Leaders plan to ‘phase out’ Units of Study materials selected in 2019
After months of surveys of parents and district staff and discussions with literacy experts, changes appear headed for reading and writing instruction at Highland Park ISD.
A subcommittee of the board of trustees, including trustees Bryce Benson, Maryjane Bonfield, Stacy Kelly, Assistant Superintendent for Education Services Lisa Wilson, and Superintendent Tom Trigg, has recommended “phasing out” the instructional materials in use now.
“We are also committed to doing the phasing out and implementing new instructional materials in a way that is least disruptive to our kids as possible,” Benson said.
In 2019, the school board adopted Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study materials published by Heinemann for use in kindergarten through eighth grade.
According to heinemann.com, with the Units of study, teachers lead minilessons, then students apply skills gained to independent reading, reading with a partner, or working with the teacher one-on-one or in small groups.
HPISD parents have complained the Units of Study lack sufficient rigor and don’t have students reading traditional books such as The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird.
House Bill 3, a sweeping school finance bill passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019, also required specific phonics instruction and that K-3 teachers and principals attend Texas Reading academies that align with the science of learning reading.
That same year, upon the revision of the Texas Education Agency’s curriculum for English/language arts, HPISD formed a committee of 32 teachers, special education staff, instructional coaches, and administrators working at K-8 campuses.
The committee recommended selected materials from Heinemann’s in reading, writing, and phonics.
“HPISD does not use the Units of Study as its ‘curriculum’ as some districts across the nation have done,” HPISD chief of staff Jon Dahlander added. “Rather, HPISD purchased the Units of Study, along with other instructional resources, to support the curriculum written by HPISD teachers and administrators.”
The State Board of Education calls for new instructional materials for a subject area once members have adopted new or revised TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), as was the case for ELA effective the 2019-2020 school year. TEA executes an eight-year contract with publishers when new instructional materials are adopted. The eight years are often referred to as the adoption cycle. Districts may select materials from the SBOE-adopted list but aren’t required to do so. Districts are required to certify annually that they have instructional materials that cover 100% of the TEKS.
“Although stand-alone phonics materials were not part of the Proclamation and Commissioner’s List for the 2019-2020 adoption, the committee recommended the Units of Study for their explicit instructional approach combined with the ability for students to apply their learning while engaging in reading tasks,” Dahlander said.
Highland Park ISD’s process for ‘phasing out’ the Units of Study would be a ‘mid-cycle’ material adoption process.