DCC underway in local area
Parents of middle school students were given the opportunity to speak to representatives from the five high schools participating in the Downcounty Consortium at Silver Spring International Middle School on Thursday, October 16. Faculty members from Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Northwood, Wheaton, and Blair high schools were present to answer questions and try to eliminate any anxiety towards the consortium plan.
Montgomery County Public Schools have sponsored six evening informational meetings to make sure parents of eighth graders are informed of the academies and the Choice Process. Two more meetings will be held on Tuesday, October 21, at Sligo Middle School and Wednesday, October 22, at Takoma Park Middle School, both starting at 7 p.m.
Approximately 120 families from Silver Spring International Middle School(SSIMS), were at the meeting last night, in addition to other parents from various local private and public schools. Michael Baker, a Finance teacher from Einstein, which offers the Academy of Finance and is part of the National Academy Foundation, believes that while there was an impressive turnout of interested parents, he was slightly discouraged. "I think the biggest disappointment is that there are so few children," Baker said. Baker highlighted the fact that the students will have to live with their high school, not their parents.
The Downcounty Consortium, or DCC, is an opportunity for students to choose their high school, all of which will feature a special program of study. According to MCPS handouts, "choice allows students to explore their interests in high school and make better decisions about their college and/or career goals."
SSIMS eighth grader Jamie Gutierrez thinks that the DCC has potential. "I think [the DCC] is a good idea. It can prepare us for the university," said Gutierrez. "If we go to different high schools from friends, we can still learn something."
Many teachers believe that the DCC should be thought of as an exploration, not a career path. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime. You get to go to high school based on interest," said Baker.
However some parents are concerned about the plan and how effective the DCC will be in the long run. ""It seems as though, to me, the academy programs promise a lot of opportunity, but without the resources it won't work," said SSIMS parent, Mark Radomski. "In an era of such low budgets, I don't see how it will work."
Teachers and faculty members remain resilient and optimistic about the academies and go so far as to rename the Down County Consortium the "Dynamic County Consortium." MCPS maintains that consortiums have been successful in improving attendance, achieving a higher academic performance, and creating a small learning community across the country and in the county.
The Choice process will begin in November; all eighth grade students from the base middle schools will receive a choice form. The form must be completed and returned by December 12; however the student is selecting a high school with an academic interest in mind, not a specific academy. School assignments will be announced in February.
Freshmen entering the DCC in the fall of 2004, will have similar schedules; each school will offer a connections class to orientate students to high school and will establish a ninth grade team, however most students will not have to select a specialized academy until the end of that year. In grades 10 through 12, students will receive instruction based on the academy they are in. Partnerships have been forged with area businesses to insure that students within certain academies will have the opportunity to have internships in their eleventh or twelfth grade.
For more information on the academies and the DCC please visit the Downcounty website or call the DCC office at 301-649-8081.
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