TO COLLEGE READINESS A Parent s Resource for Grades K 12

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1 SEVEN KEYS TO COLLEGE READINESS A Parent s Resource for Grades K 12 Learn about the Seven Keys to College Readiness a pathway identified by Montgomery County Public Schools that will increase the likelihood of students being ready for college and earning a degree.

2 2 COLLEGE COUNTS A Pathway for All Students It is important for your child to know that college is a realistic option. All students who are willing to take challenging courses and work hard can go to college. There are many programs available to help families pay for college, and students can even earn college credit while still in high school. Students can pursue a college education in a variety of ways from attending a community or technical college, to enrolling in a four-year university, to earning an online degree, to working while going to college. Whatever route they choose after high school graduation going to college or getting a job students will need to meet higher standards than ever before in order to be ready for college and the workplace. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is committed to helping every student leave high school prepared for college and career success. We are preparing students for college beginning in kindergarten and the Seven Keys are at the heart of our work. The Keys build on each other, so attaining the early Keys puts students in a better position to reach the Keys that follow on the pathway. By working with your child and your child s teachers, you can ensure your child is on the path to college. A Smart Investment Today s students will graduate from Montgomery County Public Schools and face a global economy in which most jobs require education or training beyond high school. Nearly every job including electrician, auto mechanic, and office worker requires high-tech skills and education after high school. If the trend continues, there will be fewer and fewer jobs available to those with only a high school diploma. More education means higher earnings. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the average high school graduate will earn $1.2 million over his or her working lifetime, compared with $2.1 million that the average college graduate will make. A college education is a smart investment that can lead to prosperity and security. It opens the door to more job opportunities, the ability to own a home, and the means to raise a family in comfort. Individuals with a college education develop knowledge and skills they will use for the rest of their lives. EARN A FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE DEGREE IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY Did you know that students can complete their entire education kindergarten through college right here in Montgomery County? By taking advantage of programs offered by Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, and The Universities at Shady Grove, students can 3 Earn college credit while still in high school, 3 Earn a degree or certificate at Montgomery College, and 3 Complete their bachelor s degree at The Universities at Shady Grove through one of nine universities Bowie State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and University of Maryland University College.

3 1 KEY 1: Read at advanced levels in Grades K 2 2 SEVEN KEYS TO COLLEGE READINESS The Seven Keys will open the door to college for your child. They are significantly more demanding than the state requirements for earning a high school diploma. This is intentional. Students who only meet state high school graduation requirements may not be prepared to take and do well in college-level classes. They may be required to take and pay for remedial courses at their college before starting college-level work. But students who attain the Seven Keys are less likely to need remedial classes and more likely to be ready for college and the workplace, where competition for jobs is high. There will be situations where a student may not attain one Key or several Keys for any number of reasons. And some students will attain the Keys with the special services and accommodations they receive through their educational plans. Our children are unique, and how quickly or how much they progress will vary. Attaining all Seven Keys does increase the likelihood of a student being ready for college. But missing a Key does not close the doors to college for any student. It s important to look at all of a student s strengths, as well as the student s motivation to succeed. KEY 2: Score advanced in reading on the Maryland School Assessment in Grades KEY 3: Complete advanced math in Grade 5 4 KEY 4: Complete Algebra 1 by Grade 8 with a C or higher 5 KEY 5: Complete Algebra 2 by Grade 11 with a C or higher 6 KEY 6: Score 3 on an AP exam or 4 on an IB exam 7 KEY 7: Score 1650 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT 3

4 WHAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD DO Help your child be a responsible student. Here are some points to emphasize: 3 Attend all classes. Be on time and arrive ready to learn every day. 3 Get enough sleep. 3 Develop good study habits. Have a regular homework time, and get organized so you don t miss assignments. 3 Read every day. 3 Study and earn good grades. 3 Ask yourself and your teachers if you are on the path for the Seven Keys. 3 Take advantage of the resources your school offers, such as homework clubs, mentoring, tutoring, and so on. Whenever you have questions or need help, talk to your teachers or school counselors. Address your concerns early rather than waiting and allowing potential problems to worsen. 3 Challenge yourself to do your best in every class you take. 1 KEY 1: Read at advanced levels in Grades K 2 Reading is fundamental to communication and to all learning that follows. During the process of learning to read in the early grades, students read and comprehend different levels of text that vary in their degree of difficulty. Measure of success: Teachers assess each student individually. n In kindergarten, students who are reading Level 6 books by the end of the school year are more likely to read at advanced levels in the later grades. This will give them a strong start on the collegereadiness pathway. Example of Level 6 text: The dog runs up the hill and into the trees, too. Fox can see the river. Fox runs down the hill and into the river. n By the end of 1st grade, students who are reading beyond Level 16 books are reading at advanced levels. n In 2nd grade, students take a test called the TerraNova and their performance is compared with that of 2nd grade students nationwide. Students who score at or above the 70th percentile in reading (meaning they performed better than 70 percent of students nationwide) are likely to score advanced in reading on the Grade 3 Maryland School Assessment (MSA). Ask your child s teacher or school reading specialist for examples of text at each of these grade levels. You also can view them online at How to know if your child is reading at advanced levels: The text level at which your child is reading is communicated by schools in a variety of ways, including in report card comments, interim progress reports, and during parent teacher conferences. A separate report with TerraNova scores is sent home at the end of 2nd grade. 4

