Baltimore’s Revitalization Plan Sidetracked by Curriculum Fiasco

The Baltimore County School District abruptly ended its contract with edCount, LLC last summer after school officials declared the educational service provider incapable of delivering its promised language arts program for the district’s 53,000 elementary school children.

In an investigative report for The Baltimore Sun, Liz Bowie reports that through the use of the Public Information Act, records were gathered revealing the school district and edCount got into a war of words over the quality of edCount’s product, the lack of communication between the two entities and difference of opinion over expectations and timelines.

School officials severed the contract with edCount LLC after criticizing the company for missing deadlines, not giving the project adequate staffing and refusing to communicate with key employees. The company, meanwhile, argued that school staffers were “abusive,” imposing unrealistic deadlines and making changes that required extra work.

Even though school officials described the work as “unsatisfactory” in an email, they continued to pay the company — a bill that rose to $2.1 million by the time contractual ties were cut in June. For its money, the school system got the first six weeks of the elementary language arts curriculum, an outline of a second six-week unit and an unfinished digital platform.
For that $2.1 million price tag, the district received the first full six weeks of curriculum, an outline of the following six weeks and a digital platform – which was to be the hallmark of the entire project – that remained unfinished. When teachers arrived in schools the following semester, they complained of extreme difficulty accessing the online portion of the lessons, as well as finding it very “poorly written”.
All this on the watch of Baltimore County superintendent Dallas Dance, who had previously promised teachers they would have a “world-class” curriculum in hand by June of 2013. Dance apologized to elementary school teachers last fall upon hearing their complaints over the lack of delivery by edCount.
The contract was part of larger goals by Baltimore as a community and the state of Maryland itself to increase its quality of education and quantity of educated people.  In recent years, Baltimore has become a hub for education technology as an industry, and the city’s economy has seen a surge accordingly.
Earlier in April, Baltimore City School District unveiled a new $30 million elementary school, the first project of a proposed $1 billion plan to renovate old schools and build new campuses. According to a report by WBALTV, the next new campus will open in 2017 while several others are refurbished in the meantime.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s plan is to have 55% of all Maryland residents holding a college degree by 2025. When the proposal was made in 2009, that figure was at 44.4%, but according to an article by Carrie Wells of The Baltimore Sun, it has since increased to 48%.