Maryland’s 140,000-student Montgomery County Public Schools have teamed up with the education publishing company Pearson to create curriculum for elementary school students based on MCPS’ existing curriculum and the Common Core standards. The curriculum aims to integrate science, social studies, art, music and physical education into the core subjects of reading and math. Both MCPS and Pearson will work collaboratively to develop the materials over the next two years, after which the curriculum will be distributed nationally under the name North Star.
“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, the chief executive of Pearson in a press release.
Kate Worlock, a director and lead analyst for Outsell, a research firm for the publishing and information industries, reports that MCPS will receive $2.25 million from Pearson for their contributions to the partnership. The school district will also receive a small percentage of the sales from the curriculum once it is being distributed, she says. And while the cash flow will certainly help MCPS, it is only a drop in the bucket in comparison to the $160 million budget shortfall the district is facing, according to the newest district budget.
This is certainly the first time that I’ve heard of a private company partnering with a public school district to create and distribute curriculum, and we’ll be watching this closely to see how it develops. On one hand, now more than ever it’s important for schools to be bringing in new sources of revenue. But whenever private companies become involved in schools, there’s a need to balance what’s best for students with the for-profit company’s bottom line.
What do you think? Is this a good idea? Do you think other school districts will be moving in this direction? Or do these kind of curricular public-private partnerships pose more risks than benefits?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.