What does the future hold for public education in Prince George's County?
That's a question that sparks a lot of interest in Bowie.
Approximately 100 parents, educators and community members gathered at the Kenhill Community Center last week for a forum hosted by the city of Bowie on the future of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).
While PGCPS may rank towards the bottom of the state based on Maryland School Assessment (MSA) scores, Bowie schools are doing well:
- The top three scoring elementary schools in the county on the MSA reading test are in Bowie.
- Two of the top three math scoring schools are in Bowie.
- Whitehall Elementary received the Blue Ribbon Award earlier this year.
And, according to PGCPS Board of Education Chair Verjeana Jacobs, it’s not just Bowie schools that are achieving.
“Our school system is showing students making gains,” she said, adding that the improving test scores in PGCPS and Baltimore schools are cited as contributing factors to Maryland’s ranking as the No. 1 school system in the country by Education Week.
While elementary school children are beginning to close the achievement gap, A. Duane Arbogast, chief education officer for PGCPS, says the MSA scores are not taking kids where they need to go.
“The next conversation is how to do we get kids to finish college,” said Arbogast.
The best indicator of college success, said Arbogast, is college success. At Bowie High School, 41 percent of kids taking an Advanced Placement test got a three or higher, which some colleges offer advanced placement for or even credit for a course.
While this is impressive, language development, said Arbogast, is key.
“If your child is not exposed to rich, sophisticated language at an early age then they are going to miss the SAT train,” he said, adding that children who have some preschool have higher kindergarten readiness and those with private preschool experience have the highest kindergarten readiness.
A person in the crowd asked Arbogast if it was true that tests, like SATs, were biased. Arbogast answered frankly, “yes,” but not racially biased.
“School is biased towards middle class language,” he said. “That’s not the color of white, that’s not the color of black; that’s the color of green.”
PGCPS are working on creative way to overcome education gaps, including career academies in high schools that allow groups of 100 students or less to follow career tracks; expanding business partnerships to give students more opportunities for internships and working to engage parents the the community to be more active partners in education.
“As a community we are responsible. We have to make our schools what we want them to be and what they should be,” said Jacobs.
Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley agreed with Jacobs’ sentiment.
“Roll up your sleeves and lets do the hard work that we must do for all of our children,” he said.