School Board approves EL, literacy intervention curriculum

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

One year after approving new English language arts curriculum for all elementary students, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board voted to invest in related curriculum for English learners, special education students and students in need of literacy intervention participating in supplemental programs.

This school year, 99 teachers piloted WonderWorks and Wonders English Language Development curriculum at 11 school sites.

Findings indicated that the curriculum nicely aligned with core curriculum, Reading Wonders by McGraw Hill, which was implemented district-wide this school year; allowed for students reading below grade level to access standards; and incorporated research-based practices in interventions to support academic gains, according to administrators.

Declining Minnesota Common Assessment reading scores at the third-grade level prompted review of English language arts materials two years ago.

Third-grade reading proficiency is an important benchmark in schools, as research shows a correlation between third-grade reading proficiency and success in high school and beyond.

Scores dipped below the state average for the first time with 58.4 percent of third-grade students demonstrating proficiency in Anoka-Hennepin in 2015, 0.5 percentage points below the state as a whole.

A sense of urgency to get students back on track prompted review and ultimately approval of new curriculum at a price tag of $3.1 million.

“We continue to see that urgency show up in our special education, supplemental programs and our EL subgroups,” said Cory McIntyre, executive director of student services.

In 2016, just more than one-third of EL students demonstrated reading proficiency on MCA tests, and slightly more than one-fourth of special education students did the same, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

Across the district, over 5,000 K-5 students started the year reading below grade level, according to Ranae Case Evenson, director of elementary curriculum, instruction and assessment.

“What we were using in the past was not working for those students to allow them to achieve high growth and meet the grade-level standard,” said Kari Rock, director of elementary schools and supplemental programs.

The board unanimously approved another contract with McGraw Hill, this one for WonderWorks and WondersELD materials at a cost of $1.7 million, March 20. Six years of professional development is included in the contract. Annual costs of $27,863 are expected for consumable materials in years two through six of the contract.

Board Member William Fields asked if there is any recourse if academic gains are not realized.

Should that be the case, Superintendent David Law expects McGraw Hill will work with the district.

“We’ve been pretty happy with this publisher and how they’ve supported us,” he said.

Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent for elementary schools, said implementation and student performance are being closely monitored.

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