Friday, December 14, 2012

MCCPTA Tells Parents to Shut Up and Go Away on Pearson-MCPS Curriculum Issues

MCCPTA Officer Warns PTAs About Exercise of First Amendment Rights

The following MCCPTA e-mail is being circulated on PTA listservs this morning.  Let's just say wow!  If the goal is to confuse parents and bully them into not advocating for their children, then this e-mail scores a home run.

First, the Pearson-MCPS curriculum is totally OPTIONAL! It is NOT being mandated by the State of Maryland.  
The Montgomery County Board of Education entered into a private deal with Pearson Education, Inc. to develop curriculum to be sold to other USA schools.  The State Board of Education was extremely critical of this contract in a strongly worded Opinion. The State Board of Education has not mandated that MCPS use the Pearson curriculum, and called the MCPS- Pearson deal "wasteful of resources."  

Second, Parents have lost their legal right to be involved with the creation of curriculum because MCPS partnered with a private company. (See State Board Opinion above.)

Third, Montgomery County is actually in the United States of America.  In the USA, citizens have the right to petition.  It is a precious right and one that is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Why is MCCPTA trying to discourage parents from signing petitions?  

Fourth, $10,000,000 is a lot of $1's.  The entire FY13 budget for County Public Libraries was $31.5 million.  $10 million would be about 1/3 of the County Public Library budget.  Will parents be OK if the County funds MCPS the $10 million increase but cuts public libraries by 1/3? 

Here's the MCCPTA e-mail being circulated: 

From: Laurie Halverson <>; To: MCCPTA Delegates <>; Subject: [MCCPTA_Delegates] Curriculum 2.0-information to help you as a PTA leader Sent: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 3:41:45 AM 

Delegates and PTA Presidents:

Several parents have contacted Amanda Graver and me with questions about Curriculum 2.0 and have asked us what they can do as PTA representatives to advocate for emerging concerns.  There are various challenges with the implementation of Curriculum 2.0, so I will attempt to clarify some misconceptions, provide new information regarding some positive improvements in the Operating Budget proposal and give advice on what you can do to help as a PTA leader:

The new curriculum is not a choice for MCPS, it is a requirement.  
Curriculum 2.0 is being driven by the Common Core State Standards for Math and English/ Language Arts which the State of Maryland has adopted.  The Maryland State Department of Education voted unanimously to apply for the Race to the Top federal grant money which had strings attached, one of them being that the entire state's public schools must adopt the Common Core State Standards.  The school districts can decide HOW to implement the standards, but WHAT is being taught must meet or exceed the common core standards. Most states have adopted these standards.  Parents used to have input at the district level about curriculum content, but with the adoption of standards for math and reading/language arts, it is unclear how parents will provide stakeholder input when the curriculum is shared by 45 or so states.  If you or your PTA is unhappy about the content or elimination of parent stakeholder input, you can voice your concerns with your elected representatives and the Maryland State Department of Education.   

State Testing
MCPS has been writing a new integrated curriculum to align with the new standards, with a required deadline for testing.  Students from all states that adopt the standards will be tested on the same content, so for example, a 4th grader in New York and Oregon will be tested on the same content as 4th graders in Maryland.   Our state joined one of two consortiums (PARCC) which is designing and administering the new tests to be administered to students in the 24 or so states that have signed onto this consortium.   In 2014/15, the new testing may be implemented and the time table is for MCPS to be held accountable in 2015/16 for the results of tests.  We do not have an estimate on the cost to the state for continued testing after the Race to the Top funding runs dry in 2014.  We are not sure if it will be cheaper or more expensive than MSA tests.  

MCPS is recognized as a leader in the nation on designing common core curriculum and has coordinated efforts with Pearson Publishing Company which has helped our county to be more cost effective.  However, the budget has been very lean during the recession so MCPS was not able to implement Curriculum 2.0 with the full amount of needed resources.  

There is no new mandate for grouping all students in one class
From what I have been hearing, many schools are implementing the math curriculum with all abilities in one class and this is not working well in most cases.  Grouping seems to be the biggest issue along with lack of adequate teacher training. It takes extensive training and ability to teach to multiple levels with a large class and to do this effectively.  

Schools do have the ability to choose grouping methods based on the needs of the students.  The regulation on MCPS grouping has not changed.  So, if you are not pleased with the grouping decisions at your school, parents should be able to provide input as stakeholders of their school improvement plan.  

New Developments with the proposed Operating Budget (dependent upon BOE and CC approval):
If you watched the BOE meeting this Tuesday, we learned the following:
  • Implementation of Curriculum 2.0 next school year (2013/14) will be added to both 4th and 5th grades
  • 30 middle school focus teachers will be added to work with students who are struggling in math  ($1.968 million)
  • Restoration of middle school staff development teachers as full time
  • 8 teachers will be added as a math implementation team to help teachers to have the capacity to teach to students of all abilities ($1.1 million)
  • 10 elementary math teachers who are considered math experts will be added who will provide math acceleration instruction ($655,934)
  • MCPS will provide additional professional development devoted to implementation of Curriculum 2.0 ($1.55 million)
  • Substitutes for secondary schools will be provided so teachers can take advantage of professional development ($800,000)
  • 4 consulting teachers will be added who will work with new teachers and teachers who are struggling ($314,854)
  • Some support positions such as staff development teachers, media specialists, assistant administrators in large schools, etc. will be restored 

In the Capital Budget, technology is being added to all schools who currently are lacking these resources.  So MCPS is listening to our concerns and is taking measures to improve the implementation of Curriculum 2.0.  If you agree that these funds are needed, it will be vital to communicate this to County Council members, as they are communicating displeasure with a budget that is only slightly above the MOE budget.  

