This week, the Knowledge Matters Campaignvisited Sumner County as part of a national tour that highlights schools and districts across the country using high-quality instructional materials to enhance student engagement and literacy. The district was featured for the work they are doing to foster students’ love of reading and writing as part of their adoption of a new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, Wit and Wisdom.
“The Knowledge Matters School Tour highlights schools that are committed to providing teachers and students with access to high-quality ELA instructional materials that build students’ knowledge of the world as it teaches them to become strong readers and writers,” said Barbara Davidson, Executive Director of the Knowledge Matters Campaign.
During the tour, national instructional experts, representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education, and state and local officials visited Vena Stuart and Station Camp Elementary schools to interview principals and teachers, observe classrooms, review student work, and hear from school leaders, teachers, and parents through a round table discussion about the impact the curriculum is having on student achievement.
“Sumner County made the decision two years ago to implement a high-quality ELA curriculum, and this move has had a transformative impact on how both teachers and students approach reading and writing, said Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Commissioner of Education. “We look forward to supporting them as they continue down this path for many years to come.”
Both the school tours and round table discussions highlighted many common success stories that are indicative of the use of high-quality ELA instructional materials.
- High-Quality Instructional Materials Support Struggling Students: One of the biggest impacts that teachers and school leaders highlighted was that the new curriculum accelerates the learning of struggling students and breaks down equity barriers in classrooms by allowing all students to engage in grade-level texts.
“Our school has the highest percentage of English learners and economically disadvantaged students in the County. But regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, our students are learning, and through this curriculum, they are experiencing stories, people, and places that they might not otherwise get access to,” said Jessica Adams, Principal of Vena Stuart Elementary School.
2. High-Quality Instructional Materials Foster Students’ Love of Reading: Overwhelmingly, school leaders, teachers, and parents commented that the new curriculum is nurturing a deep love of reading and writing with students. As a result, teachers are seeing a significant increase in student confidence, engagement, comprehension, and writing in all ELA classrooms.
“Our students are now fully engaged every day in rich conversations about the texts they are reading,” said Dr. Racheal Mason, Principal of Station Camp Elementary School. “They are bouncing ideas off one another, agreeing and disagreeing about a topic, and are truly excited about what they are learning.
- High-Quality Instructional Materials Allow Teachers to Focus Their Practice: Putnam’s teachers talked frequently about how the curriculum allows them to spend less time searching for and gathering instructional materials for each lesson, and more time honing their craft. District-wide implementation of the curriculum provides teachers with collaborative planning time where they can review student data, share best practices, and adjust lessons to ensure students are mastering grade-level content and standards.
“Before we began Wit & Wisdom, our teachers spent long hours pulling materials together which took away from their families, and the time needed to work collaboratively on their lessons,” said Scott Langford, Sumner County Assistant Director of Schools. “Now they spend their time working together to master each lesson before they teach it so that they can truly meet students’ unique needs.”
The Knowledge Matters Campaign is a project of StandardsWork, a “do tank” that focuses on levers and tools that support academic improvement. The campaign is designed to garner national awareness of the importance of building students’ background knowledge of the world through high-quality literacy instruction. The Knowledge Matters Campaign plans to visit additional schools in Tennessee over the coming months.