Commitment to Family Involvement in Curriculum
What We Believe
Walla Walla Public Schools believes parents are critical partners in their children’s education and we value their input and perspectives. A significant body of research points to the benefits of this commitment. Greater parental involvement provides advantages that include and extend beyond academics, to both social connection and emotional well-being. The current WWPS strategic plan benchmarks that same commitment, pointing to “the importance of family and community” in students’ schooling.
How We Select Curriculum and Other Instructional Materials
There are generally two types of material sets in our schools. The first is considered our “core curriculum.” These instructional materials are used to help students meet state and academic learning standards and may include textbooks, technology-based materials, and other educational media.
When adopting core instructional materials, the district goes through a rigorous, 13-step, year-long process of evaluation, pilot testing, and input-gathering. A committee that includes staff, administrators, parents and school board representation reviews all potential materials and makes a recommendation to the entire board for adoption. Prior to adoption, the district takes great measures in making the materials available for community review and comment, advertising these opportunities through multiple communication platforms.
Prior to the 2017 strategic plan, WWPS had fallen behind in acquiring up-to-date materials. As a result, the board funded an aggressive, five-year adoption cycle to ensure all students at all grade levels had access to updated curriculum aligned with current state and national standards.
Supplemental Instructional Materials
Of course, teachers don’t just use core textbooks as their sole instructional resource. They use news articles, supplementary texts, video clips, current events and other outside sources to add depth, richness and relevancy to support standards they are addressing within their content area.
The use and selection of these materials is governed by WWPS Board Policy #2020 – Course Design, Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials, with more detail provided in the associated procedures:
- 2020 (P) – Course Design, Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials
- 2020 (P) - Form 1 - Administrator Approval Request for Classroom Use of Video or Novel
- 2020 (P) - Form 2 - Parent Permission
- 2020 (P) - Form 3 - Guidelines for Use of Classroom Novels
- 2020 (P) - Form 4 - Guidelines for Use of Videos
Together, this policy and the five associated procedures provide the guidelines for how materials may be approved for use, at what ages, and with what forms of parental notification and permission is required.
How Materials Are Selected for Availability in School Libraries
The adoption of library materials is governed by WWPS Board Policy #2021 – Library Information and Technology Programs and the accompanying procedure. Selection of library materials is based on five key priorities, aligned with the American Library Association and the American Association of School Libraries. They include:
Parent Library Access Tips
- Providing resource materials, for both curricular and individual inquiry, for students and faculty;
- Providing materials that meet the interest, vocabulary, maturity and ability levels of students;
- Providing a diversity of materials in the interest of achieving a balance of sources and perspectives;
- Fostering reading as a lifelong activity through exposure to printed and digital materials; and,
- Including materials in the collection because of their academic, literary and/or artistic value and merit.
Librarians in each school curate collections utilizing their expertise, in addition to daily interactions with students and faculty. Before acquiring new library books, school librarians consult with Common Sense Media’s research-based, independent rating system to ensure library books beginning age/grade level recommendation does not exceed the age/grade span the library serves (e.g. 12 and up for elementary school, 15 and up for middle school, 18 and up/adult for high school). If the specific resource has not been reviewed by Common Sense Media, librarians will seek another nationally-recognized review service.
In accordance with Procedure 2020P, library books maintained in the school library to support college-level classes taught at the high school such as Running Start, College in the High School and AP/Honors programs, as a result of their advanced Lexile reading levels, are exempt from this procedure.
Walla Walla Public Schools is proud to maintain skilled librarians at every level and houses a vast selection of books across each school campus. More recently, we are pleased with our efforts to grow our collection, featuring diverse voices and languages other than English for our students who come from multilingual families. We firmly believe every parent should be able to read to their kids!
State-required Sexual Health Education Curriculum
Overview of the Law and Curriculum
In 2020, the Washington legislature approved SB 5395, requiring all school districts to, “provide comprehensive sexual education instruction that is medically and scientifically accurate, evidence-informed, age-appropriate and aligned with the state’s health and learning standards.” The bill specifies standards to be taught, at what grade level, and the frequency of the instruction. Click here to review the state's learning standards by grade span.