What You can Do

Educate and engage your parents
  • Encourage your Principal to hold meetings about Curriculum 2.0
  • Work with your Principal to share information on your listserve, PTA website, and other social media
  • Share meeting minutes with your parents so they can be updated on PTA business.  If you have parents who speak another language at your school, think of ways you can communicate to them.  
  • Encourage parent involvement in the School Improvement Plan.  
  • Encourage parents to communicate with their child's teacher if their own child is struggling or needs more acceleration. 
  • Parents should be able to see checked homework and tests. 

Help your teachers
  • Recognize that teachers are going through a major transition.  PTAs can work with teachers to provide assistance in the classroom or outside the classroom-whatever we can do to make things easier so teachers can focus on our kids. 
  • Make your teachers feel appreciated for all they are doing. 

  • Before any PTA action, first talk to your principal and hear the explanation for his/her decision on a particular issue.  Discuss issues at PTA meetings and develop positions on things you want to change at your school-for example if you want different grouping practices, you could develop a position and vote on this issue at a PTA meeting and use the position as leverage in conversations with your principal.  If your teacher or principal is not helpful, arrange a meeting with your Community Superintendent and if the Community Superintendent is not helpful, go to the Deputy Superintendent, Beth Schiavino-Narvaez.
  • Communicate with your MCCPTA Cluster Coordinator who can bring county-wide issues to the MCCPTA Board of Directors.
  • It may be appropriate to share concerns with Board of Education members and County Council members-if you are not sure if it is appropriate, your Cluster Coordinator can guide you on an action plan.
  • Your PTA may choose to speak with your County Council representative on the Operating Budget, focusing on issues that impact your school.   

Be careful with Petitions
Sometimes petitions can be a grassroots effort to generate a voice about an issue, which can be good, but can also take away from priority issues that we as a body voted on through MCCPTA.  When you get an email asking you to sign and pass around a petition, please use careful judgement before posting them on your listserve and ask yourself:
  • Is the petition based on facts and is it relevant to your local PTA?
  • Did you check the source of the petition?  
  • Are you comfortable posting the petition on your listserve, as it may look as though you support it as a PTA leader when this may not be the case? 
  • MCCPTA gathers concerns every summer at area meetings and generates the MCCPTA Operating Budget Priorities based on the information.  Does the petition address one of the priorities mentioned?   If MCPS spends time and attention on an issue raised in a petition but did not pay attention to any of our priorities, is this issue something we want to encourage as a focus issue?
  • If you don't think you fully understand the reasoning behind the petition, did you seek out advice from your Cluster Coordinator or other person who may have a better understanding?
  • Should you get an opinion from your local PTA Executive Committee/ officers before posting or should you consider discussing the issue and voting on it at a PTA meeting or establishing your own PTA resolution to vote on and then distribute to your elected officials? 


  1. Sounds like the leadership at MCCPTA want to tell their members what to do, not let the membership tell them what is important.

  2. You ever stop to think that this email was ONLY meant to clarify misconceptions about Curriculum 2.0, like it so clearly states? No where does it discourage individuals from excersizing their right to petition. It only suggests precautions to be taken before creating or signing a petition which the individual may in fact not agree with. Some people enjoy jumping to conclusions which correlate with their opinions a little too often...

  3. I find the petition comments downright rude. MCCPTA ought to be reacting and fighting for what parents are saying in the petitions that are out there. The old-style PTA meeting is dead. Online communication generates far more participation. There are MANY of us parents who are deeply engaged in our children's education who won't ever go to a school PTA meeting. We have opinions about how this curriculum is working in reality. We want our voices to be heard. Thus far, MCPS is ignoring us. So, when will MCCPTA get on board and fight for our views and our children?

  4. @Anonymous 6pm, there is such a thing as a 'chilly climate,' and that is what this email creates. The header 'Beware of Petitions' is very clear. Unfortunately the MCCPTA has a history of controlling the discussion and this adds to that reputation. The slogan, 'One Voice' says it all. PTA could be a voice for the parents and teachers and that was how it was originally envisioned. Phoebe Hearst must be turning over in her grave.

    1. Heh... Paula, you are so right. The one voice only applies *IF* you agree with them. Otherwise, forget it, they don't want to hear from you.

  5. Here is some information on the amazing Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a founder of the PTA, courtesy of wickipedia, below. In addition to what wikipedia states, she founded free kindergartens for miners' children, and free libraries for miners. When she lived here in Washington she set up free kindergartens for black and white children. She was a very outspoken person and actively involved in education issues. She pushed issues which as you can see may not have been popular in her time. She is the last person who would have ever said, 'Beware of Petitions.'

    From Wikipedia:
    In the 1880s, she became a major benefactor and director of the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association [3] and the first president of the Century Club of California.[4] She was a major benefactor of the University of California, Berkeley and its first woman Regent, serving on the board from 1897 until her death. Also in 1897, she contributed to the establishment of the National Congress of Mothers, which evolved eventually into the National Parent-Teacher Association. In 1900, she co-founded the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC. A public elementary school near the National Cathedral School bears her name.[5]

    In 1901, Phoebe Hearst founded the University of California Lowie Museum of Anthropology, renamed Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in 1992, in celebration of the museum's ninth decade. The original collection was founded with about 230,000 objects representing cultures and civilizations throughout history.


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