Alpena Public Schools notices improvements with Benchmark Advance ELA content

News Photo by Temi Fadayomi Wilson Elementary School Principal Jenny Marceau and Alpena Public Instructional Coach School Brandie Gapske pose inside Wilson Elementary School while holding some Benchmark Advance books on Thursday.

ALPENA — Alpena Public School students are already seeing positive results from the implementation of the Benchmark Advance curriculum for their English and Language Arts classes.

“I think that we’re just super pleased with the great gains that we’re seeing and the amazing writing that’s happening,” APS Instructional Coach Brandie Gapske said. “Our kids are rising to the occasion.”

Benchmark Advance is a learning curriculum that APS is implementing for its ELA content for elementary school students. One of the strengths of Benchmark Advance, according to Gapske, is how rigorous the curriculum is in encouraging improvements among students.

“I think that the rigor of it is a good fit for our district,” Gapske said. “We want to see our kids make some nice gains. And we feel like the materials that we had used in the past were outdated, and they maybe weren’t serving us and our students as well as we would like them to.”

Another thing that Gapske said that she likes about Benchmark Advance is how intertwined it is with all matters of ELA learning, making the whole curriculum more cohesive and ultimately easier for students to digest.

“Everything is intertwined together,” Gapske said. “So they are learning all of their English Language Arts; the writing, the reading, the grammar, and the phonics instructions are all intertwined.”

Despite these strengths, Gapske stated that there was some initial concern that the curriculum would be too challenging for students; however, according to Wilson Elementary School Principal Jenny Marceau, Wilson students have met the challenge and thrived.

“Our students are meeting the milestones that they are being asked to reach,” said Marceau. “So we’re seeing some great results.”

Benchmark Advance, according to Gapske, was selected from a handful of other academic curricula by a group of professionals that included parents, staff, and board members.

“A group of professionals were pulled together that included teachers, administrators, parents, and board members,” Gapske said. “We started by looking at quite a few different ELA curricula, materials from different companies and vendors, and we had a pretty explicit list of things that we wanted it to include … we eventually decided which one would be the best fit for us, which was Benchmark Advance.”

So far, Benchmark Advance has received a light launch throughout the various APS elementary schools with certain teachers implementing the curriculum with their students, according to Gapske. Come the fall of next year, those teachers, as well as various Benchmark Advance Instructors, will help other teachers with their own integration process of the curriculum and thus will have an easier time getting it off the ground.

“We started a cohort,” Gapske said. “We have 25 teachers across kindergarten through fifth grade in each building. So there are teachers in every building that are doing this in all six elementary schools. This fall, those 25 teachers began teaching it in their classrooms. So it’s just been the school year. When the fall of next year comes, all the rest of the elementary teachers will come on board. They’re currently receiving professional development to get them prepared to have a good kickoff in the fall to start in the fall.”


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