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Kenya Posey stops to give one-on-one help to a student during a recent lesson.

Teachers in the Detroit school district have been adapting to new curriculums all school year.

Lori Higgins/Chalkbeat

Teachers nationwide can now look to Detroit for help adopting a demanding new literacy curriculum

It’s not every day that educators across the nation look to the Detroit school system for inspiration.

But that’s exactly what will happen as a result of a partnership announced this week.

As part of the partnership, materials developed with the help of curriculum experts in the district — and test-driven by Detroit teachers this school year — will be made available for free to teachers nationwide.

The partnership could save time for teachers across the country who are adapting to a new English language arts curriculum, since the materials map out steps teachers can take as they prepare their new lessons.

Ordinarily, teachers would invest a lot of time developing the materials, said Beth Gonzalez, the assistant director of curriculum and instruction for the Detroit district. Now, they won’t have to.

The push to create these materials began in Detroit, as Gonzalez and April Imperio, the district’s deputy executive director of K-12 literacy, were consulting with national experts and looking for ways to help the district’s K-8 teachers who were going through the intense transition to new curriculum — EL Education — in literacy. The teachers were also dealing with a new math curriculum.

More than 1,100 K-8 teachers in the Detroit school district used the materials this year, and their insight helped update the materials for the national launch.

That they helped pilot the materials “will be a source of pride for Detroit teachers,” Gonzalez said. Even before the national launch, she said, educators from across the country were hearing about the materials and asking questions.

“Other districts are now able to take advantage of resources and tools to support teachers both in the classroom and when planning their lessons,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement.

The partnership is called the modEL Detroit Project. The Skillman Foundation (a Chalkbeat funder) and EL Education are partners, and StandardsWork helped facilitate the project. A leading national literacy expert, Meredith Liben, led the project. Veteran teachers across the nation who’ve had experience using the EL Education curriculum helped develop the materials.

Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, said in a statement that the nonprofit philanthropic organization is proud to support a project that will assist teachers in Detroit and across the nation “with the training needed to implement this best-in-class curriculum with enthusiasm, confidence and fidelity.”

“To nurture the brilliance of our children, we must also nurture the brilliance of our teachers, supporting them and investing in their continuous development,” Allen said.