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Illinois district selects new K5 ELA curriculum

Champaign Community Unit School District #4 chooses Reading Wonders after rigorous two-year research effort

The Champaign (Ill.) Community Unit School District #4 serves more than 9,600 students at 18 school sites, and includes more than 1,400 staff members. Trevor Nadrozny has been the director of curriculum for the last three years and was an elementary school principal in the district for 11 years. When Nadrozny first came to the position, of primary concern was the district’s K5 English language arts curriculum. “We had struggled with reading, where we are dealing with a significant achievement gap,” says Nadrozny.

“We had accumulated a number of different reading programs and curriculum resources over the years,” he says, which had become confusing and difficult for teachers to implement and use effectively. None of the existing curriculum resources provided adequate professional development. As a result, Nadrozny saw a clear need for implementing a new, unified K5 ELA curriculum in the district. Nadrozny formed a K5 ELA task force in 2011-2012 to lead the effort of researching options and selecting a curriculum.

Among the criteria identified by the task force were that the new curriculum be highly engaging and culturally responsive, be both easily integrated and easily differentiated, have adequate professional development support, and be aligned to the Common Core. It was also vital that the curriculum emphasize writing, as well as the five literacy components of phonemic awareness, phonics/word work, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. The task force, led by Nadrozny, identified four different curriculum options, which were piloted at nine different schools in two stages—the first in 2012-13 and the second in 2013-14. Nadrozny also hired an independent research firm to provide analysis of each curriculum option, as well as analyze the survey data gathered from the pilot schools.

The district’s curriculum department conducted site visits and gathered feedback from grade level teams, and then compared the results with the conclusions reached by the research firm. “We wanted an independent third party to be looking at the same things we were, to make sure we didn’t have any bias but were choosing the best curriculum,” says Nadrozny. After gathering and analyzing extensive data, the research firm, Nadrozny and the task force all confirmed that Reading Wonders from McGraw-Hill met or exceeded their criteria for a new K5 ELA curriculum for the district. Reading Wonders is a new reading program designed specifically for the Common Core. It uses a wide range of print and digital media to support research-based instruction. The program provides tools to help students build a strong reading foundation, access complex texts, find and use text evidence, engage in collaborative conversations, and write to sources. Every component and every lesson is designed for effective and efficient Common Core instruction.

Surveys of the pilot schools found that some 91 percent of teachers were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the Reading Wonders curriculum, significantly higher than the other piloted curricula. Ninety-one percent said Reading Wonders “provides engaging and independent technology-integrated activities for students to access throughout lessons.” And 100 percent of those surveyed said the Reading Wonders “curriculum materials are rigorous and meet student academic needs.” After obtaining board approval, the district has plans in place to have all materials and conduct professional development sessions during the summer of 2014, and fully implement Reading Wonders for grades K5 in the fall at all 11 elementary schools. “I have been impressed with all elements of Reading Wonders, and I have already recommended it to colleagues from other districts who are looking for a new ELA curriculum,” says Nadrozny. “We’re all very excited about the future.”

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