Change Happens

November 30, 2017 by Literacy Blog 55 Views
Last spring while students were TNReady testing or prepping for graduation, while teachers were finalizing grades and packing away supplies, and while principals were hosting awards banquets and building next year’s schedules, the literacy advisors at Central Office were pouring over Literacy Quality Review data, attending training on the new state standards, and building a budget to cover materials that would be shipped to schools over the summer in record numbers. In order to determine what materials would be needed, the scope and sequence docs for English I-IV had to be approved. Before those could be approved, the course descriptions had to be updated to align the focus on instruction with the new state standards. All of these factors contributed to the addition of units that would support the new TN state standards and increase the rigor of instruction to address instructional goals outlined in the IPG. Long story short, this meant changes were made.

As we’ve shared many times before, the Pearson literature textbook does not meet the rigor and expectations of alignment to the standards components, based on the nationally-recognized review by EdReports. Their report states, “Teachers may need to supplement in some areas to provide comprehensive support for literacy development.” (Read the full report here: Given that our adopted textbook would not be a sufficient resource for our curriculum, other resources were explored to provide the necessary supplements that would better align our overall English programming.

At this point when I’m talking to my English teacher friends, I’m usually told, “So what? I knew that, which is why I’ve taught this great unit on my favorite book for years!” The truth is that our local data shows that this effort can be hit or miss depending on many different factors regardless of the experience of the teacher or the level of the students, and the end result in 2016 was that only 9% of our SCS eleventh graders were deemed “College Ready” based on their ACT score.[1]

So why make the changes in high school? Shouldn’t earlier grades prepare the students for greater success in high school? Absolutely! This is why the district has adopted the EL Education curriculum for grades 6-8, which should strengthen academic readiness for high school, meaning that our high school curriculum has to kick it up a notch in order for these students to continue to show growth. National research concludes that “the cumulative impact of high-quality curriculum can be significant and matters most to achievement in the upper grades, where typical year-on-year learning gains are far lower than in previous grades.”[2] According to 2016-17 Lexile scores, SCS students make smaller annual achievement gains with each successive grade, on average. In short, curriculum matters!

Our current efforts have been to take the best texts from the textbook and supplement with units and lessons from Facing History and Ourselves, LearnZillion, and Louisiana Believes. We are in classrooms with teachers, planning with teachers, and listening to teachers and administrators to determine what’s working with our English Curriculum 2.0 as we’re already making revisions for our English Curriculum 3.0. Stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with us and give feedback on our new English curriculum. We appreciate your input!

[1] ACT College-Ready Rates: Tennessee State Report Card, College and Career Readiness

[2] Steiner, D. “Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go.” StandardsWork (March 2017).
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