Maryland District’s Curriculum Cited as Model

By David J. Hoff — February 26, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A Maryland school district’s curriculum and classroom assessments represent what teachers need to help students reach ambitious academic goals and succeed on state tests, concludes a report issued by a group pushing for greater student achievement.

The report, “Measuring Up Montgomery County,” is available from Achieve. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The Montgomery County public schools’ curriculum is “clearly articulated” and “quite comprehensive,” according to the Washington-based Achieve. Moreover, the classroom exams are of “high quality and align to” district and state standards, the report released this month says.

In the past six years, Achieve has conducted similar reviews of 15 states’ standards and tests. The Montgomery County study marks the first time it has pored over district policies designed to ensure students are able to meet state demands.

The 139,000-student district provides a model for other education systems that are trying to satisfy new state testing and accountability demands put on them by federal and state laws, a top Achieve official said last week.

“Montgomery County is an illustration of how a partnership [between state and local officials] could work,” said Matthew Gandal, the executive vice president for the nonprofit group led by governors and business leaders.

In the division of labor, as envisioned by Achieve, the state sets broad learning goals and offers a test to judge how well students are meeting them. The district then builds a curriculum and produces a series of classroom tests to ensure that students are taking incremental steps toward achieving the state goals.

The review of Montgomery County’s resources “pointed out how important this kind of exercise is going to be across the country,” Mr. Gandal said.

For Montgomery County, the review by national experts helps administrators identify parts of the instructional program that need beefing up and gives them confidence to help other Maryland districts meet the demands of the new state testing system.

“It was important for us to have an independent set of eyes to give us feedback,” said Brian J. Porter, a spokesman for the suburban Washington district.

New Territory

District officials commissioned the $195,000 Achieve study to get a sense of whether the school system was headed in the right direction in its 2-year-old effort to overhaul its instructional program, Mr. Porter said.

Achieve reviewed reading and mathematics curricula for K-12 classes as well as countywide tests given in high school English, algebra, and geometry courses.

In its earlier reviews of states’ policies, Achieve said many curriculum frameworks lacked specificity. Montgomery County’s curriculum, by contrast, is “explicit about the knowledge and skills students should learn in each grade,” the Achieve report says.

Likewise, the high school exams are so closely aligned with state expectations that they give students a sense of how they will perform on state exams, it adds.

Yet while Achieve calls the curriculum “rigorous and reasonable,” the report says it still falls short of what’s expected in other countries whose students achieve at the highest levels on international studies.

For example, the report says, the district should consider moving many portions of Algebra 1 down to the 8th grade, which is when students in many high-achieving countries learn algebra.

The district currently has about half its 8th graders completing Algebra 1, Mr. Porter said.

Montgomery County includes some of the country’s wealthiest suburban areas, but also has growing poor and immigrant communities. “The question is: How will districts that don’t have the resources or expertise handle this?” Mr. Gandal said. “I don’t think states can do it all themselves; neither can all the districts. But the answer can’t be, ‘We won’t do it.’”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Social Studies Standards Spark Fierce Debate in N.C.
Advocates say the new standards are more inclusive because they give more attention to the perspectives of historically marginalized groups.
T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
6 min read
Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02