MCPS deal with Pearson may lower education standard

By: Patrick J. Hoover

When I got into work this morning I began my regular routine: Start up my computer, make coffee, check my e-mails and calendar, browse the national and local news. That’s when I stumbled upon an article in The Washington Post about MCPS’s new $2.25 million deal with Pearson to develop an elementary curriculum that can be sold and duplicated around the world.

This headline was a surprise, to say the least. If you’ve been reading The Post, or even The Montgomery County Gazette lately then you’ve probably noticed that MoCo is in deep financial trouble. Not to mention, the MCPS budget, which calls for massive cuts including larger class sizes and less teaching positions, was approved by the school board yesterday.

But it looks like all is not lost for MCPS. The decision to sell MCPS’s foundation curriculum, which, if I may add, draws a lot of residents to the county, was also approved by the school board yesterday — with a vote of 6 to 2, no less.

With MCPS bleeding money, the school board obviously had no choice but to sell itself to the highest bidder. Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said it himself to The Post : “I tend to look at it from the standpoint that we are broke… You have to have new ways of doing things when you don’t have money.”

But what will this mean for the parents of children who attend a school in Montgomery County? Is the unique character and award-winning facets of an MCPS education lost?

Parents of younger, elementary-age in Montgomery County should be worried. The MCPS gatekeeper is one of the strictest in the State, barring many students, who it sees an unqualified, from receiving a free and appropriate public education in Montgomery County (remember Jeff Sukkasem?). It is almost as if MCPS has kept its high-scoring, nationally renowned curriculum under lock and key for the past decade and now it is offering it any county that can pay. Not that Prince George’s County Public Schools is doing much better fiscally, but what would happen if the same curriculum was implemented there?

Parents, teachers and administrators in other counties may be rejoicing at the fact that they too can give their students a MCPS education without having to actually live within the county’s borders. But what will that mean for the standard of education? MCPS’s deal with Pearson is one of the largest in history. Yes, it will bring more media attention to MCPS by branding the education. Yes, it will bring more money and resources to help MCPS improve its at-home curriculum. But, isn’t there something to say for exclusivity? If any school district can buy a high-scoring curriculum, then the standards which MCPS has been held up to for the past few years as it has trumped other counties on a national level will be depreciated.

Although MCPS will still have control over the curriculum in its own classrooms, Pearson will have final say once the curriculum is in its hands. MCPS’s personal curriculum will act as a show boat for Pearson execs to show off to other superintendents.

And all that for a couple million right off the bat and a guarantee of 3 percent in royalties on sales. Good job, MCPS. What will you auction off next? Your teachers?


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