To Stay a High-Performing School District, MCPS Must Support its Mathletes

The degree to which MCPS stays high-performing relates directly to the degree to which it stands behind its academically-gifted students.

I’m firmly on the record saying that the Montgomery County Public Schools is a very good public school district.

To wit, .

I’m also on the record saying MCPS has not closed its academic achievement gaps. For example, . 

Reality check: Yes, you can have both a very good public school district—high performing—and have substantial populations of students lagging behind academically. Unfortunately, in our nation, our state, our region, and our county, such extremes are just the way things are.

But one thing is clear in my head about staying high-performing. The degree to which MCPS stays on top of its game relates directly to the degree to which it firmly stands behind its most academically gifted students. And so, when I read my Aug. 5 edition of The Washington Post Magazine—with the story about MCPS’s mathletes—I began to wonder if MCPS really is interested and committed to standing behind its most academically-gifted students.

Have we lost our minds?

Click here to read the full article, “Montgomery’s mathletes." 

Here’s the story in a nutshell: The Montgomery County Math Team is one nation’s best performing math team—they win a lot. The article even refers to some of the team members as “ … the Kobe Bryants and Peyton Mannings of math.” And all of this wonderful work has been going on for decades in Montgomery County. Clearly, it an essential piece of MCPS’s high performance (my opinion here). But times are tight financially and support for the team has been severely cut. Cut to the point where it appears as though the team might be at the end of its road—as in out-of-business within another school year.

And so this is where I’d like to simply end this blog posting a question each for the Montgomery County Board of Education and another for MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr. (Although, they also are free to answer the above question—Have we lost our minds?)

Board question: Is there any Board member who really believes that MCPS will remain high performing—better than average, better than ordinary—without standing behind our mathletes?

Starr question: You keep preaching to us about how our kids need more real life-like experiences that test creativity and innovation, and so aren't these mathletes doing exactly what you want from all our kids?

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Martha August 24, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Personally, I feel that this lowering of academic rigor and standards does every child at every level disservice and cannot help but begin to impact the broader community. I predict the slow dismantling of a previously excellent school district will have far-reaching effects on the business community such as being able to attract top talent (will they want to put their children in mediocre schools?) and ultimately on all our property values.
Martha August 24, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Couple this at the primary level with the slow erosion of general advanced classes, the dumbing-down of AP courses, and reduced support for the magnet programs at the secondary level, you have the answer to the question you posed: No, MCPS is *NOT* really interested and committed to standing behind its most academically-gifted students and was probably thrilled to have the opportunity to seat a Superintendent that shared their attitudes and bleeding-heart philosophies. (to be continued)
Martha August 24, 2012 at 02:49 PM
“Differentiation” is held up as a shining model of modern educational instruction but doesn’t make a darn bit of academic sense…why have 3 grade level teachers teaching 3 different math levels for a third of the class time when like-abled children could be grouped into a single classroom and each teacher could teach a single level for the full class time? Despite the fact that, as Nancy Green, the Executive Director of The National Association for Gifted Children, noted at Superintendent Starr’s Spring Forum on GT issues, “research has shown time and again that flexible grouping is a win-win for everyone,” the MCPS philosophy continues to be that “flexible grouping” makes the kids left behind at grade level “feel bad” and gives the children receiving more advanced instruction (and their parents) an attitude of superiority… sounds outrageous, I know, but I have heard this with my own ears.
Martha August 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
And second…where have you been for the last several years as MCPS has been systematically deflating, undercutting, and seemingly sabotaging support to the top academic performers. The administration along with special interest groups such as MCEF have turned “G&T” and “magnet” into four-letter words and their supporters into racists and elitists. The county has adopted an attitude where every young child should be taught at the same level based solely on their chronological age. All third graders will receive 3rd grade instruction regardless of their previous mastery of the subject matter or worse, even if they didn’t “get” it. The county does not seems to acknowledge the conventional wisdom that not all children think and learn in the same manner or at the same rate and has slowly moved to a one-size-fits-all model with the implementation of Curriculum 2.0 and the refusal to provide for “flexible grouping” based on readiness / mastery. (to be continued)
Theresa Defino August 24, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Thanks, Joe...I needed a new cause! And my twins have been at different ends of the educational spectrum and BOTH had trouble with math. My son will be at MC and my daughter at an public university out-of-state. My son is two levels behind at MC, yet earned all his math credits. As he said to me, MCPS failed me. And he's right. Meanwhile my daughter was pushed to take ever-more-difficult classes, ending with statistics, and needed a tutor at one point. She'll be a photo major and should have taken business math, which her twin took, to prepare her for real life. There is a focus on the top--the push to get kids to take AP classes, to enroll in IB and "make the grade" with WaPo's lists. That's what MCPS pays attention to. Many kids at the middle and lower levels are falling through the cracks.


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