HPISD Trustees Approve ELA Materials

After months of consultations and feedback from experts and the community, the Highland Park ISD board of trustees has decided what will replace the Units of Study materials published by Heinemann for teaching reading and writing in grades K-8, which had been in place since 2019.

The board on June 23 approved the adoption of the Open Court Reading Foundational Skills Kit materials from McGraw Hill for K-3 phonics, Open Court Reading materials from McGraw Hill for reading and writing in grades K-5, and SpringBoard ELA materials from CollegeBoard for grades 6-8. The new materials will be implemented with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

“In multiple conversations we had with the consultants, we talked about the fact that a resource is just a resource and we’re writing our own curriculum, and they are going to peruse the resource carefully this summer,” trustee Bryce Benson said.

Benson serves on the district’s ELA subcommittee with fellow trustees Stacy Kelly, Maryjane Bonfield, Assistant Superintendent for Education Services Lisa Wilson, and Superintendent Tom Trigg.

“For example, if there is a text for third grade that’s not as rigorous as the consultants think it should be, then we’re going to identify another text that’s appropriate, so I feel very comfortable about rigor and our own curriculum writing process,” Benson said. “There was consensus among every member of the ELA subcommittee and the consultants, which I think is significant.”

The Highland Park ISD board of trustees approved phasing out the Units of Study materials in April and the district hired Robyn Hartzell, a former teacher who also has experience as an instructional coach, interventionist, trainer, consultant, and program coordinator at the campus and regional levels, and Dr. Thea Woodruff, professor at the University of Texas, Meadows Center researcher, and the principal author of the Texas Reading Academies, as consultants to guide the district through the process of adopting new materials.

School district officials estimated the cost of implementing the materials at between $1 million and $2 million, not including the costs of the services of the consultants the district hired to guide them through the process of phasing out the Units of Study materials, although Trigg said the cost will likely be closer to $1.5 million.

HPISD will primarily use a portion of available Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) supplemental funds to cover the costs of the new materials and the purchase will not impact the district’s year-to-year budget. 

“One-time revenues like ESSER funds help the district fulfill this type of need without taking away from recurring expenditures like salaries,” Bonfield said.

As for the consultants, district spokeswoman Tammy Kuykendall said a total of $42,000 was encumbered to cover the initial costs of their services as the district worked through the materials selection and review process. Trigg said they will likely continue working with the district through the process at least through the 2022-2023 school year.

HPISD English Language Arts teachers in grades K-8 will receive targeted professional development on the selected materials in preparation for use with the start of the new school year.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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