No new curriculum for RPS

Initial task force calls for changes in implementation

Holly Rodriguez | 12/8/2022, 6 p.m.
Richmond Public Schools does not need a new curriculum — rather, teachers want autonomy in how to customize existing curricula ...
Ms. Gibson

Richmond Public Schools does not need a new curriculum — rather, teachers want autonomy in how to customize existing curricula for their classrooms, according to a 15-member task force.

In a presentation at Monday’s School Board Meeting, Leslie Wiggins and Solomon Jefferson, interim co-chief academic officers for RPS, said the overall outcome of the meetings was to keep the current curriculum, with clarification about use of the words “autonomy” and “flexibility,” when giving instructions to teachers on implementing it in the classroom.

In October, a motion introduced by Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, and approved by the School Board, called for creating a task force to examine the school division’s reading, science and math curricula, and creating a three-year plan that will begin with the 2023-2024 school year.

A teacher survey conducted in September prompted the creation of the task force. While the majority of teachers who took the survey voted to keep the curriculum, most also wanted to be able to make adjustments to it based on the needs of students in their classrooms. For example, 57 percent of teachers who responded to the survey were in favor of keeping the current math curriculum and 51 percent of those respondents wanted the freedom to customize it for their students.

During four meetings held in November and December, the groups met to address English/language arts, math and science curriculum concerns to create a draft report.

Among the initial recommendations: Developing an English/ Language Arts (ELA) toolkit with vetted lessons, novels, etc. as alternative resources for certain lessons; rearranging some math curriculum modules to be more closely aligned to grade-level SOLs; supplemental materials for a few of the SOLs not covered in the science curriculum and flagging extraneous topics for teachers.

Mr. Jefferson said the team will finalize recommendations, determine budgetary impact based on those recommendations and consult with the Virginia Department of Education before reporting back to the board with official recommendations.

Ms. Gibson said she believes these initial meetings show progress, and hope the task force efforts continue.

“The spirit of the motion was that this will be an ongoing process,” she said. “The idea was that over time we would be able to make strides so our teachers feel empowered and in turn our students will benefit because the teachers would have the space to customize what they were given.”

RPS superintendent Jason Kamras responded: “I want to reiterate that [Ms. Wiggins and Mr. Jefferson] said that the task forces will continue — indefinitely.”

When Cheryl Burke, 7th District, inquired about a timeline for implementation of the recommendations, she was told some work will be implemented now, and others will be phased in over time.

“There will be a timeline to not overburden our educators,” Mr. Jefferson said. “We’ve already started training with teachers.”