Students and teachers at the Palo Alto school district's elementary and middle schools will use new history-social studies curricula next school year.
Two separate committees, one for elementary and one for middle school, presented their curriculum recommendations to the school board on Tuesday night. Board members were supportive of both programs but have not yet formally voted to adopt them.
Both committees described a need to replace textbooks adopted years ago to align with current state standards and instructional philosophies, including a focus on student inquiry, civics and diversity. They were also prompted to update local materials after the state Board of Education adopted a new K-12 history-social science framework in 2016.
The elementary committee unanimously recommended the Teachers Curriculum Institute's Social Studies Alive! California Edition, an online interactive program that was received well by teachers and parents. While it's an online program, students will also have access to a workbook and can choose which platform to use, offering flexibility for different learning styles and needs, committee members said. English language learners and dyslexic students can also choose to listen to audio recordings of the texts. Teachers can also adapt materials and assessments to fit their students' needs.
The program will require some supplemental materials for third grade, when students learn about local history, but teachers will continue to use units they have already developed, committee members said.
The middle school committee recommended in a 16-3 vote that the district adopt the same publishing company's History Alive! California Series, which also was rated well by teachers, parents and students in surveys. Three committee members voted for the other piloted curriculum, National Geographic's World History: Ancient Civilizations; World History: Medieval and Early Modern Times.
The district also working with educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves to develop a middle-school history unit about eugenics in response to the renaming of Jordan and Terman middle schools.
Both elementary and middle school programs were adopted by the state Board of Education in November and recommended for adoption for California schools.
The committees selected a final curriculum after teachers piloted two sets of materials in classrooms this year. The committees asked teachers to complete an evaluation and surveyed parents and students after each pilot.
At the middle schools, teachers taught one unit from each set of pilot materials at the same time non-piloting teachers were on the same unit. Students in both piloting and non-piloting classrooms were assessed before and after units so teachers could compare their growth between the new and existing materials.
The pilot materials were also made available at schools and the district office for parents to view and comment on.
In sharp contrast to years of contentious textbook adoptions in Palo Alto, the new programs sailed through with little debate on Tuesday.
"Both of these committees stand out in my mind as two of the best illustrations of how to run a process," said board member Todd Collins. "As we all know, good process means a good outcome."
The total cost for eight years of the new elementary curriculum, including professional development, is $755,500, to come from one-time state discretionary funds and professional learning grants. The first year of implementation will be the most expensive with an estimated cost of about $546,900.
The estimated cost for purchasing the new middle school materials is $600,000, also to come from one-time discretionary funds from the state.
Both textbooks will come back on the board's consent agenda on May 22.