Schools piloting improved ELA programs

Schools piloting improved ELA programs

LINCOLN – Lincoln’s new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction has been working to upgrade the district’s curriculum materials in the wake of new legislation.

Kevin McNamara, who was promoted from Lincoln High School’s principal to assistant superintendent last year, said he’s looking forward to piloting new programs that have been chosen “with purpose and with teacher input.”

The state passed legislation last year asking districts to select and implement high-quality curriculum materials for the core subjects of ELA, math and science.

McNamara said Lincoln’s current English language arts program has a "red" rating on EdReports, an independent nonprofit that rates instructional materials.

Red ratings do not meet expectations, while yellow partially meets expectations and green meets expectations.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Education, only 28 percent of local communities use a green-rated math curriculum, and only 8 percent use a green curriculum.

Research found that in a single school year, students spent an average of 581 hours on assignments that were not considered high-quality. Districts have until June 2023 to make changes in ELA and math and until June 2025 for science and technology.

Lincoln will focus first on ELA for grades K-5, then 6-12 ELA and 9-12 math. McNamara said Lincoln’s math programs for grades K-8 are already in compliance.

The district is piloting three new ELA programs this year, which McNamara said would “provide a much more secure foundation for our students’ literacy needs” once selected.

“We’re really looking forward to implementing it,” he said.

Teachers will spend about 10 days with each of the three programs: EL-Open Up, Wit and Wisdom, and Wonders 2020.

“They’re all of a higher quality than what we’re using now,” McNamara said.

McNamara said Cumberland uses Wonders 2020 for K-2, and Westerly uses EL-Open. East Providence is piloting new programs along with Lincoln.

The programs are intended to be piloted over the next six weeks or so, but school closures will likely impact the rollout.

“I hope the teachers feel they’ve been supported in implementing the program, that it meets their needs and reduces the necessity of supplementing materials with outside resources that may or may not be at grade level or high quality. We want teachers spending time thinking about how to deliver lessons and putting their craft on delivery, not necessarily the selection and curation of materials.”

He commended teachers for stepping up to pilot the programs and showing their commitment to the students. “Reading and writing and literacy are the foundation for everything we do, so this is very important work,” he said. “Materials matter.”