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Conversation on MPS K5 ELA Curriculum

For more than 18 months, through discussions with educators, community leaders, experts, advocates and parents, common themes and recommendations have emerged about how to improve student academic outcomes. In our last video we interviewed teacher and tutor Sherri Lucas-Hall about the importance of professional development rooted in the science of reading, and the impact it has on instruction.

One of our group’s first calls last year was with Wendy Palk-Lundsgaard, an educator, board member of Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota, and national literacy consultant. We interviewed Wendy again this month, about her recent experience assessing Benchmark Advance v2018, the literacy curriculum used by MPS. Wendy was hired to review and train teachers in a suburban district in how to better implement and use it.

Please check out this video and share it with other MPS stakeholders.

For context, many state legislatures have taken actions to encourage or explicitly require evidence-based literacy curricula rooted in the science of reading. The Colorado Legislature, like many others, frustrated by slow growth in the academic outcomes of their students enacted the Colorado READ Act. The READ act empowered the CO Dept of Education to review and approve literacy curricula. The results of this review are in line with what many educators have shared with us:

  • Abundance of teacher and student materials were hard to manage

  • The foundational skills are introduced in an incidental manner, rather than explicitly, so sequence of skills instruction is not linguistically aligned and lacks the systematic sequential structure necessary for optimal foundation skill acquisition.

Montgomery County Public Schools, a 154,000 student district in Maryland, purchased Benchmark for the 2019 school year and shared similar observations as part of their curriculum review:

  • One challenge with the Benchmark Advanced curriculum is that it includes lessons and texts that lack cultural diversity.

  • Other challenges are a lack of sufficient development of foundational reading skills and technology support and integration.

Montgomery County has been partnering with Benchmark and pushing them to improve the curriculum and has accelerated their decision to upgrade to the 2022 version of Benchmark Advance based on improvements to the curriculum.

Conversations with MPS District leadership have shared it is hard to evaluate the curriculum when only around 1/2 of the teachers have implemented it. The district goal this year was to get teachers using Benchmark Advance.

Please share this video with teacher and principals. How has their experience with Benchmark gone? Is the curriculum meeting the needs of our students and educators? Do they agree or disagree with the observations shared?

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