New School Year to Open with Focus on School Productivity, Record Enrollment, New Schools, and Enhanced Security

August 26, 1999
The new school year features more than a few new things - a new superintendent, four new schools, seventeen new principals, and a thousand new teachers. New ways of measuring student achievement, evaluating instructional success, and focusing the resources of the school system on improving teaching and learning also mark the opening of schools this fall.

The 1999-2000 school year begins on Wednesday, September 1, with the largest projected enrollment and largest number of new teachers in the history of Montgomery County Public Schools. An operating budget of more than $1.1 billion, including $13.2 million in improvements, support a rapidly growing school system of more than 131,000 students in 189 schools.

New Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast has targeted the elimination of the student performance gap by race and ethnicity as a main priority. He has introduced a new focus this year on "school productivity" in which the strength of a school's instructional impact will be measured on the basis of academic progress from one year to the next.

The new initiatives build on a significant reduction in class size, an expansion of innovative programs to enhance reading and mathematics instruction, and strengthened safety and security measures this year.

Among the new teachers hired this year, approximately 55 percent are veterans of other school systems and 45 percent are new to teaching. Twenty-five percent are graduates of MCPS.

Other highlights of the upcoming school year include training for a new teacher evaluation plan that includes a peer review and assistance component, an accelerated air conditioning conversion schedule for schools, and expansion of school-based Quality Management Councils (QMCs).

New and Modernized Schools

Four new schools will open in September to accommodate the school system's growing student population. They include North Bethesda Middle School in the Walter Johnson Cluster, Shady Grove Middle School in the Col. Zadok Magruder Cluster, Silver Spring International Middle School in the Montgomery Blair Cluster, and Sligo Creek Elementary School in the Montgomery Blair Cluster. In addition, five modernized schools will be ready for the new school year. They are John F. Kennedy High School, Takoma Park Middle School, and Bethesda, Harmony Hills, and Rock View elementary schools.

Operating Budget Focus on the Classroom

A Fiscal Year 2000 operating budget of $1.106 billion includes $13.2 million for improvements in educational quality that focus on the classroom. They include continuation of the Board of Education's class size reduction initiative totaling $20.1 million over the last three years, completion of a $800,000 two-year staff development initiative with concentration on the teaching of reading and writing, 6.0 special education teachers to support the cluster model in selected elementary schools, and expanded services for English Language Learners.

Class-size Reduction

An important ingredient in support of student success is the continuation of the Board of Education's class-size-reduction initiative. This includes adding 48.4 elementary teacher positions to reduce nearly all oversize elementary school classes, 105.5 teacher positions to support the elementary reading initiative, 11.5 high school mathematics teacher positions to support reduction of Algebra 1 class size, and restoration of class sizes throughout the system to Fiscal Year 1995 levels.

Accelerated Reading Initiative

An accelerated implementation of the reading initiative begun in 54 elementary schools last year will extend the program to all 121 elementary schools with kindergarten, first and second grades. Reading instruction classes in first and second grade will have no more than a 15 to 1 student-teacher ratio, with the goal of ensuring that all students read at or above grade level by Grade 3. Teacher and principal training is a major component of the reading program.

Accelerated Mathematics Initiative

Enhancements to the mathematics initiative begun last year will ensure a limit of 20 students in all Grade 9 Algebra 1 classes, a move to support successful completion of this key mathematics course by at least 80 percent of students by the end of ninth grade. The additional staffing to reduce class size allows more time for individualized instruction.

Strengthened Safety and Security

A comprehensive review of school safety and security by the National Alliance for Safe Schools has helped the school system evaluate security procedures and devices, staffing, and training. New initiatives in response to the review include a planned expansion of closed circuit television monitoring systems in high schools and a new Comprehensive Crisis Response Plan, designed to provide an effective, immediate response to a full range of crisis situations. New actions also include expanded alternative programs to reduce classroom disruption by helping students not succeeding in regular programs.

Teacher Evaluation Plan

A new teacher evaluation plan, which includes a peer review and assistance component, is in development, with training scheduled for the 1999-2000 school year. The system is designed to raise expectations for teacher performance and significantly improve the quality of teaching by linking teacher performance to student achievement. The plan will support continuous improvement through training and support of teachers and administrators and enable the identification of outstanding teachers.

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