DECEMBER 11TH ZOOM CHAT: Teaching Black Boys in Elementary Grades – a Conversation With Dr. Alfred Tatum

Dr. Alfred Tatum believes advanced reading and writing has become taboo – especially for Black boys. He seeks to refocus on the life of the mind in elementary schools. How to we refashion classrooms as intellectual spaces, and writing as an intellectual exercise, beginning in the elementary years?

Tatum brings fresh evidence to these questions in his new book, Teaching Black Boys in Elementary Grades. He spent two and a half years conducting research with 131 Black boys in pursuit of higher reading outcomes, and his book translates his learnings into a tangible, multi-dimensional reading model grounded in daily instruction.

On Wednesday, December 8th, Yvette Stewart will host an open conversation with Dr. Tatum and the Curriculum Matters community on how we foster advanced levels of reading and writing for Black boys – and for all children. Where is the high-quality curriculum movement on the right track, and where can it continue to grow to meet these goals?


Revisiting Concerns About Reading Workshop

Amidst growing critique of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program ‘Units of Study’ materials, the authors have announced that a revised version will be available for purchase for the 2022-23 school year. The nature of the revisions has been somewhat unclear, and many in the field have raised questions.

This webinar unpacks the changes that have been announced by TCRWP to date, all of which affect Units of Study in grades K–2. 

In many regards, Units of Study will remain unchanged – including aspects that were reviewed poorly by literacy experts last year and by EdReports in October. Our panel details what’s not changing about the program – and the implications for student reading success.

Our speakers also reflect on balanced literacy programs beyond Reading Workshop, as the issues are not exclusive to one program.

Matt Warford of Aldine ISD – a district that shifted from Reading Workshop to high-quality curriculum last year – moderated this conversation among educators and literacy experts.

You can watch a recording below and review the slides from the conversation here.


  • Carissa Berliner, Literacy Coach, New York City DOE
  • Margaret Goldberg, Literacy Coach, West Contra Costa Unified School District and co-founder of Right2Read Project
  • David Liben, Consultant, Student Achievement Partners
  • David Paige, Professor of Literacy, Northern Illinois University

Watch a Recording

Level Up Professional Learning

The creative professional learning approaches in Aldine and Sumner County have been earning cheers in social media, and we want to learn more! Each district is refining a model that we can all borrow.

In Aldine ISD, grade level teams have been doing Lesson Rehearsals, allowing each teacher to try out his or her instructional approach and receive feedback from the group. Everyone benefits from this modeling; the Aldine team has been refining the approach for a year, and they’ll detail both their model and learnings.

Sumner County coaches are using Swivl to record lessons in action, which are then reviewed with teachers for truly tangible feedback. Coaches also record their coaching sessions, then coaches debrief their coaching moves with each other! By capturing exemplary lesson and coaching videos, the Sumner team is building a library with many potential uses. Team Sumner will give us a glimpse of this work.

Each these approaches fosters powerful “on-the-job” professional learning, with a healthy dose of community-building!

On October 21st, we heard from the Aldine and Sumner teams. Watch a recording below, and join our Slow Chat on this topic on October 25th in Twitter.


  • Demedia Edwards, Director of Literacy, Aldine ISD 
  • Gloria Guerrero, Literacy Coach, Aldine ISD
  • Kyle Craighead, Student Growth Coordinator, Sumner County 
  • Rachel Sowder. Lead Educator, Sumner County

Watch a Recording

Delaware, The Small State With Big Curriculum Outcomes

This year, we noticed an unmistakable trend: we kept adding districts to our network from Delaware, and each district had seriously impressive outcomes from work with high-quality curriculum!

The stories in Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Laurel, and Seaford are each individually compelling – and collectively, they make a powerful case for curriculum as a change agent, to improve instruction, drive impressive reading and math outcomes, and to fuel quality professional learning for teachers.

On August 3rd, leaders from our four Delaware districts shared their curriculum journeys – both the success stories and the learnings along the way. They also explored the question: why is high-quality curriculum work taking off right now in Delaware?


  • Ashley Giska – Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Laurel School District
  • Kelly Carvajal Hageman – Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Seaford School District
  • Lavina Jones-Davis – Director of Elementary Education, Brandywine School District
  • Jennifer Nauman – Assistant Superintendent, Cape Henlopen School District

Related Reading

You can read more about Delaware districts’ success stories in The 74, which has been featuring their work in a series of Curriculum Case Studies, as well as on the Knowledge Matters School Tour site:

Watch a Recording:

So, You Want to Accelerate, Not Remediate. Let’s Talk About HOW.

