Skip To Main Content

Fall 2023

Transforming districtwide learning with new elementary language arts curriculum

Skyline students work in a small group with their teacher

Skyline Elementary School students work in a small group with their teacher, Livia Olesen, to discuss The Wind in the Willows characters as part of the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum. This was adopted by the Lake Stevens School District’s Board of Directors in May 2023, after a two-year comprehensive curriculum review and piloting process.

Nov. 3, 2023

The classroom lights were dim and students were comfortably seated in the front of the room, fully engrossed in their teacher’s reading of The Wind in the Willows.When Livia Olesen came upon one of the identified vocabulary words, her Skyline Elementary School third-graders would recite the definition, in unison, complete with hand gestures to help them retain the information. 

“Conceited—overly proud of yourself,” the students chanted while pointing their noses in the air. 

“What makes Toad conceited?” asked Olesen, as nearly a dozen student hands shot into the air to answer her question.

Students were introduced to the adventures of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad, all while strengthening their understanding of character traits, settings, themes, plots and sequence of events. Following their reading they worked collaboratively to draft an opinion about Toad and why he was irresponsible.

The story is part of Domain 1: Classic Tales in the Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) curriculum, which was adopted by the Lake Stevens School District’s Board of Directors in May 2023, after a two-year comprehensive curriculum review and piloting process.

“My students are adapting very well to CKLA,” said Olesen, who was one of 20 teachers to pilot the curriculum last school year. “In third-grade we invest two hours each day to complete a lesson to ensure we teach all of the parts—speaking and listening, foundational skills, writing responses to reading, independent and partner reading, and handwriting. Activities such as these integrate ELA standards while exposing students to a variety of genres and topics. Our new curriculum will equitably give a foundation to all students in our district.” 

During the pilot of CKLA, Olesen guided her students as they made connections across topics and disciplines. Their vocabulary was enhanced, which also supported their writing skills. She sees her students engaged in their learning and having fun.

"They are excited to learn, and their daily reflections show that they are enjoying the materials."
—Livia Olesen

“They are excited to learn, and their daily reflections show that they are enjoying the materials. I’ve even had families tell me that their children are actively sharing what they’ve learned when they get home. And, I’m learning right along with them,” said Olesen, who is looking forward to exploring future learning topics including animal classifications, the Roman Empire, Native Americans, ecology and more. 

CKLA was fully implemented at the start of this school year in kindergarten through fifth-grade as the district’s core language arts curriculum. It immerses students in rich content from literature, history, geography and science, while fostering a deeper understanding of subjects and supporting effective writing and communication.

A third-grader plans his opinion paragraph, starting with a topic sentence, inviting the reader to learn why Toad is irresponsible.

A third-grader plans his opinion paragraph

CKLA adoption process

Prior to adopting CKLA, elementary teachers and principals adopted a literacy vision to ensure that the curriculum review process aligned with the needs of Lake Stevens’ students. The elementary team determined that the first step of their process was their own professional learning. 

All elementary teachers were trained in LETRS, which provides the skills needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and language. 

Then, the Elementary Literacy Review Team, made up of elementary teachers, principals and district leaders, began evaluating programs in the fall of 2022. CKLA emerged as the standout choice for several reasons:

  • K-5 Scope and Sequence: CKLA was the only program that offered a comprehensive scope and sequence for foundational skill instruction across all grade levels.
  • Alignment: CKLA aligns with the Science of Reading, a body of research that illuminates how students learn to read. This alignment ensures that the district’s curriculum is up-to-date and evidence-based.
  • Integration: CKLA seamlessly integrates reading, writing and handwriting instruction— streamlining the learning process for both students and teachers.
  • Engagement: The program is highly engaging for students, making learning a captivating and enjoyable experience.
  • Content and vocabulary building: CKLA exposes students to complex grade-level texts daily, emphasizing meaningful content and vocabulary development.
  • Resource accessibility: Teachers have access to pre-made and editable Google Slide decks for each lesson, and classrooms are equipped with grade-level texts and teacher guides. Students in kindergarten through third-grade use consumable workbooks, while those in fourth- and fifth-grades have digital and paper-pencil response options.
  • Equity and consistency: CKLA helps align literacy learning experiences across our district, offering an equitable experience for all students—regardless of the school they attend, or the teacher they have. This uniformity promotes excellence in education throughout our community.

“Over the past few years, brain research has been published that better defines how students learn to read,” said Steve Burleigh, Executive Director of Elementary Teaching & Learning. “I am so pleased with CKLA, which is grounded in this important research. The commitment and dedication of our elementary educators and administrators to screen, pilot, learn and implement CKLA was essential, and greatly appreciated. Our elementary students throughout the district now have an aligned, equitable and engaging literacy curriculum to prepare them as they advance through our district.”

Community-led collaboration guides district’s facilities planning process

Superintendent Ken Collins welcomes members of the Facilities Needs Advisory Committee

Superintendent Ken Collins welcomed members of the Facilities Needs Advisory Committee, and outlined the group’s purpose and goal. He provided an overview of the district’s strategic plan, and the pivotal role district facilities play in student achievement.

