To get acquainted with one of the nation’s largest school districts, Montgomery superintendent Joshua Starr spent his first six months on the job touring the county in a series of “Listen and Learn” events. He hosted 17 meetings, attended by nearly 1,800 community members and school employees. He also held two Town Hall-style meetings for students.
Here are some of the most common concerns and issues expressed
during the meetings and the kinds of questions they raise for the new leader of Montgomery County schools.
The achievement gap: Why is there still a gap in performance between white and Asian students and their Latino and African American classmates in Montgomery? What can be done to close it?
Unequal Resources: Are quality teachers and resources spread fairly between schools that serve wealthy children and those that do not?
Too much pressure: Is the homework load excessive? And is the push for advanced classes too aggressive?
The arts: Have budget cuts and the push for higher tests cores in math and reading come at the expense of arts programs?
Magnet schools: Is the school choice process in Montgomery putting some schools at a disadvantage?
Special education: Is the process for identifying services for special needs children fair?
New curriculum: Will Curriculum 2.0, which is being rolled out in the early grades, put an end to acceleration and ability groups? How does it work? Is it fair?
From School Employees:
New curriculum: Is there adequate training to overhaul the elementary curriculum on such an ambitious timeline?
Budget cuts: Has the school system caused damage by eliminating support positions, such as media assistants, technology-specialists, paraprofessionals? And have class sizes gotten too large?
Too much pressure: How can the school system help ease the competitive pressure many students feel?
Budget cuts: Have too many extra-curricular activities been cut?
Attendance policies: What is the best way to discipline students who are chronically late to class?
After the new year, Starr is going to host another set of meetings with groups that are focused on more specific issues, such as special education, gifted education, and English language learners.