Middle School Reform Highlights New School Year

August 27, 2007
New School Year Highlighted by Middle School Reform,
Opening of New Elementary School

Middle school reform, the opening of one new and one modernized school, full-day Head Start and a range of other initiatives and changes are under way as Montgomery County Public Schools opens its doors August 27 for another school year.

About 137,000 students will be greeted by more than 11,000 teachers—about 800 of them new to the school system this year. In addition, school gets under way with 32 new principals, 90 assistant principals and 10 assistant school administrators.

Both students and teachers participated in a range of programs and trainings over the summer, including a weeklong orientation for new educators in August. More than 8,000 MCPS staff members participated in more than 90,000 hours of training in preparation for the opening of school.

“The 2007-2008 school year is going to be a great one for our students, staff and families,” said Nancy Navarro, president of the Board of Education. “Our middle school reform program will strengthen our schools and give our students the boost they need to be successful in high school and beyond.”

Middle school reform is in the forefront this school year, as the school system begins implementing a three-year, $10 million effort to ensure that students have the skills to succeed in the global marketplace.

“We want to make middle schools more engaging for our students,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. “This will be accomplished in part by drawing in technology that students often use in their lives outside school, and tying it into the curriculum.”

Five Phase I middle schools are participating in reform efforts this year—Benjamin Banneker, Roberto Clemente, Montgomery Village, Sligo and Earle B. Wood. The focus includes training teachers, accelerating curriculum, improving leadership structure of the schools, and introducing new technology.

The five schools, along with the newly modernized Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology and eight other middle schools scheduled for technology modernization this year, are beginning the year with more than 250 ActivClassrooms, building-wide wireless infrastructure and more. The ActivClassrooms technology suite includes an interactive white board, projector, student response system and library of instructional resources to engage students, support the curriculum and promote critical thinking and problem-solving.

During the summer, teachers in the Phase I schools received training on integrating technology into lessons in math, science, reading/language arts and social studies that are part of the curriculum. Teachers in the technology modernization schools will be trained this fall. Opportunities will be available for teachers to suggest ideas and additional lessons of their own that could integrate the technology with MCPS curriculum.

Other interactive hands-on learning experiences will be offered, such as an after-school class called “Lights, Camera, Literacy” in which students will create and edit films. In addition, a new Parent Academy will offer numerous workshops for middle school and other parents in areas such as helping their children learn, parent involvement and parenting skills, health/wellness and technology.

New school and modernization
The new Arcola Elementary School this year brings the total number of MCPS schools to 200—130 elementary, 38 middle, 25 high and seven special schools. Opening as a Title I school, Arcola can serve 550 students and will relieve overcrowding at Kemp Mill, Highland and Glen Haven elementary schools.

Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology has reopened after receiving a complete modernization. Part of the original school was razed, and a new two-story classroom wing was added. The new facility is about 10,000 square feet larger than the original facility.

These and other major capital projects completed during the summer add 350,000 square feet of new space and 450,000 square feet of renovated space to MCPS facilities. The added space will help reduce dependence on portable classrooms. Projects include additions at Albert Einstein and Sherwood high schools, new gyms at four elementary schools, new classrooms at two schools, and ongoing projects at Richard Montgomery High School and College Gardens Elementary School.

Full-day Head Start
Head Start has been expanded to a full-day program in 10 Title I elementary schools for the 2007-2008 school year. Head Start is a federally funded prekindergarten program for children impacted by poverty.

Full-day Head Start classes will serve 260 4-year-olds in 13 classes at Arcola, Broad Acres, East Silver Spring, Georgian Forest, Highland, Montgomery Knolls, New Hampshire Estates, Twinbrook, Viers Mill and Weller Road elementary schools.

The full-day Head Start program will increase the amount of time for students to receive instruction, particularly in areas of literacy and math, and will help them enter kindergarten with the academic and social skills they need to be successful.

Special education
For special education students, an hours-based staffing model is being implemented in selected middle schools to ensure equitable distribution of special education staff at each school and provide a high quality instructional program to support students with disabilities in the general education environment. Eleven middle schools are participating in the staffing model for 2007-2008, for a total of 13 schools.

In addition, a new Web-based Individualized Education Program tool will create a single data source for all processes and information for special education. Training for all staff in the new Encore system will occur throughout the fall, with the system going live Jan. 1, 2008.

High School Plus
A new extended-day program called High School Plus will help high school students who have failed courses for graduation. Students will be able to retake these courses for credit in their home schools.

During 2007-2008, ninth and tenth grades at all high schools will participate in the program, which was piloted in four high schools last year. Classes will be offered during the school day or scheduled after the regular school day ends.

Students in grades 11 and 12 will continue to attend the one remaining regional evening high school site, located at Montgomery Blair High School.

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