Highline Public Schools Adopts Inquiry By Design for Grades 6-12

June 8, 2021 — By unanimous vote, the Highline Public Schools board of education adopted Inquiry By Design as its English Language Arts curriculum for grades 6-12. The adoption ends a nearly two-year search and selection process guided by the 17-member Secondary Language Arts Adoption Committee, which is composed of teachers and community members across the school district.

This is the first time in more than a decade Highline has adopted a common high school English Language Arts curriculum. 

Inquiry By Design was selected from an initial slate of vendors, which was narrowed down to two during the pandemic. Volunteer teachers piloted the final two choices before making their recommendation. 

In support of the adoption, the committee cited four standout rationales:

  • Transferable skills, including comprehensive support for language learning and  proven performance  among diverse student populations.
  • Guaranteed viable curriculum with an inquiry-based lesson structure and strong rubrics for assessing student growth.
  • Authentic, high-quality texts, representing a diverse collection of voices and experiences offered alongside a framework that offers all students access to rigorous texts and authentic inquiry. 
  • Alignment to district priorities of moving towards Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and an anti-racist curriculum that encourages students to explore and reflect on the nuances of identity.  

During its presentation to the board, the committee also cited a pressing need for academic gains in English Language Arts achievement as a driving factor motivating a curriculum adoption. After reviewing Inquiry By Design’s report on significant academic achievement growth from Berkeley Unified School District—a district that adopted Inquiry By Design in 2017 and is demographically comparable to Highline Public Schools—the committee felt Inquiry By Design was the clear choice. 

The adoption by Highline Public Schools expands Inquiry By Design’s growing presence on the West Coast. Portland Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the Northwest, adopted Inquiry By Design for grades 6-12 in spring of 2016, followed in 2017 by Federal Way, Washington (9-12); Berkeley, California (6-8); and then Tigard-Tualatin School District , which adopted the company’s curriculum at grades 6-12. The company also continues work with several other West Coast districts, including schools in Bend-La Pine, Black Butte, North Clackamas, Crook County (in Oregon); Wahluke and Renton (in Washington); and Alameda, Cupertino, and Futures High School (in California). 

Inquiry By Design also has a strong and growing presence in other regions. Seven school districts in Texas adopted the curriculum last year. 

During the board meeting, Secondary Language Arts Adoption Committee members spoke on the strong alignment of Inquiry By Design’s curriculum and Highline’s district priorities. Michael Kamin, a Secondary Literacy Specialist,  specifically highlighted Inquiry By Design’s strengths as an anti-racist curriculum, its Universal Design for Learning approach, and the clear commitment to diverse and multicultural texts.

“[Inquiry By Design] uses a combination of rigorous shared reading and targeted small-group instruction so that all students have access to rigorous reading in volume for authentic inquiry,” Kamin said. “Its asset-based stance and comprehensive support for language is crucial for serving our students in Highline … where 25 percent of our students are language learners. And it sees Highline students for their strengths and builds on them.”

“We’re absolutely thrilled about the Highline adoption,” said Nick Resnick, Chief Executive Officer of Inquiry By Design. “We are inspired by their commitment and dedication to serve the needs of their diverse student population through the use of our Literacy curriculum. We’re honored to be their partner.”

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