New Inclusive WCPS Curriculum Attracts Mixed Reviews from Parents | New

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Warren County Public Schools are implementing a new English language curriculum that explores themes of social justice, including human rights and how students can affect societal change, a initiative that elicited praise from some parents and questions from others.

The new Expeditionary Learning Program is used to some extent at several elementary schools in the district, including Warren, Lost River, Rich Pond, Jody Richards, Plano, Natcher, Alvaton, North Warren, Oakland, Bristow, and Richardsville elementary schools.

For fifth-graders, for example, the program includes academic modules that ask students to “consider the factors that contribute to the success of professional athletes as leaders of social change,” according to its website. Recommended texts for grade five include Pam Muñoz Ryan’s “Esperanza Rising,” an award-winning novel that focuses on the experience of a Mexican migrant who moved to California during the Great Depression.

Laura Hudson, who heads education for high schools in the district, said the program is not only aligned with the evolving academic standards of the state of Kentucky, but also aims to build solidarity and empathy. between students.

“It’s completely tuned in to research that shows us that socio-emotional learning and development are intrinsically linked to academic development,” Hudson told The Daily News in an interview earlier this month. “… So important for learning.

The program emphasizes critical thinking and writing, as well as the leadership values ​​necessary to foster respectful and inclusive cultures.

Expeditionary Learning Education was formed in 1991 from a partnership between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, a non-profit organization that aims to develop the leadership skills, environmental and social responsibility of students, according to the declared results of the organization.

“I think the inclusiveness of the text choices is what probably caught the parents’ attention,” Hudson said of the program.

At a school board meeting in November, two parents from WCPS praised the thoroughness and inclusiveness of the program. Taiwanna Bradford said she appreciates her fifth grader being faced with complex reading assignments and “learning to think critically”.

“My son is learning to read complex text, which means that one reading may not be enough… Each reading may have a different purpose for reading, and because he rereads a text he becomes much more attentive to detail. . He learns to write complete answers to open-ended questions, “using textual evidence and analysis, Bradford told the Warren County School Board on Nov. 19. “He learns to discuss texts with his classmates and to respectfully agree and disagree with them. He also learns that it’s okay to change his mind when presented with new information. He learns that, even while reading fiction, historical context is important to truly understanding a character’s fate.

Her son’s experience reading “Esperanza Rising” sparked conversations “rich and going beyond simple plot rephrasing,” Bradford said.

Dectric Jones, the parent of a fifth grader, echoed Bradford’s comments.

“I totally agree with the EL program and what it has brought to my child,” Jones said, adding that he had instilled an enthusiasm for reading in his daughter.

It also gave him a better understanding of other cultural backgrounds, he said.

“My daughter comes in and this is the first thing she wants to talk about, what she learns in this classroom, which includes engaging and sharing thoughts and things about the lives of others,” Jones said. . “She has learned so much.

In addition to the positive reviews, the addition of the new program also raised questions or concerns among some parents.

Hudson said WCPS has welcomed parental engagement.

“I think it’s because students are exposed to more current events, and therefore they ask questions about current events,” Hudson said. “They ask questions about current events, and in today’s climate, parents are asking, ‘Why are you asking that question? What’s coming up? What will become of this course? Where is he going ? “

Hudson said some parents asked about students studying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights rather than the American Bill of Rights or a module that prompts students to explore how athletes have often been up front -guarding for social change, using baseball player Jackie Robinson as an example. .

Hudson said WCPS used these questions as opportunities to provide more context (that the program, in fact, incorporates the U.S. Bill of Rights) or to modify assignment prompts (allowing students to search for anyone who has. drives social change, not just an athlete).

For their part, Bradford and Jones urged critics to keep an open mind.

“There are concerns, I guess, about the materials used, the content taught,” Bradford said. “I think it is important that all voices are heard in this matter.”

Of “Esperanza Rising” and any criticism the novel might have, Jones said, “I think they should really read the book before making any guesses.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

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