Top Montgomery County Educational Stories to Watch in 2022-2023

In Montgomery County Public Education News, the 2022-23 school year is sure to be a busy one.

This year, districts across the country are once again grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ academic progress. In Montgomery County public schools, data showed steep declines in achievement in key courses such as math and literacy, largely attributable to an extended period of virtual classes in 2020 and 2021. Now the Most students are back in the classroom (aside from some who have applied to stay in MCPS’ virtual school full-time) and this year could be pivotal in their recovery, according to MCPS program officials.

Important questions to follow this year include:

Learning gaps

Addressing the learning gaps that students experienced during pandemic schooling will continue to be a priority, MCPS officials say.

There are interventions that have been put in place — like expanded tutoring and after-school opportunities — with federal coronavirus relief funds.

This week, the district pledged in a meeting with the school board to also track the effectiveness of the methods to ensure they are reaching enough students and the students who need them.

The focus is on making sure all students “have access to grade-level material”, rather than spending a lot of time trying to catch up on content missed over the past few years, the principal said. Peggy Pugh studies at a school board meeting this week. Teachers will need to focus on grade-level content and teach missed content (or refer students to tutoring and other interventions) as needed.

Recruitment

It’s clear that MCPS will begin this school year with hundreds of vacancies. This includes teachers, paraeducators, bus drivers, building service workers and others, all essential to the success of schools. How MCPS handles this issue — and any increases in absences and vacancies that may occur throughout the year — will be critical. Many vacancies deal directly with some of the district’s most vulnerable students, such as those in special education programs and those learning English. These students have been among the most academically impacted during virtual learning, MCPS officials say, and have at times been denied their normal services.

The Friday before teachers were scheduled to report for preservice week, MCPS sent out an urgent email, asking dual-certified teachers who weren’t assigned to a special education program to consider volunteering. to be reassigned to a special education class. The objective was to overcome the shortage of specialized educators; there were about 93 vacancies Tuesday morning.

The message said the teachers’ union had accepted the request, which included an “incentive” of $5,000 for teachers chosen for reassignment. But in a message to members that evening, the union said it had not accepted and had in fact rejected the proposal. The two sides negotiated on the issue over the weekend and into Wednesday. A new deal was announced Wednesday afternoon, with the same incentive, plus extra pay for other special education teachers who take on extra work.

school safety

MCPS will begin this year with a new model of the former School Resource Officer (SRO) program. Last year, MCPS removed ORS from its high schools for the first time in nearly two decades. Officers were instead assigned to clusters of schools and patrolled areas around schools. Following a review of school security procedures sparked by the January shooting at Col. Zadok Magruder in Derwood, in which one student shot and seriously injured another, MCPS again changed its relationship with police, allowing officers to return to buildings, albeit in a limited capacity.

The county’s Community Engagement Officer (CEO) program replaced the SRO program at the start of the 2021-22 academic year. Under the SRO program, specially trained county police officers were stationed full-time at high schools. The program was scrapped after criticism that it was leading to more arrests among black and Hispanic students and calls from the community for more emphasis on mental health resources than police in schools . Proponents countered that the SRO program has led to stronger relationships between police officers and school communities.

In April, MCPS signed a memorandum of understanding with six county law enforcement agencies outlining CEO responsibilities during the 2022-23 academic year. The current agreement allows CEOs to occupy space near a cluster’s high school front office. This is a change from the previous version of the CEO program in which officers patrolled schools in a group, but could not stay inside buildings.

This year, supporters and opponents of police in schools will likely be watching the new version of the program to see if it is being implemented as planned and to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

The district management

Although MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight has led the district since Jack Smith’s retirement in June 2021, first in an interim position until she permanently assumed the role in July, she is entering her first school year as as an official leader of MCPS.

McKnight took over at the height of the pandemic and faced related challenges – such as academic regression for students, staffing issues due to COVID-19 illnesses – and made difficult decisions about closures schools and other health measures.

Since assuming the permanent position, McKnight said her goal has been, in part, to rebuild trust with the community through frequent and clear communication. She also said she will focus on supporting the mental health of students and staff and “refocusing the district on equitable teaching and learning.” She has seen some turnover in leadership positions in the district — from the transportation and special education departments to the offices of technology and communications — and has brought in new hires who come at a key time in the pandemic recovery of the district. district. Emphasizing fairness, McKnight said this week that an audit report examining MCPS’ “anti-racism” practices will be released in October.

In a similar vein, half of the school board’s eight seats are up for grabs in November’s general election. The incumbents are running in three of the races, but Judy Docca didn’t run for re-election in District 1, so there’s at least one new member guaranteed. In the July 19 primary, challenger Julie Yang received more votes than incumbent Scott Joftus for the District 3 seat. (Joftus was nominated in 2021 to fill the remaining year of Pat O’Neill’s term, after his death in September.) And in District 5, incumbent Brenda Wolff was neck and neck with challenger Valerie Coll. Holder Karla Silvestre was well ahead of the challengers in the overall race.

The races are nonpartisan and the first two voters in each run in the November 8 general election.

Thus, it is possible to see new faces at the school board, which plays a vital role in setting the policies and priorities of the school district.

COVID Policies

This year, MCPS is moving significantly away from the widespread COVID-19 mitigation measures that have been in place since school buildings reopened for in-person classes in 2021. This includes drug testing, testing to stay, mandatory masking and quarantines for people who have been exposed to the virus. Now the district relies on four key principles to guide its response to COVID-19: ensuring people are immunized and wash their hands and stay home when sick, as well as promoting good respiratory etiquette (such as coughing or sneezing into one elbow, away from others).

The changes will affect other district operations, such as the ability of students to attend in-person classes and staff, but some education advocates worry that relaxing precautions could lead to more infections and more consequences. negative.