The St. Vrain Valley School school board approved the adoption of a new secondary English Language Arts, or ELA, curriculum, titled Lenses, for grades 6-12 at last night’s meeting.
Lenses was tested in the classroom by over 50 teachers, reaching approximately 3,000 secondary students across the district.
The curriculum incorporates CommonLit — a digital reading platform offering a wide selection of literary and information texts — as well as Writable — an interactive online writing tool that allows for real-time feedback, according to Zac Chase, PK-12 language arts coordinator at SVVSD.
The materials fully align with the new 2020 Colorado Academic Standards and support the content best practices in ELA learning and teaching, said Chase.
“The curriculum sets rigorous expectations of academic excellence for St. Vrain students while allowing for greater choice and adaptability of resources to meet the needs of individual students,” Chase said during yesterday’s school board meeting. “Using backward design, the units present students with broad essential questions each quarter and utilize in depth reading, writing and research tasks to move students closer to thoughtful answers to those questions.”
The “homegrown nature” of the resources, developed by SVVSD teachers, will allow the district to review and revise the curriculum in shorter cycles than traditional curriculum cycles allow, lasting seven to eight years, he said.
“They (the curriculum, materials) come with a sense of ownership, impossible to achieve as a prepackaged program,” Chase said.
This adoption comes after a thorough design process that started in 2019 led by the SVVSD Secondary ELA Leadership Team, according to the meeting agenda packet.
Middle and high school teachers joined forces to ensure the curriculum could be taught well in all grade levels and that it built on itself,, according to Megan Muller, English Language Learners department head and pilot teacher at Erie High School.
“The pilot promotes efficacy in teachers by using a menu style selection process for extended text, short literary and informational texts, writing assessments that can be applied to a variety of learning opportunities,” Muller said in the meeting, adding it also is an effective option for student-centered learning because it provides student choice.
The design team selected texts that help promote diversity and inclusion by reflecting differences in gender, sexuality, culture, language and ethnicity, Muller said.
“A diverse and responsive curriculum (creates) a realistic, balanced and authentic experience for students to both consider perspectives different from their own or align with characters or authors who speak to their experiences, maybe for the first time in their academic careers to develop empathy and acceptance in our student body and our greater community,” she said.
Jenny Rhoadarmer, a middle school teacher at Westview Middle School and educator for 30 years, believes the new curriculum has the potential to truly help students to learn how to become better readers and communicators, she said during the meeting.
“This new curriculum has a solid base in teaching the standards in a way that helps students to master concepts at each grade level before moving on to the next,” Rhoadarmer said. “It has been so exciting to have been part of the leadership team from the beginning of this effort to develop a curriculum for all ELA teachers in the district that embodies those best practices.”
The total cost for the new ELA adoption is just over $946,000, according to the agenda packet.
“Feedback from students, parents, school administrators and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive,” Chase said in the meeting. “Teachers and students find the resources to be engaging with greater choice than traditional language arts resources and a suite of assessments that better reflect what students know and are able to do.”