Finishing first round of piloting materials

We are finishing our first wave of the K-2 Word Study Team Foundational Skills Materials Pilot. As pilot teachers finish their first round of piloting materials, their students will have been given a short assessment to check for learning growth. In January, teams of teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will collaboratively score their assigned materials using the rubric adapted from the Florida Center for Reading Research. Teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will also complete a survey to reflect on their experiences with their first set of materials.

The next round of materials will be distributed after winter break. Teachers will have a short training with someone from the company that publishes each of the pilot materials. Then, as was the case during the first round, Curriculum Department staff will provide weekly support opportunities for all pilot teachers.

Clarifying the pilot recommitment process

The Curriculum Department staff, along with Dr. Deborah Reed, as well as board members Tim Rasmussen and Alisa Frandsen who serve on the Board’s Teaching & Learning Committee, met with Fellows parents at the request of their PTO co-presidents. One of the questions raised was whether there was a way for students or teachers to opt-out of the pilot. At the time of the meeting, there was not a plan for opting out.

After hearing questions and concerns from those in attendance, Curriculum Department staff met to generate ideas based on what they heard. Teaching & Learning Committee members were also included in this meeting since they were at the Fellows parent meeting. The question about opting out was discussed at length. The group discussed having each building recommit to the pilot process; if the building chose not to recommit, their data would be excluded and they opted out of the decision-making process.

The recommendation was that this discussion be moved to the elementary principals’ meeting on December 1 for further discussion. At that meeting, the four elementary principals who attended agreed to recommit to the pilot by 4 p.m. on Monday, December 5. The timeline was necessary to be able to communicate with the Iowa Reading Research Center as collaborators in the data collection process. A member of the Curriculum Department reached out to the principal who was absent from the meeting, to ensure all buildings had accurate information about the recommitment.

Four out of the five elementary buildings recommitted to the pilot process. However, late morning on December 5, Fellows elected not to recommit to the pilot. While this is unfortunate in terms of a District-wide pilot that engages the voices of teachers from each of our schools, we are confident that the extensive data collection being done with the support of the Iowa Reading Research Center will help the District make a student-centered decision based on the experiences of the pilot teachers and the rest of the team involved in this pilot.

The Ames Community School District has routinely used pilots when choosing curriculum materials for nearly 30 years. The pilot process allows teachers to use instructional materials to determine whether or not they are the best choice for Ames students. Piloting of instructional materials is common practice in the educational landscape. However, this particular pilot has had unprecedented attention. For that reason, we sought the assistance and expertise of the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) at the request of a small group of parents. The IRRC has been an amazing partner in helping us refine our pilot design and collecting data to make well-informed decisions at the pilot’s conclusions.