Friday, September 11, 2015

MoCo slouches away from solving MCPS achievement gap

Score another one for "the soft bigotry of low expectations" in Montgomery County. The achievement gap between white students and their African-American and Latino classmates has only gotten worse over the last five years, according to the County's own study of its public schools:

"Since 2010, the economic, racial, and ethnic stratification of students among MCPS high schools has increased."

And since 2010, the County Council and MCPS have spent much money, but have failed to take any substantive action - and most certainly have failed to achieve results.

Now we have the latest example of how the impotent Montgomery County political machine "tackles" the tough challenge of the achievement gap - it runs away from it.

Three out of four students can't pass the Algebra I Final Exam? Just get rid of the exam!

That's right. No new strategies, no hard analysis of what's going wrong. Just get rid of final exams, and replace them with those nifty "extra credit" projects, and other age-old tricks used to push struggling kids through the system for decades, cheating them out of a quality education.

Anybody can do a project. Only a student who has learned can solve the math equations on an exam at the end of the semester.

Try handing your college professor or office supervisor that nifty math-themed collage, instead of your final exam or the economic analysis project you were assigned. The results won't be quite as whimsical as they appear to be in the "leadership" realm of our racially and geographically-unequal school system.

A rudderless system prepared to identify a new superintendent "when they get around to it," MCPS is eerily similar in leadership, money-down-the-drain-spending, and results to the ever-popular WMATA (which can't find a leader, either).

The previous superintendent, Joshua Starr, started his MoCo career with a gaudy champagne toast at the Potomac estate of Mitch Rales, a pioneer of outsourcing American jobs to China; spent much of his time hosting an Oprah-style book club TV program at taxpayer and cable customer expense; and was unceremoniously run out of town as a finisher. "Heckuva job, Brownie."

So they have this idea to get rid of final exams that ensure you actually learned what was taught (assuming parents and education advocates stand by and allow the policy change to go unchallenged). What else do they have in their "toolbox"?

A paltry, pitiful $250,000 Children's Opportunity Fund, with no clear mandate or specific uses for that taxpayer money. A fund led by one of the very school board members who presided over the growing achievement gap, by the way. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Consider that New York City is now ponying up $400,000,000 a year to provide universal Pre-K, widely-accepted to be one of the most obvious and promising ways to reduce the achievement gap, and the contrast couldn't be more clear.

And MoCo's political machine couldn't look worse.

Kids can't pass exams? Get rid of the exam.

Don't like the increasingly-ghastly traffic congestion numbers that might make it impossible to keep approving new development without finally completing the County's unfinished highway system? Just stop counting the cars accurately.

Getting killed by Northern Virginia and DC in job creation? Just use taxpayer money to buy a fake report from EMSI, with fake job numbers that magically show you ahead of NOVA and DC.

Unable to attract a single major corporate headquarters in over a decade? Just use taxpayer money to buy another fake report declaring suburban office parks dead, even while top companies like Google and Facebook are currently booming in suburban office park headquarters.

Farmer's markets and microbreweries; mixing lattes and folding jeans - these are what you imagine your child doing for the rest of his or her life, right? Well, that's what your elected officials imagine them doing, as those are the only private-sector jobs they've created over the last decade. Then they ask, "Why aren't we able to attract young professionals to Montgomery County?"

This isn't leadership. It's slouching. And continuing to deny an equal education to many children in the county isn't just bad politics; it's immoral.

It's easy to ban things. It's easy to tax things. It's easy to politically grandstand with self-promoting legislative resolutions. But leadership and solving the achievement gap are hard. They are difficult. And our current elected officials are clearly not up to the task.

Our leaders have failed their final exam. Rather than get rid of the final exam, maybe it's time the voters get rid of the "leaders".

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