English Language Arts Curriculum Review
In November 2009, Westwood’s Preschool through grade 12 review of English Language Arts (ELA) concluded with a presentation of the recommendations to Superintendent John Antonucci and the Westwood School Committee. The recommendations were prepared and presented by members of the English Language Arts Curriculum Review Committee. Review of the PreK-12 ELA program took place as part of the scheduled Curriculum Review and Development Cycle employed by the Westwood Public Schools.
The 22 member English Language Arts Curriculum Review Committee met for the first time in June 2008 and continued to meet as a whole committee and in level-specific subcommittees during the next 16 months. Committee members represented all levels of the district, as well as the Westwood community. Members included: the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development; the Principal and English Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator of Thurston Middle School; the English Department Head of Westwood High School; and the Elementary Literacy Coordinator. Members also included five elementary classroom teachers, two elementary literacy specialists, a library-media specialist, two middle school English teachers, one middle school reading teacher, three high school English teachers and three parent/community representatives.
The committee, accepted as its primary responsibility, an in-depth evaluation of Westwood’s current PreK-12 ELA program. The program review concluded with a set of recommendations that will guide program development; the next step in the review cycle.
The evaluation of Westwood’s current ELA program began with the identification of the data needed for program analysis – including evidence of access for all students, any elements of discrimination and integration of technology –and the means by which the data would be collected. The review committee determined that the current program data would be gathered through surveys of administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Surveys were developed for different populations and different levels reflecting the data needed from different constituencies. The surveys were administered and the data collected and analyzed as a key step in evaluating the current program.
Other methods were used to gather and analyze data and evaluate the current program. Additional sources of data included the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework Standards, national standards, state and national test data and the review of area and national ELA programs identified as exemplary. The committee also researched books, journals, and on-line sources.
In the research, committee members noted the repeated appearance of 21st Century Skills, defined as what students need for successful learning and leading in the 21st century. To learn more about the interface of 21st Century Skills and ELA education, Mary Hayes, the Massachusetts chairperson for The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, presented to the committee. In addition, committee members studied the 21st Century Skills advocated by the National Council of Teachers of English and by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s director of the Change Leadership Group, Tony Wagner. This research led to the evaluation of 21st Century Skills in relation to their teaching and learning in the English language arts area. The recommendations of the committee reflect the understanding that Westwood’s ELA program must prepare students for the rapidly changing academic, cultural and job-related skills needed in the 21st Century.
When Westwood’s ELA Review Committee completed its work in November 2009, it concluded its findings with a set of program recommendations. Core district-wide recommendations include:
Core district-wide recommendations are supported by clear and specific recommendations that will guide program development at each of the three levels, elementary, middle and high school. The recommendations of the ELA review will be developed and implemented district-wide and at each level over the next two years. The review also recommended an ELA subcommittee to focus on and align PreK-12 literacy topics in a continual cycle, bridging the time between major district-wide reviews. This recommendation will be carried out with the subcommittee beginning its work during the 2010-2011 school year.