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Montgomery County Public Schools’ Failing Grade

Posted: November 24, 2015 at 9:34 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

markUncaphernewBy Mark Uncapher

Montgomery County residents have long seen our public school system as a “crown jewel,” setting us apart from other communities. However a different reality is setting in.

According to Maryland State Department of Education data, most students in Montgomery County failed to earn college-ready scores on statewide tests. Only 39 percent of students who took the Algebra 1 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test or PARCC for short got a score of 4 or 5. On the Algebra 2 test, 31 percent of Montgomery County (MCPS) students scored a 4 or a 5. Forty-four percent of MCPS students scored a 4 or a 5 on the English 10 PARCC test. Students who scored at Levels 4 or 5 are deemed college ready.

If that did not fully sink in, let me restate it: State tests show the majority of Montgomery County public school students were not ready for college.

Among the state’s counties, Montgomery’s performance placed third, behind Howard and Frederick counties. Within the Montgomery County results were significant divergences among Asian, white, black and Hispanic students. Almost 67 percent of Asian MCPS students and 57 percent of white students earned a 4 or a 5 on the Algebra 1 PARCC exam, while just 17 percent each for black and Hispanic students earned that grade. Comparable performance gaps also separated students of different backgrounds on the Algebra 2 and English 10 exams.

These results reflect a disturbing school performance trend. Seventy-four percent of high school students in Montgomery failed June’s Algebra 1 semester-end final. The prior year 82 percent of high school students failed the exams.

Such disastrous results in any other organization would have triggered a searching reappraisal. Much closer scrutiny of MCPS’s performance would seem to be required in order to better track progress and shortcomings, among other strategies. When students are failing, one would expect educators would want to use tests to carefully monitor gaps in teaching and curriculum that might account for the testing deficiencies.

Instead, Montgomery County’s Board of Education has taken exactly the opposite course. The Board voted this month to eliminate high school final exams. Starting next school year, 45-minute quarterly assessments will replace two-hour semester exams.
Individual teachers overwhelmingly objected to getting rid of finals. More than 90 percent of 214 staff members opposed doing away with the county’s semester-end tests. Nearly three-quarters of the 149 parents who submitted recent comments did not want to eliminate final exams.

How else is the Board of Education focusing its attention? Converting a “union holiday” into a Moslem one. Earlier this November it voted 6 to 2 to move a professional work day for teachers and administrators to correspond with the Moslem holy day of Eid al-Adha, which falls each year on either September 11 or 12.

For decades, real estate agents have touted the quality of Montgomery County Public Schools to prospective buyers. Given the direction the schools are taking, home sales people will need to find other selling points. Similarly, voters receiving their teacher union “approved” Apple Ballots might want to inquire where their candidates stand on restoring Montgomery County Public Schools’ standards.