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New Report: The K-12 Transition to Digital Curriculum 2020

students and a teacher in a science class work on an experiment

Seeking to better understand the K-12 transition to digital curriculum, we surveyed 447 educators across diverse communities. Get your copy of the report here.

Where are K-12 educators in their transition to digital curriculum, and what challenges do they face?

This guiding question drove a study we held this past winter break, when 447 educators came forward to share their experiences to help us find answers. Over the next few months we compiled and cross-referenced the responses to paint a clear picture where three themes emerged in the form of challenges.

Before we could publish the results, an event we’re all familiar with – COVID-19 – changed everything, exacerbating these challenges for educators to a point we couldn’t have predicted. For a time, we abandoned the report entirely in order to pivot to distance learning, which the majority of our community was setting up for the first time.

This week we finalized the report, and though a lot has changed since this study was conducted, we still find these learnings to be helpful, and we hope to close the gap by conducting another survey this fall.

Report Highlights: Three Educator Challenges

Challenge 1: Lack of Alignment

A disconnect in opinions surfaced in our study around curricular topics like quality, implementation, and measuring efficacy (more on this in the third challenge below). While it was expected that opinions would contrast across different community-based responses, the role-based responses highlighted some interesting trends across the board.

Exhibit A. Differing Opinions Around Curriculum Quality

Teachers in our survey ranked their school’s curriculum the lowest at an average of 6.33, and principals rated their curriculum 15% higher at 7.27. It is noteworthy that those working with the curriculum on a daily basis (teachers, curriculum roles) have lower opinions on the curriculum than roles who work with it less often.

Exhibit B. Differing Opinions Around Curriculum Implementation

Educators generally do feel their curriculum is being implemented in the classroom with fidelity, though far fewer administrators report low fidelity compared to teachers. One in three teachers reported that most teachers rely heavily on other resources, compared to one in five school leaders. While 59% of school leaders do admit to some usage of external resources, it is clear that there is a disparity in opinions around how often.

What do we mean by “fidelity”? When teachers need to find their own resources often, it could be said that they are following the curriculum with lower fidelity. If they are using the curriculum exactly as intended, it could be said that they are implementing the curriculum with high fidelity.

Every community is different, and therefore we don’t hold prescriptive views about whether curriculum should be implemented with high or low fidelity. However, we do feel it is helpful for teachers, school leaders, and district leaders to have alignment on their own curriculum fidelity and how their curriculum is implemented. This way, communities can understand what is working best for teachers and students and seamlessly know when to send greater support and enrichment (and praise, when it comes to discovering best teaching practices).

Opportunity: Creating Greater Connectivity in Your Learning Community

Lack of alignment can be caused by a need for more human connectivity, and it’s easy to see how the pandemic has exacerbated the issue on that front. It also comes from a place of needing better tool connectivity – educators currently use so many tools that don’t speak to each other, and it’s getting in the way of what they do best. This was also intensified by the pandemic, when educators suddenly moved to add many more, newer tools to their toolbox, and data on curriculum implementation and student performance was further fragmented across platforms, creating even more work for our teachers, confusing students, and blindfolding administrators to the effect of a crippling lack of responsive support.

We never like to bring up a challenge without offering a solution, and the entire reason we seek to learn about these issues is to improve our solutions for educators. On the tool proliferation front, we have held a vision from our start of building a platform to connect all educational tools; curriculum, instruction, and assessment in one place, so teachers and administrators aren’t spending countless hours transferring curriculum, lesson plans, and student performance data from one platform to another.

But on the human connectivity front, the pandemic has moved us to improve our platform by integrating better communication (video and chat) along every step of those workflows in order to keep continuity of learning in any environment. You can learn more about our communication tools, which will be released this month, in the webinar recap here.

Challenge 2: Need for Dynamic Digital Curriculum

Over 90% surveyed report that they store their digital curricula in static form (e.g. PDFs) on drives & internal networks. But digital curricula should dynamic, meaning it should be fun, engaging, and enable teaching and learning in any environment.

When the pandemic pushed many educators into distance learning, we saw many communities revaluate the way they store, manage, access, and share curriculum. Because of this, we believe a shift has since occurred in the awareness of what having a more dynamic digital curriculum can unlock. We will test this hypothesis in our next survey.

