Hello Marlboro Parents & Guardians,
I was made aware of an important issue that needed clarification regarding the MTPS Health and Family Life Curriculum Guides; specifically focusing on grades 3-5. Below outlines this issue, and how our curriculum guides are designed.
For those who want a simple summary, please see below:
Summary of Important Information:
I have been asked to not “bury my lead”. Nowhere in our school district curriculum are we teaching the concept of masturbation. The word “masturbation” can be found in the New Jersey State Board of Education standards as an example.
MTPS did not use the example of masturbation in our local, district developed curriculum.
Again, it is not being taught in any grade, in any way. If you would like the finer details, please read further to learn more information about this issue and the entire curriculum approval process.
How The New Jersey Department of Education State Standards Update Process Works:
Revised every five years, the State standards provide local school districts with clear and specific benchmarks for student achievement in nine content areas. Developed and reviewed by panels of teachers, administrators, parents, students, and representatives from higher education, business, and the community, the standards are influenced by national standards, research-based practice, and student needs. The standards define a "Thorough and Efficient Education" as guaranteed in 1875 by the New Jersey Constitution. Currently the standards are designed to prepare our students for college and careers by emphasizing high-level skills needed for tomorrow's world. We must be ready for the 22nd Century.
How MTPS Utilizes State Standards to Inform Local Curriculum Updates:
MTPS uses state frameworks that are approved by the New Jersey State Board of Education to develop our own district curriculum guides. Each school district has the opportunity to develop their own curriculum under the umbrella of the state standards.
In other words, we have the autonomy to develop how we teach children in our own MTPS way, as long as we meet the spirit of the state standards.
MTPS has engaged in this process for many years.
MTPS takes pride in our curriculum development and revision. We have teachers work on curriculum revisions under the direction of the content-area supervisor. Then, the revisions are seen and discussed by the MTPS Curriculum Committee composed of Board of Education members. After that process, the curriculum is then shared with the entire Board of Education, with eventual approval at a future board of education meeting. Staff members are provided with professional development on curriculum changes to ensure a seamless deployment of teaching content and age-appropriate strategies.
The Two Reasons MTPS Updates How We Teach Children:
In MTPS, individual curriculum guides are updated for two reasons.
First, when the New Jersey State Board of Education approves changes to State standards, we update local district curriculum.
Second, we are proud to say that we revise our curriculum guides for other important reasons as well. For the past many years, we have had a strong assessment system. In English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science, we have rigorous common assessments that are completely aligned to State standards.
We do something you never see but is important to realize.
MTPS uses data from common assessments to identify strengths and “opportunities for improvement.” Then, “opportunities for improvement” are remediated in classrooms and addressed systemically by revising curriculum and finding areas of professional development for staff. Let me provide just a small mathematics example as a reference.
In the recent past, we realized that our 5th grade students struggled on what we truly felt was a simple concept. Decimals. Approximately 40% of our 5th grade students did not understand that .6 is equivalent to .60. This was a red flag for our district and mathematics department; this concept was brought to light through our data analysis process. We investigated the issue that was made completely clear through the results of our common assessments, and we realized that in 4th grade, EnVision Math stated very clearly that when a zero (0) is added to a whole number, the number expands by a power of ten. In other words, the number gets bigger. We then realized that our 5th grade students applied this concept incorrectly when comparing the value of decimals.
So, in this moment, we realized that our mathematics curriculum needed revision. Once revised, we provided professional development to the necessary staff. There are countless other examples; suffice it to say that each and every curriculum is constantly being revised in this way. Our teams then use data, experiences, and opinions of our staff professionals to craft changes to ensure our teaching and learning is always under construction to best support our students.
MTPS Philosophy On Curriculum Revisions:
We do our due diligence to understand the revisions to State standards. We then design a plan that we feel is most age-appropriate and beneficial to our students, their well-being, and the overall educational system. We have the responsibility of instilling the mission and vision of the State standards into our MTPS curriculum. But, in each and every revision, we are always mindful of what we have to teach and determine the most appropriate way to teach our students.
What You Need To Know About the Health Education Standards:
Recently, the State of New Jersey updated the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Health and Physical Education. Below, please see the 2020 Comprehensive Health and Physical Standards.
I wanted to bring clarity to the topic of masturbation. If you click on the New Jersey approved standards for Health and Physical Education (Not The MTPS curriculum; The State standards referenced in the link above), you will find that the word masturbation (highlighted in blue) is referenced one time on page 30 (as an example) in the document. Below is a snapshot from the New Jersey Department of Education’s standards.
Picture from NJ Student Learning Standards
MTPS Health Curriculum:
Now, it is very important to understand how our MTPS Health Curriculum is designed at the local level. Our curriculum lists the State approved language in the “Performance Expectation” section. But, what we actually teach is located in the right-hand column entitled “Classroom Applications”. Below is a picture from the MTPS Health Curriculum Guide Grade 3.
MTPS Health Curriculum With Explanations of Each Section
Please notice that there is nothing listed in the right-hand column (Classroom Applications) regarding masturbation. What is listed is a reference to the 3rd Grade Family Life Curriculum. The concept of masturbation is not discussed at all in the 3rd Grade Family Life Curriculum. This Family Life Curriculum Guide for Grade 3, has a copyright date of 2019 and was unanimously approved by the Board of Education on August 20, 2019, as referenced below.
Picture of August 20th BOE Vote
The word “masturbation” is included on the most recently approved MTPS curriculum guide because it is part of the New Jersey State approved standards. It is listed as an “example”.
“To Speak Straight”, MTPS does not teach the concept of masturbation in any way, in any grade level, in any subject.
We simply used the state-approved standard language, which included masturbation as an example.
MTPS made a district decision to not include masturbation in the grade bands of 3-5, which is within our authority.
If you would like to read the Grade 3, Grade 4, or Grade 5 Health or Family Life Curriculum Guides, please click the links below.
Notwithstanding, MTPS realizes the sensitivity to some of the content taught in health and family life education. Therefore, the district will work with the school community and honor excusal from class or program requests as set forth in Policy 5250.
MTPS always strives to adhere to the district fundamentals captured below.
They are the beacon in all that we are and how we operate, which includes the local development of MTPS Curriculum. We deliver age-appropriate content to our students. I trust this communication has addressed your concerns regarding the topic of masturbation and how our local board approved curriculum does not teach masturbation in our classroom applications in any way.
I want to thank the entire Board of Education for their diligent review, discussion, and understanding of our processes and these very important concepts.
Yours in education,
Dr. Eric M. Hibbs, Superintendent