MCPS Already Heeding Obama’s Call for Partnerships with Colleges

District Works with Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove

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During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama called upon the country’s public high schools to redesign themselves so that they “better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”

“We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future,” Obama said.

Better make one of those checks out to Montgomery County Public Schools. It seems that MCPS is definitely ahead of the curve on this one.

Last September, MCPS announced a partnership with Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove to launch the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success program. The program is expected to create a seamless educational pathway from high school to college completion for thousands of low-income and minority students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education, according to officials.

Scheduled to start next fall at eight MCPS high schools including Rockville, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring’s Montgomery Blair and Kensington’s Albert Einstein, this program will identify qualifying high school freshmen and provide them with support to keep them on track for college enrollment. About 240 are expected to participate at each high school.

“By working together to provide ongoing support and strong interventions, we can provide more students with the opportunity to attend college and successfully obtain a bachelor’s degree,” MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr said at the time.

Officials say those students will continue to receive support as they enter Montgomery College and work toward associate’s degrees, and then enroll in one of the nine state universities offering degree programs at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) campus in Rockville.

In addition to participating in the ACES program, the regional higher education center’s mission is to create pathways to college for those county high school students who can’t afford or don’t want to leave home to attend college, according to USG officials.

Part of the University System of Maryland, USG offers 80 upper-level undergraduate and graduate degree programs from  nine public universities, including the University of Maryland, with a laser focus on offering those degree programs—including those in biotech, biosciences and technology—that provide the specific skills that area businesses seek.

To that end, USG also partners with local corporations and businesses to provide internships so that students can get the real-world work experience they need. “All of this is to support students’ readiness for jobs,” USG Executive Director Stewart Edelstein said in a recent interview.  

And USG is poised to build on those partnerships with local businesses, MCPS and Montgomery College to help prepare students for today’s economy, he said.

“We’ve been very successful and we’ve got a lot more work to do to build on those collaborations,” Edelstein said. “We think we have the opportunity to make a difference for all people in the county.”