Garnering headline status on the front page of The Gazette on Wednesday, November 28, 2011, was news of Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) roll out of Curriculum 2.0.
Curriculum 2.0 is perhaps the largest academic initiatives rolled out by the school system with a penchant for rolling out a plethora of mind numbing initiatives at a given time. It is based on the Common Core Curriculum, and merits its own web page. It is, the system claims, a significant update of its Elementary Integrated Curriculum.
The school system claims that the new curriculum incorporates “upgraded standards in Reading, Writing and Math.” With “new and internationally-driven standards, challenging, grade-level material that leads to deeper understanding, and rigorous content on par with nations known for high math achievement,” the curriculum will also, apparently, be for sale through Pearson.
The school system asserts that they are “are upgrading the existing MCPS curriculum for the elementary grades in a way that will better engage students and teachers, and dedicate more learning time to subjects such as the arts, information literacy, science, social studies and physical education. By blending these subjects with the core content areas of reading, writing, and mathematics, students will receive robust, engaging instruction across all subjects in the early grades. In short, we are building a stronger foundation at the elementary level.”
The curriculum that is being used in all kindergarten and first-grade classes is also being rolled out at select second-grade classes. A detailed description is available here and a glossy version on the school systems take on the Common Core standards, presented to, and approved by the Board of Education is available here.
The spanking new curriculum is not without its detractors. Local email lists sport one or two parents expressing displeasure with the lackluster nature of the content. Some parents also believe the new curriculum is a blatant attempt to deny the well-prepared student the opportunity to access higher level classes in math and reading. However, the much beloved MCPS Pathways to Success in Mathematics webpage does remain active, and the options for students to move from on-level courses to above level options seem to be available.
Some parents cite a letter sent out by the principal of Laytonsville Elementary School to students, explaining why grade acceleration may not be necessary “nearly all” students, as an omen of the impending elimination of options for the well-prepared student. However, the same school maintains a PowerPoint presentation, dated this September, which indicates MCPS will be maintaining above grade level course options for the qualified student.
If the school system has chosen to increase the rigor and depth of its curriculum, it may just be what the doctor ordered for a system where an average of around 40% of second-graders are identified as capable of performing above-grade.