IWCS adopts new curriculum, gives ‘ALL In’ update

Published 5:17 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

Isle of Wight County Schools will debut a new elementary reading curriculum next school year in accordance with the requirements of the Virginia Literacy Act and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “ALL In” plan.

In 2022, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, more commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed 33% of Virginia’s fourth-grade students were reading at grade level. The 2-point drop below the nationwide pass rate was the first the state had seen in at least 30 years.

That same year, Virginia’s General Assembly passed and, in 2023, expanded the VLA, which mandates every kindergartner through fifth-grader receive evidence-based literacy instruction beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

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On March 14, the School Board voted unanimously to purchase the new MyView Literacy curriculum developed by Savvas Learning, which has published textbooks since 1909, when it was known as Scott, Foresman and Co.

The new curriculum, published in 2020, features a blend of print and digital content.

According to Deputy Superintendent Susan Goetz, a committee of more than 30 teachers from each elementary and middle school in the county, reading coaches and administrators on March 4 unanimously picked MyView over runner-up Benchmark Advance.

IWCS Instructional Coordinator Haley Cooprider said the division is already making progress in reversing its share of the state’s declining literacy trend as evidenced by the division’s Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening, or PALS, data.

She estimates the new curriculum will cost around $600,000, roughly $530,000 of which will come out of the division’s $1.8 million share of state funds tied to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “ALL In” plan. The remainder will come from the division’s textbook fund.

ALL In, an acronym for attendance, literacy and learning, aims to combat chronic absenteeism and boost scores on Virginia’s Standards of Learning Exams. Youngkin announced the plan in September after SOL scores from the prior school year showed schools statewide were still below their pre-pandemic pass rates. The state requires divisions to spend 70% of their funding allotments on grades 3-8 tutoring, 20% on Virginia Literacy Act implementation and 10% on chronic absenteeism.

Isle of Wight’s two-year ALL In spending plan, which the School Board approved in December, allocates another $1.1 million for grades 3-8 tutoring. 

According to Goetz, 200 IWCS teachers are tutoring each day in all elementary and middle schools in reading and math. The division has hired an additional eight outside tutors using a combination of ALL In funds and its remaining share of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, pandemic relief money, which will expire Sept. 30. Approximately 1,300 third- through eighth-graders are currently receiving tutoring through ALL In, Goetz said. The tutoring consists of 30 minutes with a tutor and another 30 minutes using an online program.

As of February, 16% of IWCS students were chronically absent, which the state defines as having missed 10% or more of the school year. Kristy Buggs, the division’s new coordinator of student and family support, said the goal is to get all schools at or below 15%.

Smithfield High School and Carrollton, Carrsville, Westside and Windsor elementary schools are all presently below 15% but on track, based on February data, to see a slightly higher percentage of their students chronically absent compared to the 2022-23 school year.

Georgie D. Tyler Middle School, which at 44.9% had the highest chronic absenteeism rate of the division’s nine schools during the 2021-22 school year, had dropped to 16.2% during 2022-23 and as of February was at 9.5%. Windsor High School, which saw 41% of its students labeled chronically absent in 2021-22, had dropped to 18.3% by 2022-23 and was at 16.4% as of February.

Buggs told the School Board she recently asked a student identified as chronically absent what would make it easier for him to be at school, and was astounded when he answered, “a house.”

“If you just look at the numbers, sometimes that doesn’t tell a story … that student does not have a stable home,” Buggs said.