Seek out K–5 ELA materials that empower teachers to help every student succeed in elementary ELA, plus a guide to early literacy curriculum formats.
I’ll never forget the day I found out there are six syllable types in written English. For an elementary-age student, that’s the kind of literacy learning that unlocks huge breakthroughs in both decoding and spelling.
Here’s the problem: I wasn’t in elementary school—I’d already served over a decade as an elementary teacher, principal, and district specialist. And, because I’d never learned about the six syllable types in school or teacher prep—nor had access to high-quality materials in my classroom—I’m sad to say I never taught them to my students either.
But when we know better, we do better. At EdReports, we believe all teachers deserve high-quality, grade-level, comprehensive early literacy materials so they can help every single student succeed. However, the difference between that vision and today’s reality is stark. As of 2022, two-thirds of 4th graders were struggling to read and only 25% of elementary English language arts (ELA) teachers reported using high-quality materials once a week.
Teachers are working tirelessly to help students get back on track after the impacts of the pandemic and chronic inequities. We must give educators access to high-quality early literacy materials so they can focus on doing what they do best: getting kids excited to learn and addressing the needs of individual students.
In support of that effort, I want to shed light on two topics that come up regularly in EdReports’ conversations with educators: The types of elementary ELA materials that EdReports reviews, and key implementation factors to consider before adopting an early literacy curriculum.
EdReports looks for multiple dimensions of quality in K–5 ELA materials including supports for diverse learners (e.g., multilingual learners) and alignment to college and career ready standards across the following components:
We also consider market share and usage data to prioritize the highest needs of the field. As a result, we review three distinct K–5 ELA program formats:
Before looking into any potential new K–5 ELA curriculum, make sure you know which of the above formats you already use and whether you’ll be adding to or replacing some or all of them.
EdReports K–5 ELA reviews provide a wealth of information to help you evaluate and compare different materials. But they’re just one part of the selection process—a guide to inform your wider investigation.
Because each district and community has its own context and needs, conducting a thorough adoption process is critical. That includes establishing a clear instructional vision, identifying local priorities, recruiting a representative adoption committee, and developing a comprehensive implementation plan.
Given the complexities of different early literacy curriculum formats and scopes, it’s essential for adoption committees to anticipate implementation challenges before selecting new materials. In-depth, upfront analysis of a program’s opportunities and gaps reduces your risk of running into unexpected problems after you’ve already committed to a curriculum.
Here are five key implementation questions to ask before adopting:
This level of investigation is a significant commitment, and rightly so: the stakes could not be higher. Selecting a K–5 ELA curriculum is a huge, long-term investment for districts that helps determine whether thousands of students across multiple cohorts will leave their elementary experience with the literacy skills to be successful in school and beyond. Let’s give educators access to the resources and support they deserve so they can help all students grow toward becoming proficient, confident, lifelong readers and writers.