In Maryland’s largest school district, growing enrollment and shifting demographics continue to stretch the capacity of school buildings and boost the need for ESOL classes and subsidized meals. Superintendent Joshua Starr joins Kojo to talk about project-based learning, the need to balance social and emotional learning with college and career readiness and a new discipline policy that cuts down on suspensions.

Guests

  • Joshua Starr Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.)

Watch Live Video

Tune in at 12:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, for a live webcast of the interview.

Transcript

  • 12:25:15

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's the largest school district in Maryland with 150,000 students and more showing up every year. The booming enrollment in Montgomery County public schools means more portable classrooms and a scramble to enlarge existing schools inside those buildings. Shifting demographics have made the student body majority minority. One in ten students needs English classes for nonnative speakers and one-third of students qualify for subsidized meals.

  • 12:25:40

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAgainst that backdrop educators are handing out chrome book computer in elementary school, pushing literacy and writing in middle school and building a new high school that features what's known as project-based learning. Now in his fourth year as superintendent, Joshua Starr is here to talk about diversity, technology and 21st century learners. He joins us in studio. Joshua Starr is superintendent of Montgomery public schools. Good to see you again.

  • 12:26:05

    MR. JOSHUA STARRNice to be here. Thanks so much for having me. You can just keep going. You got it down.

  • 12:26:08

    NNAMDI(laugh) No, we just heard...

  • 12:26:09

    STARRYou know everything that's going on.

  • 12:26:10

    NNAMDILet's talk about the report we were discussing with Michael in the earlier segment. Montgomery County seems to be somewhere in the middle of the school districts around the region. How does per-pupil spending affect the quality of education students receive and why are there differences among schools even within the county?

  • 12:26:26

    STARRWell, you know, Montgomery County's had a long-standing commitment to equity and to allocating resources according to need. And we spend about $2200 or so per student in the schools with the greatest needs. And it goes to lower class size as of course pre K, professional development, parent outreach, community engagement. But quality -- teaching quality and teacher quality is the most important factor. And just because you spend more doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a better result unless it's spent wisely. We've done that in Montgomery County.

  • 12:26:56

    STARRYou know, I heard Mike Petrilli, who I have great respect for, you know, talk about we don't know why Montgomery County does better. But actually I would say we do. We invest a lot in our teachers. We make sure we have great people in front of our kids. We provide a lot of professional development. We provide great support and curriculum as well. We do community outreach and community engagement, lot of supports for kids. So if you spend it wisely you're going to get better results. And we think we do.

  • 12:27:20

    NNAMDIA group of educational leaders said yesterday, it's time to evaluate whether over testing our students -- whether we are over testing our students. President Obama endorsed the smarter use of tests that measure real student learning. How do your schools use tests and where do you draw the line?

  • 12:27:37

    STARRWell, you know, it is great that folks are finally coming to realize what some of us have been saying for a while. One could argue too little too late but we won't go there. So what we find is that there are some tests that our teachers really use for instructional improvement and that we're now using to measure our progress.

  • 12:27:55

    STARRSo, for example, the map M and map R tests in grades three through eight in reading and math, our teachers use for instructional improvement purposes. They can really see how kids are doing at the beginning of the year or the end of the year. We now use those to measure the school progress. Until all the other tests are stable, until the part (sp?) tests are stable, which will take a few years, we find that great teachers are always using assessments on a daily and regular basis. We want to support that. And some of them can be standard as like the map tests.

  • 12:28:23

    STARRWe still find there's great value in AP tests and SATs and PSATs. You can analyze the data in different ways. The problem has been the current state standardized tests. There are too many of them. They should use a random sampling methodology which is, you know, the folks that beat us up for not competing well against other countries. And they use the (word?) , right. The (word?) random sample methodology. Why don't we use those same kind of methodologies to understand school performance. We need a new approach to testing in the country. I'm glad that folks are finally talking about it.

  • 12:28:53

    NNAMDIYeah, how does it feel not to be a voice in the wilderness anymore?

