Crafting flexible curriculum requires thinking beyond out-of-the-box approaches
- California's Exeter Unified School District shifted its curriculum to buoy reading and math scores, hiring an outside consultant to help revamp reading intervention, add a 1:1 device program and integrate furniture that supported more collaborative learning, Superintendent Tim Hire wrote for eSchoolNews.
- Students were also given more autonomy in what they wanted to read, whether fiction or nonfiction, and educators can now more easily track student work and assess in real-time rather than once per quarter.
- This approach is also now used in math classes, encouraging students to locate multiple paths to get to their answer rather than one "correct" method, with scores rising 4.57% on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.
Out-of-the-box curriculum models rarely work as written. Schools, after all, are hardly homogenized — they differ depending on the region they’re located, the students attending them, and the communities they serve. Curriculum instructors often play the role of tinkerers, finding what works for their schools and what needs to be changed for students to get the best outcomes.
At the same time, they need to cover necessary materials. As the Brookings Institution’s 2016 report, “Millions Learning: Scaling Up Quality Education in Developing Countries,” noted, “The challenge is striking the right balance between local adaptation and fidelity to the original model.” This is true no matter where a curriculum is being adopted.
Administrators should consider starting with teachers, engaging them for their input to find what materials work — or don’t work — with students as they begin to adjust already adopted curriculum. They can be the X factors, so to speak, in making personalized learning — curriculum that address the needs of all students — work.
Diversifying curriculum and making it more flexible may also make it more nimble, according to Brookings. In a 2018 blog post for a series the think tank ran on education innovation, Stavros Yiannouka and Zineb Mouhyi argued that making room for more innovative, even experimental, ideas “could potentially uncover very effective approaches that could be applicable on a wide scale,” they wrote.
Crucial, then, is that administrators not approach adaption of curriculum from a student choice perspective alone, but from the idea of lessons and student education being pliant enough to allow shifts when needed or wanted. Making their wishes and needs known to publishers and vendors can open that conversation so products and programs meet the needs of their entire educational community.
- eSchoolNews Improving student achievement through choice
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