Many educators are aligned around the instructional goal to “accelerate, not remediate” as students return to school in the fall. We know that we can best address unfinished learning by keeping the learning bar high, rather than watering-down instruction out of fears of student learning loss.

What does this mean in practice, though? 

Leaders from Curriculum Matters, TNTP, and Zearn unpacked this approach in our July 27 webinar. We got tangible – participants spent time delving into exemplars in math, ELA, and science. We also talked about how to accelerate with English Language Learners. 

You can watch recordings of the event below, including all breakout rooms. As a pre-read, we highly suggest the Accelerate, Not Remediate report from TNTP and Zearn.


  • Colleen Stearns, Vice President of Curriculum & Instruction, IDEA Public Schools
  • Dan Weisberg, CEO at TNTP
  • Neena Hendershott, CMO at Zearn
  • Kristin McQuillan, Project Director at TNTP
  • Stephanie Ely, CAO at Zearn
  • Jamila Newman, Partner at TNTP
  • Mary Pittman, Director of Mathematics at TNTP

Watch a Recording

Full webinar, including the Math breakout room (from 31:30 until 48:15):

ELA breakout room:

Science breakout room:

The Trouble With Basal Bloat: An Important Discussion of the Wonders Review

Recently, Student Achievement Partners published an important review of the Wonders curriculum (read more in EdWeek). It put a spotlight on some known concerns with the program, like its weak support for knowledge acquisition.

The review also illuminated an issue that has implications well beyond Wonders: basal bloat.  When a curriculum is loaded with so many bells, whistles, and options – particularly when they are of varied quality and relevance – a teacher can easily wind up teaching the weak stuff and miss what’s good (and aligned). We  think this is a serious problem in the industry that deserves unpacking.  

On July 12th, Janise Lane hosted an open conversation with the authors of the Wonders review to discuss why basal bloat is a problem and how districts might address the issue. 

Speakers included:

  • Sue Pimentel, Founder, Student Achievement Partners
  • Meredith Liben, ELA Designer, Student Achievement Partners
  • Sonia Cabell, Assistant Professor of Reading Education, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University 
  • Janise Lane, Executive Director or Teaching and Learning, Baltimore City Schools

Watch a Recording

Meet the Curriculum: ARC Core

On March 23rd, Whitney hosted a webinar about the ARC Core curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Whitney Oakley, Chief Academic Officer, Guilford County Schools (NC)
  • James Hopkins, Principal, Durham Public Schools (NC)
  • Taylor Milburn, Literacy Coach, Durham Public Schools (NC)
  • Phamalae Cummings, Multi-Classroom Leader, Guilford County Schools (NC)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on ARC Core:

“ARC has multiple benefits from a common curriculum, a database that tracks student progress, a database that houses online resources, and a live coach that supports teachers. It is a framework that helps teachers have a baseline to soar with creating common core standard lessons.  The classroom libraries are amazing!” –Pharmalae Cummings

“Content building and culturally sustaining representation is important and evident in ARC Core.  Intentional master scheduling, investments in professional learning and close attention to needs around explicit instruction should be addressed on the front end of implementation.”  –Whitney Oakley

ARC Core delivers a research-based approach that ensures students build knowledge while developing a love for reading. The diverse assortment of books is second to none–and teachers can’t get enough of the resources! –James Hopkins

“ARC Core has allowed all of our K-5 students to be exposed to complex text that intentionally builds knowledge over time. Kids get so excited about the topics and love to read, write, and discuss what they’re learning about in class. With the whole school using ARC Core materials, we’re able to collectively share data and instructional strategies across grade levels and specialty areas.”   –Taylor Milburn

Watch a recording:

Meet the Curriculum: Bookworms

On March 18th, Ashley hosted a webinar about the Bookworms curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Ashley Giska, Asst. Superintendent of Teaching & Learning, Laurel School District (DE)
  • Kathleen Chaucer, Principal, Ballston Spa (NY)
  • Jolene Hansen, Literacy Coach, Ballston Spa (NY)
  • Sarah Kemp, ELL Specialist, Laurel School District (DE)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on Bookworm:

“Getting to see the impact of high quality literacy instruction- even in year 1- has been outstanding. I am incredibly proud of the learning that our teachers and principal team have experienced and of our growing knowledge and understanding of how we can teach all students to read and write well.” – Kathleen Chaucer

“I feel that it has given teachers and specialists the opportunity to better collaborate with one another and target the student’s individual needs. The students seem to have a stronger foundation in decoding and phonics while their love for reading and interest in authentic texts has also improved.” – Sarah Kemp

“Bookworms has improved teacher efficacy, student knowledge building, and love of reading. It establishes a true culture of literacy in the school.”

