Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr called on education leaders and the community to work together break away from old education models that don’t work and close the achievement gap.

Starr addressed more than 700 Montgomery County parents, students, teachers, business leaders and community members in his first “State of the Schools” address at the Music Center at Strathmore on Monday morning. He laid out his vision for the 17th-largest school system in the country, often nationally recognized for above-average high school graduation rates and educational achievement.

“For the past 12 years, we have been beholden to federal and state rules and laws that have narrowed curriculum, stifled creativity and relied too heavily on standardized tests as a sole indicator of success ... ” Starr said. “Well thankfully, [No Child Left Behind] is going away, which gives us an opportunity for our community — and our country — to rethink what it means to provide our children with a great education.”

Starr has been a vocal critic of national policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Starr said one of the most pressing problems the school system will need to address as it moves forward is closing the achievement gap — the difference in test scores between black and Hispanic students compared to white and Asian students. He acknowledged that while Montgomery has a national reputation for high academic achievement, that opportunity often passes by many students who live with single parents, are immigrants or receive free and reduce-priced meals at school.

“The debt we owe our children and our families has grown because of culturally-biased IQ tests and standardized assessments” and “unfair immigration policies and tracking practices that have provided access to high-level courses for some and not others,” Starr said.

Watkins Mill High School senior Sergio Mosquera-Limas, 18, said Starr’s speech was inspiring.

“He wants to change the way we do things,” Mosquera-Limas said.

Mosquera-Limas, a native of Columbia, said he liked that Starr wanted to make sure quality education was available and accessible to all students, regardless of their backgrounds or status.

Parent Mayra Moran was in the audience to learn more about Starr’s vision for the school system now educating her 11-year-old son. Moran came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 5 and graduated from Watkins Mill High School in 1991.

Like Mosquera-Limas, Moran said she liked that Starr addressed the achievement gap and “the diverse county that we live and work in.”

Moran, a retired finance director of a nonprofit, said she has noticed a difference in Montgomery County education from the time she started as a student to how it has educated her two children: “The county has really worked hard to make sure there is support for the immigrant community.”

For more on Starr’s address, visit here.