Local Education Authority

By Vernon Ramirez,2014-05-14 01:44
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Local Education Authority

    Montgomery County Public school visit

Local Education Authority NLSIN (North London Schools

    International Network) LEA visit leader information Marcia Sinclair

    Reference: SV3A12 Creativity Provider The British Council Country/Region USA, Bethesda, Montgomery

    county, Maryland

     Public schools Types of schools visited Elementary, Magnet, middle, high,

    Alternative, Age range 5-18

    Language English, Spanish Aim of the visit Creativity Date 21/05/03

Introduction - Background

21 teachers from North London spent 6 days in Bethesda,

    Washington, USA to observe creativity in American schools. It was

    the last week of the spring term of what had been an unusually

    difficult year, namely the threat of the sniper and the impact this

    had on the children and staff, the exceptional weather conditions

    which resulted in over 10 lost school days and the Iraq war.

Montgomery County is located in the Washington D.C. suburbs. It

    occupies 500 square miles with a population of over 900 thousand.

    The area is relatively diverse with it main groups of Whites 47%,

    African American 21%, Asian American 14%, Hispanic 17% and

    American Indians 0.3%. There are 191 schools comprising of 125

    Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    elementary schools, 36 middle, 23 high, 6 special or alternative, and 1 career / technology centre. The schools operate on $1.4 billion with a projected cost per pupil to be $8,688. The main source of funding comes Montgomery county (79%) taxes. Other funding sources come from government grants and state aids. The schools are well resourced as a high percentage resident are professionals with only 21% of the students receiving free have reduced school meals. There is an increasing number of EAL learner and international students from more than 161 countries.

    There are over 11,000 teachers and they all have to attend professional development programme in order to keep their teaching status. Therefore, in each school there is a staff development officer. The Staff Development Teacher co-ordinates

    the school curriculum training, thereby removing the need for staff to have curriculum areas of responsibility. They oversee the Staff’s career profiles, release them for relevant courses and organises INSET. Staffs are rewarded for further study with an increase in salary. Every quarter, there are year group planning meeting days. The Staff Development Teacher organises cover and co-ordinates the meetings. Thus, there are no year group leaders. Every other week the year group teachers meet as a team at lunchtime.

     As a result, 77% of the teachers have a master degree or higher. The public school system comprises of the following

    Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    USA UK


Pre kindergarten Reception

    Kindergarten Year 1 Grade 1 Year 2 Grade 2 Year 3 Grade 3 Year 4 Grade 4 Year 5 Grade 5 Year 6 Middle Grade 6-8 years 7-10

    High Grade 9-12 Year 12-13

    The school is divided into clusters consisting of one high school and subsequent feeder middle and elementary schools. A community superintendent for school performance monitors each cluster. The Bethesda cluster included Bethesda Chevy Chase high school, Westland and Tida middle school, and Bethesda, Wyngate, North Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase, Rock Creek Forest and Rosemary Hills elementary school.

Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

Aims of the visit

    To explore and compare the use of creativity in the USA. To conduct a survey of creative and cultural education and how it is developed and integrated across the curriculum

    To compare provision available to enable a degree of success and achievement and method used to measure impact.

Report of the experience

    . This study did not follow the usual format of previous visits on two accounts. Firstly the visit was only 7 days allowing only four days in the schools and secondly, it was during the testing time before the spring break. However, the participants, either in pairs but mainly individually, spent two days in their designated schools then arranged further visits to other schools based on our feedback sessions. Members of the group were able to visit at least one other school. The schools visited were combination of elementary, middle and high schools. One of the elementary school was a Spanish ‘magnet’ for children to become fluent in Spanish. During the visit, the participants were able to attend of educational programmes available in the schools.

Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03


    The countrywide ‘Success for Every Child’ programme is designed to support and foster an educational environment that recognises individual needs while educating the next generation as a whole. The State programme to complement this is ‘No Child Left Behind’. The State testing programmes have been designed to meet the Federal National Requirements. From the Teachers’ interview, it would seem that they were under pressure by the State’s quick implementation. The staff development teachers in schools are responsible for providing training to bring teachers up to speed. Creativity is an integral part of the curriculum.

School Experience

    MCPS have recently introduced new schemes of work for the elementary schools in maths and English. New schemes of work for

    other subjects are to follow. These are not dissimilar to the UK, with the exception that the UK is possibly more demanding for the equivalent year groups.

