LA Elementary Schools Drop Open Court Literacy Program

The structured Open Court program has been dropped in favor of California Treasures, which gives teachers more flexibility in the classroom.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has announced that they will be discontinuing the use of the Open Court reading program, calling it “too rigid and outdated.” The Los Angeles Times reports that a new program called California Treasures and published by McGraw/Hill will take its place.

Open Court had generated controversy ever since former Superintendent Roy Romer made its adoption one of the centerpieces of his education reform strategy. Romer made it mandatory for all Los Angeles Unified School District schools despite teachers’ complaints that it took away their independence in the classroom.

Teachers who used the program were required to teach specific material in a specific order, with compliance overseen by coaches. supervisors and periodic tests. One of the upsides was its consistency across classrooms, so children who frequently moved from school to school were able to keep up with their work.

According to the Times, the program results didn’t meet expectations – the results did rise initially, but leveled out in upper classes. Gains also weren’t uniform; there wasn’t much controversy among teachers when, in a unanimous vote, the School Board decided to scrap Open Court.

California Treasures, the program slated to replace Open Court, is less rigid. It offers teachers goals and strategies rather than specific lesson plans. Although the material taught is similar, it suggests different approaches for students with different reading proficiencies. The readings offered are also more in sync with materials students cover in their other classes such as history and social studies, allowing for a more integrated learning experience.

The adoption of Treasures is also a good fiscal choice, the board argues. The cost of the new program is $40 million over 6 years, while continuing to run the out-of-print Open Court would have cost the district an estimated $90 million.


  1. Joan Ritchie

    Sounds to me like some teaches needed to go, the program was sabotaged from the begining.
    Joan of Sequim

  2. Teacher With A Brain

    The program got some weak reviews early on. The first grade studies, completed in the 60s, that measured results of virtually every method available, including heavy phonics (yes, we had that then) did not show a strong bias toward any single program or method. The teacher seemed to be the most important factor.

    This is understood in nations such as Finland where teachers can make curriculum decisions. There is not need to prescribe a single program to teach reading in every class in the district. Schools are not factories and children are not widgets.

  3. G Mayers

    Probably the first intelligent move LAUSD has made in a while. I taught previously at a scripted curriculum school using a different program than open court, but very similar and hated it. It was against all I’d learned about education; I feel such programs are a disservice especially to our at risk students. (I explore my scripted curriculum experiences on my blog

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March 31st, 2011

Staff Reporter

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