Indian River Schools Choose New English Curriculum; awaits state approval


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The school board has conditionally approved a new K-5 English curriculum, ending a months-long controversy over whether its classes are suitable for the age.

In a 4-1 vote, the board passed Amplify, subject to approval by the Florida Board of Education by July 6. If not approved by then, the district will follow Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s program, which already has state approval.

“I really have a feeling Amplify is going to be on the (state-approved) list,” said board member Teri Barenborg, who prefers him to HMH. “But in case that isn’t the case, I don’t want our students to have no books” at the start of the school year.

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The decision may surprise some.

Until Tuesday, there was no option: HMH was the only editor presented to the board. Amplify was originally chosen by staff, but when they learned it had not been state approved, they came up with HMH instead.

There are fears Amplify may not have state approval, Superintendent David Moore told the board.

Adopting both programs with the ‘quit’ date in mind – the last day to order the program and get the books on time – allows the board to wait and see if the staff’s first choice succeeds.

Tuesday’s vote came more than a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced new education standards, the Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, to replace controversial trunk standards. common.

The change required districts adopt a new state-approved curriculum that reflects the amended standards. The Elementary English Language Curriculum will be the first to be implemented this fall.

A group of volunteers organized on Monday 22 June 2021 a "Save our students" town hall to encourage community members to speak out against the proposed curriculum on which the Indian River School Board was to vote.

Concerns about critical race theory and socio-emotional learning

Almost two weeks ago, the Florida Board of Education effectively banned the concept of critical race theory from classroom discussions when it passed stricter guidelines for how teachers deliver history lessons, civic education and government in the United States.

Still, community members and some board members are skeptical that the rule will reverberate in local classrooms.

On Monday, a group of volunteers led by Vero Beach activist Susan Mehiel held a “Save Our Students” town hall in a last minute effort to urge people to speak out against the HMH program.

More than 60 people attend the event, which was part of a vocal group of parents and community members who have rallied in recent weeks against HMH and have already fought the district’s plan to hire an official for the equity and diversity.

At board meetings, the group argued that the lessons – which include topics on race and racism, immigration, and LGBTQ + issues – are inappropriate for elementary school students.

At the same time, proponents of teaching race and racism, regardless of their opinion on a specific curriculum, argue that learning history so as not to repeat it benefits students and creates an environment more comprehensive and equitable learning.

Critics of HMH often say that terms such as “fairness” and “socio-emotional learning,” which they claim to be euphemisms for the concept, can be found in the lessons, a claim the district denies.

Critical race theory “is not in any passage or activity in the age of materials education,” said Deputy Superintendent of Program and Training Richard Myhre. “It’s not there. That’s why we haven’t seen (HMH) removed from the state’s list.”

Additionally, socio-emotional learning, rather than critical race theory, is a way for teachers to meet the needs of students so that they feel empowered to learn.

Still, board member Jacqueline Rosario, who cast the only dissenting vote on Tuesday, expressed concern about program updates that could come from HMH. Nothing prevents the editor from adding the topics of critical race theory and socio-emotional learning to future addenda, she said.

Feedback from board members

Despite Tuesday’s discussion hours, most board members were concerned about the timing of the new program.

The district is already late, said board member Peggy Jones. In a perfect world, she said, Amplify would have been on the state-approved list, but “getting a new program is a lot of work, and we have to go.”

Teachers need time to learn the new material and prepare for the next school year, she said.

For Jones and other board members, including President Brian Barefoot and Mara Schiff, the choice of an unapproved course of study was concerning.

“I certainly understand that we have to do something that is approved by the Ministry of Education,” Barenborg said. “We’re a bit stuck in this position.”

Sommer Brugal is TCPalm’s educational reporter for Indian River, Saint Lucia and Martin counties. You can follow Sommer on Twitter @smbrugal and call him at 772-221-4231.


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