Montgomery County Public School District
Schools and Communities Collaborate on Strategic Plan
“I know it will be a challenge … but it’s important work and we are committed to doing it.” This determined sentiment expressed by an administrator in the Montgomery County Public School District (MCPS) has sustained efforts to implement districtwide social and emotional learning. In July 2011, administrators began developing a strategic plan that included efforts to integrate SEL into their schools and academic curricula to improve school climate and academic outcomes. MCPS has made SEL a district priority based on the growing evidence that SEL is necessary, not only for interpersonal relationships and academic achievement but for future success in the workplace.
MCPS serves more than 149,000 students, 33.0 percent White, 26.7 percent Hispanic, 21.3 percent students of color, and 14.3 percent Asian. Although district schools range in size and demographics, MCPS wanted to involve the entire community in developing the SEL components of its strategic plan. In spring 2012, MCPS held a community forum to begin laying the groundwork. More than 250 community leaders attended and shared feedback. The forum included several small-group breakout sessions where MCPS staff, parents, and community members discussed how social and emotional competencies can be promoted
in school, in the community, and at home. District administrators believe that community buy-in is crucial to the success of their SEL initiative and have continued to incorporate community participation through their “network teams” in revising its strategic plan. The teams are made up of about 60 individuals including teachers, psychiatrists, parents, business leaders, and other community members. Teams meet every two weeks to draft the plan. Parent involvement is especially important in these teams as MCPS administrators hope that social and emotional competencies learned in schools will be reinforced at home by students’ families. In addition to these efforts, teachers and school administrators have worked hard to imbed SEL in Curriculum 2.0, a Common Core State Standards- aligned curriculum that focuses on developing critical and creative thinking skills, essential academic skills, and skills that prepare students to succeed in college and career. Curriculum 2.0 requires students to work in teams, actively collaborate, and problem solve during lessons.
Montgomery County hopes to have completed its strategic plan framework by June 2013, with Curriculum 2.0 fully implemented in kindergarten through fifth grade in fall 2013 MCPS is on track to meet this goal, although administrators admit that it has not always been easy. Measuring SEL has been a particular challenge, but the district is committed to developing an evaluation program that can accurately track both academic and school climate outcomes. Professional development (PD) has also been a challenge. Administrators want to make sure PD is targeted and specific and helps adults accurately recognize the level of social and emotional competencies in each student. Despite these challenges, MCPS is optimistic and excited to begin implementation. As one educator remarks, “It’s tough work but it’s the right work.”