According to Richard Elmore’s research on the instructional core, “The relationship of the teacher and the student in the presence of content must be at the center of efforts to improve performance.” Teachers know what is chosen matters. Yet, only 18 percent of teachers report having content that is aligned to high standards.
As a school board member in Morris Plains New Jersey, I understand that school districts are facing a myriad number of challenges right now, and the importance of selecting a high-quality curriculum should not be overlooked. Whether starting the year off with face to face, remote learning, or some combination of both, the materials districts use will make a real difference in the learning educators can provide. School boards play an important role in curriculum adoption and ensuring teachers and students have the resources they need. Especially given the realities of COVID-19, school boards must be informed about a district’s instructional materials options.
A critical responsibility of a local school board is to approve curriculum that will be implemented across a school district. Very often board members are informed at the end of the adoption process after district leaders share the chosen curriculum, its benefits, and the reasoning behind the selection. While district leaders and educators should lead decisions about instructional materials, school boards can be involved from the beginning rather than waiting until the end of the process.
While board members look to educators for expertise in state standards, there are simple ways to engage educators throughout the adoption. Many adoption committees offer periodic updates to their school boards about their progress. This is a great opportunity for school board members to initiate conversations early on and ask questions along the way.
School boards’ goal in engaging in these conversations with district leaders and adoption committees should be to create a rich dialogue around the importance of instructional materials and to ensure the district ultimately purchases materials that best fit the needs of the students and community.
Here’s a list of recommended questions school boards can pose to district leaders during an adoption process:
Before the adoption process
- What are the state guidelines and recommendations for curricular and instructional matters?
- How long has it been since the last time new materials were selected in each subject area?
- What is the budget for new materials?
- What is the timeline for selection?
- What is the district’s instructional vision?
- What community values, needs, and curricular concerns should we be aware of?
- How will you engage stakeholders?
- Who will be on the adoption committee?
- How can you ensure diverse perspectives in the selection process?
- How will the adoption process be communicated to all stakeholders?
- How will you determine alignment to college and career-ready standards?
- Will you be using external or independent vetting such as EdReports.org?
- What is the plan for curriculum rollout, implementation, and professional learning?
Before approving the presented curriculum
- What does the EdReports review say about the alignment of the selected materials?
- Do the materials include supports for diverse learners?
- What data will be collected to inform ongoing professional learning for educators and assess whether materials are meeting student needs?
After the adoption process
- What are your expectations for the use of the materials and how will those expectations be communicated?
- What ongoing support and professional learning will you provide teachers and site leaders on implementation?
- Is the implementation consistent across all classrooms?
- Do teachers need to supplement the curriculum to meet students’ needs?
- If so, how often are they supplementing, where are they getting supplemental materials, and are they high-quality?
- How is the curriculum impacting student learning over time? (Note: the impact of materials on student learning can take several years to show up in the data)
Additional resources that can be helpful to support and guide district leaders to select high-quality materials:
Why Materials Matter – The latest research and data around the importance of having high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum for student achievement and equity.
Curriculum Reports Center – Our reports offer evidence-rich, comprehensive information about a program’s alignment to the standards and other indicators of quality.
Compare Materials – See how materials are rated in comparison to each other. Browse an entire content area or sort by subject, grade level, and specific programs.
Understand the Technology Features of Your Aligned Materials – When weighing the technology components of a materials purchase, it’s important to understand the features that your current aligned materials offer.
COVID-19 Resources – To support educators in their planning during the COVID-19 pandemic, EdReports has created a collection of resources to advocate for and guide decision making around the use of high-quality instructional materials.
6 Key Adoption Steps – What you select and how you select matters. Schools and districts have more options than ever from which to find high-quality materials that meet their local priorities. The selection process is a critical lever for ensuring that quality materials are adopted and then used well in classrooms.