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Auditors: District Needs To Work On Preparing Teachers For Elementary Language Arts Curriculum

Lindsey Kilbride

Auditors said Duval’s new elementary English Language Arts curriculum is highly aligned with state standards. But while school principals are feeling good about its implementation, teachers aren’t necessarily sold.

School board members heard the results of the second phase and final recommendations of the curriculum audit by the company Educational Directions Thursday afternoon. Results from the first phase which focused on the curriculum's alignment, were presented in December.

The audit’s second phase focused on implementation of the curriculum that was first used last school year. Auditors looked at 25 schools representing the diverse demographics of Duval students, with different school sizes and regions of the city. Several focus groups were conducted in each school with leadership and teachers, while the auditors also sat in on classes, reviewing lesson plans and student work.

Its report finds new “curricula and materials sent to the schools have not reached the classroom level to the degree that it is fully operational.”

READ the full report

School principals perceive the curriculum differently than teachers. Schools’ leadership teams said they’re confident their plans for curriculum implementation will be successful, while fewer than half the teachers strongly believe their students can meet grade level expectations. And in only three of the 25 schools, teachers said they felt leadership had a plan to implement curriculum.

Teachers also said they felt overwhelmed by the required rigor and pace, and auditors found when observing classes, teachers were focused on compliance and getting through the lessons, while not giving students enough time to struggle and figure out hard problems.

School Board Chair Paula Wright said while she doesn’t know how Superintendent Nikolai Vitti will want to address the situation, as a former teacher, she knows what teachers might want.

“I would like relief from pacing guides, or rearrangement of pacing guides, so that we can make certain that towards the end the student knows what he knows at a quality level,” Wright said.

Auditors said because of the required pace, teachers are tending to pick and choose what parts of the curriculum to implement, causing a lack of continuity.  

But the auditors said the curriculum is what Duval students need to pass state exams because it is aligned with state standards.

“Don’t get rid of the curriculum,” said auditor Joe Desensi.  “ You have a strong curriculum. It’s early.”

Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said he’s happy with the probe and people have to realize the curriculum is new and has to implemented by thousands of teachers.

“The curriculum audit confirms that we made the right decision regarding moving in a different direction with our curriculum,” Vitti said.

Auditors recommended the school district do a better job marketing it to teachers.

“Teachers need to understand that it’s a map for moving students where they are to where they need to be in that is provides assessment tools for monitoring student progress and diagnosing student learning and performing problems,” the report said.

Auditors also recommended intensive professional development training for principals and teachers, which Vitti said can be in the cards.

“Going into next year, I look forward to having a conversation through the budget process in expanding professional development,” he said.

He also said he’s taking auditors’ advice to use teachers who are doing well with the curriculum as models for other teachers to learn from.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.