This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters
By Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado
Parents have asked. Community groups have asked. Media outlets have asked.
For two years, none have gotten a clear answer about the primary curriculums Jeffco’s 90 elementary and K-8 schools use to teach children how to read. District leaders told Chalkbeat that each school has the autonomy to select its own reading curriculum, but officials don’t track what schools have chosen.
A partial list compiled by Chalkbeat shows a patchwork quilt of reading curriculum in the 84,000-student district — with some schools using high-quality programs that have earned state approval and many others using programs the state has soundly rejected.
More than half of Colorado third-graders can’t read well, and the coronavirus pandemic will likely make matters worse. Experts say low-quality curriculum is part of the problem. But Colorado parents and the public often don’t know what their local schools use to teach reading.
Last winter, Chalkbeat filed public records requests to find out what K-3 reading curriculums Colorado’s 30 largest school districts use in their schools. Some districts initially said they’d charge for the information and others provided messy out-of-date lists.
Jeffco provided a simple answer — its own district-developed curriculum. Since then, Chalkbeat has learned that many schools in the district use reading programs officials never mentioned. It’s a black box that makes it hard for parents of struggling readers to figure out which schools can best help their children and obscures from public view the educational materials that schools spend millions of dollars on at taxpayer expense.