My Concerns on Metis' Report / Recommendations

LLIN

04/09/2016

As a parent respecting the noble cause of closing achievement gap, I have been torn by the Metis' report [1] after reading into it deeply.

Please allow me first start from a positive point.

There are more than 30% MCPS students labeled as GT students, which indicates that they are potentially in need of acceleration and enrichment.  Among them, due to limited seat numbers, only a small fraction will be admitted into various special programs.  It is really encouraging to see that the strong demand is recognized and the capacity expansion is recommended in the report. 

However, the overall research/study of the Metis' report has not built a concrete case to support its recommendations in order to promote equity.  

One of the biggest problems embedded in the Metis’ report is that the report emphasizes solely on the number of seats, which is determined only at a specific point in a student’s life, without addressing much about items happening either before or after the event.  Consequently, there are significant uncertainties for MCPS to implement curriculum and policy according to those policy recommendations.

For any MCPS student, being admitted into any academically selective program is truly remarkable.  However, taking the offer is nothing short of a serious commitment from whoever is involved including students, their families, and schools.  The work load will be substantial and the expectations will be sky-high.  Based on my knowledge, none of rigorous selection processes is a mechanism for simply labeling students.  Instead, processes are used to guarantee to a degree that admitted students will be successful under substantial load and sky-high expectations. 

Personally, I would be genuinely worried for those who acquire seats in academically selective programs without necessary academic capabilities as promoted in Metis’ recommendations.  What would happen if they are not ready for the paramount challenges?  After adopting the new admission policies, would it be required for adopting race / social factor based grading mechanism for homework and tests?  In addition, would it be nice to arrange the work load based on race / social factors?  There is no provision on grading / work load in Metis’ recommendation at all.  Thus, there will be big holes for MCPS to fill.

At a strategic level, if race / social factor based grading and work load is a viable path in academically selective programs, there shall be absolutely no foreseeable barrier to have race / social factor based grading / work load in the less challenging general curriculum 2.0 framework.  In another word, Metis’ recommendations implicitly prescribe the success of a full scale race / social factor based curriculum within MCPS even though there is no explicit statement in the report. 

If Metis’ recommendations on race / social factor based admission are sounding, I would be more than happy to suggest our schools to reform curriculum 2.0 around race / social factor based concepts.  This is in that most of students regardless of their race / social background will be affected by the general curriculum 2.0 instead of academic selective programs.  If race / social factor based curriculum 2.0 is helpful, most of MCPS students will benefit immediately. 

Overall, it would be nice to see thorough studies on the feasibility of Metis’ policy recommendations and their implications before committing either a yes or a no.

[1] Metis Associates, “Montgomery County Public Schools: Study of Choice and Special Academic Programs”, 8 March 2016
  



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