Answering the Call: Lessons Learned from Montgomery County Middle School Magnet Consortium
In the fall of 2005, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) opened three magnet middle schools in a portion of the school district with a high minority population and percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals. The district grouped the schools, Argyle Magnet School for Information Technology, A. Mario Loiederman Magnet School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and Parkland Magnet School for Aerospace Technology, into the Middle School Magnet Consortium (MSMC). MCPS used their current strategic plan, "Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence", completed in 2004, to develop the blueprint for implementation at the schools. A Peabody College team was asked to look at the planning and 1st year of implementation of the consortium. In order to observe, document, and report on the progress of the consortium schools, the team asked the following guiding questions: 1. How does the MCPS MSMC fit within the strategic plan, Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence? 2. In what ways does the MSMC demonstrate research-based best practices of middle school reform? 3. What lessons have been learned in the first year of implementation? In order to better understand the planning and implementation of the consortium, several different information sources were used. Research from "Turning Points 2000" and "Breaking Ranks in the Middle" was used to determine best practices. These practices then were applied to the common elements of the consortium schools in answering the guiding questions. The study determined that early trend data for achievement, demographic shifts, and school climate is positive in meeting the goals of the MSAP grant and the district strategic plan. Common themes discovered through the case study include: - High levels of teacher and administrator professionalism - Quality leadership - An emerging model for professional development - Strong academic content - Concerns about physical plant and appropriate equipment The study makes several recommendations. Recommendations directed at the MSMC include: - Planning for magnet school student transition to high school - Developing plans for the end of the magnet grant - Further study for evaluation o MSA data review o NWEA MAP expected growth comparisons o Qualitative review benchmarked by this report Recommendations for all MCPS middle schools include: - Developing principal cohorts among all schools - Embedded professional development focused on learning and instruction - Ensuring resource availability prior to change implementation - Exploring heterogeneous grouping in all classes After a year of implementation, it appears that MSMC schools have been successful in attracting students to unique programs reflecting best practice and achieving the goals of the MSAP grant and the MCPS strategic plan. With continued care and monitoring from administrators and teachers, the probability of long-term success is high.
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