The Boulder Valley School District recently received approval from the Colorado Department of Education for its five-year plan to replace its elementary reading program, which is not part of the state curriculum. approved list.
Chalkbeat Colorado reported that 15% of school districts in the state have been ordered to replace shoddy elementary reading programs. The READ Act, approved in 2019, requires all districts to use a science-backed reading curriculum to teach students in kindergarten through third grade.
Boulder Valley is to replace the Fountas & Pinnell classroom, which was adopted by the school district in 2018 and rejected by state reviewers in 2020. This adoption also included Fundations, an additional phonics program that is on the state’s approved list.
In the letter outlining his plan, district officials wrote that they were concerned that the state was “imposing significant program change without providing the funds to purchase the equipment and training necessary for successful implementation.” “.
The letter goes on to say that off-cycle adoptions are difficult for teachers, who “have never been under more pressure” due to factors including the pandemic, the mass shooting at King Soopers and the Marshall Fire.
The district’s plan calls for an initial review of state-approved reading programs that is expected to last through May, with the goal of identifying programs that work well with foundations and include a Spanish component so they can be used in bilingual bilingual schools.
In June and July, the district plans to train K-5 teachers who have not yet received training in an Orton-Gillingham-based approach to teaching students to read. According to the district, most K-3 teachers are already trained in the structured literacy approach, which is often used with dyslexic students.
“This will provide the knowledge needed to ensure that a new science-based and evidence-based approach will be implemented with fidelity,” according to the letter. “This knowledge must come first before any new material is introduced, otherwise the material alone will not help educators meet the reading needs of students.”
In the fall, the district’s reading department plans to get feedback on the programs, including from culturally and linguistically diverse educators and the district’s dyslexia advisory team. In the spring, the district plans to issue a request for proposals for reading programs and have vendors present the programs to a review committee, then present the committee’s recommendation to the school board for approval.
A few elementary schools would pilot the new K-3 materials in the 2023-2024 school year, providing feedback and collecting data. The remaining schools would begin using the new curriculum in the 2024-25 school year in those early grades, with the district considering adding fourth and fifth grades in the 2026-27 school year.
In a letter endorsing the plan, Associate Commissioner of Student Learning for the Colorado Department of Education, Melissa Colsman, wrote that the Department of Education “recognizes the legitimate and unique challenges that BVSD faces and sees that the plan indicates a commitment to the science of reading and a thoughtful process to achieve compliance.
She also called for an annual meeting to discuss district progress.
The Colorado Department of Education also sent letters in October to Boulder Valley and the St. Vrain Valley School District, directing them to replace the ReadyGEN reading program. Boulder Valley uses the program in three schools, while St. Vrain uses it in all of its elementary schools.
St. Vrain challenged the state’s decision that the district should replace the program, noting that the state’s review of the program found it to be scientifically sound, but did not make the list approved due to other issues. The state has since reversed its decision and allows districts to continue using the program, although they are not permitted to use READ Act funding to purchase ReadyGEN equipment.