August 4, 2017

Professional Learning framed by HQ Materials and College and Career Readiness Standards

For many of us, summer is nearly over. Le sigh.

As the school year approaches, many educators are putting the final pieces of this year's professional learning into place. My early August is no different. For much of this summer, I have worked RISE Academy to help them draft course curriculum maps and plain their roll-out this Fall. (These maps are a collaborative, multi-year, responsive effort to better support teachers to use instructional materials and strategies aligned to both the CCRS and the needs of their adult students.) Though this work could be a series of posts all on its own, I want to pivot away from the importance of high-quality curriculum and talk a little about the implementation of high-quality curriculum.

If a central purpose of using high-quality curriculum is to help students better meet the expectations in college and career readiness standards, then using teachers should have a working knowledge of those standards and the shift in instruction they imply. Without such a base of understanding, mis-using curriculum and no significant change in student learning is likely to be the result. Simply put, we cannot teach to standards we do not know.

Before we all get excited about the idea of unpacking standards (please don't), consider how valuable it is for teachers to see the standards and their instructional shifts paired with examples of student learning aligned to these expectation.  Whether teachers are new to their learning about the CCSS or this is their 1000th time around the sun, providing the opportunity to experience how high-quality instructional materials make achieving the rigorous standards possible (and fun!) in the classroom is not to be missed.

Making the assumption that there has already been a cohesive process for adopting materials  (this being the most obvious place to start), the next step might be to design professional learning that pairs the ELA-Literacy standards  and their Instructional Shifts (or Key Advances for my adult education friends) with exemplars from your adopted, high-quality materials. Such an approach provides an overview of the Standards and Instructional Shifts writ large, and then moves on to exploring each shift's definition and supporting research paired with a high quality example (or examples) from instructional resources. Places to see examples of materials are linked below. For each, be sure to include examples and work time with excerpts from your adopted HQ materials.

All of this learning is in the service of supporting teachers to better understand the design and purpose of the instructional materials they will be using in their classrooms. This learning, while a critical place to start, does not then replace the times teachers will need for orientation to new the new materials, the worthwhile (and continually necessary) common planning time, nor the PLCs teachers might for to review student work. Implementing new and high-quality curriculum is a heavy, ongoing, and worthwhile lift. Giving teachers a common understanding to start this worthwhile work from is key to its success.

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