Adopting a new curriculum is not easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest things a school or district can do. But, when done properly a new curriculum can improve your student’s success by leaps and bounds
When you choose a new curriculum or teaching materials, districts, schools, and teachers must receive proper support. This process begins before a curriculum is even selected. In fact, your evaluation of a new curriculum should include how easy it is to implement, and any considerations you may have to make during the process.
From there, it’s crucial that you properly support the entire team, set agreed-upon goals, establish a common framework, and leverage top performers. These are the best practices you can use to adopt a new curriculum with fidelity.
Choosing The Right Digital Curriculum
The most successful implementations start before you even adopt a curriculum. Be sure to select the curriculum that best fulfills the needs of your students, your teachers, and your district as a whole.
As you make these curriculum decisions, involve leaders and stakeholders at every level in the selection process. Involve not only school administrators but teachers as well. Everyone should have input in selecting and implementing a curriculum. From those using the curriculum every day to those charged with budget.
Research the curriculums you are considering and dig into their pedagogy. Are they backed by research? Where has it successfully been used before? What did those schools look like? Are they linear, story-backed, or feature problem- and phenomenon-based learning? Most importantly, is the curriculum designed to work in a way that fulfills the needs of your classrooms?
Selecting high-quality instructional materials is especially important, as they will ease the difficulty of your adoption and lead to greater success in the long run. Find a curriculum that meets students where they are and considers their needs.
Look for a true curriculum partner. A curriculum author or provider that sees your success as their success will go a long way in supporting your curriculum adoption. Especially when bringing in a new curriculum, you want all the support you can get.
Lastly, keep usability in mind. You may find a great curriculum, but is it easily accessible? Can teachers and students navigate it quickly? Are the resources easily accessed? Can it be modified to meet needs? Is it easy to use? What is offered for professional learning support? How easy a curriculum is to use will have a great impact on how well it can be implemented.
Align on Curricula With Leaders and Coaches
When you’ve settled on your curriculum, the first step is to start with your leaders and coaches.
Just because leaders won’t be using the curriculum every day, doesn’t mean they need to know any less about it. Leaders and coaches should know every detail of your new curriculum, just as teachers do. If they’re not familiar with every aspect, how can they properly guide teachers through the adoption?
First, start with an introduction course to the curriculum. This should take place over several days and cover:
- What the curriculum is and why was it chosen
- What the instructional vision is and how you hope to achieve it
- What the adoption process will be
- How districts and schools will be supported
- How the curriculum fits into the other content being deployed across grade levels
- The instructional practices of the curriculum
- What the learning experience is for students
- What progression and success look for students using the curriculum
- Desired student outcomes
- How standards, assessments, and evaluation of performance work within the curriculum and in conjunction with other subject areas
After this initial session, follow-up training should be conducted throughout the rest of the year to keep leaders fresh and add additional context where needed. These trainings can also be tailored to help fulfill the needs and gaps in understanding detected by coaches as they spend time with teachers.
It’s also super important for leaders and coaches to be able to articulate the reasons behind the curriculum adoption. If and when teachers begin to struggle with a new curriculum, they tend to default back to what they know. When educators abandon the new curriculum for older, more familiar materials, it starts to disturb and break down the success of your adoption. So, leaders should be able to provide the reasoning behind the update, identify why an educator is struggling, and provide support.
Create a Structure and Roles to Support Curriculum Adoption
As we know very well in education, few things are rarely successful without a structure. That’s why you need to create one to support your curriculum adoption.
Collaborate with stakeholders across every level, from leaders to teachers to create a framework with agreed-upon timelines, milestones, and goals. Define roles and responsibilities that everyone is held accountable to.
Everyone should have a defined responsibility. From administrators to coaches to teachers. These responsibilities should be aligned with the ultimate “North Star” of 100% curriculum adoption and your agreed-upon student performance goals. Successful completion of each goal should directly move your district towards achieving its goal.
This framework should be developed around a shared vision, that each role has bought into and feels comfortable in achieving. The structure should not be used to discipline, but rather identify and rectify any possible problem. If there is a component that is falling behind, use the framework to find the responsibility and the associated role, then figure out how to better support that role or what changes need to be made to bring the lagging part up to speed.
Responsibilities within this framework can include:
- Classroom adoption rate
- Teacher curriculum competency
- Student performance
- Prior curriculum usage rate
- Number of teachers achieving “curriculum leader” status
- Number of trainings completed
- Utilization of curriculum coaches
- Number of teachers conducting peer-to-peer curriculum support
- Leader curriculum training completed
Align to Agreed-Upon Digital Curriculum Adoption Standards
As part of your rubric, you need to bring in real data. The ultimate goal of any curriculum adoption is to drive student performance, so that needs to be measured and monitored.
However, a crucial aspect of adoption that is commonly overlooked is the assessments used to track progress. Often, a curriculum is adopted, but the assessments aren’t changed. This may be a general oversight or a lack of flexibility from more senior organizations. Still, it can have a severe impact on the success of a new curriculum – real or perceived.
If the assessments used to monitor the impact of a curriculum are not directly aligned with or designed for the content, the measurements themselves will be wrong. Whether it be a difference in pedagogy, teaching timelines, the way lessons are structured, or a myriad of other factors, if students are taught one way and tested another, you will never get a true picture of curriculum adoption.
So, not only should you find or design assessments to match your curriculum, but each role should agree upon certain data-centered milestones to reach. These can be centered around student performance, but should also include things like the aforementioned curriculum usage rate.
Empower Peer-to-Peer Coaching
No school or district will ever have enough coaches or support to ensure that every teacher gets the individualized attention they need to properly adopt a curriculum.
However, there is a way you can empower teachers to not only succeed but help coach one another to achieve success.
As with anything, some educators will take to a new curriculum better than others. These teachers can take on instructional leader or coaching responsibilities to support their peers, create buy-in for the new curriculum, and support the adoption as a whole. They can be in-school subject matter experts, acting as a model and giving advice to other teachers.
This shouldn’t be a punishment for success, however. Your coaches need to feel appreciated and rewarded for their work. Don’t take more of their time away. Work with them to build a framework and schedule to protect their teaching, and reward them appropriately.
Analyze progress and feedback to create a constant improvement loop
With your goals, rubric, roles, coaches, and data all in place, it’s time to start iterating and improving.
(Side note: choosing a digital curriculum housed in a digital curriculum platform will provide auto-grading as well as data collection and analysis, automating much of a teacher’s work and providing deep insights.)
Continuous improvement is a commonly overlooked component of curriculum adoption. Too many educators stop the process after a few months. But even a year is far too short.
Curriculum usage, student success, and teacher-curriculum competency do not start and stop, it is a continuous, ongoing process. When adopting a curriculum, you should monitor its usage, implementation, and impact. Identify gaps and areas for improvement as you go and rectify them as necessary.
This fits in with your ongoing training and peer-to-peer coaching. Use data to inform what training and coaching sessions should focus on. Specifically, address points of improvement and use top performers to model best practices. Once a desired factor is improved, identify the next.
Teachers will feel supported and cared for when you strive to constantly meet their needs, so actively seek feedback. Hear their pains and find ways to improve them. Think of where you want your students to be and how you want your new curriculum to be used in two, three, or even four years.
Utilize Professional Learning
Finally, in a curriculum adoption, it’s important to utilize all the resources at your disposal, including professional development opportunities from your curriculum partner.
Ongoing training and updates from the source are crucial in properly implementing a curriculum. All levels should be involved too – administrators can learn just as much as teachers from learning opportunities.
Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.
For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.
Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?
Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum and assessments, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.