Reproduced on the left, is a table based on MCPS data, listing the six schools with the top GT identification rates in 2005-2006. Since this identification is based on Global Screening in second-grade, these students took the third grade MSAs, a State of Maryland assessment, the following academic year (2007). Based on mobility figures released by the school system, one can reasonably expect the third grade MSA results for the following year to correspond to roughly the same group of students.
It doesn't take a mathematics maven to reach a simple conclusion: schools that claim a large number of gifted and talented students don't necessarily produce the highest performers on the MSA tests.
According to the Harvard University Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), "MCPS was inspired by a case study on the New York City Police Department's Computerized Crime Comparison Statistics (ComStat). Based on ComStat, MCPS developed M-Stat, a process designed to—
- thoroughly analyze individual school and student data;
- consistently and continuously monitor the data;
- identify best practices; and
- create lasting systemic change."
- frank discourse among the executive leadership team and the superintendent; to
- open discussion among principals and their supervising community superintendents; to
- honest examination of the school data between principals and their communities; to
- authentic conversations among teachers and the principal; to
- the nexus of true school reform—the interactions between the students and the teacher." [underlining mine]
It is no secret that the Montgomery County school system subscribes to a dismally low threshold for the identification of the gifted and talented: the 75th percentile rank in Raven (see here), when Renzulli, whose methodology is embraced by the school system, recommends percentiles in the ~90s. An "honest examination of school data," would have alerted even the most somnambulant dilettante that something was awry in our fair county. According to the Examiner's Leah Fabel, Marty Creel, the County's director of gifted and talented programming had insisted "We're not identifying these kids as geniuses, but as ready to work above grade level," adding that "the county has made remarkable progress in getting students to that mark."
The County School system, in the latest incarnation of its Strategic Plan, on page 12, reasserts its goal of providing "an Effective Instructional Program." If a system-wide average of 40.7% of students were performing at an above-grade level in 2005-2206 (according to MCPS data), the natural response would have been to recognize that nearly half the student body would find the established curriculum lacked rigor and challenge. The consequence should have been a roll-out of a much more rigorous, "effective instructional program." Not so in Montgomery County, we are middling through a curriculum that the school system admits isn't challenging for nearly half our kids.
Isn't Mr. Creel tacitly drawing attention to the reality that school administrators have failed to adequately respond to the curricular needs of our children? The school system graduation rate has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, to 11th among Maryland's school divisions. Again, aren't we seeing the tangible consequences of a failure to implement an "effective instructional program?"
The oft repeated mantra that the school system has somehow been focused on addressing the achievement of minorities is also not holding true. According to the Washington Post, "there is less attention paid to some more traditional measures of educational accomplishment, such as taking the SAT and receiving a diploma. On those measures, the achievement gap has not narrowed but widened.
Graduation rates are lower for blacks (84 percent) and Hispanics (78 percent) than for whites and Asians (95 percent). The disparity is larger now than five years ago. " This for a school system, that boasted the highest expenditure per pupil in the State of Maryland (according to 2007 MSDE data).
In Harvard's RAISING ACHIEVEMENT AND CLOSING GAPS IN WHOLE SCHOOL SYSTEMS: RECENT ADVANCES IN RESEARCH AND PRACTICE, on page 38, one finds the statement "Deputy Superintendent Lacey responded that Dr. Weast drives the district's approach: 'He is not afraid to be honest; he is not afraid to disclose data;'" which makes the district's refusal to release data all the more inexplicable.
|LEA Name||Wealth Per Pupil||Expenditures Per Pupil||Instruction Staff Per Thousand||Prof Support Staff Per Thousand||Instruction Assist Per Thousand|
|All Public Schools|
|Baltimore City - Edison|
It is my belief that Montgomery County needs a rigorous, challenging curriculum revision, preceded by a honest, open, dialogue with all stakeholders—not just a chosen few. By stating that the revision process itself must be rigorous and challenging, I am asserting, among other things, the need for a well researched, carefully articulated revision process that must overcome the tough challenges it will necessarily face. Part and parcel of this revision must be the implementation of an effective gifted and talented identification system commensurate with established standards and norms. Furthermore, the programs for all learners, exceptionally advanced learners included, must be explicitly stated and publicly available.
Harvard University can contribute to the conversation (1) by accepting my invitation to provide the data, on which they base their assessments of MY school system, and (2) undertaking rigorous studies of educational systems with an independent, peer-reviewed analysis rather than simply reproducing the claims of school systems and their surrogates.