by Vendela Krenkel ’20
Before the end of last school year, MCPS engaged in the process of selecting a new curriculum for grades K-8 in subjects English and math, as well as for Algebra I courses in high school after a Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy study found that MCPS’ current Curriculum 2.0 does not prepare students enough for later education.
In May, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith discarded initial bids received from curriculum developers due to the retirement of two high-level MCPS employees, the associate superintendent in the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs and the supervisor for English in the Department of Secondary Curriculum and Districtwide Programs, who took jobs with one of the considered companies: Discovery Education.
“These job offers do not appear to have influence the RFP [Request for Proposals] process,” stated Chief Academic Officer Maria Navarro at the time.
However, Smith noted concerns over an appearance of a conflict of interest as his reason for the suspension of the bidding process. The school system issued an updated request for proposals on August 20, following a three-month delay in the process.
Curriculum 2.0 was implemented only six years ago. Biology teacher Glenn Miller, a prominent member of the High School Council of Teaching and Learning, voiced his opinion on the development of a new curriculum in an email last spring to multiple other MCPS staff.
“Moving too fast has hurt learning in the past and creates an anxious learning environment … MCPS [had] only offered to prepare two days of training this summer for a curriculum they haven’t purchased yet,” he said.
Despite the concerns that MCPS is moving too quickly to overhaul curriculum, the Board of Education will determine a final list for possible curriculum providers around November. The new curriculum is expected to be adopted in January, and will likely be fully implemented no later than the 2019-2020 school year.
According to the official MCPS website, rollout of the new curriculum will occur in 70 elementary and middle schools in spring, which will include new material in math and English and will be implemented at all of MCPS’ 136 elementary schools and 40 middle schools, consisting of about 110,000 students, over the next three years.
There are also plans to implement new instruction for Algebra I at 25 high schools, which will affect an additional 3,100 students. Navarro said she hopes the use of a new curriculum will close the achievement gap in the school system visible on recent scores on state standardized tests, which display continuing socioeconomic and racial divergences of at least 30 percent on English and math exams taken by K-8 students. Parents have stated their concerns as well, many expressing their hopes that the new curricula won’t be too screen-heavy.
At this juncture, there is no available information on the MCPS website regarding what that new K-8 curriculum and instruction will be or how it will differ from the current 2.0 curriculum. “Ultimately, the teacher needs to have autonomy to implement curriculum as they see fit for their students,” Miller said.