– Ashley Giska

“Bookworms has given our students a structured high volume approach to meaningful literacy! The students are excited to have “real” high interest books in the their hands, which has increased their engagement. The consistency among grade levels, as well as, the simple, repetitive routine in all grade levels has really helped to streamline services to help our students be successful. Watching our students progress in their foundational skills has been truly amazing!” – Jolene Hansen

Watch a recording:

Meet the Curriculum: EL Education

On February 9th, Shannon hosted a webinar about the EL Education curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Shannon Wheatley, Chief Academic Officer, Lighthouse Community Public Schools (CA) @swheatley9
  • Dionne Upton, Principal, Hamilton County (TN) @DUpton1234
  • Taylor White, Instructional Coach, Detroit (MI) @MissWhite207
  • Gabby Yeckering, Teacher, Daviess County (KY)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on EL Education:

“With EL Education, students of all learning profiles have opportunities to engage with relevant and rigorous learning experiences. The curriculum centers meaningful texts and engaging protocols that has elevated the quality of teaching practice across departments and grade levels in our district.” – Shannon Wheatley

“EL Education has been a good fit for our students in providing high quality, diverse materials that meets the needs of Tier I Instruction.  Our students are benefiting from having exposure to grade level text that’s high interest.  They also have access to the connected trade books so they can read more deeply about each topic  There is a strong foundational skill focus in K-2 that provides explicit instruction in phonics.  The curriculum allows for differentiation during skills and all block to meet the diverse needs of all learners.” – Dionne Upton 

“This curriculum is standards aligned ensuring that our scholars are prepared for success on a variety of assessments. Teachers also feel empowered to really teach and through the rich content and diverse library of text, teachers feel confident engaging in not just curriculum lessons, but life lessons. EL empowers teachers to empower students to be change agent through the texts, but also their focus on equity and citizenship skills.” –Taylor White

“Our biggest notice was in the writing. We had always struggled to get student to expand on their ideas and write more than a sentence or two. With EL, they start learning about focus statements in third grade and how to elaborate on their topic. In fourth, we use the “painted essay” format where we explain how to organize and expand on a topic using an introduction, 2 proof paragraphs and a conclusion. This really helped show the students how to expand their ideas in a way that made sense. They color coding is the same in each grade so by the time they went to 5th, the teacher could see a noticeable difference.” – Gabby Yeckering

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Meet the Curriculum: CKLA

On February 8th, Matt hosted a webinar about the CKLA curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Matt Warford, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, Aldine ISD (TX)
  • Shawn Hayes, Director of Teacher Development, Jefferson Parish Schools (LA)
  • Jennifer Price, Principal, Aldine ISD (TX)
  • Jennifer Brown, Principal, Aldine ISD (TX)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on ARC Core:

“CKLA has allowed our district to streamline the way in which our standards are taught. We can still use our creative side but a lot of the building work is already done and CKLA provides high-quality instruction throughout our entire district. When grade level teachers meet for PL, we are able to truly discuss where our students are and provide best practice approaches in helping each other succeed.” – Jennifer Brown

“CKLA has a phenomenal balance of skills and knowledge instruction in ELA. Students have the opportunity for daily building of foundational skills critical to gaining literacy along with engaging, cross curricular knowledge lessons that allow students the opportunity to grapple with high-quality text. This work will take time. CKLA can seem overwhelming at first but give grace to grow into the curriculum and its vast resources. When done effectively, you will see teachers modeling instruction that marries good skills instruction and the building of knowledge. We are still working to change mindset so I am not the best to answer this question. However, as we gear up for a huge literacy push in K-5, I feel we will see mindsets change as we build the plan.” – Shawn Hayes

“Give the curriculum a chance. In the beginning it will be slow progress for your teachers and students. It is a different way of teaching and thinking for everyone. What I will say is that it will be so rewarding to see students excel and grow through the curriculum. You will see students having discussions about the Renaissance error and Leonardo DaVinci in 4th grade and that is amazing. You will see 1st grade students discussing Greek Mythology. Do this for students because they are worth it and the gains we have seen our amazing.” – Jennifer Price

“It is a game changer. Everyone can implement CKLA, kids enjoy it and will be successful it…they can do hard things, and takes a huge lift off of teachers from lesson planning to lesson internalization. In terms of improving teaching and learning, we are not actually aligned to the science of reading and implementing a phonics program that is working, our questioning and student task has improved because they are built into the curriculum, and we are giving students access to high-quality complex text daily.” – Matt Warford

Watch a recording: