The past few years have been times of change for teachers across our district. This is the third year of the Springboard ELA curriculum for our middle and high school students, and the second year of the ReadyGEN ELA curriculum for our elementary students.
The independent, non-profit EdReports.org reinforced the district’s choice in curriculum. EdReports gave ReadyGen high ratings during their first major review of ELA materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
But Mary Sewright, Bethel’s director of curriculum and professional development, said that doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing. “ELA was probably the hardest change to make,” said Sewright. “It’s a huge shift in how you instruct. Teachers, rather than being that, ‘sage on the stage,’ have to focus on more group work, and student interaction.”
To help combat that, Sewright takes teacher leaders on “Learning Walks.” They visit schools and see the ELA curriculum in action. They can then provide feedback, write action plans, and go back to their grade level teams to share what they’ve learned.
Sewright said for any new curriculum, the first year is the toughest on teachers, because they are asked to stay as true to the curriculum as possible. “The curriculum is researched based,” she said, “So if it’s not implemented fully, you won’t have the results and know what you need to adjust the next year.”
But even though it was a struggle, Sewright said, “Scores went up,” which was a good thing. “Writing was a huge weakness in the district,” she said. Unlike the previous curriculum, ReadyGEN makes sure reading and writing go hand in hand. “Reading is like breathing in, and writing is breathing out. If you’re not doing those together, you’re not going to be successful.”