5 2 KEY 2: Score advanced in reading on the Maryland School Assessment in Grades 3 8 Students who score advanced on this state test demonstrate more complex reading, thinking, writing, and creative problem-solving skills. They also are better able to apply what they have learned to new situations. Measure of success: Scoring advanced on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA). How to know if your child is scoring advanced: Parent reports are sent home every year that indicate whether students in Grades 3 8 are performing at basic, proficient, or advanced. Additional information about the MSA is available at 3 KEY 3: Complete advanced math in Grade 5 MCPS students can start advanced math as early as kindergarten. Advanced math in Grade 5 is Math 6 or higher. Successfully completing Math 6 in 5th grade is an important step toward being prepared for success in algebra in 8th grade. Math 6 is available at every MCPS elementary school. Measure of success: Successfully completing Math 6 in 5th grade. How to know if your child will take advanced math in Grade 5: In spring of 4th grade, teachers recommend whether students should be placed in advanced math. Talk to your child s teachers about their recommendations, and remember that you have a voice in decisions that affect your child. How to know if your child is succeeding in advanced math: You can monitor your child s progress by following his or her class work. If your child is in kindergarten through Grade 5, you will receive his or her end-of-unit assessment results at the end of each math unit. You also can see examples of math problems for current and upcoming units in the MCPS Math Parent Newsletters, available at And quarterly report cards summarize your child s performance. 5

6 4 KEY 4: Complete Algebra 1 by Grade 8 with a C or higher Algebra is a gateway to later achievement: Students who successfully complete it by the end of Grade 8 are more likely to have future academic success, particularly in math and sciences and on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. Students who earn a C or higher have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and will be able to solve more complex problems when they take Algebra 2. Measure of success: Completing Algebra 1 or a higherlevel math class with a C or higher by 8th grade. How to know if your child is succeeding in Algebra 1: Talk to your school about setting up your Edline account. Edline is a secure, online system that allows you to monitor your child s grades and assignments. Also, quarterly report cards summarize your child s performance. Additional questions parents should ask: When your child is in elementary and middle school, ask if he or she is on the path for taking Algebra 1 or higher in 8th grade. If the answer is no, ask what problems he or she is experiencing and what you can do at home to help. If he or she is struggling in the class, ask what resources are available for extra help outside the classroom. 5 KEY 5: Complete Algebra 2 by Grade 11 with a C or higher Students who complete Algebra 2 by the end of Grade 11 with a C or higher are better prepared for college entrance exams and success in college. These students are more likely to perform better on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams and are less likely to have to take remedial math courses in college. Students who complete Algebra 2 also are more than twice as likely to graduate from college than are students with less mathematical preparation. WHAT IF...my child misses one of the Keys or transfers into MCPS in the later grades and misses several Keys? MCPS recognizes that there will be situations where students will not attain all seven Keys or that some Keys will not be appropriate for every student in every grade. Achieving a Key increases the likelihood that a student will attain the next one, but it is important to remember that missing a Key or struggling to attain one does not close the doors of opportunity to students. Schools and parents working together can provide the support and resources that each student needs to stay on the path to college. Measure of success: Completing Algebra 2 or a higherlevel math class with a C or higher by 11th grade. How to know if your child is succeeding in Algebra 2: Set up an Edline account through your school to monitor your child s progress. Also, quarterly report cards summarize your child s performance. Additional questions parents should ask: If your child did not perform strongly in Algebra 1, ask what supports the school offers to assist your child in Algebra 2. For more information about the Seven Keys to College Readiness, visit 6 6

