Montgomery County MD Schools
Montgomery County, Maryland Schools historically were considered among the best in the country. The schools fell out of favor when they adopted Common Core in 2010. They switched to a new curriculum right before Covid. How are they doing and how do families feel about sending their kids to Montgomery County Schools these days? Let’s find out!
Montgomery County, MD Public Schools – Background Information
Montgomery County’s 209 schools offer both local schools as well as regional or countywide programs. There are language immersion programs for French, Spanish and Chinese. There are Centers for Enriched Studies which is like Talented and Gifted for 4th and 5th grade. There are magnet middle schools which offer digital design, performing arts and aerospace technology. At the high school level there are more career focused programs, science, arts, and the International Baccalaureate or IB programs. There are also a couple high school Consortia’s which allow students to apply for the school that’s right for them within a specific geographic area.
The DCC or Down County Consortium was created in the Silver Spring area of the county which is highly dense with fluid boundaries that, in the future, may be continually readjusted had each area been assigned one school. North in the county, it’s not as population dense and the high schools are more spread out. They do allow out-of-area students to apply to some programs – Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill IB or Magruder which has an aviation program.
The graduation rate for the Montgomery County Maryland’s Public Schools is almost 92%.
Montgomery County, MD Schools – Academics
In 2010, the State of Maryland adopted the Common Core for education, also referred to as “2.0.” In 2018, Johns Hopkins audited the curriculum for Montgomery County Schools and it wasn’t good. Summing it up, they found that English and Math curriculums were not satisfactory. Teachers expressed concerns, citing 2.0 as difficult to teach with the technology and felt that they needed to supplement with other lessons.
Fewer than 1/3 of the students understood their math and fewer than 1/4th understood English Language Arts. Teachers said it contained too much busywork, not enough time to practice skills and did nothing to help those in special education. The teachers tried to supplement Common Core with other material. Parents lost a lot of trust in Montgomery County Public Schools.
This was not a good look.
Montgomery County re-bid the curriculum and in 2019, 2.0 was replaced in Elementary by Benchmark (ELA) and Eureka (Math), and in Middle School by StudySync (ELA) and LearnZillion Illustrative Math. The new math curricula have turned out better than the ELA.
It feels very a la carte style. It makes use of online apps / technology, plus workbooks. But then there was Covid, and the timing could not have been worse to train teachers on new systems and a new curriculum.
This lack of textbooks, and using tech, screens, apps, handouts – it’s causing some angst. The school system feels very much in flux to some parents. Even something as basic as literature – students would read 8-10 books a year. Now, some classes are only reading 2-3. There’s been a big difference in the breadth of literature and content students are exposed to with the decline in expectations – even for AP classes.
“Adding in mandatory curriculums, Benchmark ELA and Eureka math (and the awful Curriculum 2.0), and taking away the flexibility for teachers to modify the curriculum to best engage students OR allow for remediation of foundational skills is a recipe for disaster. I am disappointed in MCPS as both a teacher and a parent. Kids are subjected to endless testing ($$$) and we are required to collect and document hundreds of data points – for what purpose? We are unable to use that information to modify the curriculum. Data should be used to drive further instruction, and as teachers, our hands are tied.”
What’s the problem? Sounds like a lot of the usual – Administration that’s out of touch, changing a curriculum twice inside of 10 years and an Administration not supportive of the teachers.
So what do they do well in Montgomery County Schools? The immersion programs already mentioned, and the magnet and IB programs. There is high demand for these programs. The addition of career training and the ability to graduate high school with an Associates Degree from Montgomery County College is a great opportunity – should you want to cut those 4 years of college short.
Across the board, the elementary schools are held in high regard, but truth be told – that’s the case in most places. Elementary is easier to manage across the board than middle schools which fare the worst in any district or high schools which are scrutinized for their college readiness and rigorousness of academics.
Montgomery County, MD Schools – Extracurriculars
There’s all the athletic and non-athletic after school options in middle and high school that you would expect. If your kiddo has special interests, it may affect your decision to send them to one school over another, definitely check the school profile and extra curriculars to make sure you know the options.
Montgomery County, MD Schools – School Administration
Montgomery County Schools are run in the classic manner. There’s a school board and a Superintendent.
There were close to 800 open jobs at the beginning of Summer 2022. As we head into the last few weeks of summer, they are down to 250 open jobs. Regardless, is it just the Great Resignation or have teachers had enough of Montgomery County shenanigans?
What shenanigans say you? Aside from the curriculum disaster mentioned already, it’s the usual. Teachers cite administration that doesn’t back them up and county policies continuously change. Lack of consistent, strong leadership is always a problem for school districts. Other local districts have the same issues – Covid and teacher burnout is rampant, but that is not exclusive to Montgomery County, Maryland.
Montgomery County, MD Schools – No Child Left Behind
In an effort to ensure that all students have the same access to education, Montgomery County has made this a main goal for the county. From their website: “While many of our students achieve at the highest levels, not all have had the opportunities, support and resources needed to meet their full potential. MCPS is committed to addressing disparities in student outcomes by closing gaps in opportunity and achievement for all students, in all classrooms, in all of our schools.”
This is common in DC as well as well as plenty of other school districts – so what I’m about to say shouldn’t be a surprise. Parents will agree with equality in education. But there are parents, sometimes those very same parents, who will malign a school district because they feel their child isn’t being challenged to his or her ability. Without enough teachers, it’s hard to satisfy both concepts of challenging all students appropriately with coursework but ensuring that those struggling or with special needs also get the education they deserve.
Some parents end up supplementing their child’s education with other resources, pulling them to go to private school or homeschooling.
Regardless, sometimes leaving no child behind also means some won’t be as far ahead as they, or their parents, would like.
Special Education positions are a disproportionate number of jobs that are vacant. This has resulted in students not receiving the Special Education services they need.
The Montgomery County, Maryland schools system was a shining star for many years in Maryland and admired for their schools. Many schools did, and some still do make the “best of” lists. MCPS is still filling in gaps in the curriculum and still paying for a lack of engagement with students during online learning. If you don’t know this, many kids did not sail through the Covid years easily. Add a sub par curriculum that changed just before Covid and Montgomery County is trying to recover from this hangover.
Here’s one last thing to consider. Many people choose Maryland or Virginia because of the state colleges. Virginia’s options typically are much more desired than Maryland’s. On the Maryland side of the Potomac, you have University of Maryland, University Maryland Baltimore County which is an honors school, as well as Towson University.