Minneapolis Public School officials are trying to recover some of the $1.2 million they spent on the much-criticized Reading Horizons curriculum after the school board abruptly canceled the contract Tuesday night.
Reading Horizons CEO Tyson Smith said that discussions about a post-cancellation refund haven’t begun yet and that he was surprised the board ended the contract.
He said the Utah-based company offered the district a $650,000 refund if the contract remained in place and a literacy performance benchmark was set for the year. The contract cancellation will force a new round of talks on a possible refund.
School board vice chairwoman Kim Ellison said interim Superintendent Michael Goar is looking into ways to get some money back. She said staff will continue to explore other curriculum options, but for now teachers have no reading program to improve student literacy.
On Tuesday, the board voted to cancel the contract after hearing teacher and community outcry about some of the company’s books, which critics found laden with cultural and racial stereotypes. One book was about an American Indian girl called “Nieko the Hunting Girl” and one was about a black girl called “Lazy Lucy.”
Ellison said the administration didn’t properly review the curriculum. There wasn’t a curriculum committee of teachers, parents and community in place when Reading Horizons was chosen, she said. When the board received the contract, she said, it thought that policies had been followed, with appropriate vetting. She said future contracts will be more closely scrutinized.
In the 2014-15 school year, the district’s Teaching and Learning Department looked through several reading programs and decided on Reading Horizons “because of its unique, multisensory approach,” according to an evaluation by the district.
The Minneapolis controversy is causing Reading Horizons to make changes. The company will start an advisory board to ensure it is being culturally competent, Smith said. He added that there’s been a national recall of the books under fire, and that they will be reworked. “We regret that this has occurred and that we’ve offended some individuals,” he said. “We’re deeply sorry.”