Materials Arrive As JPS Implements New ELA Curriculum
Pallets of new material have been received at Jamestown Public Schools as the district updates its English Language Arts curriculum.
After piloting two programs in kindergarten through eighth grades, teachers voted to go with HMH Into Reading/Into Literature. That means students who were not part of the pilot involving HMH will be introduced to the new curriculum this fall.
“So for two thirds of the (kindergarten through eighth grade) families, they’re going to see their children coming home with a new book, slightly different than they’ve probably seen in the past and some materials and an online platform that they did not have with the New York state modules,” said Jennifer Aaron, district coordinator of literacy.
An update in the English Language Arts curriculum will mean training for educators as well.
“In terms of teachers, it’s really more about taking what we’re learning about the Science of Reading,” Aaron said, “and taking a curriculum that has been vetted … and has been shown to meet all of their standards, which include meeting state standards, ease of use, usability, all of those things.”
Training includes professional development with Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). Aaron likened it to taking a college course.
“It walks teachers through the research behind how our brain learns to read and how a brain processes sounds and information and then ways that we can better teach the five pillars of reading, which are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension,” she said.
During a recent conference day, elementary teachers at JPS began reviewing new the English Language Arts curriculum. The district also shared a photograph of some of the newly arrived material on several pallets.
Aaron highlighted the importance of the “five pillars of reading” to teaching students. She said explicit phonics instruction is key in early education.
“And even for students who seemingly just learn how to read by osmosis, their writing and spelling improves by having phonics instruction,” she said. “So even though they may not need that instruction to help them decode a word, they become better spellers more quickly because they learn those rules of phonics.”
JPS has utilized phonics instruction for students in kindergarten through second grades, with a different program for students in third through eighth grades.
“And that switch was part of the reason that we were seeing problems with reading abilities and test scores and just students’ levels of reading,” Aaron said.
The soon-to-be implemented curriculum will eliminate learning gaps with a “seamless program,” Aaron said.
The process to select a program began in November 2021 with the formation of a steering committee. In December 2021, an advisory committee was formed.
After a review, two programs were selected to pilot in classrooms this fall: HMH Into Reading/Into Literature and Savvas My View Literacy/My Perspectives.
Feedback was collected during the pilot process.
“This is a new process for us,” Dr. Kevin Whitaker, district superintendent, said in January after Board of Education members were given a presentation on the pilot programs. “This is something that’s very important that we hit all of the right components. Rather than dictating what our curriculum is going to be, it’s important that we start with the research — what does the research tell us about the best practices in a program for learning.
“Put it in the hands of practitioners and make a determination what the rubric should represent that we rate all the programs against when our teachers look at it and our teachers are the ones practicing with it in terms of a pilot program. They are the ones who can make a sound recommendation to us rather than the other way around.”