NARRAGANSETT — Narragansett High School (NHS) will infuse its English-Language Arts (ELA) curriculum with new learning materials unanimously approved by the school committee at the Wednesday night meeting. The new package from myPerspectives, a grades 9-12 curriculum, includes teacher licenses, student consumable texts, sets of trade books (digital and some hard copies) and professional development opportunities with the vendor. The district approved a six-year subscription for the product for a total of $68,081.
“I think it’s going to provide consistency at the high school,” said Narragansett School System Curriculum Director Gail Dandurand. “It’s going to up the rigor for sure. And there are also components within this product that will help prepare students for taking the SATs, PSATs and ACTs.”
“As a recovering English teacher, I would tell you I feel really strongly that the level of rigor in this is really what we need,” said NSS Superintendent Peter Cummings. “Part of our goal is to steer as many of our kids into advanced classes as we can in all subject areas, English included. We’re looking to see more and more kids in that junior year AP writing course and I think this will help us get there.”
As per a directive from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) that districts within the state must explore high-quality ELA learning materials, NSS took to the task, beginning by examining six different curricula. The district formed a committee consisting of administrators, RIDE representatives, ELA staff and technology staff to carry out the search. It then conducted book studies, field tests and publisher presentations for three options of new ELA material, as well as engaged students. MyPerspectives emerged the winner, with all state standards being met through the curriculum.
According to Dandurand, feedback showed NHS students enjoyed the new materials and found the learning to be rigorous.
“It really stretched their thinking, and that’s a good thing,” said Dandurand.
As part of the product package, the entire English department at NHS will attend a summer curriculum academy to get acquainted with the new materials and prepare to implement them in the fall.
Dandurand elected to purchase hard copies of some of the novels attached to the curriculum because some students still prefer to read physical material rather than digitally.
“This is English, this is reading, you have to have a book in your hand,” she said.
School committee chair Tammy McNeiece, while noting she understood and trusted the process undertaken to recommend the curriculum, said she had concerns about entering into a six-year subscription, noting that it was for new materials and teachers or the district could be dissatisfied with the curriculum after two or three years. Dandurand said a six-year contract was pitched because it brought down costs, and the program was undergoing a revision in 2024 that the district would get access to without any upcharge.
Cummings added that it would take time for the effects of the curriculum shift to be revealed, and the district would evaluate when that time came.
“In this case, I think that the six years is a reasonable investment in the program because I think it’s going to take about six years to start to see the effects of that,” said Cummings. “We’re going to have one cohort that has four years of the program and then we’ll be able to really make some decisions around that. By the time the license is up for the sixth year, really during the fifth year, we’re doing a decision on whether or not we want to continue with it.”
The new materials also champion novels and works from diverse authors and featuring diverse characters, a component that was highlighted by school committee member Joshua LaPlante.
The district will also now begin looking at its grades 7 and 8 ELA curriculum to begin to align it with the new materials at NHS.
The committee unanimously approved the purchase.