The Gazette talked with Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr on June 4 and asked him to address pressing education issues. Starrís thoughts will be published in this section. This week, Starr talks about what it means to close the achievement gap.
How do you address the achievement gap that exists here? Does the fact that there is a growing population of minority and low-income students make it harder?
It is really important that people understand that we need to double down in our investment, for what works. The demographics are changing — we are becoming more poor, more black, more brown — and the needs are there. And you canít meet the needs without resources, and resources are time, people and money. I am not just saying you need to throw money in the pot, but you canít get a return without an investment. I also know that people in our system are better than they are in most places at holding really high standards for kids who donít tend to perform as well ...
One of the reasons that I am interested in the complimentary skillsets — the social and emotional and 21st-century skillset — is because I think that that will capture some of the kids who might not be as intrinsically motivated or as ready as other kids. ... That is also why we are investing in interventions and community engagement, as well as professional development, so we can intervene when kids have needs and we can meet those needs swiftly. ... I think we will see in the next few years — and I donít want to portend ominous things for the community — but I donít know that we have had to make those really tough choices previously, between things that I find to be incredibly important, like music and art, and a teacher for English language learners. I am not saying I am cutting music and art, I am just using that as an example. That would be tragic if we had to make that kind of choice. But people need to understand if we donít invest in our kids and our schools, we will be faced with those choices.
Next week: Starrsí thoughts on class size