As the co-founder of a local tutoring center and parents of a future MCPS student, I feel strongly about the quality of education in Montgomery County Public Schools. While my run for Board of Education in 2020 ended unsuccessfully, I plan on continuing to advocate for academic rigor at MCPS so that students can reach their full potential. 

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THE ISSUES

“We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.” Anonymous

Strengthening the Curriculum

As someone who's been in the tutoring business for the better part of the last decade, it pains me to see how many students lack the most fundamental and essential of skills. For example, too many high school students don't know how to do basic fractions or how to follow basic grammar rules. In fact, grammar is rarely even taught in schools! The purpose of our education system is to prepare the future generation to take on the challenges of tomorrow, and that cannot be accomplished without the development of strong reading, writing and math skills. 

Fixing the Grading System

The Board of Education has been setting misguided policies ever since I can remember. When I was in high school, we had the 50% rule, where a student would automatically get half credit just by putting their name on the assignment. The teachers hated it. The students abused it. Nowadays, there are no midterms or finals. Our children are going off to colleges without having the opportunity to build strong study habits  for college exams. Moreover, the MCPS grading system discourages hard work. Students who get an A in the first quarter are guaranteed an A for the semester as long as they don't get a C or below the second quarter. I've had countless students tell me after getting an A in the first quarter that they don't really need to work as hard the next quarter. What kind of message does that send? At work, you can't just take it easy after lunch, but that's exactly the mindset the new grading policy is encouraging. 

Classroom Behavior

Having grown up in the MCPS school system, I can't tell you how many classes are out of control. In too many classrooms around the county, there is very little learning that takes place because the students are walking all over the teachers. As someone who teaches classes, I know that it just takes one student disrupting the class to bring the quality of classroom instruction down significantly. Moreover, studies comparing international educational systems consistently show that classroom behavior strongly correlated to academic performance.

Addressing Smartphone Addiction

Phone addiction is real. Studies consistently show that a significant percent of our students demonstrate patterns of addiction when it comes to smartphone use. Moreover, research has a linked a plethora of issues associated with too much smartphone use, including difficulty focusing for prolonged periods of time, phone separation anxiety, sleep deprivation, and increased feelings of loneliness and depression. Instead of working to combat this very serious issue, the Board of Education's new curriculum is quickly reaching a point where students will soon be doing all of their homework on their phones. While there is certainly a time and place for technology in and outside the classroom, the biggest risk that our students face today is being unable to engage in deep level thinking because of an inability to concentrate for extended periods of time. Let's encourage our students to do their homework in a quiet place where they can develop good study habits, not on their phones with countless distractions. 

Special Needs Testing & Accommodations

While the recent college admissions scandal at the University of Southern California highlights how far some parents are willing to go to get their children into top colleges, there is a much more prevalent practice at play that has not received the same attention. Specifically, in order to gain an unfair advantage in the form of extra time on college admission tests like the ACT or the SAT, parents are paying exorbitant fees to have their children privately tested for learning differences and then pressuring the schools to grant them accommodations in the hopes of getting extended time on college entrance exams. However, having students apply for such services ties up funding for the students who truly need them. Moreover, school administrators are becoming increasingly suspicious of students who apply for 504 plans or IEPs in high school, oftentimes rejecting students who genuinely need assistance. The impact of this practice is disproportionately affecting lower income and immigrant families who typically don't have the resources to navigate through this complex process of acquiring accommodations. I believe all children in MCPS should be tested for learning differences at a young age by neutral psychoeducational testing professionals, and students' eligibility should hinge upon need, not affluence.

Academic Rigor at MCPS