7 6 KEY 6: Score 3 on an AP exam or 4 on an IB exam Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are collegelevel courses taken in high school. Students who take AP/IB classes investigate subjects in greater depth than they would in other classes, and they are encouraged to explore the world from a wide variety of perspectives. It is important for students to take the exams that are offered at the end of these courses. Students who score a 3 or higher (on a scale of 1 5) on the AP or a 4 or higher (on a scale of 1 7) on the IB exam may earn advanced standing in college or college credit. Measure of success: Successfully completing the course and scoring a 3 or higher on the AP exam or a 4 or higher on the IB exam. How to know if your child is succeeding in AP/IB classes: Quarterly report cards summarize your child s performance in his or her AP or IB classes. You also can monitor your child s progress through Edline. Scores for the AP and IB exams are mailed home around mid-july. Additional questions parents should ask: By late elementary school or early middle school, start asking if your child s school offers advanced courses that will prepare him or her for the challenge of AP and IB courses. 7 KEY 7: Score 1650 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT Scoring at least 1650 on the SAT entrance exam (maximum score 2400) or 24 on the ACT exam (maximum score 36) helps students gain acceptance to the colleges of their choice. It also minimizes the chance that students will have to take remedial courses in college. In preparation for the SAT, the school system offers all students in Grade 10 the opportunity to take the PSAT (preliminary SAT) free of charge. Measure of success: Your child s SAT or ACT score. How to know if your child has succeeded: SAT and ACT scores arrive by mail and scores are available online. Your school will send the PSAT score home with your child. Additional questions parents should ask: Make sure your child takes the PSAT in both 10th and 11th grade. Ask the school counselor if your child is enrolled in the most challenging classes. Your child s performance on the PSAT is one indicator used to gauge readiness for challenging course work. By the beginning of 11th grade, your child should begin to prepare for the SAT or ACT. Ask the counselor what supports the school offers to prepare students for these tests. If your child takes the test a second time, be sure he or she accesses the supports available through the school. On average, students who take the test again tend to improve their scores. WELL- ROUNDED STUDENTS The Seven Keys focus on core academics, but an MCPS education goes far beyond these skills. Students work toward the Seven Keys in the context of a broadbased curriculum that teaches them to work well with others and be informed, engaged members of the community. Our highly trained, dedicated teachers encourage students to be capable problem solvers, strong communicators, and respectful individuals who are comfortable in a world of diverse cultures. 7

8 WHAT PARENTS CAN DO The Seven Keys to College Readiness are building blocks for your child s success. You can help your child along the pathway to college by monitoring the Keys in kindergarten through high school. Teachers and administrators at your child s school can answer questions you may have about the Keys. In addition, you can contact the Office of Communications and Family Outreach at to find support and resources for strengthening your advocacy skills. Below are some actions you can take to stay involved with your child s education. 3 Talk to your child about college and the Seven Keys. Discuss the What Students Should Do items on page 4, and support and praise your child s efforts to succeed. 3 Talk to your child s teachers. Making the best decisions for your child should be a team effort. Listen to what the teachers say and also express your thoughts and concerns. Remember that you have a voice in decisions that affect your child. 3 Monitor your child s performance regularly. Quarterly report cards summarize your child s performance. If your child is in middle or high school, use Edline to monitor grades and assignments. Speak with teachers anytime you have questions about your child s performance. 3 Ask questions. To the right are some questions you may want to ask your child s teachers. Some of the Seven Keys descriptions (pages 4 7) also include questions that are specific to that Key. 3 Meet with a school counselor. You will be able to stay informed about what courses your child should take each year to be on the path for achieving the Keys. 3 Encourage your child to use available resources. Schools offer extra help, homework clubs, and other assistance. MCPS offers online assistance such as The Math Dude for algebra and SAT and ACT preparation courses. Your child s teachers and counselors can suggest resources that best meet your child s needs. 3 Take advantage of resources for parents. Principals provide information at meetings and through newsletters. MCPS offers Parent Academy workshops on the Seven Keys and other important topics. Learn more at Questions To Ask Your Child s Teacher These are questions you can ask your child s teachers to better understand how he or she is doing in school, as well as his or her progress toward achieving the Seven Keys. 3 Is my child reading at grade level? Can you show me books that are the right level of difficulty for my child and recommend books that he or she might enjoy? 3 How is my child doing in math? If my child is in a grade-level or advanced math course, does he or she have the opportunity to take the challenge items on the end-of-unit assessments? Are there areas that need improvement? How can I help my child at home? 3 Does my child have the opportunity to do work above his or her grade level? 3 What are the requirements for doing well in your class, and how do you assess students work? Can you show me examples of high-quality student work? 3 How much time should my child be spending on homework? 3 Aside from report cards, what are the best ways to keep up to date on my child s progress? 3 If your child is struggling to achieve one or more Keys: What support can the school offer my child? What can I do at home to help my child do better in school? 3 If your child is achieving the Keys: What extra enrichment or support might benefit my child? How can I help at home? Published by the Office of Communications and Family Outreach Montgomery County Public Schools 850 Hungerford Drive Rockville, Maryland Copyright 2009 Montgomery County Public Schools Thanks to Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove for their support in producing this brochure.

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