Hint: It Probably Boils Down to Your Curriculum Adoption Process
You thought you were nailing it at this curriculum director thing. You read all the blogs, checked through thousands of reviews on EdReports, and chose the newest, trendiest, most cutting edge curriculum on the market. Ready. Set. Launch!
*insert screeching brakes* Halfway through the first academic year with your newly launched curriculum plan, the rumor mill in the teacher’s lounge is tearing it apart. Teachers are unhappy. They miss the old curriculum. This curriculum is hard to implement, and students are still struggling. They want a do-over.
Parents are complaining about homework formats and test scores. And after a quick review, it looks as though student benchmarks aren’t really backing up this new curriculum choice either.
But – how can this be? You covered all of your bases, right? You read the reviews and poured through choices! What happened?
Let’s take a look and see what you could have done early on in your curriculum adoption process and later during implementation to make this process a smoother transition for all stakeholders.
Curriculum Adoption Process and Strategy
The curriculum adoption process isn’t like choosing the right logo for the football team, or the best-assigned seating for the classroom. Curriculum adoption is one of, if not THE MOST important process a school district goes through. A bad curriculum is more than an inconvenience to teachers. It can set students back and the ripple effect can leave them behind for years. It can create a sense of failure in students who may have flourished in a particular subject with a more carefully thought out curriculum.
A good curriculum recognizes areas of student weakness and addresses them in developmentally appropriate ways. It leaves teachers feeling prepared, and students feeling excited.
Where Districts Make Mistakes With Curriculum Adoption
It’s Not Just About Programming. It’s About the People.
It’s so important for a district to carefully plan a curriculum roll-out. A single member of administration should not choose a new curriculum on their own and throw it at faculty. Though a curriculum director’s job is an important and necessary role, it is not to be served on a deserted island. There are a number of stakeholders who need to be involved in the adoption of new curriculum strategy and programming:
Any member of a stakeholder group who feels as though their group had no voice in the curriculum selection is bound to be resentful. When you have poor buy-in from teachers – the curriculum isn’t going to be utilized to its fullest potential. This resistance potentially negates whatever positives made you choose the programming in the first place.
How to Involve Stakeholders Before Committing
One of the best ways to pull in all stakeholders is to “pilot” a program for a period of time. This can mean anything from a few weeks to a full semester.
Prior to Piloting
Choose specific individuals from each stakeholder group who will be observing pre-set qualities and assets in the program. Observe weaknesses in student performance that the new programming is targeting, so those chosen stakeholders can focus on those areas. Consider creating rubrics so that observations and evaluations have some form of standardization.
Following the pilot
After this testing period, all stakeholders should come together to give comprehensive feedback in the form of anecdotal discussions. Some form of standardized written feedback is helpful to pinpoint and record opinions about specific features or areas that need improvement in the current curriculum.
Stakeholders need to be able to comfortably give this feedback – whether that looks like approval or criticism. Any fear of repercussions or intimidation from any other group of stakeholders is going to lead to a very watered-down assessment of the pilot program.
5 Things Teachers Want From You When Implementing a New Curriculum
Teachers will want more than just a voice. Because the curriculum program is something they have to handle day in and day out, it needs to meet several requirements:
Teachers will want proper training in both the subject matter and the ins and outs of the curriculum format and components. Any new technology, platforms, or software that comes with the curriculum must be accompanied by adequate teacher training. If they don’t know how to use the curriculum, it’s not going to be effective. Resentment will follow quickly – and ultimately student learning suffers.
Any decisions regarding a new program must be made with the students at the core. The curriculum should leave room for students to be inspired and follow passions. Relevance to their real-world experiences is a very key component to any successful curriculum. Ideally, it should also be culturally sensitive and inclusive. No student should feel as though they are on the outside of the learning bubble because of their race, religion, or abilities.
The curriculum should be aligned closely with state standards. Even a good curriculum will have learning gaps but should be as closely aligned with state standards as possible. Teachers who have received proper training can fill in minimal learning gaps. But – if you’re noticing that large chunks of grade-level subject matter are completely excluded from your curriculum choice – this heaps a lot of “gap-filling” onto your teacher’s shoulders.
Consistency in Both Learning AND Teaching
You want to see students in every classroom, whether led by a rookie first-year or a seasoned veteran, walk away with the same skillsets. All students should be learning the same things, in similar formats. A solid curriculum with an easy-to-implement format and clear teaching guide materials is the key to this consistency.
While consistency in student learning is a desire, consistency between grade levels is also key. The subject matter for 8th grade students builds upon what was taught in 7th grade and so on. Teachers don’t want to begin their year making up for gaps in the previous year’s curriculum plan.
Though most teachers will tell you that standardized testing can be constricting, they will also tell you that there must be some type of measurable target in order to evaluate student performance. Curriculum programming needs to have structured, measurable targets in order to monitor student achievement.
Time for a Do-Over With Your Curriculum Adoption Process?
If you’ve found yourself at the brunt of disgruntled teachers struggling through muddy waters with the curriculum you’ve chosen, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate not just the curriculum, but your entire curriculum adoption process. Let’s recap:
- Involve all stakeholders
- Encourage honest, comprehensive feedback about pre-determined curriculum qualities
- Offer proper professional development
- Choose student-centered curriculum
- Ensure alignment with state standards
- Consistent teaching and learning
- Measurable outcomes to monitor student achievement
Consider an incremental rollout during your curriculum adoption process. If the curriculum can be rolled out in smaller chunks – it might be more well-received by teachers who can adjust without the overwhelm of a complete curriculum makeover.
If your STEM curriculum needs a makeover, take a moment to learn more about Thimble’s comprehensive STEM curriculum and kits, and see how we can help your students thrive this year!