MCPS Releases Report on Districtwide Boundary Analysis
External consultant WXY Architecture + Urban Design has provided the Montgomery County Board of Education with its final report of the comprehensive Districtwide Boundary Analysis assessing Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) boundaries. The nearly 200-page document includes in-depth analysis on school utilization, school diversity, student proximity to school and student assignment stability. The report also reviews boundary benchmarking data from other school districts and includes a summary of community engagement.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The purpose of the boundary analysis work was to examine existing conditions in the district and provide a critical data resource that will allow Board members to comprehensively understand districtwide issues informed by data and community feedback and guide future boundary considerations. The final report does not make any boundary recommendations.
Over the last 20 years, student enrollment at MCPS has increased by more than 30,000 students. This growth has made MCPS one of the largest and most diverse districts in the nation. However, facility construction has not kept pace with this significant growth. The overcapacity of many schools—paired with a continued focus on equity and excellence—prompted the Board of Education to initiate an assessment of current school boundaries in January 2019. This ensured that MCPS could continue to provide high-quality facilities that supported the educational programming to reinforce MCPS’ core values of Learning, Relationships, Respect, Excellence and Equity.
The need for this analysis is underpinned by changing conditions in the school system and the county and to better understand the challenges of creating more meaningfully integrated and culturally responsive schools within Montgomery County.
The work to complete the final report was done in two phases. Phase I spanned fall 2019 through spring 2020, and included data analysis, benchmarking and public engagement. This phase culminated in March 2020 with the Districtwide Boundary Analysis Interim Report.
Phase II provided a deep analysis of the data and work completed in Phase I, as well as a report of community and stakeholder engagement.
The final Boundary Analysis report presented a number of key findings in both analysis of data, and community and stakeholder engagement:
Key Findings (Analysis):
- Significant improvements to utilization are possible by making targeted boundary changes across the district.
- Cluster boundaries are an impediment to addressing capacity challenges, especially in the most overcrowded schools.
- It is possible to improve school utilization and diversity at the same time when adjusting boundaries between neighboring schools.
- Existing middle and high school boundaries create more demographic disparities than boundaries based on distance alone.
Key Findings (Engagement):
- Access to data and transparency are strongly valued by participants.
- Underrepresented groups are challenging to reach in MCPS, and their priorities may vary from more highly represented groups.
- Proximity and assignment stability are the highest priorities for the majority of Phase II participants. The report suggests that it is difficult to improve proximity to school while adhering to reasonable parameters for assignment stability.
- Many participants associate improved diversity outcomes with large increases in distance traveled to school. The report suggests it is possible to improve diversity between nearby schools without significant impacts to proximity.
- Student engagement revealed the importance of student voice in school boundary planning, and elicited key findings about students’ priorities and experiences.
- Interactive Boundary Explorer (IBE) tool survey results suggest key differences in priorities across the district’s geographic regions.
As part of the Boundary Analysis project, an Interactive Boundary Explorer tool (IBE) was developed that allows members of the community to explore data at school, cluster and county levels from the 2019-2020 school year. This tool is currently being improved to allow for annual district data updates and to give users the ability to compare and contrast data, and print and organize results.. Additionally, MCPS will launch a standalone Virtual Academy in fall 2021 that may impact how school utilization is viewed.
During the 2021–2022 school year, the Board of Education will explore potential next steps based on the findings of the report.
Read the full final Boundary Analysis report
Visit the Districtwide Boundary Analysis Webpage: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/publicinfo/boundary-analysis/