Exhibit A. Accessing Static Curriculum

While accessing PDFs online is a step in the right direction, we do want to stress the importance of changing the awareness of what a true digital curriculum means, and what it can unlock for your school community. (More on this in the “opportunity” section below). Having static curriculum arguably creates more work for your teachers, doesn’t engage students, and won’t connect easily to instruction or assessment data.

Exhibit B. Static Curriculum and Standards

When choosing curriculum, educators overwhelmingly listed the most important factor to be “standards alignment”. However, if so many store their curriculum on drives rather than on a platform where curriculum standards are automatically attached to lesson plans, assignments, and reporting, this highlights a core issue with static curriculum: there is no easy way to view standard data such as skill mastery, which standards have been covered in class to date, and how well students are engaging with the curriculum meant to develop the intended skills.

Opportunity: Understanding What Dynamic Digital Curriculum Can Do for Your Community

This is a great time to help your community reimagine the art of the possible. Dynamic digital curriculum allows you to contextualize for your classroom. Without the ability to edit your PDFs to foster student growth and learning, your curriculum isn’t reaching its full potential to engage students.

In Kiddom, digital curriculum comes to life with the ability to edit it for success in the classroom. Students feel engaged and empowered by interactive materials that are crafted with their strengths in mind. Teachers and school leaders also gain key insight into how curriculum is performing, with real-time data on student performance and curricular implementation.

Challenge 3: Low Visibility on Curricular Efficacy or Implementation

While this challenge is connected to the first in many ways, the first challenge is more about misalignment (of humans and tools) costing learning communities time, money, and friction. The underlying problem behind this challenge, however, is that lack of visibility is keeping educators from assessing and improving curriculum quality.

While assessing curriculum quality may seem low on the long list of issues educators face, the issue has grown considerably in importance during the pandemic as digital materials became front and center, highlighting the need for a high-quality, rigid curriculum to serve as a backbone for instruction.

Exhibit A. Most Educators Say Measuring Curriculum Efficacy is a Challenge

Unfortunately, there is no simple or standardized way to assess curriculum efficacy, according to the graph below and in the vast difference in responses we received around how (and how often) curriculum is measured.

Most methodologies in our report could be grouped into four categories: quantitative assessment (reviewing grades or test scores), qualitative assessment (through curriculum discussions or classroom observations), both, or by looking at curriculum-level assessments by reviewing the content itself.

Fortunately, schools and districts using the Kiddom education platform can make 1) quantitative assessments by reviewing real-time skill mastery dashboards, 2) qualitative assessments by observing implementation, and 4) curriculum-level assessments by reviewing the curriculum itself. And they can do so from the office or at home.

Exhibit B. Why It’s Important to Measure Efficacy

Those who measure curriculum efficacy rate their curriculum higher than those who do not. While correlation does not equal direct causation, the fact that there was nearly a full point difference between those who do and do not is cause for investigation. As another graph in our report shows, we found that those who measure their curriculum do so often, suggesting they find value in their measurements.

While we don’t take a prescriptive stance on the best methodology behind measuring curriculum efficacy, we do believe in building systems of continuous improvement, and our platform offers multiple ways to assess curriculum implementation and student performance in real-time.

Opportunity: Start from Quality Digital Curriculum & Connect it to Instruction and Assessment Data

The first step is starting with great curriculum. We recommend reviewing curricula rated by EdReports to discover a rigid, high-quality curriculum that works best for your community. We have partnered with one of the top-rated curriculum providers on EdReports, Open Up Resources, to offer educators a high-quality ready-to-use solution on our platform.

The other half of the equation is about connecting that digital curriculum to instruction and assessment data to create a system of continuous improvement. Schools and districts using our solution are able to ship their teachers ready-to-use high-quality digital curriculum.

Their teachers then have flexibility to contextualize and edit the curriculum easily to adjust lesson plans for in-person or distance learning, which helps during this time of uncertainty.

And lastly, school and district leaders and co-teachers have the core elements of assessing visibility of how the curriculum is being implemented and adjusted, as well as views of student performance of the curriculum’s intended skills.   

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 a centralized hub. 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.

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum by Open Up Resources, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.