Spring Valley School Board approves new K-5 reading, writing curriculum

Posted 7/5/22

By Reagan Hoverman SPRING VALLEY – On Monday, June 20, the Spring Valley School Board unanimously approved a new K-5 English/Language Arts (ELA) reading and writing program called HMH Into Reading, …

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Spring Valley School Board approves new K-5 reading, writing curriculum


By Reagan Hoverman

SPRING VALLEY – On Monday, June 20, the Spring Valley School Board unanimously approved a new K-5 English/Language Arts (ELA) reading and writing program called HMH Into Reading, which the board and school district hope will improve reading and writing testing scores among Cardinal youth.

The HMH Into Reading program is a modern approach to ELA for elementary school students. The approval at the board meeting means that the school will agree to a three-year contract with the company that is slated to cost between approximately $187,000 and $211,000 – most of which are upfront costs.

The school staff, led by Principal Dan Mc Guire and the contracted assistance of Theresa Stanley, a reading specialist, developed a list of criteria and standards by which any potential new program was to be judged.

Establishing those criteria, which was heavily based on the Wisconsin Academic Standards, was done by each of the grade level teams at the elementary school. Once that had been established, each grade level team had clear criteria for what they wanted the future curriculum to be and could begin looking for an adequate upgrade.

Once the grade level teams had made their desires clear, Stanley began identifying re- sources that would fit the desired criteria that  each grade level established. Stanley identified three potential suitors, including Bench mark Advanced, HMH Into Reading, and Reading Wonders 2023.

Near the end of the school year, teachers throughout the Spring Valley Elementary School had the opportunity to pilot the new reading programs and get hands-on experience with each. After those approximately two-week program pilots, teachers provided their feedback which heavily favored the HMH Into Reading program.

“We went through and had grade level meetings to discuss and evaluate each resource,” McGuire said. “Each grade level team had a voice to speak about how they felt about each resource. Theresa and I met with each  grade  level  and  discussed  the  benefits  and disadvantages of each program.”

Spring Valley currently operates its K-5 curriculum on the Wonders program, which it has been using since approximately 2013. Two Spring Valley second grade teachers, Bethany Bird and Karli Helland, attended the school board meeting to speak about their experience with Wonders and the potential benefits of moving to HMH Into Reading.

“One thing we noticed with our old Wonders reading program was that we were doing a lot of adding in our own resources and going on Teachers Pay Teachers and buying things to beef up the program we already had,” Bird said at the meeting. “That was one of the things we really looked at with those three pilots, which program had the tools and resources there for us that we need. We feel like (HMH Into Reading) has what we need.”

The total cost is still being calculated, but the given estimate for the resources, instruction and installation of the HMH Into Reading program is between $187,000 and $211,000. That cost is primarily an up-front cost to get the program going and includes a three-year contract with the company.

Spring Valley Superintendent John Groh spoke about how big of a decision it is to shift a reading and writing program at the elementary level. It may be a three-year contract, but in his previous experience, these are sometimes decade-long decisions.

“Typically these are 5-10 year decisions,” Groh said. “You don’t switch very quickly and I would guess Spring Valley is similar. You can see why up-front costs are substantial and a lot of them are one-time costs, but there are some ongoing costs.”

A portion of those up-front costs would be for materials such as workbooks that kids could mark up as they go through lessons. Right now, Spring Valley has traditional textbooks that can’t be written in. Helland spoke about how the pilots opened their eyes to the value of the new program.

“When we piloted, each student got a workbook and they were able to underline, highlight,  take  notes,  that’s  a  lot  different  from what we have now with Wonders,” Helland said. Bird quickly chimed in with an anecdote. “If we give them a test on Friday and ask them to underline or circle key details, they say, ‘We haven’t gotten to do that all week and now you expect us to do it on an assessment?’ With a workbook, they can do it all week long.”

In addition to immediately improving the overall reading and writing curriculum, which past test scores prove is needed at the elementary level in Spring Valley, a state-of-the-art program would provide consistency across all grades and improve overall student learning.

“Right now, if I’m a student in Bethany Bird’s class, I might be getting something different  than  a  student  in  Karli  Helland’s  class,” Groh said. “Every student deserves that same opportunity to get amazing materials. It shouldn’t be up to you to purchase your own things and search for them, in my opinion.”

While the Spring Valley Elementary School is currently on the Wonders program, the middle school uses HMH Into Literature, the natural evolution of the HMH Into Reading program, meaning that students would be better prepared for middle school after having HMH Into Reading at the elementary level. Groh emphasized how big of a decision this is to the board shortly before they voted.

“This is a huge commitment and I don’t think you will be making many decisions bigger than this,” Groh said. “As far as impact on students and teachers too, this is going to be a tremendous undertaking.”

After  Groh’s  final  comments,  the  board  unanimously approved HMH Into Reading and its three-year contract to be implemented starting next year in grades K-5 in the Spring Valley Elementary School.

Valley School Board Treasurer Sandy Jacobs (left), Spring Valley Superintendent John Groh (middle) and Spring Valley Elementary School Principal Daniel McGuire (right) sit together at the board meeting on Monday, June 20. McGuire was instrumental in the search for a new reading and writing program. At the meeting, Groh reminded the school board that this decision is a long-term commitment to the program. Photo by Reagan Hoverman