Shawnee Mission approves $3.5M for new elementary English Language Arts curriculum

Crestview student reading

Shawnee Mission has approved a new English Language Arts curriculum for all elementary students after a months-long pilot program. The $3.5 million expenditure purchases two separate resources from textbook giant McGraw-Hill, including one for K-5 grades and one for grade 6. Above, a Crestview Elementary student reads. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The Shawnee Mission school board has approved new English Language Arts curriculum for elementary students.

Why it matters: The $3.5 million expenditure will buy an English Language Arts curriculum for grades K-6 for the next six years. The curriculum features two resources, one for kindergarten to fifth grade and a separate resource for sixth grade.

Sixth grade teachers emphasized their appreciation to the board of education for allowing a separate resource, because the grade is technically in the sixth to eighth grade band at the state level.

Background: A group of six Shawnee Mission elementary teachers and Krista Carson, elementary curriculum coordinator, were tasked with finding resources that fit student and teacher needs districtwide.

The group worked for a year-and-a-half researching different curricula, conducting a pilot, gathering student feedback and teacher evaluations before ultimately landing on two ELA curricula published by textbook giant McGraw-Hill.

Special education instructional facilitators and English language learners instructional coaches also examined the resources.

Heather Ousley, an at-large board member, said the group’s work highlighted the importance of involving educators in the process of making decisions that impact student learning.

The details: The first resource is Open Court for kindergarten to fifth grade, and the second is StudySync for sixth grade students.

With an estimated 14,400 students in grades K-6, the $3.5 million price tag ends up being roughly $40 per study a year, according to board documents.

Both resources come with six-year access, print and digital materials and professional development for teachers.

Open Court focuses on foundational literacy skills and work study kits, intervention guides and more, according to board documents.

StudySync comes with digital resources and English language learner support, according to board documents.

According to board documents, teachers who were part of the McGraw-Hill pilot said the curriculum checked off important factors like text quality and building core knowledge, but also addressed factors like word recognition, foundational skills, language comprehension and student and teacher supports.

Key quote: “I have never had a lot of students read an excerpt in our program and then want to actually go out and get it at the library,” said Emily Alvarado, a Tomahawk Elementary sixth grade teacher part of the group that researched the curricula. “I would say about a fourth of my class has read an excerpt and then been like, ‘do you think this is in our library?’ and then actually read that novel.”