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Montgomery County Schools Earn High Marks for Quality

Education system in Montgomery County focuses on STEM graduates.

By Livability.com on May 2, 2014

Montgomery College
Rockville / Courtesy of Pete Vidal

Smart people are drawn to Montgomery County. With educational attainment levels that far exceed national averages for college and post-graduate degrees, Montgomery County offers a distinct workforce advantage ideally suited for a global economy. The county’s renowned and award-winning public school system, a diverse collection of higher education institutions and investment in new facilities are all keys to its success.

The county’s education institutions are leaders in turning out more graduates with degrees connected to science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM disciplines.

“We know that the engineering and biomedical disciplines will be drivers in this economy and we need to provide those programs here,” says Dr. Stewart Edelstein, executive director of Universities at Shady Grove, an innovative consortium of nine institutions within the University System of Maryland that offers 4,000 students 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in one central location.

USG has a commitment from the state to construct a new biomedical sciences and engineering education facility that will double its enrollment to 8,000 students. “We are expanding the number of graduates who will have degrees directly applicable to the economic growth of the region,” Edelstein says.

Johns Hopkins Part-Time Graduate Campus

Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus offers 60 part-time degree and certificate programs through the Carey School of Business, Whiting School of Engineering, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and School of Education.

“Many classes are taught by industry professionals, providing our students a chance to network with those in the business and for the instructors/ employers to identify possible new hires,” says Acting Executive Director Leslie Ford Weber.  

Companies currently involved on campus include TruBios, a clinical research firm working to diagnose and treat cervical cancer through photodynamic therapy. “The president and chief executive of the company teaches a course, and one of his interns is a graduate student,” Weber says.

The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute is also working at labs on campus to introduce a noninvasive skin test to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Exceptional K-12 Graduation Rates

Montgomery County Public Schools, the 17th-largest system in the nation, maintains one of the highest graduation rates in the country among its peer districts. Strong student performance begins in kindergarten, where more than 90 percent of students read on grade level by the end of the year – a trajectory that continues through high school.

“More than half of our graduates earned a college-ready score on at least one Advanced Placement exam last year—significantly outpacing state and national performance,” says Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of schools.

Student SAT scores are among the highest of any large district, with the class of 2013 earning a combined average score of 1,648, besting the national average by 150 points.

The district earned the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2010.

New Science Park at Montgomery College

The three-campus Montgomery College, with locations in Rockville, Takoma Park and Germantown, offers 130 majors and programs to 60,000 students.

“We’re looking to bring businesses to Montgomery County to be tenants in our new Life Sciences Park, one of the first among community colleges,” says David Sears, senior vice president for advancement and community engagement. “We still have 20 acres available for companies in life sciences and technology to build or create lease arrangements. We’re looking for companies that can provide adjunct faculty, guest lecturers and jobs to our students.”

Montgomery College has numerous high-level corporate partners, including Discovery Communications and Accenture, which provide student internships and mentoring opportunities.

Career Focus at USG

According to Edelstein, students are highly focused at USG because most are transfers. “They are very intent on advancing their lives and careers, and want to work and live in Montgomery County,” he says.

For that reason, four-year graduation rates from the nine University of Maryland system universities at the campus are 20 percent higher than for community college students who transfer to other University of Maryland System campuses.

Like all educational institutions in Montgomery County, the ultimate goal at USG is to meet the demand for knowledge workers. “We are very connected to the business community,” Edelstein says. “Students have internships and opportunities to engage in the world of work, so they see a clear pathway to a job.”

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