Last day to apply for MCPS specialized high school programs

Heather Jauquet

Application deadline moved to November 11
Students working on a laptopBrooke Cagle/Unsplash

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides various specialized programs to rising high school students. Students can also apply to programs within their home high school. The programs are categorized as interest-based and criterion-based.

Interest-Based Programs

What is an interest-based program? Each student will have a list of interest-based programs for which they are eligible based on their current address. Admission into any of these programs is through a lottery. Acceptance and enrollment to any program are on the condition that the student is eligible for the programs based on address.

MCPS offers the following interest-based programs:

  • Magruder High School—Aviation and Aerospace
  • Gaithersburg High School—Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Sciences
  • Clarksburg: PTECH
  • Rockville: IB Career-related
  • Seneca Valley: College and Carer
  • Seneca Valley: IB Career-related
  • Watkins Mill: IB Career-related
  • Wheaton Highs School/Edison HS Partnership

Criterion Based Programs

Each student will have a list of criterion-based programs for which they are eligible based on their current address and current middle school. Criterion-based programs consider a variety of multiple measures that may include report card grades as well as external assessments. Outside assessments can consist of the Measures of Academic Progress Reading (MAP-R), Measures of Academic Progress Math (MAP-M), and Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP). Acceptance and enrollment to any application programs are on the condition that the student is eligible for the program.

Criterion-based programs include an extra step in the application process where students complete short answer and essay questions. According to the slideshow presented by MCPS, “The written responses are visible to the section committee to help present a holistic view of the student,” and students are to write their answers with assistance.

There are three short answer questions. The responses for the short-answer section can be a list of multiple hobbies, awards, and courses, and students have a 25-word limit. Students can answer without writing complete sentences. However, the selection committee will not read anything written over the word count. The first two short answer questions ask the student to share their hobbies, interests, awards, and the courses they are taking. The third short answer question asks students to share their contributions to their school, fellow students, and community.

There is a more extended essay response capped with a 250-word limit. The question asks students to describe what they are passionate about as they study, work, and interact with others.

The Regional and countywide International Baccalaureate (IB) Magnet Programs are criterion-based programs that require a world language experience. Applicants must have one or more years of experience in a target language during middle school, attend a language immersion program, or be bilingual in a target language. MCPS has language immersion programs in Spanish, French, and Chinese that begin in elementary school

The criterion-based programs at Poolesville High School do not have a world language requirement as a prerequisite to be accepted into the programs.

The Visual Art Center at Albert Einstein High School is a criterion-based program that requires a portfolio for consideration into the program.

MCPS offers the following countywide criterion-based high school programs:

  • Global Ecology
    • Poolesville High School
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
    • Richard Montgomery High School
  • Visual Art Center
    • Albert Einstein HS

MCPS offers the following regional criterion-based high school programs:

  • Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet
    • Montgomery Blair High School
    • Poolesville High School
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
    • John F. Kennedy High School
    • Springbrook High School
    • Watkins Mill High School
  • Humanities House
    • Poolesville High School

MCPS offers the following Consortia application programs:

  • Biomedical Program
    • Wheaton High School
  • Communication Arts Program (CAP)
    • Montgomery Blair High School
  • Engineering Program
    • Wheaton High School
  • Leadership Training Institute (LTI)
    • John F. Kennedy High School

Students should apply to all the programs in which they are interested. However, applying to a program does not mean a student has committed to a particular program. Instead, students can be accepted into one or more programs, and once accepted, they can make their final decisions.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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