Nov. 3, 2023

Large sheets of paper line the room, filled with colorful Post-It notes containing questions, suggestions and creative ideas.Participants of varying ages and roles are huddled in small table groups throughout the room—pouring over data, maps and charts. The synergy in the room is palpable as the group collaborates and works through scenarios.  

This group is Lake Stevens School District’s Facilities Needs Advisory Committee (FNAC). It includes parents, caregivers, staff, students and community leaders, and is being led by Andrea Wright—a district parent, volunteer and engaged member of the community. FNAC members applied to participate after engaging in the district’s Facilities Needs Survey in early September. 

“I’m honored to lead this dynamic committee,” exclaimed Wright. “We’re collaborating to tackle the multifaceted challenges of safety, programs, building condition and capacity. Our shared commitment to prioritize these challenges, and create a recommendation to the Board of Directors, guarantees that our schools will continue to effectively support all of our students for years to come.”

More than 1,200 people participated in the Facilities Needs Survey, sharing 824 thoughts in response to this question:

What facilities needs should be considered as we plan for enrollment growth and the improvement of schools and district facilities in the years to come?

Respondents expressed concerns for safety, comfort and the capacity of our schools. This included overcrowding concerns and the need for additional schools, particularly at the middle and high school levels. Safety was a recurring theme, with participants emphasizing the importance of secure campuses and classroom doors. Climate control was also highlighted as a priority, with many calling for air conditioning and better heating in classrooms. Other suggestions include modernizing facilities and providing more parking. Participants stressed the need for equitable resources and facilities across all schools in the district.

“We appreciate the willingness of our district stakeholders to partner in this important work,” said Robb Stanton, Executive Director of Operations Services. “Community engagement is an essential part of our district and a crucial component of our long-term planning and strategy.”

The committee is made up of parents, caregivers, staff, students and community leaders. It is being led by Andrea Wright (standing, back right). The committee will meet through the end of 2023 to identify and prioritize facilities needs. They will present final recommendations to the Board of Directors in early 2024. These recommendations will be used by the Board and district leaders for future bond planning to address continued growth and aging facilities.

Committee group members at a table

Continual planning and anticipation of growth, facility needs

The FNAC was formed to begin a community-based process to evaluate the district’s facilities needs, which are greater than the district’s annual budgets. Facilities and capacity planning are a normal part of the district’s operations.

District administrators perform enrollment projections several times a year, which are coupled with the six-year enrollment projections supplied from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Permits for future housing developments and quarterly reviews of construction are also conducted.

To determine facility needs, annual building condition assessments are performed. Results from these assessments are shared with the Board of Directors. District administrators also perform annual safety audits of schools to determine where improvements are needed.

“We use data to drive our decisions, and are constantly planning for our future,” said Stanton.

When data indicates that the facility needs are greater than district leaders can manage with annual budgets, a needs assessment is developed. If the Board of Directors is in agreement with the needs assessment, district leaders move forward with surveying our community and convening a FNAC.

The FNAC will meet through the end of 2023 to identify and prioritize facilities needs. They will present final recommendations to the Board of Directors in early 2024. These recommendations will be used by the Board and district leaders for future bond planning to address continued growth and aging facilities.

In addition to the work of the FNAC, technical experts are meeting to review potential funding sources, to identify potential solutions and alternatives, and to begin estimating the scope of work that may be needed.

Infographic for engagement showing participants and thoughts

Engagement stats: 824 thoughts, 1,262 participants and 30,042 ratings.

Annual assessment scores show growth, opportunities

LSSD 2023 state assessment scores vs. WA state

LSSD 2023 state assessment scores vs. WA state

Nov. 3, 2023

Last spring, Lake Stevens School District’s (LSSD) third- through eighth-graders and 10th-graders took the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) in English Language Arts (ELA) and math.Fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders also took the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS). Our students once again outperformed their peers statewide in all assessed categories. Our students were also among the leaders in Snohomish County in the majority of tested areas.

“Our students and educators have demonstrated a commitment to learning, and I’m pleased to see the progress we’ve made as a district,” said Dr. Ken Collins, Superintendent of LSSD. “However, we know our journey is far from complete. While we have areas of celebration, we acknowledge that there is still work to be done. We will continue our efforts to ensure that all students receive the support and necessary interventions required to achieve academic success.”

Summative assessment scores, such as the SBA and WCAS, are just one way that we measure student achievement. In our district, we focus as heavily, if not more so, on frequent, formative, classroom-based assessments that help guide instruction. Information gained from state assessments and other district and classroom-based assessments and activities help our educators plan and guide instruction. District administrators use the information to plan professional learning for teachers and to help identify, promote, and support successful programs, effective curriculum and instructional strategies.

While the spring 2023 scores indicate progress—gains were made in sixth-grade ELA and math and in eighth-grade ELA and science—opportunity gaps continue to persist. Supporting students furthest from educational justice and students most impacted by the pandemic has remained a priority. Students are receiving interventions through tutoring, after school and summer learning opportunities, reengagment support, mentoring, access to educational technology, and mental health support.

Student assessment scores are available for families in Skyward Family Access under the “Test Scores” or the “Portfolio” tabs. Families of secondary students received a family score report in the mail.

For more information about LSSD’s student achievement scores and demographic information, visit Washington State Report Card and search for “Lake Stevens School District.” To learn more about state testing, visit OSPI's State Testing page.