GCS’ partnership with American Reading Company will affect high school English classes in years to come

See our in-depth report on the ARC

English+teacher+Melanie+Huynh-Duc+stops+a+student+from+reading+%22Romeo+and+Juliet.%22+The+American+Reading+Company+will+be+replacing+this+classic+literary+work+with+%22Romiette+and+Julio.%22+
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GCS’ partnership with American Reading Company will affect high school English classes in years to come

English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc stops a student from reading

English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc stops a student from reading "Romeo and Juliet." The American Reading Company will be replacing this classic literary work with "Romiette and Julio."

English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc stops a student from reading "Romeo and Juliet." The American Reading Company will be replacing this classic literary work with "Romiette and Julio."

English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc stops a student from reading "Romeo and Juliet." The American Reading Company will be replacing this classic literary work with "Romiette and Julio."

Sarah Boggins, Zoe Stuckey, and Alexis Marvin

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“To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Romeo and Juliet.” “Great Expectations.”

These three classic literary works are currently taught in ninth grade English classes at Northwest. However, Guilford County Schools’ Balanced Literacy Program might supplant these texts with adolescent fiction such as “Uglies” and “Ender’s Game” as the core texts for ninth graders in subsequent years.

According to Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nakia Hardy, who was hired last summer, Balanced Literacy has been a program in place within Guilford County Schools for several years. However, starting in the 2016-17 school year, grades 4-8 will switch to a scripted curriculum created by the American Reading Company that requires specific core texts read aloud to students by the teachers and daily silent sustained reading of other texts selected by the students.

“By partnering with the American Reading Company, our students will have access to thousands of high-interest, culturally relevant books that are suited to their individual reading levels, regardless of their grade level,” Hardy explained in an email to GCS employees. “It will give students the opportunity to practice reading independently in the classroom for 15-30 minutes per day, every day.”

Originally, the plan was to require ninth grade classes to take part in this curriculum next year, but protests by high school English teachers and school board members led to it being “optional” for ninth grade next year.

“Through the sharing of [English teachers’] concerns, it appears that we have avoided the implementation of this program (for now) at the high school level,” school board member Darlene Garrett said in an email. “I still have grave concerns for this one-size-fits-all program.”

The plan is to expand ARC implementation to K-12 in subsequent years.

“There has been a lack of transparency throughout the entire process,” English teacher Alexander Wertz said. “[At] our training, there was no time for questions, and the answers we did get were lacking in depth.”

The American Reading Company is a private company sells its curriculum to school systems. It has been implemented in Baltimore City Schools, where Hardy previously was employed. However, one of the key concerns from teachers is the lack of data that shows whether or not it is successful.

“The ARC representative said that this program will help the higher achieving students, but the only examples of student growth we were given were from the lower end,” Wertz said.

While this program may have worked in the schools of Baltimore, some Northwest students feel as if this type of program would not work in a school of Northwest’s caliber.

“[It] doesn’t seem necessary,” freshman Clint Halterman said. “[Northwest is] one of the better schools; it would be a waste of time to read … if that’s the whole class [period].”

Junior Adithya Ghantae believes that the funding provided for the materials would have been better served at supporting arts programs throughout the county.

“The county has put forth $5.5 million, and it’s totally uncalled for,” Ghantae said. “What English teachers are doing now is working… that 5.5 million could have been used in arts programs so every student in any school has equal opportunities to be successful in the arts.”

Concerns were also raised that this large-scale curriculum change is being implemented while the school system operates without a permanent superintendent. Mo Green resigned earlier this year, and the role is currently being filled by interim superintendents Nora Carr and Terrence Young.

Ultimately, the purpose is to close the achievement gap in the county and to espouse a love of reading for all students. ARC states it will make “three shifts to access, equity and agency for all students.”

Though ARC’s curriculum will not directly affect Northwest next year, Hardy seeks to expand the program for all grade levels throughout every school in Guilford County soon.

“You’ll be hearing more about our efforts to increase resources for balanced literacy instruction,” Hardy said. “For our students to grow as readers, we must develop a love of reading and provide teachers with resources necessary to engage students as readers and writers within their classrooms every day. That is what our district implementation of balanced literacy along with our partnership with American Reading Company aims to do, and we look forward to seeing the results.”

 

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