Next-level learning

Marion school board approves $2 million for enhanced education curriculum.

File photo: Meeting of the Marion County Public School Board in Ocala on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted May 22, 2023 | Lauren Morrish

The Marion County school board has approved spending nearly $2 million on learning materials from two educational curriculum companies in a move to enhance student academic achievement.

At its May 9 meeting, the board approved requests from the Marion County Public Schools Elementary Curriculum, Instruction & Digital Learning Department for a $1 million agreement with Teacher Created Materials, Inc., or TCM, and a $900,000 agreement with IXL Learning, Inc. The contracts’ provisions and the department’s access to the materials are for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

The Elementary Curriculum, Instruction & Digital Learning Department oversees over 30 Marion County elementary schools and supplies the resources necessary for a successful educational environment.
Director of Elementary Curriculum Debra Riedl advocated for these partnerships, noting that the price tag ensures schools were covered for any additional expenses. The department uses state funds through Florida Education Finance Program dollars for reading course funding. Title I funds supply individual schools’ spending apart from the department’s purchases.

How they work

The TCM curriculum is created by teachers for other teachers and their students to use. Specifically, it uses the Language Power curriculum to build proficiency for students learning English and students with learning disorders. A vocabulary support approach for summer school enrichment camp is also utilized. Another purchase for the enrichment camp from the company is Readers Theater kits, which have interactive scripts students can act out.
The department is also investing in the company’s new program Summer Scholars, to provide third grade reading camp students with a divergent approach to English Language Arts, or ELA, through 25 prepared lesson plans.

The aim of the agreement with TCM is literacy proficiency and language acquisition and connections. Students practice speaking, reading, listening, and writing, engaging them with fun activities. Another component of the curriculum is for families. Parents can access additional development methods in English and Spanish to provide enhanced learning at home.

The agreement with IXL Learning makes ELA, math, science, and social studies subjects available to students in grades K-12 through a personalized teaching tool and learning engine.
“There’s an extensive video library where students have access to over 1,800 video tutorials,” Riedl said. “Tutors actually walk through concepts for students.”

IXL also allows teachers to track student progress and individualize instruction based on the results. An e-learning library is available with more than 40 videos for instructors and includes recommendations on ways to motivate students.

School leaders and administrators can also oversee the growth and progression of students. Professional Development training sessions with an IXL representative and teachers are recorded for further instruction.
“We’re going to beef up the training for this program next year and make sure that our students really are utilizing it and getting the most out of it so that they can experience success,” Riedl said.

Board member responses
The board weighed in on IXL’s contributions to student success.

Board member Lori Conrad said as a teacher she used this learning program almost daily with students. She said IXL is a luxury because skills below, and exceeding, the targeted grade level, can be practiced, establishing a better understanding of the material.

“I was teaching fourth, but I could assign third or second grade skills for practice. The same is true for excelling. I could assign a sixth or a seventh-grade math lesson if needed,” she said. “As a fourth-grade teacher, I felt that the curriculum moved very fast and IXL provided a lot of practice for our students, which is needed.”

Conrad and School Board Chair Allison Campbell shared that the achievement levels in IXL, which aim for 100% completion, can be lowered to lessen the frustration when students are unable to complete a skill. They told Riedl this constructively to help educators apply the same change if needed and to make them aware of this area of potential student frustration.

Board Vice Chair Nancy Thrower applauded the department’s aim for continuous student improvement.
“I’m noticing a pattern tonight, it’s a great one,” she said. “We are being asked to approve literally millions of dollars in solid curriculum initiatives that will stand the test of time, and I love hearing the component of providing the training to the teachers and staff so that they can become very fluent with it.”

IXL Learning is digital and can be accessed both at school and at home, so students can continue learning and practicing up to the 8,500 skills available through the program at any time.

“You have to build the foundation before you can cap it off with a great roof,” Thrower said before voting to approve the contracts.

MCPS strategic plan

Marion County Public Schools set a strategic plan from 2021-2026 to maximize student success. The plan encompasses five goals, and these two agreements with educational corporations promote goal 1, which is student success.

The student success goal works to, “increase student achievement, opportunities, access, and equity,” as defined on the MCPS site.

Both TCM and IXL fuel this goal by strengthening core instruction, developing systems for data-driven instruction, engaging students, and ensuring the readiness of students at different levels, as outlined under goal 1.


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