Thursday, December 27, 2012
by Frederick Stitchnoth
Parent questions raised four themes, three of them related: Hispanic needs (3 of 18 questions), achievement gaps (2 questions), red zone/green zone discrepancies (2 questions), and math (2 questions).
Red zone. Hispanics. Dr. Starr's responses were not encouraging. MCPS was unable to make substantial progress in hiring more Hispanic teachers; MCPS could not address Hispanic needs alone; he did not know why programs benefiting Hispanics were cut. Hispanic needs were being addressed by in-school services provided by outside groups, the Chief Engagement and Partnership Office, and a quasi-MCCPTA Parent Leadership Group with a Hispanic co-leader. MCPS is distancing itself from the particular needs of 26.7 percent of its students.
Achievement gaps. Dr. Starr said that we do not have money to address high school achievement gaps; we will concentrate on middle school; and the commitment to equity is farther along in MCPS than in other jurisdictions. However, the commitment to equity is not evident in the numbers. We look forward to a hard look at MCPSâ€™ commitment by the County Council's Office of Legislative Oversight early in 2014.
Red/green discrepancies. Dr. Starr said that MCPS had made investments commensurate with red zone needs, though the budget has required these investments to be cut back. Likewise, insufficient money justifies the very substantial discrepancy in the location of Mandarin classes. Dr. Starr has not yet begun to look at the red zone, NEC and DCC, choice structure (intended to preserve ethnic and SES balance and to support academic performance in the red zone). Dr. Starr does not believe that the community is yet ready for a productive discussion of discrepancies. Last in-first out: investments obviously were not commensurate with needs, and then they were cut. MCPS should provide by February 1 an equity budget so that the community can judge and rally around the needed commitment. The forthcoming OLO report must substitute for MCPS' evaluation of the consortia.
Math. Dr. Starr seems to say that math acceleration and enrichment were to have been provided by teacher-generated on-line lessons (as distinguished from MCPS curriculum-writer lessons); but this had failed. Now acceleration and enrichment lessons would come from crowd-sourcing, including lessons provided by parents. This indicates the falsity of MCPS' reiterated testimony that acceleration and enrichment are available. Parents deserve curriculum written in a cumulative and coherent manner by professional curriculum writers, not developed through teacher (let alone parent) serendipity.
Dr. Starr affirmed that there is nothing stopping principals from grouping and regrouping.â€ Parents had been told for many years by Marty Creel, Director of DEIP, that principals have the discretion to make grouping decisions. Parents report that almost no principals support grouping. Parents therefore do not believe that there is nothing stopping principals. Parents believe that either principals are directed to avoid ability grouping, or that they learn to avoid ability grouping through professional development and MCPS' Equity Unit. Principal reluctance and parent skepticism will be very hard for Dr. Starr to overcome.
MoCo brand housing values. Dr. Starr said that people believe neighborhood schools determine their housing values, and that education is central to the
brand. The housing value perspective is more meaningful around Dr. Starr's home school “ Burning Tree “ than in the DCC where he made this comment. While even people in the DCC buy in to the MoCo brand, the brand is based on the schools in the green zone, not the DCC. Dr. Starr's responses regarding Hispanics, achievement gaps and discrepancies do not suggest that making the brand real for all students is yet translated from a core value to strategy. There is solace in the core value: Whatever it takes. Montgomery County
Posted by Janis Sartucci at 5:00 AM