  • 12:28:55

    STARRYou know, so until we actually see a reauthorization of the ESCA and until we see some real serious commitment to the policy implications, because it's not just assessment. It's also the policy implications so -- and that's where, you know, I'm not quite sure how that's going to shake out at both the state level and the federal level over the next few years. But it is great to see that folks are starting to realize that we have to change our assessment model in the country.

  • 12:29:19

    NNAMDITesting is the concern of Jill in Silver Spring, Md. Jill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:29:25

    JILLHi, Dr. Starr. I know, and I appreciate, how concerned you are about standardized testing. And as a school board candidate I hear that so much from parents who share your concern. Our kindergartners this year in the first five or six weeks of school had to take a math assessment, a reading assessment that were both county standardized tests. And then on top of that a state test was added.

  • 12:29:51

    JILLAnd this is supposed to be a time when kids are supposed to be getting used to school and socializing and building relationships. Did we know that was all going to hit at once and could we have timed that differently or dropped one of those tests?

  • 12:30:04

    STARRSo we're taking a really hard look at that, Jill. We know that we've got to, you know, recalibrate how many tests we're giving. My new chief economic officer Maria Navarro has a team together. And we're looking at how we can scale back on tests. And we know we need good assessments, right. So we've got to strike the right balance there. And part of the challenge we have now in education is so many different things are changing in so many different times -- or, you know, all at once, I should say, that sometimes it's hard to know exactly what it's going to look like until it happens. But we are planning some changes for next year. We're just working to determine right now what those are going to be.

  • 12:30:42

    NNAMDIJill, thank you very much for your call. In case you're just joining us, our guest is Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County public schools. You can ask a question or make a comment by calling 800-433-8850. You can go to our website kojoshow.org, watch the live video stream of this conversation and join the conversation there at our website kojosho.org. You can shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or email to kojo@wamu.org if you'd like to ask how has rising enrollment affected the use of space at your child's school.

  • 12:31:14

    NNAMDIOver the past several years, Josh Starr, enrollment in Montgomery County public schools has steadily climbed. As a result a number of your schools are getting crowded. How are you using portables and new construction to meet the demand for more classroom space?

  • 12:31:27

    STARRYeah, so we've always had portables in Montgomery County. And, in fact, about maybe seven or so years back we had more than we have now. But it's just a matter of growth management. We cannot keep up with the pace of enrollment. But we build -- you know, we do a couple different things. Either we build new buildings like the new one we opened up in Clarksburg this year, Wilson Wims, or we do what we call renovation expansion projects where we take an old building, we tear it down and then we build it -- you know we go from a 500-kid school to a 750-kid school, something like that.

  • 12:31:56

    STARRWe need help from the state. You know, our county executive, our county council and our delegation have been working hard to put forward a bill similar to the Baltimore City bill from two years ago that enabled them to bond to speed up construction. We need the same kind of fix. You know, we appreciate what the county has done but we just have more kids coming every day and we can't keep up. And portable are part of our landscape but, you know, we could really use some help quite frankly because we're bursting at the seams.

  • 12:32:24

    NNAMDIWhere are 2,000 new students a year coming from?

  • 12:32:27

    STARRYeah, it's about 2500 kids a year. There's a mix, you know. So there's new development going on all over the place. You know, certainly up in the Clarksburg area and things, they got this new development. There's an aging population as well in some parts of the county and so, you know, you get that. There's also a higher birth rate for certain parts of the populations, Latino birth rate, which is our largest growth area. And we now have a larger Hispanic population at the K-2 level than any other population.

  • 12:32:53

    NNAMDIAre the schools and their attraction and their track record part of the attraction?

  • 12:32:59

    STARRI think so. I think when people are considering a move to the area they say, you know, Montgomery County's a good school system. It's a place that certainly has a good reputation. And, you know, most of the kids in the county go to public schools, 87 percent or so of the kids go to public schools, and there's a high birth rate. So it's a range of factors that contribute to it. And, you know, we do everything we can to make sure that schools feel intimate, even when there are lots of kids in them.

