Rollout of StudySync program off to a rocky start

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Sandra Sunio, Staff Writer

Teachers and students have struggled to adapt to the new English curriculum this year since the district adopted StudySync, a digital literacy curriculum aimed for improving reading, writing, critical thinking, speaking and listening skills.

StudySync is currently used in all College Prep English classes.

The English department has been long overdue for a change in curriculum. According to LUSD Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Suptd. Lisa Kotowski, English Language Arts in grades 9 through 12 has not had a new adoption since 2004 — there should be an adoption every seven years.
However, with the budget crisis in 2008, LUSD postponed a new adoption partly due to the anticipation of a new Common Core curriculum being introduced.

“We’re in kind of a quick adoption here,” English department head Grace Morledge said. “It’s been a little rocky, which is really not surprising for any new curriculum, but the difference here is that we have not only got a new curriculum, we have a new paradigm,” Morledge said. “It’s very new to all of us, including the students.”

Teachers were asked to utilize StudySync’s unit test as a benchmark assessment at the end of the first quarter. Morledge said the test took about four days to administer. The test includes a multi-paragraph essay, close-reading articles and complex comparative questions, with a total of 51 questions — some multiple-choice and some complex.

“It’s a tough test, and I think it represents the SBAC well,” Morledge said referring to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which assesses grades 3-8 and high school juniors in English and math. “But I think the thing that really worried me about it is that our students are not prepared. We’ve hit the ground running, and for them to have to take a week out of their quarter for a test like this is running the risk of demoralizing them before they even get into the curriculum.”

Junior Kelly Huynh says her teacher gave her class 30 minutes in class throughout the whole week to complete the assessment on the last week before break.

“It felt so long, like I was dreading it,” Huynh said. “I don’t know my results because my teacher never told us, but I have a feeling it was really bad.”

English teacher Chris Ramirez said he appreciates the accessibility of resources in StudySync such as the Binders and various selections from the reading library.

“A hindrance would be the general downfalls with relying on technology: it’s unreliable,” Ramirez said. “Poor or no internet connectivity, Chromebook issues, and Google Login trouble are all hiccups I have experienced so far.”

Ramirez also expressed concern over his involvement as an educator for his students with the development of the computer-based curriculum. He notices that he is not lecturing in front of his students as much as he did in the past.

“Personally, I feel as an educator I am not speaking with my students as much as I used to,” Ramirez said. “With the new curriculum, it doesn’t seem that I am as involved with their work as I have been, and now I don’t feel as connected to my students. That problem probably has a lot more to do with my not knowing my role/where I fit with the curriculum versus a problem with the curriculum itself, but it is something I’m concerned about.”

Some students have said they find it difficult to adapt to the new curriculum as they go from paper to computer.

“It’s definitely harder for me because I can’t concentrate when I’m reading from the Chromebook, and I’d have to read it a few more times before I can actually understand it,” Huynh said.

StudySync includes features where the student can highlight and annotate on the text, but some students prefer to do it on a hard copy rather than electronically because they absorb the information better.

“I think that we should’ve just stuck to the previous curriculum because I think it was just fine,” Huynh said. “I liked reading from hard copies of books and annotating with sticky notes and a pen, so my opinion on it is why change something that was perfectly fine?”