Strengthening Career Readiness in Montgomery County, Maryland

When leaders in Montgomery County, Maryland decided they needed help building a stronger career preparation strategy within their schools, they turned to ESG. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the nation’s 15th largest district, contracted with ESG to review its high school programs and its partnerships with local colleges and employers in order to offer recommendations for creating a more robust system for preparing all students for their chosen path beyond high school. After deep analysis and stakeholder engagement, we presented a strategic plan for expanding quality career pathways to the Superintendent and Board of Education, and are currently advising district staff on implementation.

Analyzing Gaps, Recommending Solutions

Montgomery County Public Schools is one of the highest performing districts in nation and is also home to an increasingly diverse population of students racially and socio-economically.  The district is actively working to increase the number of students who graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and careers, with a clear understanding that a high school diploma is no longer sufficient to guarantee good jobs. Nearly all youth will need continued education or training after high school to be successful and have options.

The challenges Montgomery County faces are similar to those confronting other large school districts across the country:

  • How to make career readiness a greater priority for all students without in any way diminishing or competing with college readiness goals?
  • How to scale programs that are better aligned with regional labor market needs, especially the growing number of middle skill opportunities available to young people with the right credentials?
  • How to ensure the quality and rigor of CTE programs and their accessibility to students?
  • How to strengthen employer engagement with the schools through higher impact partnerships?

Analyzing Gaps, Recommending Solutions

To help the district address these issues and meet their goals, ESG worked with MPCS to assess its career technical education (CTE) programs and its broader high school curricular offerings to determine their strengths and gaps, and develop strategic recommendations for programmatic improvements. We also identified opportunities for strengthening capacity in the district, both within the school system and among third party intermediaries. To accomplish this, implemented broad stakeholder surveys, targeted focus groups, and deep data analysis on current system performance. We also interviewed leaders across the K-12, higher education, workforce and employer communities and benchmarked the school system’s practices against other leading sites across the country.

As a result of ESG’s analysis, MCPS has a roadmap to address their priorities and significantly strengthen their career preparation programs to ensure that they are tightly aligned with the opportunities in the labor market and offer young people meaningful opportunities for advancement.

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Download the full report including our finding, recommendations, and appendix.