School systems across the country rapidly transitioned to remote learning in spring 2020, as the novel COVID-19 virus caused school shutdowns nationwide. As district leaders prepare for the potential for ongoing interruptions to school during the 2020-21 school year, this tool is an opportunity to reflect on their current context to prioritize the highest leverage actions that can support remote learning. While this moment in time makes the importance of high quality materials more stark, curriculum adoptions are a long-term investment that will have an impact on teaching and learning in your district over the next five to seven years. Given that, it is important to consider the immediate context of remote learning as well as the longer term context beyond re-entry this fall. 

What is this resource? 

This tool is focused on the availability, accessibility, and use of high-quality instructional materials, in order to support district teams in making decisions about curriculum that will meet the needs of their district for re-entry in the fall and the return to in person learning in the future. Materials provide the foundation for student learning and become even more critical when students are learning at home with remote instruction and support from teachers. In planning and preparing for next school year, many leaders are considering the quality and alignment of the materials currently used in the system as well as how those materials translate to remote learning. This tool guides district leaders to consider the context of and interaction between three critical elements: instructional materials, the school system, and the community. 

This resource is grounded in four pillars, which reflect our current context and a return to in-person instruction:  

  1. All students deserve high-quality instructional materials that are aligned to college and career-ready standards.
  2. Every teacher deserves high-quality instructional materials that free them to use their talents and passion to reach students.
  3. High-quality instructional materials should reflect districts’ content-specific visions for teaching and learning as well as   the local context and priorities of students, families, and communities. 
  4. Instructional materials alone are not the answer. For materials initiatives to be effective, educators need job-embedded professional learning grounded in the materials they use in their daily practice. 

How should this resource be used? 

The reflection and preparation tool is designed to be used by a team of leaders at the district or school level. Teams should include individuals with knowledge of instructional materials in English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, and science, those with insight into the technical capacity of the district, and those with deep knowledge of the context of the communities the district serves. 

The tool is comprised of 4 sections

  1. High Quality Instructional Materials: In this section you’ll find templates for ELA, math, and science. In this section, you’ll need to complete the reflection for each content area. 
  2. School System Landscape: You only need to complete the section once, as the statements span all content areas. 
  3. Community Experience: You only need to complete the section once, as the statements span all content areas.
  4. Putting it all together and preparing for next school year: This section guides you in a synthesis of your reflections across the previous sections and provides a framework to guide you in your preparations for next school year. 

We recommend that teams engage in discussion across each section of the reflection tool: instructional materials, system context, and community experience. Given the depth of the reflection portion of this tool, the team could convene, virtually or in-person when safety allows, and collaboratively work through all three sections. This would require a longer working session, likely at least 2 hours. 

Alternatively, different subsets of the team could discuss and complete sections in small groups, then bring their reflections to the whole group discussion. This approach could shorten the whole-group working session time (we’d recommend lengthening the planning session by 30 minutes to include a debrief of the reflection) while requiring 60-90 minutes of small group work time to complete the reflection. No matter the meeting structure, teams should approach each section from an asset orientation, rather than a deficit orientation. The intent of the reflection is not to assign blame or rehash past mistakes, but to understand the context in order to move forward effectively. 

The preparation section of this tool is designed to consider the current context in order to prioritize areas of focus for the next school year. This section will require an additional working session of at least 90 minutes. We recommend the same group who engaged in the reflection process participate in this working session, so the takeaways and trends from the reflection are at the forefront during planning.