Book Alert: Leading for Equity
Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools, a self-described “celebration” of the Montgomery County Public Schools, a 140,000-student behemoth in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, is no doubt meant to add the district to the list of superstar systems worthy of national attention. No longer an exclusive enclave of affluence, the county has witnessed an influx of poor and minority students over the past quarter century. Ten years ago, Superintendent Jerry Weast divided the system into the leafy “Green Zone,” which he mostly (and benignly) ignored, and the struggling “Red Zone,” where he poured new resources, staff, and “capacity.” Test scores in the Red Zone are up, as is participation in Advancement Placement courses. The authors of this book (Stacey M. Childress, Denis P. Doyle, and David A. Thomas) see much worth lauding, though one wishes for more of a critical eye. What to make of the white black SAT test-score gap, for instance, which is bigger than ever? And is any of this replicable, anyway? Weast’s spending spree was enabled by the housing bubble, which pushed local property values—and property taxes— sky high, along with a liberal population willing to see its burgeoning tax revenue siphoned off to help needy students. For better or worse, history might show the “Leading for Equity” story to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not a model for others to emulate.