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All In blog by MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith

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"Our children are 20 percent of our population, but 100 percent of our future."
—Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley

When I started my first day as superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools four years ago, I knew I had an immense responsibility before me. The mission was clear. The Board of Education and I agreed that it was imperative for MCPS to maintain its long history of excellence, while increasing access, opportunity and learning levels for all students, especially students of color, students in poverty, and students receiving special education and ESOL services. We worked to accomplish this while maintaining the operational and academic excellence that had been the hallmark of the school system for years.

Since the 2016-2017 school year, we have opened two middle schools and two elementary schools. In addition, we have modernized and revitalized/expanded one middle school, three elementary schools, and the Thomas Edison High School of Technology. For the 2020-2021 school year, the revitalization/expansion of three elementary schools, two special education schools, one middle and one high school will be complete.

Our K–12 enrollment has increased by 5,897 students. 660 students have moved from half-day to full-day programs, and we have added five more prekindergarten classes and two early childhood learning centers—MacDonald Knolls, which serves 118 students and the Upcounty Early Childhood Center at Emory Grove, which serves 80 students. We have added five dual-language programs, and two elementary schools, Roscoe R. Nix and Arcola, have begun their second years using an innovative 210-day school year rather than the traditional 182-day calendar.

In addition, the elementary and middle school enrichment program selection process has been updated to use multiple measures, and more than 189 seats for elementary school students have been added to the Center for Enriched Studies. Two enrichment courses have been added in 37 middle schools. Three new regional International Baccalaureate sites have been added for high schools, and 32,311 new students have taken Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes in the last three years. More than 48.3 percent of those students were African American, Hispanic and/or students of all races in poverty.

Dual enrollment and early college programs with Montgomery College have been created and expanded. The Class of 2020 included 44 students who received a high school diploma and an associate of science degree, up from eight graduates in 2018 and 14 in 2019. Based on current enrollment, this number is expected to grow to more than 1,100 graduates by 2023 and include associate of science, associate of arts, and associate of applied science degrees in 15 different pathways.

In the past two years, new career and technology programs in aviation, cybersecurity, network operations, biomedical sciences, fire science and rescue, law enforcement, construction management and hospitality management are providing students with rigorous career preparation and industry-recognized certifications to get a head start on high-demand careers in the workforce.

In the last four years, we have shown our commitment to every student by adding staff to help with our growing enrollment and to support students with the greatest needs. More than 150 full-time equivalent special educators have joined us, and we have more than 102 new ESOL staff members on board. Focus teachers have been added to elementary schools with poverty levels at or above 35 percent, to middle schools with poverty levels at or above 25 percent, and to high schools with poverty levels at or above 20 percent. We’ve also added staff—more than 75 school counselors, pupil personnel workers, social workers, ESOL transition counselors, psychologists and parent community coordinators—to support student physical, social and psychological well-being.

This work has been accomplished because of the commitment and the sense of urgency of our staff. Teachers, front office staff, paraeducators, administrators and other employees build relationships, expand opportunities and unleash the infinite potential of our students. We are starting to see results.

This work has been possible because of the foundational information, increased understanding and growing importance about the learning of all students created by the equity and achievement framework. This framework allows us to address persistent disparities in student outcomes based on race, culture, income, disability and language. While we have made great progress in some areas, there is still much work to do. Data and evidence are critical tools that equip us to do better in our quest for greater access and equity. We must continue to use multiple measures to determine if all our students are learning. We must stay the course.

For about 75 percent of the 2019–2020 school year, we continued this work inside our classrooms and schools. On March 16, students stopped coming to school buildings and—to the dismay of us all—did not return before the school year ended on June 15. Now, we are confronted with re-ordering and reimagining the school experience for our students. But the re-ordering and reimagining cannot become an excuse for failing to maintain excellence and continuing to increase equity for the students of Montgomery County Public Schools. Our students depend on us. Will we be there for them?

Today, four years later, I continue to take the immense responsibility of educating and creating opportunities for every single student as seriously today as I did when I began. Will you join me?.

Take care and be well,
Jack Smith

About MCPS

Montgomery County Public Schools

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Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD, 20850
Call: 240-740-3000 | Spanish Hotline: 240-740-2845