A School District that gets it right

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is the public school system (Pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade) for Montgomery County, Md., a suburban area just outside Washington, D.C. MCPS is the 16th largest school district in the United States, with 200 schools providing educational and support services for more than 144,000 students of wide-ranging ability and achievement levels. MCPS enrollment reflects the cosmopolitan makeup of the national capital area, with students from 164 countries speaking 134 languages.

MCPS won a 2010 Malcolm Baldrige Award. Imagine a public school district winning such a prestigious award.

The district has these core values:
• MCPS is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, or disability, learns and succeeds.
• Student outcomes shall not be predictable by race or ethnicity.
• MCPS has high expectations for all students, believing that all children can learn at high levels.
• Every student is a unique learner and MCPS will tailor instruction to meet the learning needs of each student.
• A comprehensive early-years program is critical for students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in reading, writing, and mathematics.
• The pursuit of excellence for all students requires providing our neediest students with the extra support necessary to attain rigorous targets.
• MCPS demonstrates commitment to continuous improvement by reviewing, evaluating, and improving our work and monitoring student performance data.
• MCPS is committed to a culture of respect that includes fair treatment, honesty, openness, and integrity.

The district has 22,229 administrative and supervisory staff, teachers, and supporting services employees—65.4 percent White, 18.5 percent African American, 6.9 percent Asian American, 0.3 percent American Indian, and 8.9 percent Hispanic.

The school system also is very diverse and, in 2009, 38.1 percent of the student population was White, non-Hispanic, 23.2 percent was African American, 15.6 percent was Asian American, 22.7 percent was Hispanic, and 0.3 percent was Native American, which represents 160 countries and 140 different languages. Twenty-nine percent (41,464) of the students in 2009 participated in the Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS), which is greater than the total enrollment in 16 of Maryland’s 24 school districts.

MCPS has captured 85 percent of the market share of school-age children living in the district. This percentage has increased gradually since 2000, when it was 80.8 percent. Beginning in 2001, MCPS has begun to see a net yearly enrollment gain of 300 to 500 students from county private schools (more than 3,500 students since 2001). This increased to a yearly net gain in enrollment of more than 700 students in 2008.

The turnaround at MCPS didn’t happen overnight. Read their award application.