New curriculum considered for K-5 English Language Arts

Bulletin photo by Jennifer Burden

Meadowlark Elementary School first-grader Harrison Black spends time reading on a tablet in Carol Ruby’s class. The Johnson County School District is considering purchasing a new reading curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Shortly after Kellie Boedecker was hired as the Johnson County School District’s learning and curriculum director last April, she started noticing a common theme in her conversations with teachers.

“One of the first things that was said to me was that we have to have a reading curriculum for K-5,” Boedecker said. “Many of our teachers have been using resources from the early 2000s. Our teachers have done a good job with the resources they have, but we need to give them a framework in which to teach.”

During a school board work session on March 25, Boedecker recommended the purchase of the Fountas and Pinell curriculum for K-5 English and language arts. The curriculum will include core curriculum, an assessment system and an intervention system for struggling students.

“Fountas and Pinnell have been leaders in literacy instruction for 30 years,” Boedecker said. “They have crafted a comprehensive program that we feel is going to give teachers a consistent language and consistent way to speak about kids and their learning.”

Carol Ruby, first-grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary, agreed.

“Fountas and Pinnell’s expertise in this subject is well-known,” Ruby said. “We looked at a variety of curriculums, and this is by far the best of what we’ve seen. It allows teachers to talk to each other in the same language, which is key.”

Another advantage of the curriculum is that it will come with nearly 3,000 new books – or 480 per grade level – Boedecker said.

“I’m on some group emails with teachers, and there are daily emails to the effect of, ‘I’m teaching this book. Do you have six copies?’” Boedecker said. “When you have to beg, borrow and steal books, that is a tough way to teach, and it’s not what is best for our kids. So to have a library of 480 books for a grade level is pretty exciting.”

The new curriculum will cost $172,870, Boedecker said, which includes $131,681 for the core curriculum, $27,650 for the intervention program, $2,230 for the assessment system and $11,309 for shipping for the curriculum.

District business manager Thomas Sarvey said there are two potential ways to pay for the new curriculum, including cash reserves and roughly $300,000 in funds that will likely be left over in the general fund at the end of the fiscal year in June.

Trustee Dave Belus said that while the new curriculum will come at a sizable cost to the district, it was worth the investment.

“We certainly want to do what is best for kids, and reading is such an important skill for us to develop,” Belus said. “Reading is foundational, and if you can’t read, you’re going to struggle throughout life. So I think this curriculum is certainly worth the investment.”

Trustee Margo Sabec agreed.

“I’m very supportive of this,” Sabec said. “It’s just a matter of finding the money to make it happen.”

The school board has not approved the purchase of the curriculum yet but will continue its discussion at an April 9 board meeting. The board will meet at 6 p.m. at Kaycee School.

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