Montgomery County Council Forms New Public-Private Partnership Aimed at Closing the Achievement Gap


Councilmember Nancy Navarro Forms Partnership with Rales Foundation to Bring ‘Building Educated Leaders for Life’ Program to Montgomery County Public Schools

 ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 12, 2015—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro at 2:10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, will be joined at the Council Office Building in Rockville by Council President George Leventhal; Councilmember Craig Rice, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee; Joshua Rales, president and trustee of the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation; Patricia O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education; and Lauren Gilbert, vice president of program impact and innovation of the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) program, to announce a new public-private partnership to help close the achievement gap.

Councilmember Navarro will explain this exciting partnership that will bring the new, data-driven summer program for second and third graders to the County. BELL provides a proven program to address the knowledge gap that occurs among students during the summer months. The program has served more than 100,000 students since 1992 and receives financial support from the Rales Foundation.

“As a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and a former member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, I know that early interventions and programs that reach children during out-of-school time are required to close the achievement gap,” said Councilmember Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and is a member of the Council’s Education Committee. “BELL provides students with a holistic program that not only spurs educational achievement, but also provides enrichment activities and emphasizes health and nutrition. This program has a proven track record and data-driven results. I can’t wait for our students to become BELL scholars.”

The BELL Program is a five-to-six week summer program with a staffing plan that includes Montgomery County Public Schools certified teachers and teaching assistants. The program focuses on literacy, science, math, technology, arts and health. BELL also provides breakfast and lunch to students daily and includes hands-on enrichment, field trips and community projects.

In Montgomery County, the BELL Program will focus on second and third grade students because, according to the organization, “reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career and life success.”

“The Rales Foundation is very excited about its new partnership with BELL and Montgomery County to bring a much needed, time tested summer program targeting ‘at risk’ second and third graders to improve their literacy and math skills,” said Mr. Rales. “Having been raised in Montgomery County by our parents, Norman and Ruth, my brothers Steven, Mitchell and I attended Montgomery County Public Schools. Therefore, we are thrilled to have the opportunity through the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation to be part of the solution to closing the achievement gap in our community.”

It is estimated that the BELL Program will serve 4,200 students during a four-year period. The educational component of the program costs approximately $1,430 per student. The Council’s special appropriation of $750,750, which was introduced by Councilmember Navarro and includes all Councilmembers as sponsors, will fund half of the program. Funding from the Rales Foundation and other financial contributions will complete the funding required for more than 1,000 MCPS students to begin the program during the summer of 2016. MCPS and stakeholders will work together on implementation details including which students are selected to participate in the program.

Councilmember Navarro also has requested that County Executive Ike Leggett include matching funds in the Children’s Opportunity Fund for Fiscal Year 2017 to support the second year of the program.

Councilmember Navarro proposed creating a mechanism to ensure a long-term strategic approach and dedicated funding source for early childhood education in 2014. The Council approved funding to begin the Children’s Opportunity Fund in Fiscal Year 2016.

“I am incredibly grateful to Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Josh Rales and the Rales Foundation for their leadership in helping to make this program a reality for our children,” said Board of Education President O’Neill. “This kind of partnership between our schools, the Rales Foundation and the County government will provide our children with support this summer to ensure that learning continues during the summer months.”

There are numerous studies throughout the nation showing the impact that early childhood education and wrap-around support services have on closing the achievement gap for students.

In March, the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute’s released a report titled High-Quality Early Education: Age of Entry and Time in Care Differences in Student Outcomes for English-Only and Dual Language Learners. The report found that “high-quality early education is especially advantageous for children when they start younger and continue longer. Not only does more high-quality early education significantly boost the language skills of children from low-income families, children whose first language is not English benefit even more.”

“When schools and communities work together, we can create and sustain more and better learning opportunities for the children who need them most,” said Lauren Gilbert, vice president of impact and innovation for BELL. “We look forward to expanding access to summer learning in Montgomery County and enabling scholars to strengthen their academic, social, and emotional skills and enter the new school year ready to excel.”

The BELL Program is based on a small group model that uses certified teachers and trained tutors. BELL’s outcome measures have been rigorously tested by the Urban Institute and the program measures student progress utilizing STAR Assessment computer adaptive testing and conducts surveys of parents and teachers.

BELL has a proven track record in the Washington-Baltimore region. In 2006, BELL launched its Baltimore program with 416 students and has grown to serve 1,200. In 2014, BELL formed a partnership with YMCA in the District of Columbia and will serve 240 students this year.

The Nov. 17 press conference will be held in the Third Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The event will coincide with the Council’s vote, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, on the appropriation to fund the program. The Council’s action and the ensuing news event will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and will be streamed live via the Council web site at:

For more information on BELL, visit:


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