I read the articles in both local papers summing up Monday’s Columbia School Board meeting and was disappointed to note there was not a word about the English Language Arts presentation. The district has been on a two-year journey to find the best ELA program that matches up to Missouri State standards and offers the best tools to successfully educate all of our kids.

In my opinion, teaching kids to read is the foundation of everything the district does. With that, I would like to provide some highlights of the endeavor to celebrate the difficult work our teachers and administrators have endured to make this happen with the hope that your reporters will take a more in-depth look at this important work.

Two years ago, the district began planning for a new English curriculum with a literacy committee of 50 people. Driving this was the knowledge that all of our elementary schools were not teaching the same way or along a similar timeline. That meant that our most mobile kids were falling behind. Mobility comes with poverty and means that some children may move twice or more during a school year. Of course, mobility isn’t the only reason. We want the best tools available to our teachers and kids.

We started with 11 different curriculums, each from a different publisher. Each curriculum was vetted to see if it aligned with Missouri State standards. From the 11, two were chosen as pilot programs with the winner to become our new ELA curriculum.

During the time leading up to this year’s trial, teachers, administrators and the project team worked countless hours to prepare the pilot program. Teacher groups were selected for each of the two pilot curriculums and then learned and prepared their lessons in their plan time and at home. This year, we have monitored both programs, Benchmark and Wonders. I personally visited Blue Ridge Elementary to see a Benchmark class in action and was pleased to hear that teachers were enjoying it and that student results were positive.

During each half of the school year, students are tested twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the half. This allows us to gauge their progress. It was interesting to see that both of the new curriculums had better scores than our traditional methodology. If you are interested in the scores, check out the ELA presentation here.

There is a clear winner.

I would like to thank all of the teachers and administrators who participated in the monumental study. The list of names is too long to post, but I am hoping your paper will take a more in-depth look at what was accomplished. It’s not easy to impress me, and the work that was done here is very impressive.

Paul Cushing is a member of the Columbia Public School Board of Education.

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