Montgomery to replace ‘Seven Keys’ with ‘Five Districtwide Milestones’

June 24, 2013

Montgomery County schools will replace its ubiquitous “Seven Keys to College Readiness” and develop a plan to hold schools more accountable for closing achievement gaps under a new “strategic planning framework” the Board of Education is expected to approve Monday night.

The Seven Keys has been replaced with “Five Districtwide Milestones,” which outline academic and social-emotional benchmarks students should reach in grades 3, 5, 8 and 9 and at graduation. Many of the Milestones are similar to the Seven Keys: reading at proficient or advanced levels at third and fifth grades, or passing Algebra 1 with a C or higher in eighth grade. The Milestones, however, now include measures for student engagement and well-being starting at fifth grade.

Moving to the Milestones reflects changes under more challenging Common Core State Standards, resulting in more rigorous state standardized tests, AP exams and SATs.

The switch from the Seven Keys and the new strategic planning framework also reflects Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s efforts to broaden the definition of student success. Starr said students shouldn’t just master academic skills by the time they graduate, but they should also know how to problem solve and possess social and emotional skills.

“We’re taking a holistic view of what student achievement looks like,” Starr said.

Starr said the school system will also work to develop targets schools should meet for each of the Milestones.

The district will also craft “gap reduction targets” for the first time as a way to hold schools more accountable for closing the achievement gap.

“The Board of Education and [Montgomery schools] employees have taken gap issues very, very seriously for a very long time,” Starr said. “We're absolutely addressing it.”

The Montgomery County Council has recently increased pressure on the school system to close the achievement gap after a report from the Office of Legislative Oversight released in March shows the District has made mixed progress in narrowing academic performance differences between white and Asian students and black and Hispanic students.

Starr said the system is in the middle of developing the “gap reduction targets” with an aim of having more details available by the fall.

“Over the course of the next three years, MCPS will ensure an increase in overall performance on all established milestones and a reduction in the achievement gap,” according to a pamphlet outlining the new strategic planning framework.

Parents will be able to view the progress at individual schools through “dashboards” to be available online, Starr said.

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