Only hours before the Montgomery County Board of Education met to discuss religious holidays and the school system’s 2015-16 calendar, Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr delivered his third annual “State of the Schools” address. On Tuesday, November 11, students, parents, teachers, and principals—along with a smattering of state legislators and County Councilors—assembled at the Strathmore Center in Bethesda, hearing songs and seeing performances by students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Martin Luther King Middle School, Northwood High School, and several other schools before listening to Dr. Starr’s address.
Dr. Starr began his speech by pointing out recent successes at Watkins Mill High School in Montgomery Village. Nearly three-fourths of Watkins Mill students have received free or reduced-price meals (“FARMS”), and the number of students attending Watkins Mill is steadily growing. Watkins Mill administrators actively “build relationships with students to help them meet very high expectations” with notable success in raising the graduation rate to 85 percent and in welcoming more students into AP and IB courses. Such accomplishments are not unique to Watkins Mill, Dr. Starr continued, for MCPS “offer[s] rigorous academics and a wide array of learning opportunities to our students; we hire and develop the right people; we with the community… and we hold ourselves accountable for results.” Two-thirds of last year’s seniors took at least one AP exam, and the class of 2014 as a whole earned over $340 million in college scholarships.
What challenges does the Superintendent think MCPS faces in the coming years? “First, we must prepare our students for the future,” using new teaching strategies and expanding special educational programs, as well as adding new technologies such as the Chromebooks that MCPS is introducing to high school social studies classes during this school-year. “At the same time, we know that we have not served all students well… We must close the [achievement] gap.” Dr. Starr commended principals for “being transparent about their gaps,” but also discussed ways that the school system can further support schools with the largest gaps in student performance. Over the past few years, MCPS has committed additional English, math, and ESOL teachers to such schools, while providing extra funding to schools “most impacted by poverty.”
“This is urgent—our kids will not wait.” And no doubt Montgomery County’s active and dedicated Superintendent will not wait to put new and innovative plans to better educate MCPS students into action.
Content by the MoCo Student MCPS News Staff
Photo provided by courtesy of MCPS Moment