September 23, 2004

Testimony to MCPS Strategic Planning and Budgeting Forum

By Cindy Kerr, MCCPTA President

Goal 2: Provide an Effective Instructional Program

September 23, 2004


 Good Evening, I am Cindy Kerr, President of the
Montgomery County Council of PTAs.


On behalf of the 56,000 members of the MCCPTA, I want to again thank the BOE for the opportunity to provide input into the MCPS’ Planning Phase: the stage in the process when MCPS priorities are set and a series of actions and desired results are outlined. Tonight’s forum, focused on MCPS Goal 2: Provide an Effective Instructional Program, is an important opportunity for us to participate in the identification of long-range strategic planning issues before the development of the recommended operating budget.  


After participating in the first forum earlier this month on Goal 1: Ensure the Success of Every Student, we feel even more strongly that this new process does <I style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">not offer a meaningful substitute for the traditional public hearing in January, which focus on commenting on the MCPS operating budget. We once again urge the BOE to preserve the 20-year board tradition of preset designation times for hearing concerns regarding the actual budget allocations -- from at least 27 area and cluster coordinators, elected each year by presidents and delegates from the 180 PTAs and PTSAs in the county -- at a time when this input can still meaningfully shape the operating budget allocations.


To better communicate the intent of Goal 2: Provide an Effective Instructional Program, MCCPTA recommends MCPS develop category titles for supporting initiatives that are more descriptive.  The current categories or “themes”: Curriculum and Instruction, and Technology, do not convey well the MCPS strategies for achieving this Goal.  MCCPTA believes the seven “themes” MCPS used to categorize the initiatives for Goal 1 such as: Class Size Reductions, Extended Time and High School Reform, better communicated MCPS’ plans.


As with the first goal, it is difficult to judge whether specific strategies and initiatives are on target to achieve the goal based on available performance information, we do offer the following:


There appears to be ample evidence of a positive increase in Honors and Advance Placement participation across the county.
We are anxiously awaiting the impact of the Middle School Audit, an area where many parents feel we are failing to serve our children’s needs to the best of our ability.
The Reading Recovery Program, while effective, needs to be available to students with special needs according to their individual needs and certainly not the only program. Children who are already identified as special education are not currently accepted into the program.
Career and Technology Education Programs are valuable and must be utilized and offered to more students who may not choose the "college path." 
Many parents are not clear on what the System of Shared Accountability entails.  Parents want information that is usable and identifiable on how well their children are performing in any snapshots of time. Progress levels must be completely and easily identified. The expectation should be that all children can obtain a higher standard no matter their level of ability.
Program Evaluations are crucial to ensure we choose and properly implement the “Right” programs for our students.  Program Evaluation should include a review of: 1)  the Program’s Purpose, 2) MCPS Management of the Program, 3) The quality of MCPS planning for the Program and 4) an assessment of the Program’s effectiveness.
Web-based instruction and support show promise as a “force multiplier “ for MCPS.
All of our students need to be technology literate and we recommend an upgrade in requirement for HS students to be more than basic computer skills. 

In addition, we would like to offer the following Academic Concerns, gathered from across the County:


ACADEMIC CONCERNS – Elementary School

Lack of a well rounded curriculum: Emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic to the exclusion of a rich science, social studies, arts and other curriculum
Poorly planned curriculum implementation—lack of adequate resources for teachers and inadequate communication with parents during roll out of new curriculum
Unfocused curriculum: jumping from topic to topic with little connection
Inconsistent expectations of students – need for uniformly high expectations that all students will succeed and will have their needs met including Special Education, ESOL, Gifted/Talented
Too much time devoted to teaching to the “test” for standardized testing
Inadequate attention to vertical articulation planning – more attention needed to ensure that students receive necessary foundational instruction in elementary to be academically ready for  later curriculum options (example: preparing students for Math A in Middle School)
Academic challenges posed by split articulation in schools does not receive adequate planning and attention
Need for Math Specialists (like Reading Specialists) in all elementary schools to provide early intervention for students especially with increased demands of new math curriculum
Need to make academic intervention/support such as summer learning opportunities available to all students based on need and not limit resource allocation to Title I schools 


Inadequate academic rigor in middle school curriculum—attention to emotional and developmental needs though appropriate cannot be to the exclusion of  rigorous academic standards
Need for specific action/intervention plan for students not meeting standard under new grading policy
Inadequate attention to vertical articulation planning – more attention needed to ensure that students receive necessary foundational instruction in elementary and middle school to be academically ready for later curriculum options 


Inadequate attention/resources devoted to the large number of students not meeting basic academic standards (below a 2.0 GPA) who then become academically ineligible
Increase attention and resources to students who fail at the 9th grade level to anticipate and avoid risk of later drop out
Inconsistency in course offerings across county
Frequent curriculum changes 
Lack of current curriculum textbooks, many times due to frequent curriculum changes 
Grading and Reporting - continued confusion about its applications, including the role of homework and participation.   

I want to close my discussion of Goal 2 by emphasizing the importance of training to this goal.  Training needs to be funded to implement successful programs for all students. For example, there is currently an acute need for training to support effective instruction for special education students targeted to remain in general education classrooms under Least Restrictive Environment.


MCCPTA appreciates the BOE’s efforts to gain important public involvement early in the planning and budgeting processes.  We are looking forward to hearing back from MCPS on the results of these forums, and urge the BOE to revisit the cancellation of preset designation times for MCCPTA Cluster testimony, which has decreased our opportunity for input on the Budgeting and Review Phases.