Is the Montgomery County school system still a sought after school system?

For years, Montgomery County’s public schools have not only equated to Maryland’s largest school district, MCPS has also been a sought-after school district for parents, earning National Gold Standard rankings in years past. 

Five schools in the county earned top spots in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 "Best High Schools" list.

READ MORE: Seneca Valley High School’s principal calls on dads

This year however, with a dwindling student population and a massive teacher shortage, some parents are voicing concerns and questioning whether they should keep their kids home, or enter them in MCPS in the future.

One parent recently contacted FOX 5, concerned of more startling MCPS loss of learning data shared online. Some of the of the most stark figures are connected to those students who qualify for the Free and Reduced-Price Meals program (FARMS),  traditionally utilized by children from underserved families.

Among FARMS’ Hispanic second-graders, 83.7% are not meeting at least one of the three learning standards in literacy. The same goes for 60% of Black, white and Asian-American students in FARMS. This information came from data shared on November 3 by the Interim Superintendent, responding to the school board’s request for follow-up on a few items from a previous school board presentation.  

A quick look at the MCPS "Evidence of Learning" dashboards for second-grade, and you’ll see literacy and math rates rose from 2018 to 2019. Then in 2021, however, second-grader percentages drop – with Black and Hispanic students experiencing some of the most significant learning losses.

READ MORE: Substitute teacher shortage prompts Montgomery County schools to close the day before Thanksgiving

FOX 5 took some of these questions and concerns to PDK International, an Arlington-based organization that focuses on education through teacher development. The CEO of PDK International, who also once served as an MCPS Superintend, says according to their recent polling, parents nation-wide still have confidence on their public school systems. 

"There’s a lot of noise, being these days various things whether it’s critical race theory, you know, anti-vax, mask mandates and all of that kind of stuff. More attention is being paid to these issues than ever before – but the educators are working really, really hard -- harder than ever. They are exhausted, I think we should be concerned about that, but it does not represent an overall decline in Montgomery County or the region or whatsoever. We’re dealing with same sort of issues that we always have, they’ve been exacerbated of course, by the pandemic," said PDK CEO Joshua Starr.

Starr says it is more important now than ever before to have a plan in place for each individual child -- and for school systems to support their educators so those educators can perform for the kids.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

FOX 5 reached out for MCPS for comment and received this response saying, "every MCPS staff is committed to provide high education to all of our students": 

MCPS has detailed six areas of focus to mitigate learning disruptions, these are: school improvement plans, literacy and mathematics instructional focus, assessments, acceleration of learning, tutoring and intervention support and professional learning.

As presented during the Sept. 21 Board of Education meeting, all MCPS staff is focused on implementing this district-wide plan.  We understand that this plan is no small task as we are consistently analyzing multiple data processes to make sure that all students are at grade level or higher by the end of the school year. 

More information here:

Presentation slides that provide "How we are addressing it…" information  Specifically slides 29 and on.

1. School Improvement Planning

2. Literacy and Mathematics Instructional Focus

3. Assessment of and for learning

4. Acceleration of learning

5. Tutoring and intervention supports

6. Professional learning for staff

FOX 5 also asked about the financial impact of students leaving and was told while preliminary, formula funding could drop by approximately $30 million. It’s still not clear how much actual loss that is to the school system with COVID funds. The state is also supposed to start providing more money per pupil. Interim Superintendent Dr. McKnight is expected to address funding when she presents the MCPS budget to the school board and community in December.