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Union says training issues, expectations at heart of trouble with new curriculum

Teachers in the Tigard-Tualatin School District want the School Board to help smooth some rough edges of a new elementary school reading curriculum.

Brian Haliski, a Metzger Elementary School teacher and president of the district’s teacher’s union, the Tigard-Tualatin Education Association, says the district has done a poor job of rolling out the reading program in anticipation of new state standards, which take effect next year.

Haliski told the board Monday evening that implementing the new curriculum to students has been “more than bumpy,” and said that the district did not train teachers in how to present the material.

The new curriculum was purchased by the district’s $20 million bond measure, approved by voters in 2011.

The new coursework is harder than previous years, requiring students to read from a wide variety of writing styles, including nonfiction and poetry, and reinforces terms learned in other subjects, such as science.

In May, the School Board approved a plan to roll out a more challenging curriculum to students, but said that the short time frame before the start of the school year would mean little time for professional development.

When the School Board approved purchasing the new textbooks in May, some members were concerned that teachers wouldn’t be able to adjust to the new course load. Haliski said those fears have been realized.

“Master teachers have, for the first time in their careers, not been clear on what was expected of them to teach their students when reading classes started,” Haliski said. “Not everyone had their needed books and materials. I had several communications from elementary teachers who stated in different words ‘I am failing my students.’”

Haliski said that the district failed to give the teachers the training and information they needed in order to make future rollouts successful.

“We are all aware change is difficult, change does not occur overnight,” said Haliski. “That said, the board needs to understand that the professional development that was assured them as a component of allocating our bond dollars for this particular curriculum adoption has been severely lacking as we started this school year.”

That news caught many on the board by surprise. Elementary reading has long been an area the district has excelled at, and district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon said that the district is looking into how it can alleviate teachers’ concerns.

Haliski said the board needs to implement a standard for professional development when it comes to future curriculum adoptions.

“The district and the state’s entire new evaluation process is specifically built toward professional development,” he said.

Stark Haydon said that the district plans to adjust its yearlong professional development schedule to meet teacher’s needs.

“I can tell you that (Superintendent) Ernie Brown and Rachel (Stucky, director of curriculum and instruction) and the rest of the people here were surprised by that,” Stark Haydon said. “We’re looking at identifying what the issues are.”

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