- Launching two new K-8 curriculums this school year — one for math and one for English language arts — Detroit Public Schools is already seeing a positive impact on student engagement, but that doesn’t mean educators haven’t had to do some heavy lifting to make the transition work, Chalkbeat reports.
- One way teachers are getting up to speed is through weekly sessions where they can talk about where they’re succeeding and where they’re not. But while some students are flourishing and improvements in metrics like engagement and assessment scores have been noted, there are concerns that others are falling even further behind, particularly in English language arts.
- Being able to deliver what's being promoted as a differentiated approach to instruction, reaching students wherever their needs are, is a crucial skill teachers themselves must master, necessitating additional training and support.
Curriculum changes are big undertakings, rarely made on the fly, and often reflect pedagogical shifts in learning. The impact, particularly in the short term, can be disruptive.
Preparing educators — giving them time to adjust and amend the way they’ve been teaching so their lessons align to new directives, models and even schedules — is crucial. Students too, may find a change disruptive, discovering what they learned one year isn't dovetailing with what they’re being taught now. In short, the learning curve for everyone can be steep, and that’s before any actual learning occurs.
Often with the introduction of a new curriculum, there is an expectation of a “first-year dip” in performance among students as a new approach is put into play. Additionally, districts may want to seed a new curriculum into schools slowly rather than launching new programming quickly or in a single academic year — ensuring everyone has the help they need to succeed.
A 2018 review from the Johns Hopkins School of Education looked at the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by Maryland's Montgomery County Public Schools, put into play in 2010 but actualized over several years. The report noted that not only do teachers need support, but “assistance for principals and curriculum directors” throughout the process was also important.
“Failure to adequately plan and execute effectively on these elements of transition will undermine — to varying but serious degrees — the efficacy of the transformation,” the authors wrote.
It’s also crucial, notes the report, that teachers have access to professional development on how to work with any new material. Poor planning and lack of support can have a detrimental learning impact on students.
“Additional research shows that the same curriculum, implemented with greater or lesser fidelity, can range in its impact on student outcomes from being negative to adding more than an average of twelve months’ worth of learning in a single academic year,” states the report.