Process Leading to New Elementary Literacy Curriculum Is Underway

January 29, 2024

The process leading to adoption of a new literacy curriculum for students at Davis and Lane schools is underway.

A 30-member District Literacy Leadership Team met Thursday and will continue for the next four months to undertake a review of core programs, culminating with an intensive schedule in May. The group is being advised by the Hill for Literacy, which specializes in identifying optimal literacy plans. 

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tricia Clifford briefed the School Committee on Tuesday, explaining that there is a database of rated literacy programs. Dr. Darci Burns, executive director of the Hill for Literacy, “will walk us through what to look for,” she said.

“Once we look at all the different programs, the goal is to get it down to three,” Clifford said. “We will have publishers come and present to us and answer questions. Based on all the information and presentations, we will make a recommendation to the School Committee.” 

The administration and School Committee approved transitioning to a new elementary grades literacy curriculum in the fall, after months of criticism and complaints from teachers and parents. The new program is a top priority for the superintendent of schools and School Committee, and they hope it will launch at the start of the next academic year.

Although there is uncertainty about the cost since the program selection is still several months away, the School Committee budget is $170,000. In addition, the committee will seek a $210,000 transfer from the town reserve fund to cover startup costs.

A district administrative team has already met several times to build the agenda for the process and address questions, Clifford told the committee. She is joined by Andrea Salipante, English language arts curriculum coordinator in kindergarten through fifth grade; Davis Principal Beth Benoit; Lane Principal Rob Ackerman; and Director of Special Education Marianne Vines.

They are also participating on the literacy leadership group, along with classroom teachers, special-education teachers, the METCO director, two literacy specialists, two instructional coaches, and four parents, two each from Davis and Lane schools. 

“I can’t say enough about this great group. They really care,” Clifford said.

In preparation for adoption of a new literacy curriculum, administrators and teachers are taking 10-module respective courses called Science of Reading, Clifford reported. Enrolled are all 49 elementary school classroom teachers and 24 special-education teachers as well as the seven elementary literacy specialists, seven elementary English language teachers, two instructional coaches, and four speech counselors. 

“Both principals have given up administrative time so teachers have time to do the modules,” Clifford said. The program is provided by Hill for Literacy and endorsed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The assistant superintendent also noted that she has conferred with Kelsey McCarthy, English program administrator at John Glenn Middle School, regarding the transition from fifth to sixth grade at the start of the 2025-26 school year. 

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