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PPS Committee Recommends ‘Big Day’ And ‘ReadyGEN’ Textbook Adoption for Pre-K and Elementary Students

Programs designed to meet PA Core standards, help teachers with instruction and professional development, build solid foundation of skills beginning at early age
PITTSBURGH (March 7, 2017) – A Pittsburgh Public Schools committee asked by Superintendent Anthony Hamlet to review for upgrade the English Language Arts curriculum recommended that the District adopt the Big Day for Pre-K program and ReadyGEN program for grades 1-5 at tonight’s Board Education Committee Meeting. Both programs have print and digital components and are designed to meet PA Core standards, prepare students for PSSA exams, and provide teachers with classroom instructional support and offsite professional development.
“All students deserve curriculum that will nurture a love of reading and build a solid foundation of skills for lifelong learning,” said Dr. Hamlet. “I want to commend the committee we entrusted to find suitable educational tools for our youngest learners. I’m pleased that we took the time to carefully evaluate programs and determine those that will best upgrade our curriculum, for the first time in 10 years, to correlate with the Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood. These selections will enable teachers to make learning fun yet lasting, through textbooks and innovative technology. And these programs also provide an essential component that we sought: a professional development continuum for success for our educators.”
A recent report by the Council of The Great City Schools validated Dr. Hamlet’s efforts to update the District’s curriculum as part of his emphasis on academics. The CGCS report found data and curriculum stood out during a comprehensive review of PPS operations as two main areas needing improvement, which Dr. Hamlet’s administration was already actively addressing. Dr. Hamlet also hired a Chief Academic Officer to oversee curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The 75-person committee charged with evaluating curriculum reviewed the alignment of lessons to key instructional practices; unit and lesson design; quality of texts; culturally relevant materials; foundational skills; differentiation; language; and assessment. That cost includes print and digital components, program services and summer professional development services.

Big Day for Pre-K includes five elements of success:

• Big Experiences – that is, organizing days around whole-group, circle time and story time lessons
• Meaningful conversations
• The best children’s literature and nonfiction texts
• Innovative technology
• A comprehensive program
“In Big Day for Pre-K, oral language, sequential alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, and vocabulary development are integrated in lessons throughout each day and across the curriculum,” said Carol Barone-Martin, Executive Director, Early Childhood. “We felt it is also important that teachers receive supports to generate meaningful conversations and stimulate listening comprehension. These materials are designed to engage children and elicit their responses.”
Additionally, the program includes online preschool resources and tools that can extend learning into the home and community.
ReadyGEN prepares teachers for instructional shifts, and provides each student with a variety of textbooks to encourage reading and language skills.
“Most importantly, these materials provide students the perspectives of authors from diverse backgrounds and expose them to the larger world,” said Executive Director K-12 Literacy Kendra Wester. “Students can apply their own backgrounds and life experiences to the lessons and methodology, helping to make it even more culturally relevant. This can bridge a student’s home and school life, all the while meeting curricular requirements.”
Updating the curriculum will mean regular assessments, including ReadyGEN’s performance-based writing assessment. The program also provides support for English language learners, struggling readers, and advanced learners. The technology enables students flexible and personalized access.
For teachers, a partnership program will provide 140 onsite/offsite training, coaching and consultation days; collaboration with District and school leadership; job-embedded services; capacity-building; and assistance with developing a parent and community rollout plan.
The Board is expected to vote on the adoption of both recommendations at its Legislative Meeting on March 21