A guest post by Dr. Jeffrey Lawson and Dr. Cathy Nacrelli of Cecil County Public Schools in Maryland was published May 21, 2020 on Curriculum Matters. Read the full article here.

From the article: 

In 2016, we brought in a new curriculum called Bookworms, in order to align with key reading research. It puts a huge premium on work with authentic texts; kids read 205 authentic books between kindergarten and 5th grade during Tier 1 instruction! 

Bookworms is a relatively ‘scripted’ program, but its daily routines are tightly optimized to develop skilled readers. Foundational skills are emphasized, and frequent assessment is paired with targeted differentiation resources, which has really accelerated student growth for our learners.

And boy, has this work paid off. In Cecil County:And boy, has this work paid off. In Cecil County:

1. Our reading outcomes went through the roof:

We were clearly underperforming in literacy before the change. Of 24 counties in Maryland, we are #16th for wealth, but our reading outcomes were near the bottom of the state.

After changing curricula, our proficiency growth went up 11.4% points between 2016 and 2019, which made us the fastest-improving county in Maryland on the PARCC assessment. Our steady growth continued through this winter’s midyear assessments

After the curriculum change, we noticed that our 4th graders performed higher than the previous year’s 5th graders in MAP testing, which is normed against millions of kids. We’ve seen drastic jumps in all sub-groups and in all grades.

Perhaps the most powerful outcome: our intervention program is shrinking! Today, we have very few children needing Tier 3 intervention for reading. Before, children were doomed to repeating the same intervention without making much improvement. Now our kids are moving and growing!

2. Our students are demonstrably more engaged with reading. 

After we changed curriculum, our public libraries reported shortages of books with the authors and themes studied in Bookworms! The library asked for our text list, in order to expand its collection in these areas to meet the growing demand.

3. We empowered our teachers as instructional leaders. 

Our teachers say they have become actual teachers of reading because of Bookworms, which is so carefully aligned with reading research that it has an “educative” effect. Teachers can’t help but learn excellent practices in the initial years of using the materials. Their comfort with foundational skills is far higher, for example.

4. We gained a culture of collaboration.

When the curriculum was Do It Yourself, teachers were on different pages… literally.

Using a common curriculum created a systemwide Professional Learning Community. Our teachers now have a common language and understanding. In meetings, they no longer simply share out what they are doing in class – instead, teachers actually have substantive conversations about student work.

5. We improved equity.

Our previous “hodge podge” approach to curriculum resulted in significant discrepancies in instruction classroom to classroom. We’ve nipped that in the bud.

6. We saved money. 

We saved around $1M per year by using Bookworms instead of Journeys or Wonders, the other programs we considered. Best of all, a significant portion of our investment goes to PD each year. We’re investing more in teachers.

As district leaders, we aren’t the only ones thrilled with the outcomes. In surveys, 80% of our teachers give this new curriculum a thumbs up.

Read the Full Article Here

OUR__BW-lockup-cond-1Bookworms K–5 Reading and Writing, developed by Dr. Sharon Walpole with support from her team at the University of Delaware, is a research-based curriculum designed to make excellent instruction and differentiation easier. Available as an open educational resource (OER), Bookworms makes accessible everything a teacher needs for high-quality teaching and lesson planning. With very carefully sequenced, simple daily instruction that follows a repetitive routine and uses only whole texts (trade books), Bookworms also offers a teacher-friendly differentiation toolkit for tailored instruction, embedded supports for intervention and remediation, and differentiated foundational skills for maximum vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. To learn more about Bookworms K–5 Reading and Writing, click here.