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Two first grade girls read a large book outside.
First grade students at Asbury Elementary look at “big books” outside to practice reading. Asbury is one of many Denver schools that use the Benchmark Advance and Adelante reading programs.
Desarie Kennedy

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Denver says this reading curriculum supports English learners. But the state says it’s not based on science and has to go

Two-thirds of Denver schools use at least one reading curriculum in kindergarten through third grade that doesn’t meet new state requirements.

That means Colorado’s largest district may have to overhaul its reading curriculum to comply with state law — a sweeping task made more complicated by a court agreement on how Denver serves English learners.

By far the most common state-rejected curriculums in Denver schools are Benchmark Advance and Benchmark Adelante, its Spanish-language counterpart. More than half of elementary and K-8 schools use the 2018 version of one or both programs, with some students at more than 50 schools learning to read in Spanish then gradually transitioning to reading in English.

State reviews found the two Benchmark programs don’t align with research on how children learn to read, but district leaders say the products are among the few available options that satisfy its obligation to provide equivalent materials in English and Spanish.

“We’re legally required to have curriculum available in Spanish and English,” and it must offer comparable content and quality, said Nadia Madan Morrow, the district’s executive director for multicultural education.

That puts Denver in a uniquely thorny position — bound by a 2019 state law meant to boost Colorado’s dismal reading proficiency rates and a much older federal court agreement intended to ensure Denver’s English learners are well-served across all grades and subjects.

Floyd Cobb, the Colorado Department of Education’s executive director of teaching and learning, said by email that the department “will work directly with Denver Public Schools on this situation … DPS, like all districts, needs to use a scientifically or evidence-based programs in reading.”

A court monitor and plaintiffs in the case oversee Denver’s efforts to serve English learners based on criteria spelled out in a consent decree. Meanwhile, the state’s plan for rooting out poor reading curriculum is less concrete, with no set deadline for schools to replace programs the state has rejected.

Still, state officials have warned that districts could face lower state accreditation ratings if they don’t make a good-faith effort to comply with the new curriculum rule.

Some teachers say it’s beyond time for Benchmark to go. Troy Hubbell, a former elementary special education teacher at Denver’s Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, said many of his students came to him years behind in reading not because they had severe learning disabilities, but because Benchmark Advance didn’t properly cover reading basics like phonics and phonological awareness — the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken language.

“Nearly every kid I saw had tremendous holes in both those areas,” he said.

What English learners need

But Madan Morrow said the state’s focus on reading curriculum backed by science doesn’t adequately consider the needs of English learners. In Denver, that’s a lot of students — about 29,000 or about one-third of the student body. Most of them speak Spanish as their first language.

A teacher sits at a table with two girls. They look at a paper on the table.
In this 2010 file photo, a teacher works with 6-year-old students in an English language acquisition class at Denver’s Cole Arts & Science Academy.
Andy Cross/The Denver Post

“I’m not trying to say science of reading research is bad, but it wasn’t conducted on multilingual learners,” Madan Morrow said.

The “science of reading” refers to a large body of research on how children learn to read. One key finding is that explicit, systematic phonics helps build skilled readers. In other words, teachers must directly and methodically teach children the connection between letter combinations and sounds. Experts also agree that phonics instruction on its own isn’t enough.

But some fear that other critical elements for students learning English, like comprehension skills and vocabulary building, are being neglected.

Kathy Escamilla, an education professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and a plaintiff in the English learner case, said “it’s not enough to take a monolingual view of reading instruction, apply it wholesale without considering unique needs and strengths of second-language learners and then expect to have equal outcomes.”

She’s also concerned about how few Spanish programs have made the state’s approved list. Currently, the list includes just two Spanish core programs — Maravillas and Arriba la Lectura — compared with 10 English-language programs. Reviews of three other Spanish-language core reading programs are delayed.

“People at the state don’t know that they’re inadvertently undermining the ability of districts to implement solid bilingual programs, and that’s a shame,” Escamilla said.

Prioritizing reading in a pandemic

While most educators agree that well-trained teachers are the most critical part of the reading equation, they say high-quality curriculum can help. A 2019 law meant to strengthen the state’s 2012 reading law — the READ Act — seeks to use both levers to get more kids reading at grade level.

In the 92,000-student Denver district, only 39% of third-graders met state standards on Colorado’s 2019 literacy test, which includes reading and writing. That’s a bit lower than the state average of 41%, though Denver beat the state average on a measure that reflects student growth from year to year. In addition, Denver’s English learners do better on standardized literacy tests than do their peers around the state.

