Montgomery County Public Schools has made progress in closing some achievement gaps among students of different races, income and service group status, but has seen gaps widen in other areas, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, produced by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight, illustrates the progress that the school system has made on closing gaps since 2007, when the office last produced a report.
Overall, the school system narrowed gaps for many student groups on school readiness, proficiency on state tests, suspensions, academic ineligibility and graduation rates. But gaps widened for some student groups on advanced scoring on state tests, Algebra 1 completion by grade 8, Advanced Placement and IB performance and SAT/ACT performance.
Schools made notable gains on Maryland State Assessments. For example, there was a 48 percentage point reduction in the gap between white eighth-grade students and their Latino peers in reading proficiencies on the Maryland State Assessments.
Gaps were slower to close on one of the school system’s Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness, passing Algebra 1 by eighth grade. That data show a 14 percentage point widening in the gap between white eighth-grade students and their Latino peers.
Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said Tuesday that nothing in the report surprised him — the school system has seen this data before.
“I appreciate their attention to the issue,” Starr said.
In his written response to the report, Starr wrote that the school system has been fighting to close these gaps for years. He mentioned that the school board frequently discusses the gaps in detail at meetings, and the gaps have been discussed at “nearly every public forum” he has attended since becoming superintendent in July 2011.
He explained how he plans to address the gaps in his budget next fiscal year by adding 30 focus teachers in middle schools that will help reduce math and English class sizes where needed, money for improving math instruction, $3 million more for professional development for curriculum, 160 other positions to be divided between English for Speakers of Other Languages and special education, as well as money for interventions.
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, chair of the council’s Education Committee, said Tuesday it is unfortunate that for some students, the achievement gap is persisting and in some areas widening.
The issue is bigger than the school system, Starr wrote. He asked the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) consider his recently proposed $2.23 billion budget, even though it is more than the minimum they are required to provide, as much of the added funding will go directly to addressing the gaps.
The county is required to maintain the same level of per-pupil funding under a state law called Maintenance of Effort.
Considering the budget Starr proposed is $10 million over that amount, the council will have some tough conversations with the school system when it presents its budget to the council, Ervin said.
Noting the school system’s seven keys, Ervin said those areas are precisely where the school system has invested much of its money but also where the gap is widening.
“So there are many questions that we will be asking the school system in relationship to this persistent, troubling and in some cases widening achievement gap,” she said.
Staff Writer Kate Alexander also contributed to this report.