SEABROOK – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) saw gains in its fundraising and construction efforts while it continues to slowly progress in its academic assessment scores, according to its first-quarter report, released on Nov. 26.
The report, the first for the school system since making Monica Goldson the permanent CEO, provides updates on initiatives that the school system has attempted to work on since the start of the school year in September.
Goldson, who was fully appointed in the summer, said that the school system has all to celebrate and a lot to learn from 2019.
“This year, we are focusing on the fundamentals,” Goldson said. “By working with our students to master basic concepts, we lay a strong foundation for the success of every child who walks through our doors.”
PGCPS received $53 million in funding through the Kirwan Commission legislation.
On June 11, the school system provided details that the money would be split into specific categories including teacher pay, special education and expansion of Pre-K.
According to the report, the Blueprint for PGCPS also provides a “strategic direction” on how to focus the county’s academic programs, which should help in determining how to improve its Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) test scores. Prince George’s County saw similar gains and drops in English and Math scores, as seen throughout the state.
The report states that 31.3% of 2019 elementary and middle school students met or exceeded expectations in their English Language Arts (ELA) test results, which is a 4.9% increase from 2016. For high school students who took the ELA 10 test, 28.3% met or exceeded expectations, a 3.5% increase compared to 2018.
“In recent years, we focused efforts on improving student performance in English Language Arts, and the scores show modest gains in these areas,” the report said. “We are continuing to invest in these efforts by providing additional student resources and support, including the creation of a new digital literacy program.”
However, the report showed a drop in math scores with high school students as only 10.9% of Algebra 1 test-takers met or exceeded expectations with their scores. The high school drop began in 2016 when 16.2% of students met their goals.
“Although our MCAP mathematics scores continue to rank below the state average, we are setting high academic standards and increased supports to help students master grade-level or higher fundamentals,” the report said.
The report highlights PGCPS’ support for the that will be presented at the start of the 2020 legislative session.
According to the bill, the state would set aside $2.2 billion for construction projects to create more 21st century modern facilities for students. With PGCPS’ ability to use Public-Private Partnership or P3 model to build schools at a faster rate, officials believed that they would be able to fund 18 schools over the next seven years.
“This is a really urgent need that we have,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “I am just so grateful that we decided to work together to fight this issue in the legislative session this upcoming year.”
As of now, the school system has invested $25-30 million annually for the next 30 years to redevelop the county’s school buildings. PGCPS selected six schools to be included in the first round of new school construction, including Drew-Freeman, Hyattsville, Kenmoor and Walker Mill Middle Schools, while creating a new building in the Adelphi neighborhood. In the southern area of the county, a new school will consolidate Potomac Landing Elementary School and Isaac Gourdine Middle School in a new kindergarten through eighth-grade building.
“The overall construction project will add over 5,500 seats and improve learning environments for over 10,000 students,” according to the report. “Over the next decade, more than 30 schools in the district will undergo renovations to improve learning and working conditions.”
Lastly, the school system had its first PGCPS Hall of Fame gala on Oct. 18, where it raised more than $150,000 for scholastic programs throughout the county. Those honored included boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Kenny Lattimore, State Sen. Mike Miller, the Rev. John K. Jenkins, educator Celeste Williams, State Delegate Jazz Lewis and St. Mary’s College of Maryland President Dr. Tuajuanda C. Jordan.
“I am naturally humbled and appreciative, and I actually realized that I am getting older,” Lenard said about his Hall of Fame induction. “But it is a wonderful thing coming back home and being acknowledged in a prestigious-like manner; it is beautiful.”
However, the report states that there is still work to be done. With record-breaking enrollment, the school system needs to continue finding solutions to their growing transportation problems. On May 29, bus drivers discussed issues with their pay structure, lack of benefits and the amount of routes assigned. Since then, parents have voiced their displeasure on how late their children arrive at school during the fall listening sessions.
The creation of a 23-member Transportation Task Force will look to develop new ideas on how to address the transportation issues for students. According to Goldson, on Nov. 8, the task force will include parents, a Board of Education member, school system staff and county government and union officials.
They will begin to meet in March to provide recommendations on how to improve arrival and departure times, bus drive requirement and retention and changes to the route and school start times for the 2020-2021 school year. The school system recently held a job fair to look for new bus drivers as well before the task force comes together.
“We cannot continue to operate our transportation services in the same manner and expect different results,” Goldson said. “My highest priority is to make sure that our students are being transported to and from school safely and on time.”