School Year Opens with 1,000 New Teachers, Curriculum Revisions

August 26, 2002
The 2002-03 school year opens on August 27 with more than 1,000 new teachers, the largest enrollment ever, a new school, implementation of revised curricula at all grade levels and a continued effort to improve academic rigor, student achievement and systemwide accountability.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and others welcomed the new teachers to the Montgomery County Public Schools during an August 20 program. The teachers come from 32 states, the District of Columbia and several countries abroad, although more than half come from Maryland. Slightly more than half of the newly hired teachers (55 percent) are new to teaching. About 15 percent of the new teachers are African American, 5.4 percent are Asian and 5 percent are Hispanic.

In addition to teachers, the school system since last spring has filled 28 principal vacancies and hired 12 central office administrators.

The school year also opens with another year of record-breaking enrollment - projected at 138,796 students. About 435 students in the Albert Einstein Cluster begin the school year at Newport Mill Middle School in Kensington following renovation of the former Newport Junior High School facility during the past year.

Improving achievement

As the third year of a four-year plan to improve academic achievement gets under way, revised curricula in English, math, science and social studies are being implemented for students in Grades 1-8. At the high school level, revised curricula are being implemented for courses in biology; English; algebra; geometry; and national, state and local government. Instructional guides are now in place for students at all grade levels. Following community comment, revised high school frameworks will be brought to the Board of Education for approval in January 2003. A new kindergarten curriculum began implementation in the 2000-01 school year.

During the next few months, an external review of the K-8 curriculum will be conducted by Achieve, Inc., to ensure that curriculum frameworks, final exams and MCPS-developed formative assessments are aligned with the state High School Assessments and exemplary state and national standards. The College Board will conduct an external review of the curriculum for Grades 6-12.

Initiatives also include the phase-in this fall of a new mathematics textbook series for Grades 1-5 and reading courses for students in Grades 7 and 8 with documented reading deficiencies.

Budgeting for improvement

More than $15 million of this year's operating budget of $1.4 billion is being used in targeted schools to improve instruction for students from low-income families, students receiving ESOL services and special education students. They include expansion of full-day kindergarten from 34 to 56 schools, with class size reductions, Grades 1 and 2 class size reductions, literacy programs, improved ESOL services, special education improvements and support of the Downcounty Consortium.

The FY 2003 operating budget includes an increase of $89 million (6.7 percent) over the current year. It is being used to fund continued enrollment growth, opening of Newport Mill Middle School, negotiated agreements for staff, and instructional and operational improvements in targeted schools.

In addition, a FY 2003 capital budget of $112 million and FY 2003-08 Capital Improvements Program budget of almost $628 million will allow projects to accommodate projected enrollment increases, including six elementary school gymnasiums.

An active summer

About 3,600 students attending kindergarten through Grade 3 at the 18 federally funded Title I schools got a jump start on the school year by attending a new four-week Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program in July and August.

In addition, 10,000 students attended summer school programs held at six high schools, two middle schools and five elementary school sites throughout Montgomery County. The special education Extended School Year program had 2,360 students enrolled at 23 general education sites as well as the special education centers.

Other summer programs included Summer Discovery I and II, coordinated between the Office of Instruction and Program Development and the Family and Community Partnerships Unit. Discovery I, targeting African American and Hispanic students in Grades 5 and 6, focused on careers and college exploration. Discovery II provided students in Grades 7 and 8 an opportunity to examine connections between fine arts and math and science.

Workforce excellence

Expanded staff development, evaluation, and leadership initiatives for teachers, administrators and staff are making a difference in helping MCPS students learn and achieve.

With staff development teachers in every school, consulting teachers to provide assistance and new teacher mentors, the Professional Growth System has been phased in over the past two years at 126 schools. This year, all 191 schools in MCPS will be participating in the system. About half of the newly hired teachers are new to teaching and have consulting teachers assigned to work with them.

During the summer, staff participated in training and development for seven major projects: the Summer Leadership Institute; training for Grades 1 and 2 teachers; training for ELO teachers; Skillful Teaching of the Curriculum course work for Grades 3-5 teachers in 18 Title 1 schools and for Grades 8 and 9 teachers in the Kennedy, Einstein, Blair and Wheaton cluster schools; New Teacher Induction; training for staff involved in projects at the 44 technology modernization schools; and the Leadership Development Project for beginning administrators. In addition, training and development will continue for supporting services staff to build their skills and competencies.

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