HPISD Meeting Focuses on Reading Curriculum

Some in the Highland Park ISD community have raised concerns about how students are taught reading and phonics.

Specifically, ​​some Highland Park ISD parents have raised concerns about the Lucy Calkins’ (of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) curriculum for teaching reading and writing in kindergarten-eighth grade. Per the website for the curriculum, as part of the Units of Study, teachers lead classes in minilessons before students move on and apply the skills from the minilesson to independent reading, reading with a partner, or working with the teacher one-on-one or in small groups.”

“Why would we hold tightly to something that’s less than the best?” HPISD parent Blythe Koch said about the Lucy Calkins curriculum. “Our teachers are amazing, so let’s give them the best instructional materials … to teach our kids the fundamentals of reading and writing in the best way.”

To help compile and try to address some parent concerns, an education services ELA subcommittee including board of trustee members Bryce Benson, Maryjane Bonfield, Stacy Kelly, HPISD assistant superintendent for education services Lisa Wilson, and Superintendent Tom Trigg, has begun a “fact-finding” process that’s included consulting with outside experts, principals, and the trustees visiting University Park Elementary. Soon, they also plan to gather additional data from teacher and parent surveys.

“We feel like it’s very important to be very intentional and to make sure that we really dig in with the people we’ve been asked to see,” Kelly said. 

“I know Highland Park to be a district that is always willing to pursue excellence and to reevaluate what we’re doing and that is the request being asked of our community,” Bonfield added.

Kelly said the subcommittee will also review MAP (measures of academic progress) test data, STAAR test data, and other data points as part of the process.

Benson said they’re targeting ending the ‘fact-finding’ process by the end of February and will use the information to inform decisions about curriculum. 

“We recognize, all of us, that at some point, we need to move from the fact-finding process to the decision-making process,” Benson said. “We need to get to that point and do as much work as we can and be as thorough as we can, but at some point, we need to make decisions.”

In other news from the Feb. 16, 2022 school board meeting:

  • The board approved extending Trigg’s contract through June 30, 2027.
  • The board approved a resolution to pay wages for district employees during the weather closures February 3 and 4.
  • The board approved calling the May 7 election for the place 3, 4, and 5 seats on the Highland Park ISD board of trustees.

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 [email protected]

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