Education Year in Review
Here are some of the biggest local education stories of 2016
County Council passes ‘education first’ budget
The Montgomery County Council in May approved an 8.7 percent property tax increase to boost school funding to record levels. The budget also relied on a recordation tax hike to provide the school system with $90 million above the state-mandated minimum spending. The “education first budget” gave the school the resources to shrink class sizes and address achievement gaps.
New school superintendent hired
Veteran educator Jack Smith became superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in July after an extensive search by the Montgomery County Board of Education. At the time of his hiring on a four-year contract, he was serving as interim state superintendent of schools and treasurer of the Maryland State Board of Education. MCPS had been without a permanent chief ever since former Superintendent Joshua Starr resigned in February 2015. Longtime MCPS administrator Larry Bowers stepped in to lead the system until Smith came on board. Smith, who’d also served as the Maryland State Department of Education’s chief academic officer before joining MCPS, has focused on addressing the achievement gaps that exist in MCPS.
Final exams eliminated
Last year’s decision to eliminate final exams at the end of each semester kicked in for high schoolers during this academic year. Instead, the schools are using a new system that weighs assessments given to students in most classes as 10 percent of their grade for that marking period or quarter. The Board of Education eliminated the semester-ending exams because members argued the tests consumed too much instructional time, though teachers and parents protested the decision.
Alleged drinking at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School prom sparks controversy
Uproar broke out earlier this year over the school system’s response to allegations that six Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School seniors got drunk during their prom. Principal Donna Redmond Jones had warned that any student found drinking during the May 6 prom wouldn’t be allowed to receive a diploma at the school’s graduation ceremony. However, her rule was later overturned by Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers, to the dismay of some school staff, parents and teachers. The six seniors were ultimately allowed to walk at their June 1 graduation at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
Montgomery County students protest Trump election
Hundreds of Montgomery County Public Schools students walked out of their classes in November to protest the election of Donald Trump as president. Students from Montgomery Blair, Northwood and Albert Einstein high schools poured out of their classes Nov. 14 and marched along University Boulevard and then along Georgia Avenue to downtown Silver Spring. The following days saw a small protest at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda and a larger walkout at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith warned that students who leave school could face disciplinary action.