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New curriculums catalyze student learning
At North Crawford Schools
Fourth grader - ELA
Fourth grader Brennen Fradette presented to his class as part of the Eureka CKLA unit on inventors. Students read about famous inventions in history and practiced their speaking skills by presenting their very own invention pitch to the class.

NORTH CRAWFORD - Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Crawford School District made the decision to invest in a new elementary English language arts (ELA) curriculum. The curriculum ultimately purchased and deployed was ‘Core Knowledge Language Arts’ or ‘CKLA.’

The curriculum was purchased in 2021 and deployed in the 2021-2022 school year. Teachers devoted extra time in the 2020-2021 school year, and over the summer, to get up to speed to deploy the curriculum.

“Now after one year of using the new curriculum, I am so excited to see the improvement in our elementary ELA scores,” Elementary Principal Amanda Killeen said. “Parents have shared with us that kids like the topics the curriculum presents, and using this curriculum really helps to set North Crawford apart from other local school districts.”

Killeen remembered that the decision to recommend CKLA to the school board had resulted from a year-long study group composed of teachers and administrators.

“We dived into studying the science of reading, and it was alarming how much new information about how children learn best we weren’t taught in school,” Killeen said. “The process was teacher-directed, and they worked together to determine what their ideal curriculum would look like, and which of the various available options best fit with that.”

The timing for rolling out the curriculum probably couldn’t have been better. School districts throughout the state were pressed in 2021-2022 to help students  make up for learning shortfalls that resulted from challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Killeen attributes the district’s investment in the curriculum, as well as in hiring intervention staff to support students in catching up in both English language arts as well as in mathematics, with the significant improvement in student scores at the end of the year, compared with the beginning.

“The intervention teachers like Jamie Bearrows for ELA and Kristin Klein for math made a huge difference in helping our students to catch up this last school year,” Killeen said. “Their yeoman’s work helped to achieve a huge shift in student proficiency this last school year, and combined with the work of our teachers, really made the difference in getting our students back on track.”

Improved scores

In the Achievement Gap Report reviewed and approved at the school board’s June 2022 meeting, the improvements for first, second and third grade students were dramatic. First grade students began the school year with 20 percent of students in the ‘high risk’ of not meeting instructional objectives category, 35 percent at ‘some risk,’ and 45 percent at ‘low risk.’ By the end of the school year, 11 percent remained ‘high risk,’ 28 percent at ‘some risk,’ and 61 percent at ‘low risk.’

Second grade students began the year with 41 percent ‘high risk,’ 33 percent at ‘some risk,’ 22 percent at ‘low risk,’ and four percent exceeding expectations. By the end of the school year, 11 percent were ‘high risk,’ 29 percent at ‘some risk,’ 39 percent at ‘low risk,’ and 21 percent exceeding expectations.

Third grade students began the school year with 35 percent at ‘high risk,’ 38 percent at ‘some risk,’ 19 percent at ‘low risk,’ and eight percent exceeding expectations. By the end of the school year, 25 percent were ‘high risk,’ 33 percent at ‘some risk,’ 21 percent at ‘low risk,’ and 21 percent exceeding expectations.

Middle School

One expenditure of district COVID relief funds was for the purchase of a new reading curriculum for the middle school. The new curriculum is a companion to the updated curriculum for the elementary school – CKLA.

At a meeting in April of 2021, North Crawford 
School Superintendent Brandon Munson had informed the school board that the district would receive about $900,000 more in COVID relief funding.  This amount brought the total coming to the district from the three COVID relief bills to a total of about $1.5 million.

These last of the funds came to the district as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by the U.S. Congress earlier that month. The funds were part of a program known as ‘ESSER,’ which stands for ‘Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief’ as part of the ‘Education Stabilization Fund.’ The third round of funding was referred to as ‘ESSER III.’ 

ESSER I was part of the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill, passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020. ESSER II was passed by Congress in December of 2020. As a result of ESSER I, the district received $114,079 From ESSER II, the district received $459,514

Using funding from ESSER III, the district purchased a companion middle school ELA curriculum, ‘Amplify Reading,’ designed to carry forward the benefits of the elementary CKLA curriculum into middle school learning.

 The old middle school reading curriculum was one of the oldest in use in the district, purchased in 2006. Like the replaced elementary curriculum, it had very low ratings on the EdReports site.

Because the new curriculums were rolled out in the elementary and middle schools at the same time, it created efficiencies in teacher professional development. 

“What is really exciting about these improved elementary and middle school curriculums is the continuity of learning they will provide our students,” Killeen said.

Killeen said that the district has also evaluated the math curriculum currently in use in the district. She reports the district is currently in the second year of a ‘Wise Learn’ grant, which has allowed the district to do an audit of all curriculums being deployed.

“Our current math curriculum scored high,” Killeen said. “What we decided was that with math, we would dig into providing our teachers with additional training in use of the curriculum and the standards. We worked with a trainer, and that experience really catalyzed our work both with ELA and math.”