Call to Action Outlines Initiative for Improvements In Student Achievement

November 12, 1999
A new collaborative education process designed to raise the academic achievement of all students and close the gap in student performance among racial and ethnic groups was unveiled this week to the Board of Education.

The report "Our Call to Action: Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap, Because All Children Matter," (see link below) outlines the first steps of a planned strategy to revitalize the school system by changing the way it operates in some fundamental ways.

"Our intention is to empower the entire educational community of Montgomery County by organizing the necessary resources, knowledge and skills-and to amass our collective will-to fulfill the promise of Success for Every Student," said superintendent Jerry D. Weast.

The new strategic process focuses on meeting the outcomes and expectations expressed in eight academic milestones for student performance recently approved by the Board to reflect the purpose and emphasis of the original Success for Every Student Plan. That plan was adopted in 1992 and revised in 1999.

The Call to Action report describes the critical need to raise the academic bar for all students while accelerating the performance of African American and Hispanic students, whose average performance lags behind their white and Asian peers on standardized tests and other measures.

Past measures to decrease this performance gap have shown little success. In fact, although white and Asian American students, on average, are maintaining some of the highest student performance levels in Maryland and the nation, the data indicate a lack of academic progress for a significant number of African American and Hispanic students.

Moreover, despite the high performance levels of some students, the average results on the Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRTs) in reading and mathematics for all MCPS students have remained flat or decreased over the past several years. Likewise, results on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) have remained below expectations.

The new plan comes at a time of dramatic demographic changes in Montgomery County, making the attainment of the academic goals more critical than ever. The enrollment of African American and Hispanic students is increasing, and many schools in the more urban areas of the county are serving increasing numbers of English language learners and of children on the Free and Reduced-Price Meals Service.

The Call to Action plan is based on defining the problem, having a clear set of goals, investing in a skilled workforce and a team approach through staff development, and ensuring the use of data to form a reliable system of assessment and accountability.

At the heart of the Call to Action plan is a series of six "trend benders," initiatives designed to turn a downward or flat performance trend into an upward trend. The trend benders are: developing a system of shared accountability; early success; improving workforce excellence through targeted training and action research; broadening the concept of literacy; reorganizing assets for school success; and creating family- and community-friendly partnerships.

Each trend bender contains several key components:

  • The need for user-friendly information and data analysis to affect thinking, learning and problem solving.

  • A focus on the attitudes and expectations required to nurture and optimize learning.

  • The accountability required of every level of the organization and community.

  • An inclusive, collaborative process for the change.

    Within these components, specific initiatives have been devised to effect positive change in areas that have a direct impact on student performance. Although these areas may differ according to the trend bender, all share the common goals of improving student performance and closing the gap.

    They also share the characteristics of being supported by high quality national and local research, generated through the collaborative efforts of key education and community stakeholders and, once completed, capable of being evaluated effectively by staff.

    The next step in realizing the initiatives defined in the Call to Action report is to develop the implementation plan, in coordination with the capital budget, the Capital Improvements Program and the operating budget. Certain changes are expected to begin this year and next year, with a phased-in process over the next several years for major changes and investments.

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