Reviewing curricular materials can be a complex process, no matter the size of your district, the budget you have to spend, or the types of curricula you're considering. But a major factor in adoption (and eventual implementation) success is the amount of support and leadership opportunities given to teachers throughout the process.
Jaimee Massie knows this firsthand. As the Elementary Math and Technology TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) for Eugene Public Schools, she was part of a team that lead a teacher-centered curriculum review that included strong professional development, a thoughtfully developed pilot program, and a carefully crafted rubric. She saw the benefits of this framework during the curriculum selection process and its implementation the following year.
“This kind of adoption process really honors the voices and the experiences of teachers,” said Massie. “I feel like we’re in an age where, a lot of times, we look to materials to be [the full solution] and forget about embedding and raising up the profession of teaching. I feel like this process does that.”
When districts include these teacher-focused elements throughout the adoption process, the path to implementation success can be much smoother.
Using a carefully crafted rubric
By giving teachers a detailed rubric to work with during a curriculum evaluation, your district can establish a common vision for what’s required from your chosen curriculum. This way, teachers involved in reviewing materials can base their decisions on their instructional needs and the specific requirements of standards. Building a rubric based off of researched resources like IMET and EQuIP can be a great place to start.
“It’s easier to lead teacher professional development around a rubric that’s grounded in curriculum standards and best practices.” said Massie.
Supporting teacher committees with opportunities to pilot curricular options makes a big impact. In piloting these options with real teachers in your district, you’ll gain better insight into how each option will impact teaching and learning.
“During our piloting process, we wanted to make sure that we were vetting the core components of each curriculum,” said Massie. “We also learned how to support teachers and what did and didn’t work. So then, in implementation, we could take those ideas and really set ourselves up for success when applying the curriculum on a much larger scale. It was kind of like our own test classroom.”
Teachers develop expertise on the options when they pilot curricula, and that translates into more teacher buy-in once your district makes a final decision. In promoting teacher input, piloting steers the curriculum review process toward a focus on pedagogy and content.
Including community feedback
To foster even more transparency during the review process, you can give stakeholders (including principals, parents, administrators, and teachers who are not otherwise involved in the adoption process) the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“[Including stakeholders] is strategic. It’s important to make sure people feel like they can voice their opinions and have a say. The intentionality of community feedback allows you to provide opportunities for inclusiveness,” said Massie.
Along with inclusiveness, this component brings forth a new set of viewpoints to consider while further educating the community on your district’s vision for instruction.
Leveraging teacher learning to lead professional development
In using a rubric, teachers involved in the curriculum selection process learn to think more critically about standards and instruction, and piloting gives them tangible classroom experience with the curriculum options. As a result, these teachers are better prepared to lead their peers in professional development around the effective use of your chosen curriculum.
“It was interesting along the way to see how hungry the teachers were to be leaders, and they didn't always know it,” said Massie. “It’s important to make sure that teachers feel encouraged to be leaders. Having teachers lead teachers provides a little bit of optimism around uncertainty. Even if it’s not perfect, because nothing is, they can look at their colleagues and say: ‘We’re willing to move into this together.’”
Having your own teachers lead their peers in professional development around a new curriculum gives those teacher leaders and their peers a more personal and positive experience.
“It has been like nothing else that I've experienced,” said Massie. “You can walk away from an entire day of PD and the majority, 80 to 90 percent, of your teachers are super happy. When your own peer is the one leading, it makes it more comfortable.”
Making final decisions
You can confidently choose the curriculum that will best support your district’s specific needs when you include and support teachers throughout the adoption process. By creating a cohesive vision, testing out curricula through a pilot program, supporting professional development, and encouraging community feedback, you’ll see greater buy-in throughout your curriculum roll-out, while having grown and supported more confident teacher leaders along the way.
“Continue to look for ways to raise teacher leaders in any decision-making opportunities about classroom materials,” said Massie. “Because, at the end of the day, quality materials are really important, but teachers change it all. They make it happen.”
Emily Priborkin is the Marketing Communications Associate at LearnZillion. A musical theatre nerd at heart, she'll gladly recite and perform all of the music from Les Misérables on command.