  • 12:33:25

    NNAMDIWell, Emily in Silver Spring, Md. has a concern about portables. Emily, express yourself. You're on the air, Emily. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:33:34

    EMILYHi. I just wanted to say thank you for taking our questions. I'm calling because my child's elementary school has a third of its students in portables which means a lot of times we have very young children having to walk from the portable into the school building. Now I know you've done a lot and we appreciate this (unintelligible) safety measures in place in our schools. So for example now our school is locked and we have a front door that people have to go through a metal door that people (unintelligible) enter.

  • 12:34:10

    EMILYHowever, we don't have that same level of safety in our portable classrooms. And I'm wondering what you all plan to do to make the space between the school building and the portables equitable in terms of safety?

  • 12:34:24

    STARRYeah, so we take safety and security very, very importantly. I mean, we really -- it's a top priority for us and we make -- so we do drills, we do safety reviews. You know, we have a team that goes out and takes a look at making sure that we maintain one of the most safe and secure environments that we possibly can in our school buildings and in our portables. Our principals work hard at it. We work with parent groups if they see that there's a concern.

  • 12:34:51

    STARRNobody wants, you know, tons of portables, right. We would all love to see every building be, you know, brand spanking new. We can't keep up with the growth. There isn't enough money to do everything that we'd like to do as quickly as we'd like to do, but we do take safety and security very, very seriously. And we're always willing to sit down with parents and see if there's, you know, a modification that can be made if there are concerns. And we certainly have done that in the past and we'll continue to do so if there's a concern being raised.

  • 12:35:21

    NNAMDIEmily, thank you very much for your call. It looks like you're in need of a sit down as the school superintendent. A new report from the Montgomery County council says there's a big racial gap between students and teachers in the public schools. Students of color make up two-thirds of your enrollment while three-fourths of the school's professional staff is white. Is that a problem and what are the challenges in diversifying a teaching staff?

  • 12:35:45

    STARRSo we are deeply committed to making sure that we have a diverse teaching staff and that we attract the best talent from around the country, right. That's what we want. We want the best people in front of our kids. We also have taken a number of step-s to make sure that we have people with the right values in front of our kids. So we hire for values. We hire for equity. We make sure that whoever's in front of our kids, whatever they look like, has the belief system that all kids can achieve at a high level.

  • 12:36:13

    STARRWe know that, you know, the -- if you look at the demographics of the kids who are going through teacher education programs, it reflects what the -- you know, what our recruiting pool looks like. But we are putting together a bold and aggressive plan to try to, you know, really take on this issue and make sure that we are attracting the most talented people from all over the place.

  • 12:36:34

    NNAMDIThere are challenges, I guess.

  • 12:36:35

    STARRSure.

  • 12:36:36

    NNAMDIYou can recruit at historically black colleges and universities.

  • 12:36:39

    STARRAnd we've done that.

  • 12:36:39

    NNAMDIBut you also have a growing Latino population. You have a growing Asian population.

  • 12:36:43

    STARRThat's right. So we partner with HBCUs. Frankly it didn't reap as many fruits as we thought it would. We are partnering now with Ana G. Mendez University which is a dual language university that has a satellite campus in Silver Spring. We've put together a group that is going to put out a plan within the next month or so but we have to be bold, we have to be aggressive.

  • 12:37:07

    STARRAnd, you know, I was just talking to a bunch of folks from other districts yesterday. We're all competing with each other around this. So -- because everybody wants to do it, everybody recognizes how important it is. We take it very seriously and want to diversify our staff as much as we possibly can.

  • 12:37:22

    NNAMDILet's talk about another kind of gap, the achievement gap. Hispanic and African American students score 300 points lower on SAT tests than white students, even though they do outscore their peers statewide and nationwide. It's a gap that closed slightly this year. How are you addressing that?

