Addressing the Opportunity Gap within Montgomery County Public Schools
Currently in MCPS, there is a very large disparity in education quality and college readiness from school to school. One can see through many different standards - test scores, dropout rates, class performance - that the opportunity gap is still very prevalent. Having different educational opportunities based on where you live or your economic status is unacceptable and must be addressed with the utmost priority.
One can see clearly the disparity between schools in Montgomery County. There are two continuous opportunity gaps in MCPS: concentrated poverty and segregation amongst schools and underfunded compensatory programs and ESOL programs in these schools. Based on how the school boundary lines are drawn, three quarters of the lowest performing student subgroups (Latinx, Black, English Learners) and more than 80% of all low-income students are concentrated into high-poverty focus schools. More than two-thirds of high performing student subgroups (White, Asian, Mixed) are enrolled in low-poverty non-focus schools. The segregation between the groups is evident, but so is the education quality and motivation in students. First of all, the average dropout rate for the lower performing groups’ is 18.96% while for the higher performing groups it is only 2.23%. To add on, the lower performing groups test scores are always more than 30% less than the higher performing groups. It cannot be a coincidence that all of the students concentrated in the high-poverty focus schools have low scores and high dropout rates. If lines were drawn fairly, students a part of the low-performing subgroups should be evenly dispersed around the county rather than concentrated in a few schools. The difference between students begins before high school, even middle school. When comparing 3rd grade test scores, the higher performing subgroups consistently do better than the lower performing subgroups.
The county must consider redrawing school boundary lines to make them more fair and evenly distributed. The Board of Education (BOE) must see the disparity between zip codes right within our county. The BOE has the power to tell someone to redraw the lines and evaluate to make sure that it is evenly dispersed rather than putting high concentrations of specific types of people in the same schools. We are a very diverse county, all schools should have many different kinds of employees. It was found that in high-poverty schools novice teachers made up 22% of the staff, compared to low-poverty schools which novice teachers only made up 13% of. We must also focus on making sure that all staff go through the same training and are well qualified for the job. All staff and faculty around the county should be able to hold the same standards of education as their coworkers. School Counselors must also play a big role in this; they must be ready to motivate students and help students with any obstacles that do stop them from completing high school.
This will help make the opportunity gap just a bit smaller. The gap is not something that can be fixed overnight. If we are able to successfully redraw the lines evenly and create the same standards for all staff, we will come closer to closing the opportunity gap. Making sure everyone in the county gets the same quality of education should be a priority and if this is passed we will be even closer to making that a reality.
Bonner-Tompkins, Elaine. “MCPS Performance and Opportunity Gaps .” Office of Legislative Oversight, 3 Dec. 2019.
W X Y architecture + urban design, and Public Engagement Associates. Districtwide Boundary Analysis Final Report. Montgomery County Public Schools, Mar. 2020, https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/departments/publicinfo/Boundary_Analysis/BoundaryAnalysis_Final%20Report.pdf.
Written by Nishtha Srivastava
Written by Educational Policy Department
Published by PR Department