Krista Spurgin, executive director of the education advocacy group Stand For Children, said she wants to see bold leadership from the state education department as well as local leaders on reading curriculum oversight.

“There’s an opportunity for the Denver school board, I think all school boards … to dig in and understand how their READ Act dollars are being spent,” she said. ”If they’re not seeing results now on what they’re using, now would be a good time to shift.”

She said districts should also allocate funding for teacher training and support after curriculum switches.

Each year, Colorado districts receive a chunk of state money earmarked to help struggling readers. Last year, Denver got about $2.7 million. That amount isn’t enough for an across-the-board curriculum purchase in such a large district, but could defray the costs.

“The other thing I would say is yeah, we’re in a pandemic, we’re in a crisis,” Spurgin said. “So, let’s budget our priorities, and if kids reading isn’t a priority, then we are all misaligned to what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Local control landscape

Denver district officials and charter school leaders report using dozens of different core reading programs in their schools — a level of variation found in other large Colorado districts that emphasize school autonomy, including neighboring Jeffco.

Like Benchmark Advance and Adelante, the EL Education program is used in a majority of Denver schools, most often starting in third grade. Although the curriculum does not come in a Spanish version, Denver has produced Spanish materials that match up.

Sarah Tilton, a literacy intervention teacher and last year a third grade teacher at the elementary school Trevista at Horace Mann, said she likes using EL Education, in part for its high-quality books, and said the district has done a good job providing well-researched corresponding Spanish materials.

The problem for Denver — and other districts that use EL Education in third grade — is that the state approved the program only for use in kindergarten through second grade, not third. State officials said districts using approved curriculum in non-approved grades will have to switch for those grades. It’s not clear if any flexibility will be allowed — or how the state will enforce the requirement.

State education officials say the department won’t create “a comprehensive plan for how to support” districts that need to make curriculum changes until after districts turn in school-by-school curriculum lists on April 15.

More than a dozen Denver schools, including nine charter schools, use a well-regarded curriculum approved for all K-3 grades called Core Knowledge Language Arts. Like EL Education, experts praise Core Knowledge for its emphasis on building content knowledge, an important element for all children, but especially English learners and children who come from low-income families.

Other fully approved core curriculums used in some Denver schools include Wonders, its Spanish-language counterpart, Maravillas, and Open Court Reading.

More than a dozen Denver schools use state-rejected programs besides Benchmark, including one commonly called Lucy Calkins and a Colorado-grown early childhood curriculum called Tools of the Mind.

In addition to the state’s eventual monitoring of reading curriculum in districts statewide, Denver faces separate intermittent evaluations to determine if its English and Spanish materials are comparable.

In 2018, the court monitor in the English learner case praised the district’s effort to ensure parity, including in elementary reading materials. Currently, a group of plaintiffs in the case — the Congress of Hispanic Educators — is conducting a full curriculum audit. Escamilla, who is leading the audit, said the group will likely release findings on elementary curriculum in January.

How teachers see Benchmark

Opinions about Benchmark Advance and Adelante range widely. Some teachers say they like many of the programs’ components and note that the district has beefed up weak spots by developing additional reading lessons and materials in-house. Others say some components of the programs aren’t backed by science, don’t cover fundamentals thoroughly, and include books that one teacher described as “cartoony, non-genuine factory literature.”

“I don’t love it,” said Valdez Elementary teacher Jennifer Wiltse, of Benchmark Advance.

Formerly a reading intervention teacher who mainly used special programs targeting struggling readers, this year Wiltse is teaching first grade.

“I’m somewhat grateful that I have it because otherwise I’d be trying to invent it,” she said. At the same time, “it jumps around a lot and is not cohesive.”

Two first-graders at Asbury Elementary in Denver work on reading “big books.”
Desarie Kennedy

Hubbell, who’s now a special education teacher in the Adams 12 district, said while many of his Denver students made up a lot of ground with the help of the highly structured phonics-heavy intervention program he used, they’d already missed years of grade-level reading and vocabulary.

“I got kids that never should have needed me who will probably never catch up, and I defy anyone to look me in the face and say that’s OK,” he said.

Some teachers are satisfied with Benchmark and worry about the cost and disruption of switching to something new.

