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Anthony Butler Superintendent Of Cambridge Schools Responds To Critical Race Theory Ad

April 16, 2021


To individuals in Cambridge and all of Washington County:


The Cambridge School District holds parent and community interest in high regard. We are happy to answer questions on our programs and curriculum as well as invite individuals into our classrooms to share the experiences that our amazing teachers are guiding our students through.


A recent advertisement stating that “CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS HERE” encouraged you to question the curriculum being taught in Cambridge, specifically citing EL Education ELA curriculum. It is the right and obligation of parents and community members to know what is being taught in local schools. About a month ago I was introduced to the term Critical Race Theory. Prior to that, I had never heard of it. Our school district does not support the teaching of Critical Race Theory.


In 2016-2017, the ISAT English Language Arts assessment for 3rd through 5th graders showed 67.9% of our students were below grade level, and the Idaho Reading Indicator for kindergarten through 3rd graders showed 67.4% of our students at the beginning of the school year and 43.9% of our students at the end of the school year were below grade level. The following year in 2017 – 2018, 56.2% of our 3rd through 5th grade students were still below grade level in English Language Arts on the ISAT, and Idaho Reading Indicator showed 60.9% of our Kindergarten through 3rd grade students were still below grade level on the Idaho Reading Indicator at the beginning of the school year and 33.4% at the end of the school year.


The Cambridge Elementary School has always had talented and amazing teachers, and they needed better tools to assist students in making greater gains in reading. So, we began a search. During the summer of 2018, consultants with the Idaho Department of Education suggested taking a look at the English Language Arts curriculum through EL Education. Here is a link to the adoption guide from the Idaho State Department of Education (K-5 ELA/Literacy OER – 2018 Adoption Guide). Teachers reviewed curriculum at their grade level. Our staff took a deeper look and held a committee meeting which included all grade level teachers, an administrator, some parents, a board member, and an Upper Country Educational Foundation member.


Some benefits of this curriculum were that students would get to read a lot of interesting books on a variety of topics rather than textbooks – toys, tools, schools around the world, poetry, novels, plants, the solar system, fossils, frogs, animal defenses, the rain forest, weather, the American Revolution, Jackie Robinson and other Americans who overcame obstacles, and even if we went away from the curriculum, the books could become part of each classroom library. There was a HUGE amount of writing connected to students’ reading, which was a big change from the previous curriculum. Finally, it was an open source which meant that it was free to utilize by schools. Our district spent about $5,000 for the classroom sets of books and decodable books and workbooks for kindergarten through 2nd grade. A traditional curriculum costs around $20,000, not including workbooks, which is why curriculums are typically kept for such a long period of time.


At that time, teacher were encouraged to keep in mind the culture of our community and if something in the curriculum did not fit, then teachers would modify or skip those elements and concepts. As with all curriculums, teachers are charged with modifying parts as needed – such as, story problems in math or teaching strategies based on what is appropriate for our students and the culture of our community. Our teachers have always done a great job of making sure whatever tools they teach with are appropriate for our families. Teachers emphasize instructing students how to be critical problem solvers and assist them in learning how to think, not telling them what to think. Prior to COVID, parents have come into our classrooms to celebrate learning as teachers have showcased English Language Arts end of module projects.

The elementary school has been able to use this new curriculum, with modifications, to benefit our students. Students are becoming skilled writers and developing foundational skills in reading. As we assess students monthly, reading proficiency levels continue to increase. These new English Language Arts tools are helping our teachers assist students in making gains towards grade-level benchmark skills. We encourage you to contact the school to learn more about the English Language Arts curriculum, set up a time take a look at the books students get to read, see what great writers students are becoming, and ask questions about any concerns. Our staff truly appreciates our community and is grateful for the opportunity to serve our students.


Respectfully,

Anthony Butler
Superintendent/Secondary Principal
Cambridge School District #432
abutler@cambridge432.org
(208) 257-3311

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