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Josh Starr: Why Is His Job on the Line?

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This is a balanced and fair assessment of Josh Starr’s tenure as superintendent of the Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools.

Starr seeks collaborative relationships with parents and staff. He is no fan of high-stakes testing. He has directed more funding to schools that enroll more students with high needs than to those with fewer such students.

“Starr says he is focused on making sure all MCPS students receive the same quality education and has begun programs to help them get ready for college, including one with Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove. He is also pushing for the expansion of “project-based learning” programs in high schools that incorporate hands-on learning and real-world projects to teach students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.

“He has put in place a data-driven, early-alert system to identify students who are at risk of failing, and has told principals and teachers to focus on understanding the needs of each child in their classrooms. He has also revised the discipline policy to lower the number of out-of-school suspensions, which had disproportionately affected minority students.

“Despite these efforts, Starr’s critics say he isn’t doing enough—or moving quickly enough—to close the achievement gap and address pressing issues. Some, including parents, board members and elected officials, describe Starr as a remote technocrat who is more easily understood through his frequent tweets than when he tries to explain something in person.”

Starr has drawn criticism for showing interest in the NYC Chancellor’s job (he was not selected). Critics also complain that he hasn’t closed the achievement gap. To be fair, if that is the criterion for success, most superintendents would be unemployed

“An acolyte of the progressive education movement, Starr is also focused on helping students succeed in life beyond school. “The line I always use is that I want my kids to be straight-A students and I want them to be great people,” Starr says. “But if I have to choose, I would rather that they are average students and great people.”

“To that end, Starr is stepping outside the traditional role of a superintendent by seeking ways to improve access to social services for students. He has been talking with officials of county departments about providing services for students whose parents can’t make it to a parent-teacher conference because they are working, or who lack Internet access at home, or who come to school exhausted because they work after school to help their families survive.”

Nothing in this article explains why his contract should not be renewed. He sounds like a leader on the right track.

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