Elementary English Language Arts

 

Strong foundational literacy skills are essential for students to access learning in all disciplines and areas of life. Our newly adopted English Language Arts (ELA) instructional materials (Amplify CKLA 2022) are in alignment with Act 20 expectations and the burgeoning research on the science of reading and the need to focus on foundational skills (systematic phonics and phonemic awareness).  Investing in new instructional materials and providing professional development for staff in high leverage reading routines is a high confidence strategy to increase overall literacy outcomes, to close the opportunity gap for our students, and to meet the School Board expectations identified in Student Results Policy 2 (SR 2) - Student Academic Outcomes.   

The new materials will be paid from the existing 2023-2024 Teaching, Learning and Equity budget and will not increase the anticipated budget deficit for this year. We hope to recoup a portion of the expenditure from the State of Wisconsin as we anticipate the Joint Committee on Finance will approve the Amplify Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) materials as reimbursable with the state funds allocated for Act 20. 

 The Science of Reading

Wisconsin Act 20 Frequently Asked Questions

Some Facts About Amplify CKLA

  • Amplify CKLA underwent a rigorous state review over the past few months to be included on the Early Literacy Council reading list tied to Act 20 funding.

  • CKLA ranked the highest of the 4 programs on the list because of the strength of its research-based approach to teaching reading, and misrepresentation was not a concern throughout the process.

  • CKLA is one of the most widely used Science of Reading programs, serving more than 5 million students in districts across the U.S.

  • The Sun Prairie Area School District and the Wisconsin Early Literacy Council reviewed CKLA 2nd Edition, which differs from 1st Edition, which was authored solely by the Core Knowledge Foundation.

  • Please see the response to the NYC Culturally Responsive Sustaining Framework regarding the program's approach to DEIA. 

  • Amplify has worked to refine the representation of Native Americans in the 2nd Edition and continues to do so.

  • To address concerns about Native American representation, Amplify will work with districts to provide alternate lessons. They will maintain grade-level rigor and learning targets, as well as the overall research-based approach to teaching reading.

Correcting Some Misconceptions and Inaccuracies

Recent news articles about our District and Amplify CKLA have included inaccuracies and misconceptions that we would like to take a moment to correct:

  • The stories are referring mostly to a 2013 1st edition from Core Knowledge Foundation (NOT Amplify), while what was submitted for our review and to the Early Literacy Council was Amplify’s 2nd Edition (2022), in which Amplify made many updates from the original CKF edition of 2013.

  • For instance, an article highlighted a Kindergarten book cover and cited the words “roamed,” “costumes,” and “powwow.” which are a part of the Core Knowledge 1st Edition from 2013, but are NOT part of Amplify CKLA 2nd Edition that the Wisconsin Early Literacy Council reviewed.

  • Amplify is based in Brooklyn, NY, not Charlottesville, VA (that’s where the Core Knowledge Foundation is based).

  • Finally, Amplify has never claimed to have built the curriculum with NIEA. They did share that they partnered with NIEA to review some parts of CKLA, and some of their suggestions are reflected in the 2nd edition approved by the state. Amplify is reviewing and considering modifications for future products.

Statement on Equity

Our commitment to our School Board’s Equity Statement and Equity and Excellence through Continuous Improvement through our Equity Framework is our central guiding principle as we make decisions to aggressively address opportunity gaps. We make these decisions collaboratively with our staff. 

In accordance with the Sun Prairie instructional materials selection processes, the District empowered over 50 educators to work for over two years, studying the current research and identifying instructional materials that have been proven to increase literacy outcomes. The 5,000 hours these staff invested revealed there is no perfect set of materials. From the very beginning of this process, it was clear that, regardless of the instructional materials we selected, we would need to make modifications to meet our Equity Expectations. To this point, the State of Wisconsin is in disarray on the topic of ELA. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has a separate list of instructional materials from the Early Literacy Curriculum Council and both lists have been sent to the Joint Finance Committee with no decision to guide school districts in Wisconsin. As a nation, we have to look no further than the State of the Union address to see how divided people have become. 

Instructional materials companies create instructional materials to sell to as wide an audience as possible. They also gear their materials to states that have statewide textbook adoptions. This makes it necessary for us to empower our staff to judiciously use any instructional materials we adopt, ELA or otherwise. Our teams of educators analyze instructional materials for alignment with our equity expectations. Our teams are empowered to address areas misaligned with our equity expectations in three ways: To eliminate and replace content, to address the content directly and provide additional resources (such as multiple perspectives), or to adapt materials and supplement with materials that align to our expectations. Regardless of the ELA committee’s recommendations, our teams will have to engage in these processes, as they have had to with other full-scale curriculum adoptions. 

More than any other key point is our trust in our educators. From the process of analyzing state standards and appropriately establishing a vertical sequence, to evaluating instructional materials best positioning our schools to support students, to adapting and addressing specific areas that need our intentionality and commitment to equity, our staff have been and continue to be involved with a strong commitment to our values. 

Finally, we’re one of the first to collaboratively select, modify, and get prepared to implement instructional materials after the legislation’s passage of Act 20. Everything that the Sun Prairie Area School District endeavors to achieve is through the lens of equity, and we invite and appreciate community caring discussions about supporting the achievement of our students. 

Background on the English Language Arts Steering Committee

From the Spring 2024 edition of The Sun Prairie Experience community newsletter.

The English Language Arts Steering Committee is in year three of the Curriculum Renewal and Design Process. This group of over 50 educators has been working to decide which new English Language Arts resources best align with our style of teaching, good ratings from EdReports, fairness and inclusivity, a focus on the science of reading, and good knowledge content. The elementary team is currently exploring four different resources: Amplify CKLA, EL Education, Into Reading, and Wonders.

Scarborough's Reading Rope tool

The committee has strategically leveraged Scarborough’s Reading Rope to tailor curriculum for our teachers. This method addresses the multifaceted aspects of reading to deliver content aligned with our instructional goals and fosters a dynamic learning environment that accommodates diverse learning styles and abilities.

How do our educators develop curriculum

Here’s what the English Language Arts Steering Committee has done and is continuing to do throughout the year to make their decision:

August–December 2023:

  • created the criteria for reviewing the materials
  • made a list of resources to review
  • started the review process and narrowed down the options
  • listened to presentations from the companies that produce the resources
  • asked for quotes and more information
  • looked at the data and further narrowed down the options

December 2023–March 2024:

  • agree on evaluating the resources and how to go about evaluating them
  • use tools like the Great Lakes Equity Tool and a Core Literacy Evaluation tool to analyze the resources
  • explore the resources closely, examining at least two units for each
  • talk to school districts already using these resources, ask for data, and interview the people who produce the resources
  • review all the information and data gathered and narrow the options even more
  • make the final decision on which resources to use

March 2024–May 2024:

  • hold professional development sessions for teachers and educators as preparation for using the chosen resources.

June 2024–August 2024: 

  • review and modify Amplify CKLA 2022 Instructional Materials to meet SPASD Equity expectations.

Contact Information

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Rick Mueller

Director of Elementary Teaching, Learning, and Equity

608.834.6506

rlmuell@sunprairieschools.org

Deb Larson

District Literacy Coordinator

608.318.8133

dalarso@sunprairieschools.org