Adopting a new curriculum can be such an exciting and generative process: teachers can learn new instructional strategies, students can get access to new content and ways of learning, and classrooms can transform the ways they are structured.
Deciding to implement a new curriculum is also an important and consequential decision: it requires training staff, it can be costly, and it deeply impacts students’ educational outcomes.
We want to take the stress out of the decision to adopt a new curriculum, and instead, offer insights and questions to encourage reflection, direction, and confidence:
When is it time to consider new curricula?
The first question many school leaders might be wondering is whether it’s the right time to adopt a new curriculum. While there is not clear cut formula for determining this, here are some questions to ask yourself that will help answer this question for your specific school context:
- How long has it been since your school adopted a new curriculum and/or substantially modified your current curriculum?
- Are most teachers utilizing your current curriculum the majority of the time? If not, what are the reasons why?
- Does your curriculum align with your school’s mission and vision?
- Have any of the following changed significantly since you last implemented a new or modified curriculum:
- Student demographics (race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, disabilities, immigration status, language, etc.)
- Student academic needs
- State and/or district standards or accountability measures
- Student engagement
Reflecting on these questions with a range of stakeholders–school leaders, teachers, support staff, students–can provide critical insight into whether it’s time to consider new curricula. More importantly, answering these questions provides direction on why you might implement new curricula. Having a clear understanding of what needs a new curriculum will meet is essential for a successful adoption and implementation.
How can I research new curriculum options?
Another important consideration is how to research new curriculum options. There are a wealth of curricula available, and researching can take considerable time and capacity. Prior to adopting a new curriculum, think about your immediate connections and resources that might support this process:
- Does your district have any existing partnerships with curriculum providers?
- Do you have colleagues from other districts who recently adopted a new curriculum?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations or associations that offer curricular resources?
Taking stock of your available systems of support is a critical step in ensuring that adopting a new curriculum is a smooth process.
How can I be best prepared for a successful curriculum implementation?
Adopting a curriculum is more than simply purchasing curricula and sharing with teachers. Successfully implementing a new curriculum requires layers of professional learning and support, monitoring systems, feedback, and critical reflection. It is important to consider everything that needs to be involved in this process to understand whether your leadership currently has the necessary time and capacity.
Here are some ways you can be prepared for a successful curriculum launch:
- Curriculum team: Launching a new curriculum is a team effort. Ideally, the process should include a team that is representative of who will be impacted by the change: school leaders, instructional coaches, classroom teachers, support staff, data and/or technology specialists, and more. Assembling this team is a critical component of building capacity for a successful curriculum adoption.
- Teacher feedback: Implementing a new curriculum only works if teachers are onboard, aligned, and enthusiastic. Whether it’s focus groups, surveys, staff meeting discussions, or department meetings, it is important to have a plan in place for how to gather and utilize feedback from teachers.
- Professional support: Adopting a new curriculum requires teachers to engage in new learning: interpreting academic standards, implementing new instructional strategies, considering differentiation needs, and more. All of this requires significant professional support. Prior to adopting a new curriculum, school leaders need to have conversations about how they will provide a comprehensive professional learning program for their teachers.
- Monitoring systems: After a new curriculum is launched, school leaders need to have systems in place to monitor implementation. Monitoring systems–whether it’s learning walks or feedback forms, help to identify what’s going well, where extra support is needed, and where adjustments are needed. This helps ensure that teachers feel supported and heard throughout this period of transition.
Whenever your school or district is ready to launch a new curriculum, BetterLesson is here to support you along the way! First, download our guide for launching a new curriculum for detailed steps, resources, and best-practices. Then schedule a call with us to learn more about how we can collaborate and support.Get in Touch