Blueprint for Maryland’s Future - A Message from Superintendent Jack Smith
Dear MCPS Community,
On Monday, the Maryland General Assembly will hold its first hearing on a significant piece of education legislation, called The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. While the legislation is more than 170 pages, its goal is short and clear: “…to transform Maryland’s early childhood, primary, and secondary education system to the levels of high-performing systems around the world…”
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future seeks to accomplish this goal based on five key elements that directly align with the focus and work of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for the last four years.
First, the legislation seeks to provide students “with instruction and skills set to international standards that will enable them to be successful in the 21st century economy and productive citizens of the State.” MCPS has a long history of doing just this for so many of its students, but not all. In 2016, we began a concerted effort to ensure all students have access to rigorous learning opportunities. This effort included:
- Adoption of new, culturally competent curricular materials that better aligned with the rigorous state and national standards;
- Expanded access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses around the county to ensure that a student’s ZIP code or background does not limit their opportunities;
- Increased career readiness programs and experiences for students;
- Created more coding and STEM-based student opportunities; and
- Expanded dual-enrollment opportunities with Montgomery College.
Second, the bill calls for increased access to “educational experiences and opportunities beginning in early childhood that enable them to reach their full promise and potential and be ready for success in college and a rewarding career by the end of high school.” In MCPS, this means our students have:
- Expanded access to prekindergarten;
- Increased access to world language in elementary schools with new two-way immersion programs;
- Universal screening for acceleration and enrichment opportunities at the elementary and middle school levels;
- Innovative, extended-year elementary schools that focus on project-based learning; and
- Free access to the SAT, ACT and career licensure exams.
Next, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future seeks to elevate “overall student performance to be among the world’s best and eliminates achievement and opportunity gaps between students from different family incomes, races, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, and other defining characteristics.” MCPS has developed a strategy for closing gaps that leverages data; builds our highly qualified, diverse teacher workforce; addresses students physical, social and psychological well-being; implements innovative, targeted programs; and focuses on cultural proficiency. As a result, more students of color and students impacted by poverty are:
- Enrolled and thriving in rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;
- Taking the SAT;
- Participating in a dual-enrollment program with Montgomery College to receive an associate degree before they finish high school; and
- Accessing and succeeding in rigorous elementary and middle school math programs
The bill also calls for the “elevation of the teaching profession to a profession comparable to other fields. …” MCPS strongly supports this effort and has taken many supportive steps toward this goal. We have a longstanding professional growth system (PGS) developed in collaboration with our employee associations. The PGS provides mentorship and professional development for all employees. MCPS is also the recipient of a Teacher Induction, Retention, and Advancement grant from the Maryland State Department of Education. This grant helps MCPS provide some first-year teachers in Title I schools with more time for mentoring, peer observation and assistance with planning or other preparation activities. Additionally, the state provided resources last year that allowed us to raise teacher salaries and accelerate the effort to elevate the teacher profession.
Finally, the legislation calls for “a strong accountability system” to understand the impact of the investments being made. MCPS has already developed a public accountability system that allows parents and the community to understand how each school is meeting the needs of all students. The MCPS Equity Accountability Model provides a detailed and focused assessment of school success that moves beyond the typical state and federal aggregate reporting to performance reporting for specific focus groups of students who have not experienced the same level of access, opportunity or success as other students. MCPS also commissioned a study that examined how much we spend on our students and how well it is spent to ensure equity and excellence for all. Using the data from this equitable allocation of resources research, we have revised our practices regarding student placement in advanced courses and are working with our educator and administrator associations to incentivize the retention of high-quality teachers and principals at schools that are heavily impacted by poverty.
While the details of this bill are likely to evolve as it moves through the legislative process, I believe if key elements are enacted, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will fundamentally improve outcomes for students in MCPS, and in public schools across Maryland.
I encourage you to read the legislation and reach out to you representatives in the Maryland General Assembly to ask questions and share your feedback.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools