This year, as many of you are aware, MCPS conducted a pilot program changing the Eastern/Takoma Park magnet application and selection process. MCPS screened the entire 5th grade population of the down county magnet feeder schools, and identified 4000 “potentially qualified” students to test for admission to the 200 spaces in the EMS and TPMS magnet programs. (By contrast, in previous years, approximately 800 students self-selected to test for those spaces.) One of the new selection criteria evaluated whether each student has the “availability of a peer group at the local middle school,” as reflected in the evaluation and test results of a much larger number of students at each middle school than was available in earlier years.
Over the last few days, it has come to our attention that, a number of students in the 99th percentile in all of the CogAT categories (Verbal, Quantitative, Nonverbal, and Composite) are being denied entrance – and are not even eligible for the wait pool — because MCPS believes that the presence of large numbers of academic peers in their local schools will result in their needs being met at those schools. In addition, early indicators suggest that large numbers of very high performing students currently attending one of in the Centers for Enriched Studies (particularly in Barnsley CES, Chevy Chase CES, and Cold Spring CES as we learned for now) are not being offered placement in the magnets, even though those students have completed an elementary curriculum that places them well above the MCPS curriculum offered in local middle schools.
The MCCPTA Gifted Child Committee (GCC) has been working for the last few days to better understand this concern. As we navigate these issues, we encourage the following actions on the part of parents throughout the down county. Please pass this information on to parents in your communities that may be affected by these developments.
APPEAL: For students in the top percentiles, we encourage parents to consider filing an appeal to the decision, following the process outlined in the admission decision letter. We further suggest sending a copy of the appeal to both the Board of Education members (email@example.com), Dr. Smith, and us. Since the appeal calls for “new” or unknown information, we suggest you inform the magnet coordinators that contrary to what they apparently were told, your local school does not group students by ability or offer accelerated curriculum yet. Ask that your student’s need for rigor and challenge be reconsidered in light of this reality.
Please note, we do not think the appeal effort will increase the seats at the magnet, nor do we believe this effort will result in students being added to the wait pool or the class. However, we think this is a critical step to bring BOE members the awareness of the caliber of student that is being denied entrance to the magnet programs and the fallacy of the reasoning for it.
ADVOCATE: Families of all children denied entrance to the magnets that attended one of the Centers for Enriched Studies AND families of any other students that scored in the top percentiles in the CogAT and were rejected from the magnets are encouraged to make inquiries to both the MCPS central office and local home middle schools into the following questions:
1. Will the MCPS central office officially identify these highly able students and inform local middle schools that these students were denied admission because a peer group exists at the middle school?
2. How will the master schedule be used this spring at the local middle schools to ensure the “substantial cohort of highly able students” are grouped together in core courses and group projects?
3. What local school curriculum offerings are planned for the 2018-2019 school year to offer the peer group cohort the rigor and challenge they would have been offered in the magnet programs?
4. What supports and evaluations will be in place to ensure that these highly able students will be served successfully in the local middle schools?
MCCPTA GCC will continue to advocate directly on behalf of all highly able students within MCPS, raising these same concerns. We encourage our GT liaisons to share any information gathered on specific middle school plans on our GTliaison listserv so we can learn from each other and move quickly to ensure that highly able students’ needs are met during the 2018-19 school year.