HUDSON — Parent and Chair of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Cheryl Langill spoke in two capacities at the Oct. 25 School Committee meeting about the literacy curriculum at the elementary schools and the strategic goal to conduct a preliminary review of the curriculum in the district improvement plan (DIP).
In her role as a parent, she said she was “pleased to know” that it would be reviewed by the Superintendent Brian Reagan and his team. She had previously addressed the School Committee in April 2022 about the literacy curriculum. At an administration presentation of the curriculum at that time, she said staff had explained why the current use of the Lucy Calkins program did not meet the needs of literacy learning in Hudson.
“Hudson Public Schools was admittedly supplementing with other programs,” said Langill.
She questioned whether it was because of the quality of the Calkins program. According to a Sept. 5 article by Sarah Schwartz in “Education Week,” Calkins was behind the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which was housed at Columbia University. The project was dissolved, and Calkins stepped down.
The article noted that Calkins took the workshop-style curriculum approach that focused on student choice and independent study with teachers guiding the lesson. In recent years, a more “science of reading” approach has been used where students learn letters and sounds combined with a broader base of knowledge.
Calkins has also become “a divisive figure in the literacy community,” according to the article. Langill said at the Oct. 25 meeting that the Calkins curriculum has faced “a tremendous amount of backlash over the years.”
Langill noted that it might “shed some light as to why the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [DESE] is trying to deter its use” by having districts who use this program be ineligible for accelerated literacy grants.
She believed the Hudson schools could use grants like this to replace the Calkins program, and yet she said the program is in use a year and a half later.
“So I ask, in accordance with the DIP, will the committee of stakeholders include parents, specifically parents of special education students?” Langill asked.
Langill said, “Our students deserve to know how to read at the end of the day.”
Wearing her hat as SEPAC chair, Langill said that when the DIP is done, a review of the curriculum and its scientific and peer-reviewed assessments is “imperative to student success.”
She also noted that SEPAC would be happy to coordinate a meeting with the School Committee, leaders and parents who may feel that their children with learning disabilities, like dyslexia, were not properly assessed under the current curriculum system.
“I personally have been reached out to by many parents of children who are dyslexic over the years, many who feel that their child’s diagnosis may have been delayed due to the inability to properly assess based on the current curriculum assessment,” said Langill.
She believed that it would be beneficial for the School Committee to hear from these parents as the committee votes on what curriculum is purchased.
Langill said, “What you purchase matters.”
She closed her comments with the announcement of an in-person SEPAC roundtable with Reagan that will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at a location to be determined.
She added, “This is always a great opportunity for special education parents to connect with the superintendent.”