Why I Left PGCPS and Learned to Love Home Schooling

by Katy C.

homeschoolLast August, I withdrew my son from Prince George’s County Public Schools and began to home school him. This was a big step on many levels, impacting not only the environment of my child’s day-to-day life, but also my expectations for his future, our goals for his learning, and the financial security of my family. So why did I do this? From my perspective I had very little choice; it has turned out to be a very good decision.

My son’s elementary school treated him as a behavior problem that could not be solved. His behavior became more of a problem the more he struggled with his environment. He spent most of every day struggling with feeling overwhelmed. The school viewed him as extremely defiant and disorderly, but in fact he felt unsafe, overwhelmed, and incapable of learning. The message that he received from school is that he was a failure at learning and conforming. He became angry; his teachers became frustrated.

My son entered kindergarten in PGCPS with a recent diagnosis of a neurological processing issue. Although I brought the issue to the teacher’s attention before the first day of school, I waited until the end of kindergarten for a 504 plan.

The next year, things went downhill in terms of his behavior and learning. The school conducted a battery of tests, with some prompting from me subsequent to external visits to multiple doctors. The testing returned a wide variety of issues, including learning disabilities, sensory issues, processing problems, ADHD, and giftedness. After all of this, my son received an IEP in the last week of April his first grade year. He began to receive some supports for reading and behavior.

Great! Right?

I had some objections to the school’s approach, and I was told, “Don’t worry, let us try this. If it doesn’t work then we will adjust it.” So I trusted the school. I waited. When I got the notice for the next IEP meeting, the stated purpose was to review progress. That sounded right to me.

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Demographic Shifts Accompany Growth in PGCPS Enrollment

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The 2015 Maryland Report Card is here. The 2015 data are not released all at once; county-specific numbers about standardized assessments and graduation rates will be published later. But in the meantime, the report has some interesting things to say about demographic trends in enrollment.

Enrollment in Prince George’s County Public Schools has been increasing since 2013, reversing a nine-year decline. The 2015 enrollment for PGCPS is 127,576, an increase of 2,440 students from 2014 enrollment and a total increase of 3,839 students since 2013.

But not all racial/ethnic subgroups are seeing growth. Though African American students still make up the largest subgroup (62.7% of all students), enrollment among African American students has declined over the last two years, from 81,786 in 2013, to 80,821 in 2014, to 79,915 in 2015.

Meanwhile, enrollment among Latino students has climbed to 35,597. That’s an increase of 3,267 since 2014, and 5,693 since 2013. Notice that the two-year gain in enrollment in the Latino subgroup (5,693) exceeds the two-year gain in total enrollment for the school system (3,839).

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Ten Things We Love About PGCPS

arby Genevieve Demos Kelley

IMG_6342There are plenty of things to appreciate about Prince George’s County Public Schools. Here are ten of them:

1. Dedicated Staff

We have benefited from some truly remarkable, inspiring teachers and visionary, hard-working principals who really are making a difference. One parent writes, “If I go to our school at 7 am, there is staff there (school starts at 9:15). When I go there at 7 pm, there is staff there. Lots of staff are leading many extracurricular activities, there is always something going on at the school.”

2. Strong Instrumental Music Programs

Beginning in grade four, elementary school students may learn to play a string, woodwind, or brass instrument in twice-weekly classes. Instrumental music is also offered to middle and high schoolers. Here is a lovely YouTube video of the PGCPS Honor Band and Middle School Honor Chorus.

3. Career Academies and Specialty Programs

The list of career academies offered in PGCPS high schools was recently expanded in the 2014-2015 school year. It’s an impressive list! PGCPS also offers Creative and Performing Arts and STEM magnet programs.

4. Dual Enrollment

Students may enroll at any public college or university in Maryland while still enrolled in high school and have their tuition paid for by PGCPS. Read more here.

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Your Questions Answered: Board Member Addresses School Breakfasts, Special Education, Literacy, and Other Topics

On June 15, Board of Education member Lupi Grady hosted a listening session at Greenbelt Middle School for parents in District Two. Parents used index cards to jot down questions and comments covering a variety of topics. The cards were collected at the end of the meeting.
Attendees recently received a compilation of questions from the meeting (more than two dozen in all), along with answers gathered from multiple administrative departments. The questions and answers are posted here with permission. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see additional comments from parents.

Family & Community Engagement

  • Can the PGCPS Family Engagement committees publicize their plan (calendar) for engaging communities?

All Board committee meetings are publicly announced. As the dates are determined for the upcoming school year, those dates will be placed on the Board calendar, which is posted on the PGCPS website.

  • I would like to know how to become involved with the Parent Advisory Council.

Any interested parties should contact Sheila Jackson, Director of the Department of Family and Community Engagement.

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Few Students Needing Special Services Attend Prince George’s Charter Schools and Specialty Programs

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Data from the 2014 Maryland Report Card suggest that Prince George’s County’s public charter schools and specialty programs do not fully reflect the demographics of the county school system, serving significantly fewer elementary school1 students who qualify for special services than the PGCPS average.

As of 2014, about 70% of Prince George’s County elementary school students qualified for free and reduced meals (FARMs). Students with limited English proficiency and students receiving special education made up 20.9% and 10.4%, respectively, of the county’s elementary school students. But the demographics of the county’s public charter schools and lottery specialty programs look substantially different.

In the charts below, both generated from the long table at the end of the post, each of PGCPS’s elementary and K-8 schools is represented by a single point. Points colored in red represent public charter schools, while points colored in black represent the lottery specialty programs: French immersion schools, Montessori schools, and schools for the performing arts2. In the first chart, points farther to the right indicate schools with a higher percentage of FARMs qualifying elementary students. Points closer to the top of the chart indicate a higher percentage of limited English proficient students.

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Scatter plot showing the percentages of FARMs and LEP elementary students for all of PGCPS’s elementary and K-8 schools. Points in red represent charter schools; black represents specialty programs.

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