Montgomery hopes ‘Innovation Schools’ will help close achievement gaps

April 24, 2013

Low-performing Montgomery County schools slated to get individual case-management help from central office administrators will be called “Innovation Schools” as part of the district’s newest initiative aimed at closing achievement gaps, school officials said.

The new program is not intended to replace the existing Focus Schools model, officials said at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

Innovation Schools will be identified based on performance. The schools will get more one-on-one help from the chief schools improvement officer, a newly created position in the district that replaces an executive job that was eliminated.

“This isn’t just about visiting once a month and giving advice for improvements,” Deputy Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said. “This is about frequent shoulder-to-shoulder support with the principal and with the school leadership team.”

Focus Schools in Montgomery County — previously known as red-zone/green-zone schools — are designated based on demographic factors such as poverty rates or the proportion of students who speak English as a second language. These schools receive additional funding, including federal Title I money, to support their operations.

It’s possible that a campus could be both a Focus and Innovation school, said Superintendent Joshua P. Starr.

The school system provided more details about how the Innovation Schools will be selected Tuesday. About 10 schools will launch the program, and the district will designate Innovation Schools based on various metrics, including leadership, community perceptions and academic performance; advanced reading and/or math levels for third- and fifth-graders; data on “well-being” for fifth-graders; the number of ninth-graders who complete Algebra I and English 9 with at least a B; ninth-grade ineligibility rates; and high school graduation rates.

The list of Innovation Schools will be announced May 14.

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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