For this blog, I recently emailed the Montgomery County Public Schools and requested an interview with Superintendent Joshua Starr. My hope was to sit and chat with Dr. Starr about achievement gaps. He seems to talk endlessly about this issue with all sorts of people; so why not me?
I got kicked to the curb. My request for an interview was turned down by MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig.
Well, I think I came up with some really great interview questions. The questions appear below, without responses.
I stand ready at any time to sit and chat with Starr.
Question No. 1:
Your children will attend Walt Whitman High School. When Advanced Placement exam results were last reported (for the Class of 2012), Whitman AP exam-takers who took AP Psychology, on average, scored a “4.” Forty-one percent of the Whitman AP Psychology exam-takers scored a “5”—the highest AP score possible.
Across the county, Psychology exam scores for Wheaton High School tell a different story. At Wheaton, on average, AP Psychology exam-takers scored a “1”—the lowest AP score possible. Only 2 percent of the AP exam-takers at Wheaton scored a “5.”
First, how do you interpret these differences? And second, what is your plan to alter these outcomes—increase the AP exam performance for minority high school students?
Question No. 2:
Let’s stick with the performance gaps between Whitman and Wheaton high schools. In 2011, Wheaton seniors who received FARMS scored 429 points, on average, on the SAT critical reading subtest. Black seniors at Wheaton scored, on average, 421 points on the same subtest. Across the county, white Whitman
seniors scored, on average, 623 points. During the 12-year tenure of MCPS
Superintendent Jerry Weast these SAT performance gaps never closed (although,
Weast is on the public record saying they did close).
First, why do you think they never closed? And second, what is your strategy for closing such performance gaps?
Question No. 3:
Let’s fast forward to 2020: You're in your third term as MCPS superintendent. The above performance gaps remain—you have not closed this specific performance gap or others.
When you factor such a reality into the mix, how would you then grade your overall MCPS performance as superintendent? And how would explain the grade?
Question No. 4:
I’m on the record saying that MCPS still experiences huge performance gaps for black students in our high schools because our black students are not taking complete advantage of specific “high-end” challenging academic programs. For
example, the number of black students participating in our International Baccalaureate programs is embarrassingly low (in my opinion).
What are your thoughts on this? Why aren’t our high schools enrolling more black students in their IB programs?
Before answering the next question, Dr. Starr should read a book chapter I wrote about the "Talented Tenth." (Note to readers: If you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will send you a copy of this book chapter.)
Question No. 5:
Now, I believe that one significant factor that drives low black IB participation is
parental apathy. I actually believe that black parents are not pushing their children hard enough academically.
What are your thoughts on this? What can MCPS do to change this?
Question No. 6:
If Bill Gates called you tomorrow and said, “Dr. Starr I’m giving $1 billion dollars to MCPS to spend on gap-closing efforts and programs at the high school
level, however, MCPS can only spend the money on three specific things,” what three things would you pick and why?