County School Board Adopts New Math, English Curriculum

County School Board Adopts New Math, English Curriculum

$12 million package chosen in response to Johns Hopkins study

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The Montgomery County Board of Education meets Tuesday in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

The county school board on Tuesday agreed to buy new textbooks, online materials and guides for parents and teachers as part of a sweeping overhaul of curriculum used in the state’s largest school district.

Schools will spend $12.4 million over three years to buy instructional materials covering pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade math, middle school math and middle school language arts curriculum.

In addition, the school system will continue looking for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade English and high school algebra curriculum, according to a memo from Superintendent Jack Smith to the school board.

A search for new curriculum started last spring after a study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy determined Montgomery County’s self-designed curriculum did not meet federal standards adopted by the state Board of Education.

The study showed teachers were often using outside curriculum resources and student proficiency on state tests was lacking.

The new curriculum, to be phased in over three years, is designed to align with state education standards, accommodate the needs of all students and be more user-friendly for teachers, according to school board members.

Chosen materials are highly rated, if not the highest rated, in their categories by EdReports, a nonprofit that reviews kindergarten through 12th-grade instructional materials.

“I’m confident we’re adopting curriculum that supports recommendations we received and addresses things … we knew were lacking, like the balance between technology and paper materials,” said Pat O’Neill, the District 3 board member.

Johns Hopkins advised the school district to adopt externally designed curriculum to be implemented over no more than three years and incorporate materials to improve cultural proficiency.

Scott Murphy and Niki Hazel, upper-level school district administrators who handle curriculum matters, said the chosen curriculum will be best for the majority of county students, but some students will require adapted programs to accommodate special needs.

“There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum, but we found a product that can accommodate most students and that we can supplement for the rest of the students,” Hazel said.

The new curriculum will be rolled out in phases at elementary and middle schools beginning in the fall and teachers will soon be able to view the instructional materials and access professional development opportunities.

The curriculum will be distributed to 136 elementary schools and 40 middle schools, and changes will happen with the shift away from the statewide Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, which will be replaced with a new standardized test next school year.

“I really think you’re recommending curriculum for the 21st century for our students,” at-large board member Jeanette Dixon told Murphy and Hazel.

School officials acknowledged curriculum changes are complex, but are confident the transition will be smooth. To help ease the strain, teachers will have the opportunity to conduct trial lessons in the spring.

The school board received 19 English and 15 math curriculum proposals, all of which were reviewed by school staff to determine compatibility with school resources such as technology and progress measures.

The staff review eliminated 18 proposals and the rest were reviewed by a group of teachers, paraeducators, school-based content and instructional specialists and administrators. Each of the roughly 120 people involved spent approximately 12 hours each individually reading and evaluating curriculum proposals and met in groups several times.

The selection process was put on hold for three months last year after school officials learned that two administrators had taken jobs with one of the curriculum bidders.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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