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Empowerment schools to switch literacy texts

By Paul Socolar on May 10, 2010 10:12 PM

Six years after standardizing the textbooks and instructional programs for all of its schools, the District is now planning a switch in its literacy texts for grades K-8, but only in its Empowerment Schools - the schools that have repeatedly failed to meet performance targets.

The District's 2010-11 budget, presented to City Council on Monday, includes a $10 million budget line for new textbooks, and the District plans to purchase the Imagine It! series by SRA for grades K-6 and literacy materials by Glencoe for grades 7-8, according to a District spokesperson

SRA is also the publisher of the Corrective Reading and Corrective Math remedial programs now used in Empowerment Schools. Both Glencoe and SRA are now subsidiaries of textbook giant McGraw-Hill.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said that the Empowerment Schools need to make a change and focus more on skill development. "The young people in our Empowerment Schools at every grade level lack strong basic skills. We've found that to go to a curriculum that's much more structured - much more teacher-directed - has been successful."

In speaking to City Council,  Ackerman referred to the proposed new curriculum materials by the name "Open Court," which is actually another literacy series produced by SRA. Some describe Imagine It!, released in 2008, as a successor to Open Court.

Since 2004, the District has been using Harcourt Trophies and Holt Elements of Literature as its standard core curriculum literacy texts in grades K-8, and those materials will continue to be used everywhere but the Empowerment Schools. Key components of the District's core curriculum materials are planning and scheduling timelines for its K-8 teachers, which are built around the Harcourt and Holt materials.

Ackerman said that departing from the use of standardized materials across the District "is not an issue."

"This program is very much in alignment with our state standards," she said.

Comments (7)

Submitted by Announymous (not verified) on May 11, 2010 8:05 am

Again, Ackerman is assuming all teachers need a script in "empowerment" schools and all students are remedial.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 11, 2010 5:07 pm

Big surprise! More McGrawHill Glencoe all the way around! Just like the new and nonsensical Benchmark Tests that do not use PDE/PSSA language, the Corrective Reading Materials, etc..... Someone is getting a deal, and it isn't our children!!!!

Submitted by Meg McGettigan (not verified) on May 20, 2010 2:41 pm

Now, Let's all read together...
Kickbacks
line my pocket
who cares about our kids?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 20, 2010 8:43 pm

I'm sure SRA will be happy that Philly is using them more since the Oxford, PA school district is dropping them as of this year.

Submitted by mr s (not verified) on May 22, 2010 11:58 pm

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said that the Empowerment Schools need to make a change and focus more on skill development. "The young people in our Empowerment Schools at every grade level lack strong basic skills. We've found that to go to a curriculum that's much more structured - much more teacher-directed - has been successful."

I was told by all levels at the district that we need to have less chalk-talk and more cooperative learning - teacher directed seems like the opposite

Submitted by Angela Chan on June 13, 2010 10:12 pm

At least this isn’t coming as a surprise like CR/CM did. We will be receiving training this week, during the summer, and during the first days of school in September. Although I have heard a few people voice their thoughts on Imagine It, I will keep an open mind and withhold judgment until after familiarizing myself with the new reading series.

I will also be looking to answer these questions as we go through training:

1. Empowerment School teachers have been told there will only be teacher directed whole group instruction with this new reading series. How effectively will this reading program help me to fairly and accurately assess students’ needs and progress? Can this program effectively replace interventions in small groups or guided reading?

2. We were also told that there will be a heavy phonics component. Will this duplicate what students will already be receiving in Reading Mastery or Corrective Reading?

3. We were also told that there is an intervention component that comes with Imagine It, and that it will replace Corrective Reading for rising 4th (and 5th?) graders who tested into CR level C. If this is true, many of my current 3rd grade students who are strong readers will be receiving interventions from this reading program during CR time next year. Will it be appropriate and challenging enough for them?

4. What will the literacy block look like when this reading series is combined with Reading Mastery/CR? How will it change lesson delivery? A strong foundation in the basics is, without a doubt, necessary. But will there be room for student voice and active engagement with reading and writing?

We shall find out soon enough.

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