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State Reporting - MCPS Comprehensive Master Plan

State Reporting

See attachment below --> 2009 Montgomery County Public School Comprehensive Master Plan Update, I.E for 2009 - Gifted and Talented Programs

GTA Comment to the MCPS Board of Education

on 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan Update, I.E—Gifted and Talented Programs

Sirs and Madams:

This letter comments on the portion of the Update pertaining to Gifted and Talented Programs. 

The Update is being considered for tentative approval by the Board of Education this afternoon.  It will be forwarded to the County Executive and the County Council by August 15.  The Board will be asked to finally approve the Update on October 13, upon which it will be submitted to the Maryland State Department of Education.

Goals and milestones do not comply with Maryland law

This portion of the Update is to “include goals, objectives, and strategies regarding the performance of…Gifted and talented students, as defined in Section 8-201 of this article.”  Maryland Annotated Code, Education Article, Section 5-401(d)(5).  Section 8-201 defines “gifted and talented student” as a student identified as “having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of similar age, experience, or environment….”  [emphasis added]

In responding to the prompt to list goals of the GT program, the Update refers to Our Call to Action Goal 2, milestone 2, and the associated data points.  The recently approved, revised OCA Goal 2 states “All schools will increase enrollment and performance of all students in gifted, Honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other college-level courses, with a focus on improving enrollment and performance of African American and Hispanic students.”  [emphasis added]  The MCPS goal regarding “all students” does not respond to the statutory requirement regarding gifted and talented students.  The statutory definition requires focus on a subset of all students—those performing at “remarkably high levels…when compared” with other students.

MCPS’ non-complying statement of goals is reflected by its statement of accomplishments:  70 percent of the number of Grade 6 students enrolling in one or more middle school “GT courses;”  81 percent of Grade 8 students enrolling in one or more “GT courses;”  61.5 percent of graduates participating in at least one AP exam;  46 percent of graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP exam.  These data indicate good performance relative to MCPS’ non-complying “all students” goal, but also indicate both a failure to adhere to the statutory definition of gifted and talented student, and that the “GT course” and AP participation and AP 3 performance data points do not pertain to “gifted and talented students” as defined by the statute.

Paucity of programming

The Update states that “MCPS offers a continuum of programs and services, including accelerated and enriched instruction at every school and center and magnet programs for the highly gifted and GT/LD students.”

MCPS identifies  40 percent of Grade 2 students as gifted and talented and serves approximately three percent of students (7.5 percent of those identified) in its elementary and middle school centers and magnets;  the remainder are served in the local school.

The following accelerated and enriched programs are actually available to local school students:

  • Elementary school:  William and Mary reading and mathematics acceleration
  • Middle school:  Mathematics acceleration
  • High school:  Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs

These programs, except Mathematics and IB, are offered in a heterogeneous classroom, through differentiation.  Differentiation does not work for GT students (or for lower-performing students).

MCPS states that “To improve traditional GT offerings, advanced courses in English, science and world studies are being developed and implemented through the middle school reform process.”  While important details of the middle school reform remain obscured, it appears that these “advanced courses” are, again, intended for “all” middle school students and usually will be offered in the heterogeneous classroom, through differentiation. 

Lack of accountability

The Update states that “The effort to strengthen accountability measures continues through collaboration with the Office of School Performance.  Meetings for FY 2010 with community superintendents to discuss key data points related to GT implementation will occur on a regular basis.” 

The Office of School Performance disclaims responsibility for implementation of a GT program.  One of its community superintendents stated publicly, October 26, 2008, that OSP does not evaluate a school or principal on the basis of any one factor (specifically referring to GT implementation), but looks at everything—a number of factors—the “gestalt:”  whether the principal is “meeting the needs in the building.” 

As those in MCPS responsible for GT education admit, there are no “key data points related to GT implementation.”  The data points in Our Call to Action relate to general education, as discussed above.  Some MPCS staff have talked for years about the absolute necessity of GT data points, but they have not been developed. 

Lack of GT programming:  inequitable education

MCPS has no GT program (except its segregated, homogeneous center/magnet program).  This does not mean that “all students” receive equal on-level education.  Those in the high SES “green zone” receive higher-pitched instruction;  those in the much more heterogeneous, but on average low SES “red zone” receive the lower pitched instruction “meeting the needs in the building.”  MCPS states publicly that performance benchmarks should differ between the green and red zones.  Those that suffer most are the red zone traditionally-underrepresented and white, low and high SES, students “having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of similar age, experience, or environment….”

                                                                                               Very truly yours,


                                                                                                Frederick Stichnoth

GTA Administrator,
Jan 30, 2010, 10:03 PM