Aligned with state requirements, sexual/health education is introduced at the 5th grade level in WWPS, beginning with introductory, age appropriate topics. Sexual education is not taught prior to 5th grade. The materials the School Board selected (Rights, Respect and Responsibility) were deeply vetted and reviewed in 2018, where dozens of stakeholders including parent, district faculty, the Community School Health Advisory Committee and the district's Instructional Materials Committee actively participated in the selection process.
Prior to lessons being taught, the district provides notice to parents 30 days in advance, allowing them the opportunity to preview the materials ahead of time. All of the district’s sexual education curriculum and lessons continue to be available for parent review, in both English and Spanish, on the district’s website here. After reviewing the lessons, parents may choose to opt their child out of instruction.
Common Questions & Answers
How can I find out what books my children are reading in class?
The district encourages parents to be involved and aware of what their children are learning. Depending on the grade level of instruction, teachers establish curricular plans and/or syllabi that identifies assigned books to be read ahead of time. Depending on the course of study, these are typically provided to students and families at the beginning of the school but may be accessed at any time by contacting the child’s teacher.
In addition, Walla Walla Public Schools has multiple safeguards in place to ensure students are reading age-appropriate books in class. First, the district has identified Common Sense Media as an independent, third-party tool to help inform age-level appropriateness for novels. If the Common Sense age rating is at or below the proposed class level (see procedure for details), the book may be used without requiring parent or administrator permission.
If the Common Sense age rating is within one or two years above the typical class age level, teachers first secure principal permission to utilize the novel. If the principal agrees, parents are then notified using Form 2020: Parent Permission Form. Any student whose parent chooses not to allow them to read the book will be provided an alternative assignment with equivalent participation.
College-level classes at the high school, as a result of their advanced Lexile reading levels, are exempt from this procedure. Teachers of such classes will make available a syllabus to students and families at the beginning of every year or term outlining novels to be read as part of the curricular program. If requested by families, an alternate resource will be made available.
How can I find out what videos my children are seeing in class?
The safeguards for videos mirror those for books, with details spelled out in a separate procedure. The district relies on Motion Picture Association (MPAA) and TV ratings as a general guideline and requires parent permission whenever the rating guideline nears the age of students served in the class. Teachers provide an alternate viewing assignment of the same value for students whose parent chooses to opt them out.
How do I know which books are in the school libraries?
For many years our school library collections have been made available through our public online interface: https://destiny.wwps.org/ There, parents can search each library collection by title, keyword, author, subject or series. Additionally, any parent who wishes to review our libraries in person is free to schedule a visit through the building principal.
I think a book in the school library is inappropriate for my student, what can I do?
It is an easy and straightforward process. Parents may request access to monitor their student’s library account by contacting their school’s librarian. Additionally, families may also request to remove their student’s library checkout permissions.
I think a book in the school library is inappropriate for all students, what can I do?
Citizens who wish to express a concern about a specific collection included in the library may do so according to the procedures outlined in Procedure 2021P. This may include a formal review by the Library Materials Review Committee, consisting of school staff, parents and other representatives, who will review the book to ensure it meets library circulation criteria.
I have heard sensational stories on the types of sexual education instruction that is being taught in some schools across the nation. Is that happening in Walla Walla?
While Walla Walla cannot speak to other districts’ curriculum and materials, what is being taught in Walla Walla Public Schools was carefully vetted by parents and staff to ensure age-appropriate instruction, and aligns directly with state requirements. No sexual education is taught to students below 5th grade. At the 5th grade level, age-appropriate instruction is provided on topics like basic human growth and development (e.g. puberty). To access all lessons taught, 5th-12th grade, parents are encouraged to visit the website or contact the Teaching and Learning Department.
What if I have additional questions not covered by this fact sheet?
If parents have concerns, we want to hear from them. The best first step is to begin the conversation with the teacher, librarian or building principal. However, please feel free to contact the district office at 509-527-3000.