Global education and textbook company Pearson previewed its new line of instructional products for K-5 classrooms developed with Montgomery County Public Schools at conference in Florida on Wednesday.
The material and curriculum called “Pearson Forward” has been designed to meet the more challenging demands of new education standards that least 45 states have adopted in an attempt to make U.S. students more competitive than international peers. It will be marketed with the Montgomery County Public Schools brand and sold nationally.
“Forward integrates instruction across reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies, focusing on the rigors of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), with a strong emphasis on critical thinking, creativity and academic success skills,” according to Pearson’s news release.
The news release also features Erick Lang, Montgomery County Public Schools associate superintendent for curriculum and instructional programs: “The integrated curriculum renews focus on the whole child and nurtures skills that build confidence and success.”
The idea of Forward, also known as Project North Star, was to use teachers and experts from the school district to help design the new education products with the aim of boosting student achievement. Months after the Board of Education first approved the contract in 2010, Pearson and Montgomery County schools amended the deal to reduce the payment to the school system to $1.25 million. When the partnership first formed, Pearson agreed to pay Montgomery County schools at least $2.25 million to develop the material. The deal also gave the private company access to “the expertise of one of the nation’s top school systems and the right to use its name and its top employees as sales tools,” according to a Washington Post story about the contract when it first emerged in 2010.
“As part of our collaboration, the national curriculum was reviewed by staff in MCPS to ensure that the program aligns with the essence and philosophy of the MCPS vision,” according to marketing materials from Pearson.
Former Montgomery County schools superintendent Jerry Weast pushed for the public-private partnership because the district was in a budget crunch and needed additional money to pay for a curriculum overhaul. The deal also includes royalties for the school system on curriculum sales and a discount on Pearson materials.
“It puts our system . . . in an untenable conflict, when we start to go into business and at the same time try to meet the needs of our students,” said former Board of Education member Laura Berthiaume (Rockville-Potomac) after voting against the deal in 2010. “Converting our employees into salesmen is not where I think we should be.”