Testimony of Bing Cai at the MCPS Community Forum

October 15, 2009

My name is Bing Cai and I am the father of a 4th grader and a 9th grader.

First I would like to thank MCPS for providing programs of accelerated and enriched instruction for students in elementary, middle and high school, and particularly for the Math, Science, and Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School. This magnet program is designed to offer accelerated instruction in the areas of math, science, and computer science for highly motivated, ambitious and able students. It is a rigorous program that emphasizes the development of problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and the pursuit of both independent and collaborative research projects.

The Blair magnet program is in its 25th school year, and you should know that the money invested in this program has been well spent. I would like to show you some of the achievements of students enrolled in this program. In Addendum 1, you can see our students have won many awards in math, science and computer science. Each year 40 to 50 percent of the Blair magnet students are National Merit Finalists. Blair’s National Merit winners typically constitute about 1/3 of the students in the entire county who win that award. (Keep in mind that the Blair Magnet program only has 100 students in each year’s class.) Another big science competition is the Intel Science Talent Search. The Blair Magnet averages 2 finalists and 12 semifinalists EACH year. On average, 5 percent of the finalists in this national contest each year come from Blair.

We all agree that “No child should be left behind." As a corollary, though, no kids should be held back. One of the great benefits of the magnet programs is that they allow these highly-able kids to study subjects both "widely" and "deeply." Because they learn quickly, they have the luxury of going off on tangents and students will study a subject in more detail. They can also learn more advanced curriculum while remaining in high school with their age mates. As you can see in Addendum 2, most magnet students complete all required math, 4 years of science classes and AP computer science in the first two years. This allows them to explore advanced topics of interest more deeply and specifically in the junior and senior years.

We believe it is very important for MCPS to continue to support the Blair magnet program with adequate funding and resources. The advanced courses require the teachers in the magnet program to put in extra effort and time preparing and teaching. In science and computer science, the teachers must stay current with developments in the field and constantly update the curriculum. Please consider these requirements both when you recruit qualified teachers to teach in the magnet program and when you assign duties to the magnet teachers.

Lastly, someone may ask, if the Magnet program is so good, do you have a Nobel Prize winner? The answer is "no, not yet", BUT, you never know, one day in October, you will wake up to a news announcement that there is a Nobel Prize winner from Montgomery County, Maryland, and he or she is a Blair high school graduate.