In the summer of 2018, the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP) at the University of Delaware (UD) was approached by staff of UD’s Professional Development Center for Educators (PDCE) to conduct a case study of the implementation of the Bookworms Curriculum at Seaford School District in Seaford, DE. Seaford SD consists of four elementary, one middle, and one high school. The district educates approximately 3500 students in mostly rural southwestern Delaware. Serving a large percentage of low-income children, Seaford SD has historically struggled in getting students to demonstrate academic proficiency and turned to the Bookworms program in their reform efforts.
The Bookworms Curriculum is unique in that lesson plans are Open Educational Resources (OERs). Bookworms was also designed by drawing best practices from leading literacy research and places significant emphasis on differentiation. Additionally, the curriculum is notable in the high volume of reading required by students. In order to maximize daily reading and student engagement, Bookworms incorporates 265 whole books instead of the shorter reading passages that are often found in other curricula.
Key to the Bookworms Curriculum is the daily inclusion of three 45-minute instructional blocks. The first block consists of general English Language Arts (ELA) instruction, the second block consists of shared reading, and the third and final block is designed to provide the class with differentiated reading instruction.
Introduction to the Bookworms Curriculum at Seaford took place in several stages. The first stage of implementation began in the fall of 2014. During this time, UD had four staff members who supported Seaford classroom teachers with their Tier 1 instruction. Training on differentiation (Tier 2 instruction) was also provided at this time to the reading specialists and paraprofessionals. In the fall of 2018, the full rollout of the Bookworms K-5 Reading and Writing Curriculum occurred. As of the fall of 2018, Seaford is still receiving coaching and online PD, with plans for this support continuing into the spring of 2019.
In order to evaluate the rollout and impact of the Bookworms Curriculum and associated PD at the four Seaford elementary schools, CRESP utilized several evaluation methods. First, Seaford SD instructional staff and administrators were interviewed in order to gain insight into their experience adopting the Bookworms Curriculum. We also interviewed the Bookworms coaches in order to gain additional perspective on Seaford’s efforts. Finally, Smarter Balanced assessment results were analyzed in order to determine the impact of the Bookworms Curriculum on academic achievement.
We find that the evidence suggests that Seaford SD’s experience implementing the Bookworms Curriculum and their interaction with the Bookworms coaching staff was extremely positive. While some teachers and administrators expressed concern regarding if the program can serve the needs of readers well below grade level (such as those in Tier 3), English Language Learners (ELL), and students receiving Special Education services, the Bookworms coaching staff took great efforts to help alleviate these concerns.
School staff and administration all expressed support for the curriculum and noted the improvement seen in the academic achievement of the students. Through our analysis, we consistently found where Seaford students were once underperforming the state average, these same students are now outperforming the state average three years later. Additionally, these results are seen in all subgroups of students (including ELL and special education students).
Overall, we conclude that Seaford’s implementation of the Bookworms Curriculum has been a success. While there have been some challenges, many of these challenges are present in any transition to a new curriculum. Furthermore, while some school staff had concerns that Bookworms may not meet the needs of Tier 3, ELL, or special education students, we find that all subgroups of students appeared to show improvement after the introduction of the Bookworms Curriculum.
Keywords: Reading, literacy, case study
Sue Giancola, Shameeka Jelenewicz, Jeffrey Klein, Gabriella Mora, Katrina Morrison, Danielle Riser, Akisha Sarfo