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Teachers review English curriculum
The “Wonders” reading series was recommended by the English Language Arts curriculum committee and adopted by the school board in 2017.

A committee of English teachers and administrators for grades 7-12 has been researching the next English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum adoption and will bring a recommendation to the school board in March.

Great Bend USD 428 has five standing curriculum committees to address the academic areas of math, ELA, science, social studies and healthy living. A sixth group, curriculum steering, is the over-arching committee for all of them. They oversee the entire curricular program for USD 428, according to Assistant Superintendent John Popp.

“All subjects and/or textbooks are reviewed by these committees before the curriculum is purchased or implemented into classrooms,” Popp said.

It takes two years of research to chose new materials. The first year is the research stage where committee members look at the district standards, create a rubric to use in reviewing textbooks and other resources, and then actually review the resources. They select one or two to move forward with.

“Year two, we try to pilot the selected resources on a trial basis,” Popp said. “Most of the time the companies provide complimentary pilot materials for these purposes. By the end of the first semester we try to make a decision to present to the Curriculum Steering Committee, then to the administration, and finally to the board of education in March or February for final approval.” 

Currently, while the ELA committee is wrapping up its recommendation for materials for grades 7-12, another committee is beginning to review materials for a potential K-12 social studies adoption next year.

The Healthy Living Committee is also meeting to review new standards and new materials that may be needed. Healthy living is taught at all grade levels, Popp said.

“Healthy Living is our curriculum that focuses on all types of health issues for kids,” Popp explained. This includes “everything from disease prevention (hand washing), to hygiene, exercise and healthy eating, appropriate behaviors for school, bullying, and positive ways to deal with conflict, etc.

“Healthy Living also includes the basics of what healthy relationships look like. The state also refers to this category as Social Emotional Learning as well as Health,” Popp explained.

New English standards

In 2017, the Kansas State Department of Education revised the College and Career Ready Standards in English Language Arts. The revisions were part of the legislated review process that must take place every seven years. Previous ELA standards were approved by the Kansas State Board of Education in December 2010.

Great Bend USD 428 adopted a new ELA curriculum for grades K-6 in March of 2017. Popp said the curriculum committee took the proposed changes into account during the adoption process.

“We have had people involved in looking at the new standards from the beginning,” Popp said in 2017. “These standards will be different, but not drastically different from our current standards.”

The school board heard the proposal for the K-6 ELA curriculum in February of that year, and adopted it in March. The ELA committee spent two years doing research and recommended the “Wonders” curriculum from McGraw-Hill for use at all five elementary schools.

The cost was $275,653 for the seven-year curriculum adoption. 

“There is a complete, robust curriculum and we think it’s worth the cost,” Popp told the school board.