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MCPS Students Head Back to School
August 25, 2014
Record enrollment, new buildings, new technology among highlights of 2014-2015 school year
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) begins the 2014–2015 school year Monday (August 25, 2014) with its highest enrollment ever, the opening of its 202nd school, and the launch of a new districtwide technology initiative that will place mobile devices in classrooms across the district.
More than 154,000 students are expected to attend MCPS this year—an increase of about 2,800 students over the 2013–2014 school year. Enrollment in MCPS has increased by more than 10,000 students over the past five years, and that growth is expected to continue in the future.
“We are looking forward to another outstanding year in Montgomery County Public Schools, where we are dedicated to providing all students with an education that prepares them for the 21st century,” said Phil Kauffman, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “More families than ever are entrusting the education of their children to MCPS, because they know we have a great staff, strong support from our community, and a commitment to excellence.”
To help accommodate its growing enrollment, MCPS is opening the doors on more than 200,000 square feet of new construction Monday, including Wilson Wims Elementary School in Clarksburg. Wilson Wims is the district’s 202nd school, and opens with an enrollment of more than 500 students. MCPS also is opening a revitalization and expansion project at Bel Pre Elementary School in Silver Spring and a large classroom addition project at Waters Landing Elementary School in Germantown.
All of the construction projects were completed on time and on budget and were built using green construction practices. For instance, Wilson Wims Elementary includes a geothermal exchange system for heating and cooling, a vegetative roof to reduce run-off, and is designed to maximize the use of natural light in classrooms and gathering spaces.
“A new school year holds endless possibilities for our students, and we are excited to welcome them on the first day of school,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua Starr. “This year we have new buildings, new technology, and new opportunities for our students to learn and grow, all of which builds on our unwavering commitment to provide every student with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in their future.”
MCPS is launching a new technology initiative this year that will place laptops and tablets in classrooms across the district. The initiative will put devices—mainly Google Chromebooks—in all grade 3, 5, and 6 classrooms this year, as well as high school social studies classes. The devices will be distributed in three waves during this school year, and additional grades and subjects will be added in future years.
The goal of the initiative is to use technology to enhance teaching and learning and create more opportunities to engage students in their education and individualize instruction. Using a cloud-based learning platform, this technology initiative will provide students and staff with “anytime, anywhere” access to their work. The program was piloted in schools last academic year and hundreds of MCPS educators were trained on how to use the devices in the classroom over the summer.
“This initiative is about more than just putting devices in the hands of students,” Dr. Starr said. “We want this technology to be a catalyst for new levels of creativity and collaboration across MCPS.”
New Curriculum and Assessments
MCPS will continue to roll out its curriculum aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education and set expectations for what students need to know and be able to do in reading and mathematics. For the past several years, MCPS has been improving its curriculum and instruction so that students can meet the higher expectations of the Common Core.
MCPS Curriculum 2.0 is fully aligned to the Common Core, but also focuses on developing the thinking and academic success skills that are so important in the 21st century. Curriculum 2.0 is now fully implemented in elementary schools. English classes in secondary schools, as well as Algebra 1 and Geometry classes, also are aligned to the Common Core.
Like all Maryland school districts, MCPS will administer new state assessments this year. Tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are replacing the Maryland School Assessments (MSA) in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and select high school classes.
The PARCC assessments will be given online and will be more rigorous than the MSAs, requiring students to demonstrate what they have learned in multiple ways.
“There are still a lot of questions about the PARCC assessments and how the results will be used for accountability purposes,” Dr. Starr said. “However, I am hopeful that these assessments will be a more reliable measure of student achievement and will provide data that can be used to improve teaching and learning.”
MCPS will continue to expand its community engagement and partnership efforts to help provide the wraparound services that students and their families need.
The Kennedy Cluster project will expand to the Watkins Mill cluster. A partnership with the county, this initiative provides services that support the academic success, social emotional well-being, and physical health of MCPS students and their families. Excel Beyond the Bell, a partnership that provides high-quality after-school programs to middle school students, also will expand this year.
MCPS also is fully implementing its Community Engagement Teams initiative, which is designed to promote parent and community involvement and meet the needs of families. These teams will work in schools that serve high numbers of economically disadvantaged students. One of the activities will be a series of “market days,” during which free, healthy food items will be provided and MCPS, county agencies, and nonprofit organizations will engage and connect families to services and programs that support the education and well-being of their children.
The first market day of the year was held on Friday, August 22, at Greencastle Elementary School, and at least 30 other market days are expected to be held this year.
Among the other highlights for the 2014–2015 school year:
· MCPS will expand computer science classes at 11 high schools through a new partnership with Code.org. The classes, which will teach coding and other skills, will be offered at Clarksburg, Damascus, Gaithersburg, Kennedy, Northwest, Northwood, Paint Branch, Quince Orchard, Rockville, Springbrook, and Wheaton high schools this year.
· The Montgomery College Middle College program will begin at Northwood and Northwest high schools—giving students a chance to earn their high school diploma and credits toward an associate’s degree in a STEM-related field at the same time.
· MCPS will continue its commitment to environmental sustainability by switching to recycled paper trays in all cafeterias this year. By mid-fall, the new trays should completely replace the foam trays that were previously used in MCPS cafeterias.
· MCPS has a new Code of Conduct that outlines expectations for student conduct in school, the district’s philosophy on discipline, and the range of consequences students face for violations of school rules and policies.
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