Lisa Williams, who teaches first grade remotely to Spanish-speaking students from five Southwest Denver schools, said she thinks the Benchmark materials coordinate well and give students lots of opportunities to see and practice new words and skills. She agreed that the program’s books aren’t always the best, but said the district’s curriculum team has added high-quality options in supplemental lessons.

Williams said she doesn’t want the district to switch away from Benchmark.

“I feel like we’ve done so much jumping around as it is,” she said.

The new version of Benchmark

Last year, Benchmark Education submitted its latest version of Advance — the 2021 edition — for review in Colorado. The new version had undergone major revisions from the 2018 version, with Wiley Blevins, a phonics expert and author, leading the development of its foundational skills components.

In April, state reviewers rejected the 2021 version of Benchmark Advance, but after the company submitted clarifications in several areas, the state approved it in June for kindergarten through second grade. Company officials say the 2021 version includes enhanced explicit phonics, daily phonics intervention options, and new trade books — the kind of books found in libraries and bookstores.

A national curriculum reviewer, EdReports, concluded that the 2018 and 2021 versions of Benchmark Advance “partially meet expectations,” with both versions earning mediocre scores for building student knowledge. EdReports doesn’t review Spanish-language curriculum.

Benchmark doesn’t plan to submit its revised version of Adelante — the 2022 edition — for approval in Colorado until the state’s next reading curriculum review cycle. That will start next fall and finish in spring 2022. That means even if Denver bought the approved 2021 edition of Benchmark Advance, there’s currently no approved Spanish version to go with it.

Caitlin Mohl, who teaches first grade English learners at Swansea Elementary School, was on the district’s curriculum review committee when Benchmark Advance and Adelante were adopted in 2016.

She said the committee considered a handful of curriculums at the time and Benchmark checked the most boxes. It had fairly solid coverage of foundational skills, alignment to state standards, and English-Spanish parity.

After looking at the state’s evaluation of Benchmark Adelante, Mohl argued that some criteria and reviewer comments don’t make sense for Spanish-language reading curriculums since Spanish sounds and spelling are more consistent than in English. State officials used the same criteria for all curriculums reviews.

Mohl, like many educators, also said the dearth of Spanish materials on the market is a big problem. During the district’s review process, she said the publisher of one reading program said it didn’t have anything available in Spanish, but planned to unveil something soon.

“You just can’t take that kind of risk,” she said.

This story was produced with support from the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program.


Search for a Denver school below to find out what core reading curriculum it uses in kindergarten through third grade and whether that program has been approved by the state. A core program is a comprehensive instructional program designed to teach all children in a classroom.

Don’t see a searchable table below? View the story here.

