MCPS Moves Forward With Plans for New Curriculum

MCPS Moves Forward With Plans for New Curriculum

School board expected to make final decision in January

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Montgomery County Public Schools has renewed its request for bids for new instructional materials for English and math to replace Curriculum 2.0 in elementary and middle schools and expects to present the school board with options by the end of the year.

The school system issued an updated request for proposals on Aug. 20, following a three-month delay in the process. MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith scrapped the initial bids received from curriculum developers in May due to the departure of two high-level MCPS employees who took jobs with Discovery Education—one of the companies being considered. He had cited concerns over creating the appearance of a conflict of interest as the reason for the delay.

MCPS has been looking to replace its district-designed curriculum since last spring. The decision followed a six-month study by The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, which found that a number of math and English instructional materials were not up to date with federal Common Core standards, adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education.

The announcement of the new curriculum last spring was met with mixed reaction from parents, with some welcoming the change, and others feeling it was coming   quickly. Amanda Graver, chair of the curriculum committee of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, said previously that one of the main issues with Curriculum 2.0 was that instructional materials were being produced before the entire curriculum had been written, so teachers weren’t properly trained.

MCPS Chief Academic Officer Maria Navarro said in an interview the deadline for new proposals from prospective curriculum providers is the end of September. The Board of Education will discuss the curriculum review process at its Sept. 11 meeting, and determine the list of finalists for curriculum providers around November. In January, the new curriculum is expected to be adopted, with implementation scheduled no later than the 2019-2020 school year.

According to the updated RPF, new curricula in math and English will be implemented at 136 elementary schools and 40 middle schools, which includes about 110,000 students. There are also plans to implement new instructional materials for Algebra I at 25 high schools, which includes an additional 3,100 students.

The curriculum rollout will take place over three years according to the schedule outlined in the RFP:

Source: MCPS

Navarro said she hopes the use of a new curriculum will close the achievement gap in the school system, notably seen in the recent scores on state standardized tests, which showed continuing racial and socioeconomic disparities of at least 30 percentage points on English and math exams taken by elementary and middle school students, as well as Algebra I exams taken by high schoolers.

“Our goal is to get instructional materials that better support the diversity in our district,” she said.

Cynthia Simonson, vice president for education of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, said she hopes the new curricula are not too screen-heavy.

“In the last curriculum, parents were kind of shut out when we went to an all-digital, no textbook [curriculum]. Parents couldn’t see what was being taught at home,” she said. “We’re going to be looking to see what is that balance. If a product comes in and it’s only digital, that doesn’t meet the needs of our community .”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com.

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