  • 12:37:39

    STARRSo that's the duality of Montgomery County, right. We have our African American, our Latino kids, our students in free and reduced price meals, our special ed. kids tend to do better than their counterparts in other places. But they don't do as well as their white and Asian kids. And we are constantly focused on it. So some of it comes down to making sure that, you know, we have some different strategies in place, right. We have the funding that was described earlier. We put more funds to where there are greater needs. We are doing a lot of work on academic rigor and also cultural proficiency because we know that we have to make sure that our kids from different backgrounds are really engaged in classrooms.

  • 12:38:17

    STARRWe're focused on recruiting and developing and retaining the absolute best workforce in public education. We're working a lot on community engagement. We know families are important and we're working on that. And then finally, the whole continuous improvement model we have. I mean, we look at our data really closely. We are looking at which schools are doing better than others. And we're making sure that we're applying those best practices throughout the county.

  • 12:38:39

    STARRSo it is a constant ongoing issue for us and for many districts around the country, if not all districts around the country. Because I don't know one that's eliminated the gap yet, although there are individual schools that may have. We are deeply committed to it. There's a moral imperative for us and we think we have the right people and the right strategies in place to make progress. And we have been making progress over the last couple years.

  • 12:39:01

    NNAMDIBob in Rockville, Md. has a question that I think has to do with pedagogue. Bob, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:39:08

    BOBYes, thank you. We all know that the ability to learn is -- you go through a haphazard process, you learn from parents, siblings, trial and error, teachers. But it's very hard and it's especially hard for kids at the lower socioeconomic end because they don't have the people to teach them. And I know from my own experience it was pretty brutal and kids get discouraged, drop out, do poorly.

  • 12:39:38

    BOBHas Montgomery County public schools ever thought of having say a one-semester course in teaching kids how to learn? There's a lot of research and a lot of resources that might make a huge difference.

  • 12:39:53

    STARRWell, you know, I appreciate you bringing that up, Bob, because it's actually something that we do a lot in our middle schools and also in other parts as well, where we really help kids understand what their strengths are. We've been doing some work, some strength finders. We want kids to understand who they are, what they're good at, what kind of learning environment and learning styles they have. That's part of our social-emotional learning work.

  • 12:40:16

    STARRSo, you know, I believe all kids can learn at a really high level no matter where they come from. And as I say all the time, we don't have a student learning problem, we have an adult learning problem. We actually have to get better at teaching all kids to achieve a higher standard. So we are trying to be really thoughtful with our kids, in terms of helping them understand how they learn and giving them skills, particularly at the middle school level. I've seen some great examples of that.

  • 12:40:40

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Bob. We're going to take another short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call, but the lines seem to be filled. So shoot us an email to kojo@wamu.org. Join us at the -- join the conversation at our website, kojoshow.org, and watch the live video stream there or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. How are your children using technology in the classroom? That's a topic we'll be discussing when we come back. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:41:40

    NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Joshua Starr. He is superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. If you have questions or comments for Josh Starr we would advise you to send us an email to kojo@wamu.org or go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you can both follow the conversation and watch the live video stream. But you can also try calling 800-433-8850.

  • 12:42:01

    NNAMDIYou're making big push to use technology in the classroom. Can you explain the decision to hand out 40,000 Chromebook laptop computers this year? To some students in third, fifth and sixth grades and to high school social studies students? How are kids using the computers? What's the goal?

  • 12:42:18

    STARRIt's great. I mean, I was just in a school this morning, in a middle school, and to see the kids collaborating with each other, interacting with each other -- they were talking about how much they like it because it actually enables them to be more efficient with their work, because they can save a document to the Google Drive, the can access it from home. The teachers look at it. It's just fabulous to see what the kids are doing.

  • 12:42:38

    STARRYou know, it was a long time coming for us, but I was really glad that we were able to put it in place this year. And we're -- we just hope to expand it. Assuming the money's there, we hope to expand it as we go forward. And we always say, it is not about the technology. It's about teaching and learning. And to see how creative our teachers are becoming and what it enables them to do is just fabulous. So we're hearing great things.

  • 12:43:02

    NNAMDIThat was at Ridgeford (sic) Middle School in…

  • 12:43:04

    STARRIt was.

  • 12:43:04

    NNAMDI…Gaithersburg. We got an email from Ivar, who writes, "Our children have been given access to Chromebooks and Google email accounts, neither of which can be fully regulated and monitored on a real-time basis by teachers or school staff. If MCPS is going to help schools with cyber policing by doing it -- or is MCPS going to help schools by doing it in a centralized way from the Cloud? What role will parents be expected to play in monitoring/regulating what their kids do while on those MCPS systems, either at home or at school?

  • 12:43:35

    STARRWell, we've really been encouraging families to download, you know, Chrome, so they can really see what their kids are doing. It is -- look, this is part of an ongoing conversation, right? Technology is changing and evolving all the time. There's always a new solution. We are very, very tight on all our privacy issues and our policies around that. We're working really well with Google on that. I think we have some of the tightest regs in the country. And we know it's an emerging field. Right? So what we do today may look different in a year or in two years.

  • 12:44:06

    STARRWe have to keep up with a free flow of information with our families about it. Make sure we address their concerns and we are always focused on continuous improvement and certainly student safety on the online environment is of paramount importance to us.

  • 12:44:19

    NNAMDIOne of the more fascinating things, of course, about young people -- you spoke, as I said, there was a town hall at Ridgeview Middle School today. What are -- what's on the minds of the six grades -- sixth, seventh and eighth grade students there?

  • 12:44:34

    STARRWell, you know, it ranges. Right? So some kids are interested in, you know, wanting to have sports in sixth grade. Some kids are interested in, you know, the length of the school day and start times. But then kids are asking questions about curriculum. One girl wanted to know if there could be more world language offerings. Kids seem to know a lot about the common core. Food, you know, is always an issue. They always -- kids always want better food.

  • 12:44:57

    STARRBut there's a real range. I mean, you know, kids are -- that's why I love talking to kids because they have so much to tell us about what they're experiences are. And I love the fact that all of our school leadership teams are engaging students in really understanding what students have to say as they do the school improvement plans. And the students are the most important thing so we've got to keep listening to them.

  • 12:45:19

    NNAMDIYou have talked about the democratization of information, as computers put facts at our fingertips and make old-style lectures and textbooks less essential. How is that shifting the relationship between teachers and students? And how does it affect the mission and the teaching tools of schools today? You say your mission has not changed, but that how you pursue your mission has.

  • 12:45:41

    STARRThat's right.

  • 12:45:41

    NNAMDIWhat do you mean?

  • 12:45:42

    STARRWell, so when I talk about the democratization of information, it's about trying to figure out what's the problem we're trying to solve. Right? And policy solutions stem from problem definitions. And kids have access to so much information now, it's just remarkable. So we have to help them understand the value of different pieces of information. I always say to teachers, you know, if you can Google it, why teach it? It doesn't mean you shouldn't teach it.

  • 12:46:04

    NNAMDIYou know, when I saw you say that this morning, I thought that when I was growing up a very long time ago we had to learn times tables up to 20. And I said, "He said that. Let me Google to see if I can…" And I did. 75 x 30 it was right there.

  • 12:46:16

    STARRAnd you still have to know your times tables. Right you still have to -- of course you have to know all your math facts. You know, ask Siri what's three divided four. Right? Now, we all know three divided by four is .75. Kids have to know how to do that without even thinking. Right? But Siri will give you multiple representations of .75. Why would you want to use that? What's the purpose of it? That's where we have to get kids to now. It's not just about knowing facts and figures, it's about really using that understand the world around you, to make decisions.

  • 12:46:45

    STARRAnd when you talk to, you know, employers out there, they want collaborators, they want kids who work hard, they want people who are curious in their thinking. It's not just about knowing facts and figures anymore. That's changed the architecture of the classroom and I love what I'm seeing from our teachers as they embrace this.

  • 12:47:01

    NNAMDIMontgomery County Public Schools is building a new high school in Wheaton that will focus on project-based learning. It's being designed in partnership with a variety of community groups. You have said this will be a truly 21st century high school. Please explain.

  • 12:47:15

    STARRWell, I've got to say -- I'll put a plug in for the Bethesda Magazine piece on it last month, was just fabulous, by Julie Rasicot. Teachers are leading the work. Right? So we are teachers collaborating with each other, as well as industry partners. Right? So, you know, Lockheed Martin and groups like that, to say, okay, what are problems that are in industry? How do we build projects around that and problem-based learning around that so kids can really apply what they're doing and can, you know, figure out that they can invent things?

  • 12:47:48

    STARRAnd what I'm hearing from the teachers and what I'm seeing the kids do is just fabulous. And it's the way of the future. You know, we expect to expand this sixth through twelve in the coming years. Wheaton was the first place where we started, but we expect that to be a laboratory for the rest of the district.

  • 12:48:01

    NNAMDIOn to Mary, in Bethesda, Md. Mary, your turn.

  • 12:48:06

    MARYHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. And, Dr. Starr, thank you for being here and for taking questions. My children are students in the Montgomery County Public Schools. We've had a very positive experience. I worry more and more -- and I know it's been in the press a lot -- about the balance that you have to strike. And I'm interesting in hearing your perspective about how do we maintain -- how do we close this massive achievement gap that we have, especially coming from the eastern side of our county?

  • 12:48:32

    MARYAnd how do we balance that with the key differentiator of MCPS public schools, which is the special programs, the accelerated instruction? You know, that's a real dichotomy there. Specifically, I'd like to know where things stand with the special outside study that was going to be funded to look at policy JEE, the student transfer policy. Thank you very much.

  • 12:48:55

    STARRSo thanks for your question, Mary. I think what you're referring to is the choice study that we're doing. And we are putting out the RFP very, very soon. And what we're trying to do is take a look at the landscape of all the different programs that exist in Montgomery County. And let me clear, I do not want to compromise the quality of them. I don't want to reduce, necessarily, or anything like that. But we have to get a handle on what we're offering to whom and why and how do kids access different kinds of programs and how do we make sure that that access is equitable.

  • 12:49:27

    STARRAnd that's what we're trying to do. It's not about, you know, compromising our quality or anything like that. But I do think we have an obligation to really understand what's currently going on so that we can plan for 2020, and 2030, and 2040. And if we're going to have choice in the system, if we're going to have these great different programs, let's make sure that we do it in a way that really works for everybody in the county.

  • 12:49:50

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Mary. We got a post on our website from someone who describes herself as resilient mom. "You've said the code of conduct will keep our children safe, but I have concerns that it sets loose standards that will endanger our children. For example, habitual stealing results in a maximum sentence of restorative practices, in-school suspension. Using a knife with the intent to harm someone will result in a minimum sentence of restorative practices or in-school suspension. How is this code of conduct making our children safe?"

  • 12:50:21

    STARRSo our schools are very safe. The code of conduct is guidelines for our principals to make decisions that help kids learn from their mistakes. You know, if a kid does something wrong and you send them out for 10 days and say, go fix yourself and come back, and don't do it again, where's the opportunity for them to do something -- for them to learn how to do something different? Now, there's -- of course there are non-negotiables. Right?

  • 12:50:47

    STARRI mean there are some things that you automatically get suspended for and we will continue to do that. But we also know that too many African American kids, too many Latino kids get suspended at a disproportionate rate, particularly for things like insubordination. It's not acceptable. It's just not acceptable to do that anymore. We've reduced suspensions by making sure that our kids have opportunities to learn from their behaviors.

  • 12:51:09

    STARRWe've reduced it by making sure that kids feel valued and feel, you know, loved and cared for in schools. And our schools continue to be very, very safe environments for our kids. But we have a moral imperative to reduce suspensions, particularly the disproportionality of African American and Latino kids. And we'll continue to do so. And our code of conduct gives guidance and, you know, to our principals, but it's no way, shape or form, compromising the safety of our schools.

  • 12:51:36

    NNAMDIEmail from Kelly, in Tacoma Park. "Our kids can't miss another 11 days of school this year. I realize that MCPS cannot make or change weather, but I do think MCPS needs to work better and smarter to see if there are ways to decrease these school closures? Is there a way to change bus routes or other things to enable our kids to get to school? Also, if we do miss 11 days again, would you consider adding makeup days before the end of the testing and marking period, rather than just tagging them onto the end of the year, which adds nothing to our kids' learning?"

  • 12:52:06

    STARRSo I wish I had the power to control weather. But, you know, I know my limitations. We make decisions on snow days based on safety issues. We are 500-square-mile county. We, you know, 1,000 miles of busses a day. It's -- 100,000 a day. I mean, we're all over. And it's just really complex. But safety always comes first.

  • 12:52:30

    STARRAnd if, you know, hopefully we won't have as many snow days as we had last year -- I'm keeping my fingers crossed -- but we would just have to figure out how to make up the days, if we need to, going forward. But let's just all hope for not too much snow. Or if it comes, it comes on a weekend so we can all go out and have fun in it.

  • 12:52:45

    NNAMDIA year ago you proposed moving start times later for Montgomery County high schools and lengthening the elementary school day to make the bus schedule work. But over the summer you decided that change would be too expensive, didn't have enough support. You still support the idea of starting schools later. So what happens now?

  • 12:53:02

    STARRYeah, so the board asked me to take another look at it and see if we could come up with something less than $10 million. The proposal I put forward I thought would be the best proposal. And then we realized it would just cost too much. I just don't think it's financially responsible when, you know, we're struggling with our funding anyway, to ask for another $20 million to, you know, $40 million more to do what I think would be the ideal situation. So we're taking a look at it and in January we'll be bringing something back to the board that is a lower cost option and we will go from there.

  • 12:53:32

    NNAMDILarissa, in Washington, D.C. You're on the air, Larissa. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:53:37

    LARISSAHi, Kojo. Thank you very much for taking my call. I grew up in the Soviet Union and although the political situation was terrible there, but the level of education that we got was very high. And I used to be a teacher myself there. I taught at high school. We all wore uniforms.

  • 12:54:00

    NNAMDIDid you enjoy it?

  • 12:54:03

    LARISSAYeah, yeah.

  • 12:54:03

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:54:03

    LARISSAIt didn't matter.

  • 12:54:05

    NNAMDIBecause I, too, wore a uniforms growing up in the Caribbean, going through high school, but I really didn't enjoy it. But go ahead.

  • 12:54:10

    LARISSAWell, we didn't pay much attention to it. But, you know, when we came to school, we differed only how much we learned, how hard we worked and that was it.

  • 12:54:24

    NNAMDIThere weren't a lot of fights over who was better dressed than whom. I understand.

  • 12:54:29

    LARISSAYeah. And -- but now when I pass by a school and see how kids are coming out and the girls, you know, they look just -- I am appalled.

  • 12:54:39

    STARRWell, so, Larissa, I will tell you -- and my kids will kill me for this -- but I love school uniforms. And I wish I them.

  • 12:54:44

    NNAMDIAs a parent I've grown to love them.

  • 12:54:45

    STARRYeah, I really do. And we do have a dress code. We absolutely have a dress code. And kids should not be wearing things that are inappropriate. I always say, look, if a school wants -- it's got to be a school-based decision. And the way I've done this before, if a school community says we want uniforms, we will absolutely support that as long as the parents and the kids and the teachers agree.

  • 12:55:04

    STARRIt's not something that can be imposed by us from the central office or from the school board. And while I personally like them and would love to see them, unless the school community comes forward and says we want to do uniforms, we have no plans on imposing a school uniform policy. So don't worry, kids. We won't be doing that.

  • 12:55:22

    NNAMDIJoshua Starr is superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. Thank you so much for joining us. You'll be delivering your State Of The Schools Address next month. Anything you can tell us in 10 seconds or less that…

  • 12:55:33

    STARRState of the Schools, on November 11th. Always a wonderful event. Early in the morning at Strathmore. Go to the website, check it out. Hope to see you there. Thanks, Kojo.

  • 12:55:40

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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