Look up Denver K-3 reading curriculum by school

School Core reading curriculum Approval Status
School Core reading curriculum Approval Status
DCIS at Ford 95% Group Approved as supplemental or intervention program
KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary (C) ARC Core Not approved
Cole Arts and Science Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Green Valley Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Gust Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Oakland Elementary Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Stedman Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Eagleton Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 No
Schmitt Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade 2) No
Beach Court Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade 3) No
Charles M. Schenck Community School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K-2) No
Asbury Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Brown International Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Columbian Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Dora Moore ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Doull Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Edison Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Fairview Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Force Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Garden Place Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Grant Ranch ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Hallett Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Holm Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Kaiser Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Lincoln Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Marie L. Greenwood Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Marrama Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
McGlone Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Newlon Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Palmer Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
University Park Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Whittier ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
William (Bill) Roberts ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Steck Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grade K) No
Barnum Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades 1-2) No
College View Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades 1-2) No
Cowell Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades 1-2) No
Lena Archuleta Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades 1-3) No
Bryant Webster Dual Language ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Castro Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Colfax Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Ellis Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Farrell B. Howell ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Florida Pitt-Waller ECE-8 School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Godsman Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Goldrick Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
John H. Amesse Elementary Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Johnson Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Knapp Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
McMeen Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Munroe Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Sabin World School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Swansea Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Traylor Academy Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Valdez Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Valverde Elementary School Benchmark Adelante 2018 (grades K-2) No
Stedman Elementary School Benchmark Advance 20018 No
Eagleton Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Green Valley Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Gust Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Marie L. Greenwood Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Oakland Elementary Benchmark Advance 2018 No
Cowell Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grade 1-2) No
Charles M. Schenck Community School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grade 2) No
Barnum Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades 1-2) No
College View Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades 1-2) No
Lowry Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades 1-2) No
Schmitt Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades 1-2) No
Lena Archuleta Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades 1-3) No
Asbury Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-1) No
Academy 360 (C) Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-1) No
Brown International Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Castro Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Colfax Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Columbian Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Dora Moore ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Doull Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Edison Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Ellis Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Fairview Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Farrell B. Howell ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Florida Pitt-Waller ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Force Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Garden Place Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Godsman Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Goldrick Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Grant Ranch ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Hallett Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Holm Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
John H. Amesse Elementary Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Johnson Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Kaiser Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Knapp Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Lincoln Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Marrama Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
McGlone Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
McMeen Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Munroe Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Newlon Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Palmer Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Sabin World School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Steck Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Swansea Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Traylor Academy Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
University Park Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Valdez Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Valverde Elementary School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Whittier ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
William (Bill) Roberts ECE-8 School Benchmark Advance 2018 (grades K-2) No
Denver Language School (C) Better Immersion (from BetterChinese) Not reviewed
Center for Talent Development at Greenlee Core Knowledge Language Arts Yes
Cole Arts and Science Academy Core Knowledge Language Arts Yes
College View Elementary School Core Knowledge Language Arts Yes
Wyatt Academy (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts Yes
STRIVE Prep - Ruby Hill (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts Yes
Steele Elementary School Core Knowledge Language Arts (grade 1) Yes
Highline Academy Northeast (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts (grade 3) Yes
Highline Academy Southeast (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts (grade 3) Yes
Steck Elementary School Core Knowledge Language Arts (grades 1-3) Yes
Sabin World School Core Knowledge Language Arts (grades 1-3) Yes
University Prep - Arapahoe St. (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts (grades K-2) Yes
University Prep - Steele St. (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts (grades K-2) Yes
Rocky Mountain Prep: Berkeley (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts foundational skills Yes
Rocky Mountain Prep: Creekside (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts foundational skills Yes
Rocky Mountain Prep: Southwest (C) Core Knowledge Language Arts foundational skills Yes
Grant Ranch ECE-8 School E.L. Achieve (grade 3) Not reviewed
Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment E.L. Achieve (grade 3) Not reviewed
Columbian Elementary School EL Achieve (grade 3) Not reviewed
Joe Shoemaker School EL Education Approved for some grades
Rocky Mountain Prep: Berkeley (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Rocky Mountain Prep: Creekside (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Rocky Mountain Prep: Southwest (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
STRIVE Prep - Ruby Hill (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Bromwell Elementary School EL Education Approved for some grades
Columbine Elementary School EL Education Approved for some grades
Inspire Elementary EL Education Approved for some grades
Isabella Bird Community School EL Education Approved for some grades
McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School EL Education Approved for some grades
Slavens K-8 School EL Education Approved for some grades
Trevista at Horace Mann EL Education Approved for some grades
Westerly Creek Elementary EL Education Approved for some grades
Downtown Denver Expeditionary School (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Odyssey School of Denver (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Omar D Blair Charter School (C) EL Education Approved for some grades
Asbury Elementary School EL Education (grade 2-3) Approved for some grades
Barnum Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Brown International Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Bryant Webster Dual Language ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Castro Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Charles M. Schenck Community School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Colfax Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
College View Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Cory Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Cowell Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Creativity Challenge Community EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
DCIS at Ford EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Dora Moore ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Doull Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Edison Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Ellis Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Fairview Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Farrell B. Howell ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Florida Pitt-Waller ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Force Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Garden Place Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Godsman Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Goldrick Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Hallett Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Holm Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
John H. Amesse Elementary EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Johnson Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Kaiser Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Knapp Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Lincoln Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Lowry Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Marrama Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
McGlone Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
McMeen Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Munroe Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Newlon Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Palmer Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Place Bridge Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Sabin World School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Samuels Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Southmoor Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Steck Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Stedman Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Swansea Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Traylor Academy EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
University Park Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Valdez Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Valverde Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Whittier ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
William (Bill) Roberts ECE-8 School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Denver Language School (C) EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Cheltenham Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Schmitt Elementary School EL Education (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Carson Elementary School EL Education (grades 1-3) Approved for some grades
Beach Court Elementary School EL Education (grades 2-3) Approved for some grades
Academy 360 (C) EL Education (grades 2-3) Approved for some grades
Centennial, A School for Expeditionary Learning EL Education (grades K-3) Approved for some grades
Steele Elementary School EL Education (grades K-3) Approved for some grades
Beach Court Elementary School EL Skills Block (grades K-2) Approved for some grades
Centennial, A School for Expeditionary Learning EL Skills Block (grades K-2) Approved for some grades
Stedman Elementary School Estrellita Review pending
KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary (C) Estrellita (grades 1-2) Review pending
Denver Center For International Studies at Fairmont Fountas and Pinnell Phonics No
McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School Fountas and Pinnell Phonics No
Isabella Bird Community School Fundations Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Denver Language School (C) Fundations (grade 3) Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Teller Elementary School Genre Study Not reviewed
Polaris Genre Study (grade 1-3) Not reviewed
Carson Elementary School Genre Study (grade K) Not reviewed
Park Hill School Guided Reading Plus Not reviewed
Swigert International School Guided Reading Plus No
Willow Elementary School Imagine It Not reviewed
Denver Language School (C) Level Chinese Not reviewed
Park Hill School Leveled Literacy Intervention No
DCIS at Ford Life Long Readers Not reviewed
Park Hill School Literacy Footprints Not reviewed
Denver Center For International Studies at Fairmont Lucy Calkins No
Doull Elementary School Lucy Calkins No
Eagleton Elementary School Lucy Calkins No
Maxwell Elementary School Lucy Calkins No
Bromwell Elementary School Lucy Calkins (grade K) No
Creativity Challenge Community Lucy Calkins (grades K-2) No
Slavens K-8 School Lucy Calkins (grades K-2) No
Cheltenham Elementary School Making Meaning (grade K-2) Not reviewed
Smith Elementary School Maravillas 2017 Approved for some grades
International Academy of Denver at Harrington Maravillas 2017 Approved for some grades
Beach Court Elementary School Maravillas 2017 (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Godsman Elementary School Maravillas 2017 (grade 3) Approved for some grades
Place Bridge Academy Maravillas 2017 (grade K-2) Approved for some grades
Monarch Montessori (C) Maravillas 2020 Yes
Denver Language School (C) Maravillas 2020 Yes
Samuels Elementary School Mondo (core curriculum) (grades K-2) Not reviewed
Academia Ana Marie Sandoval Montessori Reading Curriculum Not reviewed
Denison Montessori School Montessori Total Curriculum Not reviewed
Willow Elementary School Novel Studies (grade 3) Not reviewed
KIPP Northeast Elementary (C) Open Court Yes
KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary (C) Open Court Yes
Monarch Montessori (C) Open Court Yes
Swigert International School Orton-Gillingham Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Bromwell Elementary School Orton-Gillingham (grade K) Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Cory Elementary School Orton-Gillingham (grades K-2) Approved as supplemental or intervention program
KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary (C) Palabras a Su Paso (grades 1-2) No
Highline Academy Northeast (C) Reach for Reading (grades K-2) No
Highline Academy Southeast (C) Reach for Reading (grades K-2) No
Reach Charter School (C) Read Well No
Willow Elementary School Read Well (grades K-2) No
Bradley International School Ready Common Core Reading Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Trevista at Horace Mann SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Southmoor Elementary School Superkids (grades K-2) Approved for some grades
Denver Green School Southeast Teacher-developed curriculum Not reviewed
Beach Court Elementary School Tools of the Mind (grades K-1) No
Barnum Elementary School Tools of the Mind (grade K) No
College View Elementary School Tools of the Mind (grade K) No
Cowell Elementary School Tools of the Mind (grade K) No
Lowry Elementary School Tools of the Mind (grade K) No
Schmitt Elementary School Tools of the MInd (grades K-1) No
Ashley Elementary School Wit and Wisdom Approved as supplemental or intervention program
KIPP Northeast Elementary (C) Wit and Wisdom Approved as supplemental or intervention program
University Prep - Arapahoe St. (C) Wit and Wisdom Approved as supplemental or intervention program
University Prep - Steele St. (C) Wit and Wisdom Approved as supplemental or intervention program
Park Hill School Wonders 2017 Approved for some grades
International Academy of Denver at Harrington Wonders 2017 Yes
Smith Elementary School Wonders 2017 Yes
Place Bridge Academy Wonders 2017 (grades K-2) Yes
The reading programs listed are all used in K-3, unless otherwise noted in parentheses. | Charter schools are indicated by a (C) next to the school name. |  * ARC Core was not reviewed by the Colorado Department of Education in 2020, but was reviewed and rejected in 2019. Source: Denver Public Schools; Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat

This story was produced with support from the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program.

[Note: The table was updated to reflect that 95% Group is approved as a supplemental or intervention program.]

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