On Jan. 8, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education adopted staff’s recommended vendors for the curriculum, including math for prekindergarten through eighth grade, and English language arts for grades 6 through 8.
For middle-school English language arts, English speakers of other languages (ESOL) students and non-ESOL students will learn from the same curriculum, which is different from the past, said Scott Murphy, director of the MCPS department of Secondary Curriculum and Districtwide Programs.
“One of the fundamental things that will change with our middle-school ELA [English language arts] curriculum is that this curriculum will serve as the core, for the foundation for all classrooms, and that includes ESOL,” said Murphy. “Historically, we’ve had a separate set of materials for our ESOL classes in middle school. As we make the transition, that will change.”
MCPS Board of Education policy requires that the school system review its curriculum every five years. As part of that review (2017-2018), MCPS hired Johns Hopkins University to perform an assessment of its curriculum for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade English language arts and mathematics. The university then recommended that MCPS buy new, externally created curriculum and materials for instruction, to replace MCPS curriculum, known by teachers and administrators as Curriculum 2.0.
Fast forward to Jan. 8, when staff in MCPS’s Office of Chief Academic Officer provided recommendations on which vendors the board approves for future curriculum and instructional-material purchase.
The vendors include Great Minds, LLC; McGraw-Hill Education, Inc.; and LearnZillion, Inc., according to the Board resolution.
“I just want to really share how pleased I am that the ESOL curriculum is part of our curriculum,” Board of Education member Karla Silvestre (at Large) said. “I think it’s long overdue, and I have high hopes and expectations for what that will do for the performance of our ESOL students.”
Niki Hazel, director of MCPS’ Department of Elementary Curriculum and Districtwide Programs, said staff involved in the selection process liked the curriculum vendor it was recommending for prekindergarten through fifth grade math because the vendor offers printed materials, so MCPS graphics and print shop employees would not have to print and bind the materials together.
“The two products we want to recommend, we are recommending the purchase of those products because they come organized, bound and packaged for teachers to use,” said Hazel. “We think it’s more effective to do that than sending it to our printing and graphics shops and asking them to print thousands and thousands of materials, for not only students but then for teachers as well. So, the materials we are looking to purchase would be the student materials, any home resources, and the assessments that go along with it.”
In addition, the curriculum is available in other languages, Hazel said.
The assessments that are included with the teaching materials will be compatible with the MCPS online platform.
Silvestre said parents have told the board they were concerned about not being able to help a child with homework in subjects such as math. She was glad to hear that some materials could be available in multiple languages.
“One common complaint, also from parents is, ‘I can’t help my child with their homework,’” Silvestre said.
“It breaks my heart when you see the little child at home, ‘I can’t do this,’ and they’re crying, and the parent can’t help either,” Silvester said.
“So, I’m very happy about the multilingual,” she added. “Also, the print copies as well– if we can have print copies in multiple languages as well, that’s fantastic.”
“We do want to emphasize that in each of these three sets of materials, there will be a balance of digital and print, and books coming home, that give parents at least a glimpse of what happened in class today, as well as robust materials that come home during the year that explain[s] what’s being taught,” Murphy said.
MCPS staff “continue to consider” options for high-school algebra 1 curriculum, accelerated pathways for mathematics, and English language arts curriculum for prekindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Board resolution.
Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith wrote in a memorandum to the school board that staff will present the recommended English language arts curriculum for prekindergarten through fifth grade on Feb. 12 because staff need more time to check references form school districts that have similar demographics and size to MCPS before presenting it to the board.
Teachers and administrators in some of the County’s middle schools and elementary schools will become acquainted with and trained in the new curriculum during the spring and summer, according to the resolution.
“The professional development is going to be really critical to the work,” Hazel said.
MCPS staff scheduled the rollout of the new curricula to occur during a three-year period, according to the resolution.
MCPS staff divided the County middle schools and elementary schools into two groups – cohort 1 and cohort 2 – based on responses from school administrators.
Smith wrote in his memorandum that some schools will be begin using the new curriculum in the fall. The other elementary and middle schools will follow a similar schedule the following year.
“Following approval [by the school board], staff immediately will begin working with our new partners to develop the highest-quality implementation and professional development plan,” Smith wrote. “This will include an introduction to the materials for all teachers in the coming weeks, setting the stage for professional learning this summer and cohort 1 implementation in fall 2019. Through this multiyear plan, I am confident that we will provide professional learning necessary and maximize support to schools, and meet the learning needs of all students.”
Chief Academic officer Maria Navarro said many schools will start with either the new math or the new English language arts and not both.