A proposed revamp of the Marion City Schools Elementary Language Arts Curriculum has an unknown future after two members questioned whether it was appropriate.
Proponents of the change, however, pointed out that the new program had undergone a thorough vetting process and would benefit students.
The school board did not vote to adopt the elementary school curriculum resource, Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA), at the March 28 district school board meeting, citing financial and content concerns. Since then, the district literacy committee has been reviewing conversations with teachers to decide how to move forward.
The district piloted two different language arts curricula, CKLA by Amplify and Wonders by McGraw Hill, throughout last fall and winter to comply with a new Department of Ohio Education that the District of Ohio has a formal reading achievement plan.
Two pilot teams of teachers and parents provided feedback to the district literacy committee on the implementation of each program, and on March 15, the decision to recommend the CKLA program to the board was made after the committee reviewed these responses.
According to the Amplify website, the resource puts foundational knowledge and skills at the center of its model and builds confidence among students from diverse backgrounds.
Superintendent Dr. Ron Iarussi then presented the recommendation to the board alongside Director of Teaching and Learning Ben Porter at the March 28 meeting, requiring board approval to move forward. and order the necessary teaching materials by the end of March in order to have them for teachers. by the end of the year.
Their goal was to provide initial professional development and an ongoing support plan, including training, planning and coaching ahead of summer vacation.
However, in a two-to-two vote, the board did not vote to approve the CKLA program, with board members Rocky Ratliff and Scott Weibling asking for more time to review the program, citing concerns about its costs and content.
Although the board did not vote in favor of the teaching resource, it reached consensus on the need to provide assistance to teachers in the district after elementary teachers stood up and described the abuses of the teachers. students at school.
The new CKLA program will cost the district nearly $600,000 and it is “knowledge-based” as opposed to “anthology-based,” which means it includes excerpts from many different sources of literature in order to teaching content rather than including complete works.
This raised concerns with Weibling and Ratliff as they believed that several sources of literature for excerpts from the resource were inappropriate for young children, including Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sandra’s The House on Mango Street Cisneros. They said that while the snippets themselves might be fine, pulling from more mature resources might inspire kids to keep exploring the full work.
Still, this differentiation was one of the main reasons CKLA was recommended, according to Iarussi, who also noted that the split in board voting could be because Ratliff and Weibling are newer to the board, while Board Chairman Kelly Mackay and Board Member Ted McKinniss have been on the board through most of the process.
“Part of what we looked at was the difference between the two resources, one is what’s called an anthology base, which just means there are basically different forms of literature and the other is knowledge-based, meaning most reading is built around science and social studies,” he said.
Revisit CKLA in committee
These concerns, combined with the fear that the program would be approved by an incomplete board, since only four members were on the school board on March 28 following the resignation of former board chairman Leslie Schneider the previous week, led the board to request that the program be reviewed by the literacy committee prior to the April 19 board meeting.
As of April 8, Iarussi said the literacy committee had already met to review the program and resolve some of the council members’ concerns with the teachers who piloted the program.
After reviewing the program, the recommendation for CKLA will continue until the April 19 meeting, he said.
According to Porter, the conversation was moderated by district literacy trainer Krista Dendinger, and the team was able to thoroughly discuss council members’ concerns.
“We took the specific concerns and brought them directly to the ones that these board members had shared, documented them and shared them, and our teachers were able to address them quite specifically,” Porter said.
Given that the instructional materials order was not approved at the end of March, the district is unlikely to be able to receive the order from the vendor by the end of the school year – a specific request from a group of teachers who wanted to use the upcoming summer vacation to plan for the 2022 – 2023 academic year.
Porter said if the board approves the program in April, as soon as the district receives the materials, it will work to distribute them to its teachers, even if that means it will be over the summer.
“It’s a very long and thorough process: probably the most thorough process I’ve been involved in since I’ve been here to really include the teachers and let them drive the decision-making and the process, so hopefully we we’ll be able to honor their expertise and recommendation,” Porter said.
Similarly, at the March 28 meeting, McKinniss, who is part of the Literacy Committee, explained that he had witnessed this extremely careful and thorough selection process for the curriculum resource.
“In all my years on the board, this is one of the most thorough searches and the process has been something incredible for all of you who have been involved in this and provided us with the information It’s been a joy to watch sitting on the literacy committee, he says.
Now that CKLA’s program has been revisited and the recommendation stands, the board, with its fifth newest member to be chosen on Thursday, will vote again at the April 19 meeting to decide whether the district will move forward. by implementing the resource in its elementary schools. .
Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 | [email protected]