One-of-a-kind Program Among First to Be Tied to Common Core Standards
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Pearson have forged an unprecedented public-private partnership to develop a unique integrated curriculum that will prepare elementary school students for a lifetime of learning. The integrated curriculum will be aligned to the new Common Core Standards and is based upon the successful and highly rigorous curriculum already implemented in MCPS.
This ground-breaking curriculum fully integrates the core subjects of reading and math with science, social studies, art, music and physical education by building a student’s critical and creative thinking and academic success skills across disciplines. The program, North Star, weaves together all of the content areas in a way that will save teachers valuable planning time and encourages compelling and engaging instruction. Instead of choosing between a rich, comprehensive curriculum and the narrowly assessed topics of reading and math, the integrated curriculum deeply develops student knowledge across all content areas to foster long-term academic success. MCPS is currently implementing an integrated kindergarten curriculum that has been enthusiastically embraced by teachers and will serve as the model for this project.
“This curriculum is exactly what our children in Montgomery County deserve and our country needs. It reminds me of when we went from black and white television to full color—this curriculum will be that different and engaging,” said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. “MCPS has demonstrated that all children can learn at high levels if you have high expectations for every child and give the teachers the tools and support they need in the classroom. With North Star, we will take the best that MCPS and Pearson have to offer and create an exceptional program for our schools and school systems across America.”
MCPS and Pearson experts will collaborate over the next two years to develop the curriculum and roll it out within MCPS, while preparing for national distribution. In addition, Pearson will dedicate assets and expertise to help develop the first generation of Common Core Standards assessments that measure achievement of challenging academic standards alongside the skills that develop advanced learners. The final key design feature of this project will be curriculum-aligned, just-in-time professional development offered in a collaborative Web 2.0 environment. Teachers will be able to access peer and instructional experts to solve the complex and commonplace challenges they face every day.
“What Montgomery County Public Schools has accomplished for its students over the last ten years is inspirational for the rest of the nation. We are honored to join with this outstanding school system to co-develop North Star, which will transform elementary instruction,” said Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson. “We all know that students must have a strong educational foundation in elementary school if they are going to be successful. We believe North Star will provide that foundation and help prepare the next generation for the rigors of high school, college and beyond.”
Ten years ago, in order to provide an academic structure to support higher achievement, MCPS rewrote and mapped its curriculum, instruction and assessments to college-ready standards. The goal was to prepare all children to take Advanced Placement level courses in high school, proven indicators of college readiness. To do this, district leaders, like many educators, believed this preparation had to begin in the earliest grades. Research shows that an elementary student’s content skills, conceptual thinking, and self-perception as a student are established in elementary school. Developing a strong academic identity in elementary school prepares a student for a lifetime of learning.
Two years, ago, in an effort to improve its students’ performance and save teachers planning and instruction time, MCPS surveyed the latest research and concluded that, in addition to developing specific content knowledge and processes, its curriculum needed to develop critical and creative thinking skills more effectively. Rather than using a theme-based integration, the new integrated model emphasizes skills that transcend any given subject, allowing each content area to maintain its academic integrity while helping students learn more. MCPS researchers also found that students who become more self aware of how they learn become more confident and are better prepared to tackle new academic challenges. Developing academic success skills sparks the natural curiosity of young children and establishes the habits that mark the academic mind—persistence, questioning and collaboration. Students who think well and know how to learn are more likely to be academically well-prepared.
The new integrated kindergarten curriculum was implemented in Fall 2009. Thus far, the feedback from teachers, principals and parents has been extremely positive, and monitoring of the program’s implementation is showing improved student performance results.
The Montgomery County Board of Education formally approved the agreement with Pearson at its June 8, 2009 meeting, authorizing both entities to commence work on this exciting partnership.
MCPS is the largest school district in Maryland and the 16th largest in the nation with more than 141,000 students. Students in MCPS come from more than 160 different countries and speak more than 130 different languages while having some of the highest student achievement in the United States. MCPS has the highest high school graduation rate among the 50 largest districts in the nation and is a finalist for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. For more information, go to http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org
Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education services, technology and school solutions, provides innovative print and digital education materials for pre-K through college, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher professional development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. Pearson’s other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, go to http://www.pearson.com/