Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is the 16th largest school district in the country. Long seen as a wealthy enclave, the county was becoming increasingly urbanized in 1999. Broad Acres Elementary School, located in a racially diverse neighborhood in the county's southeastern corner, epitomized the challenges facing MCPS. Its students had performed so poorly on Maryland's state assessments that the school qualified for restructuring. The school system faced the prospect of implementing a full-scale improvement process.
Neither school system leaders nor the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) believed that staff at Broad Acres should be replaced. Instead, in 2000, collaboration between teachers and administration brought Broad Acres back from the brink and facilitated student achievement levels commensurate with their peers in far wealthier areas of the county. That's where Broad Acres has stayed for the past eight years. Many schools throughout the county have replicated this process of targeted school improvement.
The collaborative culture has fostered both trust and engagement among all employee groups. An evolving outcome has been the development of three Professional Growth Systems (PGS)—for teachers, administrators, and support staff. Each PGS has a supportive Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) component that allows for novice and underperforming staff to be mentored and returned to successful employment or removed from service if improvement is insufficient. Asked the cost of PAR, Superintendent Jerry Weast answered, "Priceless!" The PGS integrates qualitative evaluation and professional growth. The teachers' PGS, for example:
Is based on six standards of performance derived from core propositions of the National Board for Professional
- Teaching Standards;
- Provides training for evaluators and teachers in order to establish a common language of successful teaching;
- Establishes a professional growth cycle in which a formal evaluation year is followed by sequential years dedicated to professional growth;
- Provides for a job-embedded professional development program;
- Includes multiple factors in identifying teachers who will be involuntarily transferred.
In April 2010, MCEA and MCPS signed an agreement to affirm the use of student performance data, including student and parent surveys, as required evidence for two of the six performance standards for evaluation. That initiative is representative of a shared focus on doing what's best for students. MCEA President Doug Prouty said, "We want to be sure that kids are progressing and that kids are doing well."
|Data at a glance:|
|Total certified teachers||11,673|
|Total full-time staff||22,229|
|Number of schools||200|
|Enrollment, by race/ethnicity|
|Students eligible for free and reduced-price meals||30.7%|
Christopher Barclay, President, Montgomery County Board of Education
Merle Cuttitta, President, SEIU Local 500, Montgomery County, Md.
Christopher Lloyd, Vice President, Montgomery County Education Association
Rebecca Newman, President, Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals
Doug Prouty, President, Montgomery County Education Association
Jerry Weast, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools