As I listened intently I was thrilled that the county has adopted the same three-part format that we have spent so many intensive professional development meetings and demonstration lessons refining with our teachers as they use the Readers' and Writers' Workshop. The new guided reading books and the 500 book library are welcome additions to our depleted classroom libraries. The county has developed a learning schedule that shows teachers how to use the resources day-by-day and is allowing teachers to customize the lessons with their own unique resources as long as they keep the same content.
The only problem I see is that the county is mandating that everyone in the county be within 10 days of the day on the calendar which means no more than 10 days behind or ahead of the specified learning day. While I understand the mobility rate in the county (students moving from one school to another) is the driving force for unification and consistency, that's the rub. In a school that had 97% of it's students last year working at 3.0 (proficient) or better, it would be educational malpractice to abandon the things that have been working for us in lieu of any new program. Of course, the new program is "research-based" and on the "approved" list for Florida schools but because the county is picking and choosing what to emphasize from the Teachers' Edition, we are not implementing the program with the same fidelity that any original research might have supported. In some ways the program is still "new" and untested. Don't get me wrong. In schools or for teachers that want or need intensive support this program is scripted. For teachers that really like the assurance of knowing exactly what they are going to teach each day, this program provides that kind of support - and does it well - especially with the explicit learning schedules supplied by the county on-line. However, if I walk into my first grade classroom on Monday and pre-test my children to find that 90% of them already know all of their letters and sounds (which will probably be the case), I cannot believe that anyone would suggest that I continue reviewing those letters and sounds for 9 weeks, because of what the Skills Block lessons suggest in the Teachers' Edition or Learning Schedule. Certainly that 10% of students who are not at mastery will continue to get small group instruction, but I would normally continue to move forward with the continuum of skills for the majority of my students - possibly even looking at the activities to challenge children. If children happen to move into our school, who have been at a slower pace, we would assess them immediately and provide small group safety net instruction until they catch up - just like we have been doing for years.
We applaud the district's sincere attempt to provide what we need in order to teach our children and welcome them into our continuing conversations and discussions. As a district, we are making giant steps forward and we, as a school, are anxious to be a part of that movement. I hope it is going to be a banner year for Duval County!