For more than a decade now, Montgomery County Public Schools has issued a "Call to Action" annual report. The report origins go back to the early years of Superintendent Jerry Weast, who retired last year.
On Jan. 10, MCPS issued its 2011 annual report. The report states that “The Annual Report provides a comprehensive accounting of the school system’s performance on the established milestones and data points set forth in the 2010–2015 strategic plan.”
Frankly, in the past, I ignored the report. But for some odd reason I opened the thing online last week and checked it out. I found myself fascinated with the summary pages—pages 93-96.
I'm not sure if MCPS views it this way, but one could view these pages as an official achievement gap closing scorecard for MCPS. There are 19 indicators, ranging from primary reading (for Grade 2) through high school graduation rates. Each indicator comes with a target goal or number or measured outcome. Goals are listed across five years (2011-2015), and many of the goals or measured outcomes increase over the five years.
For example, in 2011, MCPS set 77 percent as the target goal for SAT/ACT participation—meaning that 77 percent of its seniors would take either of these exams. And for the Class of 2011, 77.4 percent of the graduating seniors took the SAT or ACT. So, the system met the goal. Asian, white, and mixed-race seniors from this class also met the goal. Black and Hispanic seniors and seniors in special education and in English for Speakers of Other Languages classes, as well as seniors receiving free and reduced-price meals (FARMs)—the school system's indicator of students living in poverty— failed to achieve the 77 percent target.
The SAT/ACT participation target will climb to 78 percent this year, to 79 percent in 2013, and to 80 percent in 2014 before leveling off.
It does not take much time to review the targets on pages 93-96, and after doing so, one frankly must come to the conclusion that MCPS has failed to close achievement gaps.
FARMS and special education students met none of the 19 targets. On only three of the 19 indicators, black MCPS students met the system-wide targets—they failed to meet the other 16 target indicators.
In reality, the targets on pages 93-96 do not technically provide us with raw data to determine if existing gaps closed. There are no actual SAT scores reported—only the percentages of students earning a certain cut score (above a certain mean score). Regardless, the report is fascinating for capturing what has not been accomplished.
And so, one has to really wonder out loud here: How can MCPS make sweeping claims that it closed “the achievement gap” for poor kids and kids of color when even their own basic systemwide scorecard shows just the opposite?
Note to interested readers: Here is a great example of a sweeping "closed- gap" claim by MCPS:
On Jan. 21, 2010, when testifying to the United State Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, former Superintendent Weast said the following: “The district is proud of its accomplishments during the last decade in improving the level of student achievement and closing the gap between white and Asian American students and African American and Hispanic students. … We have improved performance with 78 percent of students taking Honors or Advanced Placement courses. The percentage of African American and Hispanic students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams surpasses the national percentage for all students.”