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The Importance of Curriculum....Again

Curricular materials on the brain. All. Summer. Long. I'm currently working on a song I am going to title, "The Curricular Materials of Summer" (some credit will certainly go to Don Henley). My last two posts were about the importance of curriculum (if you are so inclined, check out Part One and Part Two). This post is more about what a school or district might do after a review of current materials reveals they are not providing the highest quality materials to teachers.

So, you have reviewed your curricular materials and found them lacking. The good news is, you are not alone and you now have the opportunity to improve the materials provided to teachers and students. Perhaps you are so lucky as to be approaching an adoption cycle and can easily send out the bad and welcome in the good. Alternatively, you may be able to use supplemental materials without great objection (to replace materials that have been found sub-par). Or perhaps you have decided, without formal permission, that #materialsmatter so you are going to be sure that teachers have quality materials to support quality instruction.

Whatever the case,  you now need to review available materials and select one to use locally.

  • Step One: Be sure that you are using a reliable tool to vet available curricular materials. This toolkit, developed in partnership between the CCSSO, SAP, and Achieve, should inform the reliability of your tool. (Though, real talk, I don't see why you would devise your own tool in house. Use the IMET for whole curricula or the EQuIP Rubric for lessons and units so you can get on with the worthwhile work of reviewing and selecting.) 
  • Step Two: Collect curricular candidates. The reviews posted on EdReports can by very helpful in guiding the selection of the pool of possibilities. These reviews are a great guide that can compliment - not replace -the work a team does when reviewing & selecting resources. 
  • Step Three: Get a critical group of folks together to conduct the materials review. This process might, day I say, include educators, parents, and students and should certainly be completed far in advance of adoption
  • Step Four: Complete the review. Give yourselves a few days, have some folks in the room who can guide and support the teams' review work, and be ready to have some serious conversations. Don't forget to include snacks & have fun!

A note about material type...As we move through the start of the 21st century, Open Education Resources are increasingly becoming an attractive option for many school districts looking to supplement or replace current curricular materials (check out some great materials available through OpenUp, Louisiana BelievesUnboundEd, and EngageNY). There are also quality programs that exist for purchase. Whatever you choose, remember that nothing is free. What one district might save in upfront costs adopting OER materials, they will need to reinvest in implementation and on-going strategic support. As one curriculum director I recently spoke with pointed out, "We must be better stewards of our funding. The three million dollars that used to buy boxes of curriculum should now cover printing costs, the purchase of core books, educator training, and ongoing implementation support for schools and teachers." Amen to that.

This leads us to the the next obvious question - now what?! Now that you have adopted high-quality materials, how do you strategically support educators as they do the hard work of making those good materials come to life in the classroom? Stay tuned, friends, stay tuned.

PS - As new curricular materials come to market remember anyone can make a sticker that says "Common Core Aligned". A cautionary tale is helpful here about a publisher who was able to magically align and un-align materials with just such a sticker.  After affixing a "Common Core Aligned" sticker to all their materials, the publisher had to quickly remove the stickers when they realized the state they were currently selling their materials in had not adopted the standards.  The real magic trick of high quality review is obviously harder to complete than placing and peeling-off stickers.


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I have curriculum on the brain this summer. Most of my current work is focused on curriculum; reviewing it, curating it, or exploring it in some way. Simultaneously, there is an increasing amount of scholarship in the field on the importance of curriculum. Much of this work answers the questions; does curriculum really matter? And if it does, what can we do about it? Educators in the field, academics, publishers and supportive organizations are recognizing that quality curricular materials can support equity in our schools, be a significant force for reform, and act as a key ingredient in high performing classrooms. Of recent note is the Aspen Institute's report, "Practice What You Teach" , which provides relevant research, profiles of curricular implementation, and key recommendations. EducationNext has a great post by Chester Finn titled " Education Becomes a Reform Strategy ". The latest research report by StandardWork, " Curriculum Research: What We K