high school student graduation picture

OLO Report on MCPS High Schools

The Montgomery County Council today received the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) report on “Performance of Montgomery County Public Schools’ High Schools—A FY2014 Update.” The report describes changes in the demographics and performance of the school system’s 25 comprehensive high schools.

The report updates OLO’s 2009 high school consortia report that found that neither the Northeast nor the Downcounty Consortium had enhanced racial or economic integration. Blake, Paint Branch and Springbrook high schools comprise the Northeast Consortium and Montgomery Blair, Einstein, Kennedy, Northwood and Wheaton high schools comprise the Downcounty Consortium. The original report, however, found that the achievement gap on some measures of student performance may have narrowed at the start of each consortium.

This current report takes a wider view than the original to consider demographic and performance changes among 11 consortia and consortia-like high schools (the Northeast and Downcounty Consortia high schools plus Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill and Seneca Valley high schools) compared to MCPS’ 14 other high schools. In effect, this report compares MCPS’ high-poverty high schools to its low-poverty high schools.

Overall, OLO found an increase in the stratification of MCPS high schools by income, race and ethnicity. A majority of the school system’s low-income, black and Latino students attend high-poverty high schools while a majority of MCPS’ non-poor, white and Asian students attend low-poverty high schools. And since 2010, the share of black and Latino students attending high-poverty high schools has increased while the share of white, Asian, and non-poor students attending low-poverty high schools has increased.

OLO also finds that an achievement gap between high- and low-poverty high schools exists. Overall, students attending consortia and consortia-like high schools are less likely to graduate on time, to maintain academic eligibility for extra-curricular activities, to complete Algebra 2 by Grade 11 and to earn Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT or ACT scores that demonstrate college and career readiness than students attending MCPS’ low-poverty high schools. These students are also twice as likely to drop out of high school or receive an out-of-school suspension compared to students in low-poverty high schools.

Additionally, student subgroups attending consortia and consortia-like high schools also are less likely than their subgroup peers attending low-poverty high schools to meet college and career readiness benchmarks and more likely to experience at-risk outcomes. For example, low-income students in consortia and consortia-like high schools are only 58 percent as likely as their peers in low-poverty high schools to score 1,650 or above on the SAT or 24 or above on the ACT.

OLO also found that the achievement gap between high- and low-poverty MCPS high schools had widened among a majority of performance measures reviewed (AP performance, SAT/ACT performance, academic eligibility and out-of-school suspensions) and had narrowed or stayed the same for the remainder of measures (Algebra 2 by grade 11, graduation and dropout).

With MCPS’ high-poverty high schools utilizing similar approaches to advance student achievement, OLO found that MCPS’ approach has not worked as intended. Based on the findings of the report, OLO recommends that the Council discuss with MCPS leadership its goals for improving student integration to narrow the achievement gap between low- and high-poverty high schools. OLO also recommends that the County Council discuss with MCPS the alignment between these goals and its operating budget.

The Council’s Education Committee will schedule a worksession on the OLO report for June/July 2014.

The report is available at the OLO web site at:

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