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RISD adopts new English language arts curriculum

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Some worry that $1.5 million program could meet resistance

Roswell Independent School District will have its first new elementary English language arts curriculum in a decade after the school board voted unanimously to adopt a new program at its meeting Tuesday night. Board members expressed concern, however, that the $1.5 million program might meet resistance among teachers and principals.

The board voted 4-0 to adopt Core Knowledge Language Arts, CKLA, from publisher Amplify. Board member James Edwards was not present.

Language arts programs include textbooks and instructional materials for language comprehension, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The CKLA program had been recommended by a committee of about 60 RISD teachers, staff and administrators who reviewed five programs over several months and brought their findings to the board in July.

At that time, the board voted 3-2 against adopting the curriculum. Board members Edwards, Hilda Sanchez and Milburn Dolen cited concerns about adopting a curriculum before seeing what programs the New Mexico Public Education Department would recommend and that teachers would be rushed and unprepared to implement the curriculum for the 2021-22 school year.

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The PED has since released its list of recommended programs, and CKLA scored at 90% or above.

A member of the adoption committee spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, urging the board to adopt the CKLA program.

“It is imperative that our students have access to high quality instruction materials and that we provide equitable, consistent, researched and evidence-based materials that will provide a pathway to graduation, college readiness and successful careers,” said Stephanie Del Angel, who represented the RISD Equity Council on the committee.

“It is time we put our students first. They have waited over 10 years, and now it is time that we as a school district provide our students the foundation that is crucial to building proficiency in reading and writing while working towards the mutual goal that all educators share, our students’ success,” she said.

Karla Stinehart, RISD director of literacy, humanities and arts, chaired the adoption committee and provided answers to other questions board members had when they considered the adoption of CKLA in July. The support for students learning English comprised part of the discussion.

“I just want to shout from the rooftops that CKLA allows every child access to the core grade-level content,” Stinehart said.

“It provides our teachers and our schools with the scaffolds and support so that our students could actually access grade-level material,” she said.

While CKLA does offer a bilingual component, that is something the district chose not to purchase because it already has a Spanish language arts curriculum purchased last year, Stinehart said.

Bilingual students will be exposed to CKLA through the English language portion of their instruction, Kenneth Bewley, director of research, assessment and accountability, said.

“The teacher is going to have to align them to make sure the lessons they are doing from CKLA are picking up the same thing from the Spanish side as well, so that I’m reinforcing rather than going in two different directions,” he said.

But the greatest concern expressed by both Dolen and Sanchez was whether or not teachers and principals — who have had to purchase supplemental materials to teach along with the out-of-date Reading Street curriculum — would buy into CKLA.

“I’m all for getting it going, but if we’re going to get it going, all the schools need to be on the same boat, rowing the same direction,” Dolen said.

Sanchez said she had heard from teachers and principals that they would continue to use the current program and supplemental materials and let the CKLA books gather dust on a shelf.

“I do not think stakeholders want to hear that after spending $1.5 million,” she said.

“Nor should they. That’s a lot of money,” Superintendent Brian Luck said.

He assured the board use of CKLA would be enforced throughout the district.

“We feel like what we’ve got in front of everybody today is the answer. It’s not going to solve all of life’s problems, and we know we’re going to run into individuals, pockets of individuals, who are going to take awhile to come across and want to jump into what we’ve got for them,” he said.

“But our expectations, the directives are going to be our taxpayers put forth a ton of money for this, and this is what we’re going to use,” Luck said.

Stinehart touted the professional development opportunities with CKLA, both what the program offers and learning that teachers have been involved in the last two years through a program called LETRS — Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling.

“I feel like we’ve been laying the groundwork for this moment for over two years. We have teachers who are engaged in LETRS to learn the science of reading and what it takes,” she said.

She said 25 teachers have graduated the two-year program and another 150 teachers are taking the training.

Publisher Amplify offers 15 days of professional development with the CKLA program, Stinehart said, and the district has opportunities with an existing grant for further professional development.

She said she would like to begin the teacher training as soon as possible, with implementation in the classrooms next fall.

The budgeting and purchase of the CKLA program will be addressed in a future board meeting.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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