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Amid budget cuts, Maryland school system sells curriculum

By Sally Holland, CNN
  • Montgomery County schools make $4.5 million deal for curriculum
  • North Star program pushes students' critical, creative thinking
  • Company will sell curriculum across the country

(CNN) -- To help defray budget cuts, the Montgomery County Public School system in Maryland is selling some of its assets. Specifically, it has entered into a deal valued at at least $4.5 million with a company called Pearson to sell the county's elementary curriculum expertise.

Under the deal, Pearson and Montgomery county officials will work together to create the curriculum, assessments and professional development standards for a program that Pearson will sell to school systems across the country.

The curriculum, already in use for the county's kindergartners, is called North Star. It emphasizes integrating reading and math with science, social studies and other disciplines to push students' critical and creative thinking. The goal is for elementary students to take the first steps in a college-ready curriculum.

"In this day and age, when education budgets are being cut left and right, we can't shortchange kids. This is their one opportunity at education. So we've got to do whatever we can to give them the best possible classroom experience," said Brian Edwards, chief of staff for the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Under the contract approved by the school board Tuesday, the school system will receive $2.25 million as an advance to double its staff, which has been working on the new curriculum. When Pearson begins selling the curriculum to other school systems, the Montgomery County schools will receive royalties that will pay back the advance and be put into classrooms to help kids.

Montgomery County began North Star for kindergartners in the last school year and plans to introduce it in the first grade next school year. It had planned to have the curriculum in all elementary grades by 2015, but with the Pearson deal, it expects to be two years ahead of schedule.