    This is very prescriptive although teachers may be flexible with it if they choose to be. Countrywide testing and local school testing are done throughout the school year. A Cognitive Test of Basic Skills was administered in March. The schools had a lot of space and all the classrooms were a good size. All the schools were well Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    resourced. Class sizes were much smaller, especially in the lower age range. There was an assistant support in most classes. The teachers were not expected to teach Art, Music or P.E in any of the schools we attended. All the schools we visited were equipped with an ICT suite with enough computers for each child to access. There is definitely a greater emphasis on reading and a large emphasis on homework to cover the curriculum.

    Little differentiation within the classroom was observed, although various groups went to different classes for extra tuition. When observing classes the emphasis seemed to be on whole class teaching with individuals working quietly on one or two problems at a time. There also seemed to be a greater emphasis on working through textbooks - especially in maths in the elementary classes. For maths, the pupils are streamed ranging from high ability to below average.

    Specialist teachers in separate well-resourced rooms take subjects such as music, art and physical education. This clearly has enormous advantages. In music, in particular, the children appeared to be performing at a far greater ability than those in the UK. There are far more resources in the USA. For example, recording studios, music rooms and science boxes enabled the children to access the curriculum in ways that they would be more Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    difficult in the UK. The staffing levels allow for smaller classes and therefore more time dealing with individual needs.

Gifted and Talented Programs

    The purpose is to extend each child’s intellectual boundaries and help the students achieve their highest potential. Courses for gifted and talented students are offered in reading, English, mathematics and foreign language. High standards are maintained and students are expected to maintain a ‘B’ average.

    In science and world studies, students are grouped and the needs of gifted students are met through pre-assessment, flexible grouping and differentiated activities and assessment. A variety of additional opportunities such as the maths team, science club, and

    Montgomery College special courses are available to further challenge interested students.

Alternative programmes

    With the ‘Success For Every Student’ as their goal, we found that the middle schools offer opportunities for students of all abilities to be successful course levels range from basic

    Skills to advanced classes. Several programs exist within the school for students with special needs, such as ESOL and the learning centre. Alternative courses are offered in some academic areas for Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    students who are not yet ready for classes that are more difficult. When students have improved sufficiently they move to regular classes.


     Homework is an essential part of the instructional process. The goal is to reinforce, enrich and enhance instruction while teaching students to become more responsible for their own learning. Additionally, homework provides the opportunity for parents to become involved with their children’s education. Homework is sent through e-mail and students who do not have access to computers are given homework sheets at school.

Counselling Service

    The Guidance Dept also delivers extensive transition services at four grade levels. Articulations from fifth to sixth grade, begins with visits to the elementary schools by the middle schools teachers and receiving sixth grade counsellor. The process continues with large group meetings at each elementary school, where the

    Counsellor explains the sixth grade course. The elementary schools facilitate the transition by providing maths placement test and making academic level recommendations for reading, maths and English. After course selections and the recommendations are processed, the counsellor meets in groups to inform the rising sixth Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

graders of their anticipated course load and team designation. The

    counsellors from the middle school meet with each elementary

    school’s counsellors to gather critical information on any students

    needing extra support.

Another important transition activity is the summer orientation, a

    fun filled summer comprehensive introduction to life at the middle

    school. Once school begins, the transition continues with a variety

    of team building and networking activities culminating with outdoor



    ? The use of ICT in the classrooms varied. This is a similar

    problem within the UK and possibly highlights the logistical

    and educational difficulties in incorporating this within lessons.

    Although there did not seem to be a specific scheme of work

    for ICT, key skills were taught and re-visited. In some high

    school lessons, ICT is used for note talking. The Use of Kid Pix

    elementary schools - especially for simple sentence

    construction for those children whom English is an additional

    language was very good.

Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

    ? Although during our observations the majority of teaching

    assistants did not appear to be using creativity to support

    teaching, the sheer numbers of them provided tremendous

    support for the class teacher.

    ? The use of specialist music teachers in particular would

    benefit primary schools within the UK. The American children

    demonstrated greater skills in this area. The use different

    sports equipment for different ability children (beach balls etc)

    reminds us of the simple differentiation that can be effective.

    The models made of famous structures in science have useful

    cross-curricular links with design and technology and


    ? Apart from music being played during an art lesson and a one

    off lesson by the University of Maryland students on stress

    management few accelerated learning techniques were


    ? The use of the colourful maths laminates on each desk

    (which had a ruler, counting line, times tables, number bonds

    etc) was useful for children to use independently. The use of

    paper plates for estimating angles up to 360 degrees was

    very good and could be extended to pie charts. Similarly, the

    Marcia Sinclair EMA Adviser May 03

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