Statement by CAPA-MC Regarding Montgomery County “Choice Study” Report
We the undersigned are writing to provide comments on the recent Study Report of Choice and Special Academic Programs released by MCPS . First of all, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to MCPS for making efforts in and allocating resources for evaluating the Choice and special academic programs. Out of the total eleven recommendations in the executive summary of the report, we strongly support the recommendations on i) expanding the choice and special academic programs to accommodate the growing student enrollment (#7); ii) systematically tracking participation and attrition data for those programs (#8); and iii) developing new strategies for outreach to underrepresented families (#2). We believe those recommendations will address the achievement gap issues in Montgomery County and bring a better future for all children.
However, we have major concerns about the rest of the study and the recommendations, specially, recommendation #3a – the implementation of modifications, to the selection process of elementary centers for highly gifted students and secondary Magnet programs, which include use of noncognitive criteria, groupspecific
norms that benchmark student performance against school peers with comparable background, and/or automatic admissions to top 5% 10% students in applicable schools.
We believe that changing the current selection criteria for these choice programs into one based on race and/or social economical distribution will not address the fundamental problems that lead to achievement gap. Instead, it will defeat the core purpose of MCPS: prepare ALL students to thrive in their future . Furthermore, it will jeopardize at least three out of the total five core values of MCPS: equity, excellence and relationships. We explain this argument below.
Equity: As it was stated in the Marland Report of the U.S. Department of Education  as far back as 1972, “Gifted and talented children are, in fact, deprived and can suffer psychological damage and permanent impairment of their abilities to function well”. The recommendation of adding race and other factors that do not measure their intellectual needs into the selection criteria of elementary centers for the highly gifted (HGC) and secondary Magnet programs would only further deprive these students of equitable access to the education they desperately need.
HGCs and secondary Magnet programs with selection criteria are services to meet the needs of gifted and talented students . None of the other MCPS needbased programs, such as the ones for disabled students, for foreign language learners, and students with speech problems or mental health issues, base their selection criteria on the student’s’ race or socio economical status. Nor should HGCs and secondary magnet programs with selection criteria do that.
We strongly support MCPS’ commitment on equity  as following: “Outcomes should not be predictable by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status; equity demands the elimination of all gaps; and creating and maximizing future opportunities for students and staff is necessary.”
Excellence: It is the excellence of HGCs and the secondary Magnet programs with selective criterias that attracts the county’s best students. These students are willing to spend extra hours each day to commute to the schools that meet their educational needs. The competitive selection processes ensure the readiness and competitiveness of the students selected so that they will thrive in these programs’ rigorous curriculum. These students have outperformed many peers elsewhere. The Application Magnet Programs have made the education of MCPS one of the best and most competitive in the nation. Groupspecific norms in recommendation 3a will increase the hurdle and limit the opportunity for some groups to attend, while lowering the bar for certain other groups to enter the programs. This would lead to decreased readiness of the students, followed by degraded quality and compromised competitiveness of the programs. The program would then lose its ability to attract the most qualified outstanding students. In the end, excellence will be severely jeopardized by this recommendation.
We strongly support MCPS’ commitment to excellence  as following: “push unceasingly for continuous improvement; hold our practice and our work to the highest possible standards; and nurture a culture of creativity and inquiry that supports innovation and progress.”
Relationships: T he groupspecific norm in recommendation 3a will not only jeopardize equity and excellence, but also further divide the county community based on race and socialeconomical status. It creates antagonism among parents, families, neighborhoods and schools. As ONE community of MCPS, we need to  “ collaborate and build partnership on trust and open and honest communication; build relationships with our diverse community requires us to understand the perspectives and experiences of others”. Together, we can close the achievement gap!
As a group that strongly emphasize on education, Chinese American parents and students have much to offer to the MCPS community. CAPAMC is willing to work with MCPS and BOE to tackle the achievement gap problem. In CAPAMC, many ideas have been generated, such as the tutoring of lower performers, more peer mentoring among top students and at risk students, parent group knowledge sharing, parent support groups, outreach to disadvantageous communities etc. We look forward to playing a major role in the education of Montgomery County by partnering with MCPS and reaching out to other groups.
 MCPS Study of Choice and Special Academic Programs: Report of Findings and
 Marland, S. P., Jr. (1972). Education of the gifted and talented: Report to the Congress of the United States by the U.S. Commissioner of Education and background papers submitted to the U.S. Office of Education, 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
(Government Documents Y4.L 11/2: G36) http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED056243.pdf
 Page 5, MCPS Policy IOA
 MCPS Vision, Mission, and Core Values: