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Oct. 8, 2009

'Seven Keys' initiative launched

by Gardi Royce, Page Editor
MCPS has implemented the new "Seven Keys to College Readiness" program this fall, aimed at increasing college preparedness in the county. The program provides students from kindergarten through 12th grade with a set of milestones for achieving scholastic success.

The program lays out concrete goals that students should accomplish at various points from kindergarten through 12th grade in order to prepare for college. Pamphlets that were distributed to students on the first day of school show the detailed steps. The keys begin in kindergarten, in which students are expected to read at an advanced level. In middle school, students are expected to pass the Maryland State Assessments in math and reading at an advanced level and complete Algebra 1 by 8th grade. In high school, students must pass Algebra 2 by 11th grade, earn a three or four on an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam and earn a score of at least 1650 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT.

Principal Darryl Williams said that he is going to incorporate the steps into classrooms and lesson plans. Williams stressed that one of the most important goals of "Seven Keys" is to increase attendance at standardized tests including the SAT and ACT. "We are really looking at how we can increase participation in the large standardized tests because even having a student take an AP exam, they are more likely to be successful," he said. Though Williams emphasized the importance of standardized testing, he also stressed the importance of increasing enrollment in algebra and AP classes to help students follow the steps.

MCPS public information representative Chris Cram said that the keys would provide guidelines for MCPS teachers, but the program would not change what is being taught. "We already have a rigorous curriculum that teachers teach to year round. 'Seven Keys' is just giving them a better structure," he said. Cram said that the keys remind students to keep college in mind while thinking about their future. "More and more students are getting ready for college and while it doesn't mean people have to choose college for their future, many people may need to have college for future jobs," he said.

However, Career Center information coordinator Lori Kearney said that the steps will help students who may have considered college unreachable or unrealistic. "The seven keys will have a huge effect on the kids who weren't even thinking about college as a potential option," she said.

Kearney emphasized that students must follow these steps beginning in their middle school years, or else it will be harder for them to complete all the keys. She also believes that once a student is following the steps, it will be progressive for them. "It's going to really help students, each one differently, but everyone will benefit " she said.

Williams said that MCPS had been monitoring students beginning in middle school and had found certain patterns in the study habits and grades of noteworthy students. "MCPS found correlations with successful seniors and the courses they took. They looked at the trends and saw that they were similar," he said.

Cram said that the data of successful students had a significant influence on the criteria of the keys. "We saw the data that showed that the students who completed these steps earned a bachelor's degree within six years, whereas the ones who didn't complete them took longer," he said. Though it has only been a short time, Cram says the facts point to the success of the program. "With the data we're already able to show progress so far," he said.



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