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Thursday, February 18, 2016

A rare victory in Duval for parents and teachers

Despite overwhelming disapproval of the elementary school ELA curriculum Engage NY/Duval reads, the superintendent was poised to expand it to middle school. Then something happened.


In Cowart’s classroom at Frank H. Peterson, she said she can’t deny Paths is the most aligned with state standards, but it’s too repetitive and not engaging. She doesn’t like it.
“You spend so much time going over and over and over the same two or three pieces of literature for literally weeks, and the fact that it is so scripted,” she says. “I said in the committee meeting, 'If we are trying to make kids hate school, we couldn’t do a much better job of it than we’re doing right now.'”
The School Board shared some of Cowart’s hesitation at a January meeting. So Vitti enlisted 29 middle-school teachers to review Paths and its runner-up. This time they also looked at user-friendliness, and 70 percent of the teachers picked the runner-up, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt Collections, or HMH.
School Board member Becki Couch says she’s more comfortable with that one because it provides more supplemental materials like online help, Weekly Reader-style booklets and textbooks.
“I think that's been a big complaint that we’ve heard with the K-through-5, and I just wanted to make sure that we don’t really go down that road with middle-school curriculum,” she says.
That elementary curriculum came from the same developer as Paths.
This week, Vitti changed his recommendation to HMH, though he says most principals prefer Paths. HMH is also a little cheaper, at around $2.2 million over three years.

What gave the board hesitation? Well it had to be all the teachers and parents speaking up letting them know what a disaster the current curriculum has been. It goes to show that the super cannot just bulldoze his way through the district. That he has bosses and the school board have bosses too, and those are the people of Jacksonville.

Now we just have to hope this is just step one and by the start of next year elementary schools will once again have a decent curriculum and Engage NY is in the dust heap where it should be with all the other latest and greatest curriculums.

So parents and teachers embrace this victory as they have been far and few between but not only that let it embolden you to not only believe things can be better but to work to make them so.   


  1. "This week, Vitti changed his recommendation to HMH, though he says most principals prefer Paths. "

    Why does anyone care what the principals prefer? They are not the ones using the curriculum. What a ridiculous comment.

    1. Vitti has to save face somehow. Admitting he was wr..wrr... wrrrrong would be a sign of weakness & he can't have that.

      For what it's worth most of the principals I know think the elementary curriculum is a joke. But they can't say that to the higher ups.

      It is what it is.

  2. I am glad he changed his recommendation. I don't believe EngageNY should be used for elementary schools either. Teachers don't like EngageNY. Maybe first year or TFA teachers might prefer the curriculum because it is all scripted. They won't have to create lessons plans based on standards or create authentic assessments, it's all done for them. The problem is when the curriculum doesn't address the varying needs of students. Elementary school students deserve better, so when they get to middle school they understand how to deconstruct literature, analyze text, and use resources to to critically think. These are skills that transcend technology. I am relieved EngageNY will not be expanding and I hope that this will the only year teachers have to use it.

  3. Please, please let the school board make the same decision for elementary schools. We need an updated, quality basal to serve as a foundation for instruction. We need the supplemental material to use in guided reading groups and to provide our students with grammar curriculum.

    However, I fear the school board will allow the district to sit on their pride and push for the use of Duval Reads again next year. Unfortunately, I do not believe anyone at 1 Prudential is ready to admit they made a mistake in choosing to use Engage NY. It's too bad. If they only knew the boost in morale they would provide their ELA teachers if we felt that they listened to our needs. Even more so, if we knew they respected us as professionals.

  4. Since the district loves their surveys so much why don't they just survey all of the elementary ELA teachers whether they want to keep Engage NY or have a high quality basal like Houghton Mifflin. I know there is the claim out there that a committee with teachers on it picked this curriculum but I have yet to find one teacher that approved of, or likes, this curriculum.

  5. This is what happens when you put someone in charge of reading that does not have the background. Some people are under the impression that because you are an English major that you are automatically a reading specialist! Let the teachers in the classrooms decide what to use that will best benefit their students. They did go to school to learn to do this!