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Teachers propose 'rigorous' English curriculum
BOE will vote on proposal
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Great Bend English teacher Lynn Stos, left, talks to the school board Monday about a proposed English Language Arts curriculum for grades 7-12. The board will vote on the adoption in March. Others English teachers who were presenters were Renee Buntain and Anne Drees, shown here. Presenters not pictured: Kayci Strickland and Cathy Lewis.

English teachers for Great Bend Middle School and Great Bend High School are recommending “myPerspectives,” by textbook publisher Pearson, for the next curriculum adoption at Great Bend USD 428. Members of the English Curriculum Committee presented their recommendation to the school board on Monday.

Teachers have used the myPerspectives materials as a pilot program since last school year, said Kayci Strickland, one of the committee members. “Pearson has increased the rigor in all of the genres that students are reading,” she said. The publishers have also increased the relevance of the material by regularly updating current-events videos related to the units.

English instructor Cathy Lewis especially liked the resources for English language learners, which are included and embedded into each text and lesson. The teachers said this is also helpful for students if English is their first language.

Renee Buntain said this curriculum teaches students to become “active readers” and it teaches to the state standards. Teachers will no longer “teach the story,” but will go deeper. This will require students to learn to construct arguments of their own, making written and oral presentations. Buntain said this curriculum demands more of students and teachers. “It is rigorous — that’s what we’ve been missing,” she said.

“We’re not reading novels anymore,” Buntain said. “We’re analyzing text.”

“Students have to get up in front of the class and publicly speak,” said Lynn Stos. Instead of textbooks, they’ll use workbooks they can mark up with highlighters as they are challenged to “really think about what’s going on.” Grammar, reading and writing — and writing well, will all be taught. In short, it makes students listen, take notes, and think, she said.

“I’ve taught for 35 years,” Stos told the school board, but this English curriculum is different from what teachers are used to. “It ‘moved my cheese.’ It’s challenged me, but made me a better teacher.”

Strickland noted that students will be reading historical documents such as The Declaration of Independence. This also helps make the lessons cross-curricular. While it’s not a history class, students will be reading about events such as the Holocaust or the American Revolution and asking questions.

“It’s more real-world reading that our kids will need,” she said.

Superintendent Khris Thexton said it will cost about $210,000 to adopt this curriculum, if the board approves it. Monday’s presentation was a “first reading” and approval for new curricula typically comes after a “second reading.”

At least one school board member voiced support for the proposal on Monday. At the end of the presentation, board member Deanna Essmiller commented, “I think anything that gets teachers this excited about what they’re doing has to be good.”