What Happens to the Good News for MCPS?

Written by: Philip Piety

Recently, I looked for a way to share some observations of some good things happening in at MCPS.  These were not big research-driven observations, but what I saw in very local and personal encounters as I will describe below.  I found in searching MCPS web sites no place or mechanism to communicate this information.  Many who have worked with MCPS for a long time have said it can be an insular kind of organization; at times ignoring criticism as it pursues its plans, which may also be related to a harsh and at times unfair tone of its critics.  This dynamic was one of the reasons we started the MoCoEdBlog, to provide input—balanced input— about important topics that we had some substantive knowledge about.

Summer Worker

This past summer a reading specialist at my son’s school organized a summer reading program where she provided books and games/puzzles for kids to work on during the weeks school was out.  My kids are in a language immersion program and one of the biggest challenges for families who do not speak the language at home is early reading.  The specialist on her own time organized playdates at playgrounds where the kids could run around while parents exchanged books and information about student progress.  Summer progress, or for some cases what is called the “summer melt” when kids regress, is very important for preparing kids for the coming school year.   This was individual initiative taken by a teacher beyond what was required in order to help the students.  It is no small thing, especially for the families of those students.

My Good Friend’s School

I have a very good friend whose son and mine have been pals since they were 4 years old in Montessori school.  While our son went into MCPS in kindergarten hers stayed few more years in Montessori where he did well in some subjects but also was delayed in reading in part because of undiagnosed perceptual issues.   When she brought her son into MCPS she found initially different views of what was the best grade and best approach.  Over the last two years, while our kids played, I have heard her describe the collaborative approach her MCPS School (Flower Valley) has taken, how the principal listens and they have worked together, the universal and complete commitment to her child by that school.  It has been a heartwarming and very encouraging story to hear how he is understood and valued and has also now steadily climbed up in school performance.  How big a deal is this?  If it is your child or a child you know it is a big deal, naturally.  It is also highly likely that in this school this is not an isolated success story, but part of a culture of doing the right things.  This is an example of the kind of school-level autonomy that MCPS is practicing working very well where those in the school are empowered to do the right things and in the case of this school they do.

My Kids Ate Salad

It may not seem like a big deal that both of my kids ate salads at school not too long ago.  They are kids after all.  However, they ate these salads at lunch and came home to explain what they ate and how good it was during the Farm-to-School week MCPS recently had.  I know people who have been advocating for MCPS to have more healthy food and snack options and have expressed frustration over what they see as a preference for institutional food over more locally grown options.  Seeing that the Farm-to-School week not only happened, but it worked educationally was very interesting.  This is a state program implemented by MCPS and it shows for me the important role MCPS can take helping to promote healthy lifestyles.

Who Gets This Good News?

So in feeling motivated to share these observations with someone in MCPS, I went to the new website and found no place to provide this kind of feedback.  There is no central suggestion box where anyone who has a comment can send it and expect it will land at the right office  and also be part of a systemic process of sensing how well different parts of the system are performing.   Would it be meaningful to know about individual employees going above and beyond to serve kids or to know about schools that seem able and willing to organize for student success?   Would it be also helpful to collect other kinds of comments that maybe are indications of uncertainty or parts of the system in need of support?  I think it would.  While there is an Office of Public Information, there is no function I can see for public feedback.  This might be as simple as a small addition to a website, that digital suggestion box, or might involve staff aggregating and disseminating this information.  One of the new trends in performance evaluation involves surveys that provide information on teacher and school activity.  With these kinds of instruments coming in the future and with the kinds of specific and useful comments that test scores can never provide, perhaps MCPS might want to develop some capacity for handling this information.  My suggestion is to begin small with an easy and accessible place for feedback.

One Response to What Happens to the Good News for MCPS?

  1. Lew Rhodes says:

    When a friend linked me to your blog posting “What Happens to the Good News for MCPS?” and I read
    ‘Recently, I looked for a way to share some observations of some good things happening in at MCPS. These were not big research-driven observations, but what I saw in very local and personal encounters . …I found in searching MCPS web sites no place or mechanism to communicate this information…”

    …I saw I wasn’t alone. In fact several years ago {with the help of 2 national organizations interested in systemic change} I had to set up my own site to capture what I had been observing for over a decade and a half.

    What those who check it out may find unique about it is that it’s driven by a fundamental principle of “developmentally-appropriate” education (and organizational development): “Catch Them Doing Something Right.” But in this case, “Right” is perceived through a lens that offers a different view of the everyday work from the classroom to the Boardroom.

    While I haven’t kept the blog section current for several months, it still helps me make sense of the unique schooling system that MCPS continues to develop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *