Curriculum is Trending. Here’s Why.

We love the growing conversation about the importance – especially in 2020 – of high-quality curriculum.

Lately, the buzz about curriculum has been hard to miss. Here’s what has the field talking:

Renewed Concerns About a Popular Curriculum

Lucy Calkins, the author of the Teachers College Readers Workshop program, recently acknowledged a longtime concern about her program – it needs to be “rebalanced” in order to align with foundational skills research. EdWeek’s excellent reporting included an important reminder: seven literacy experts reviewed the program earlier this year, and found issues beyond foundational skills.

Calkins’s pivot has generated quite an outcry – and superintendents whose districts use high-quality curricula made some of the most pointed observations.

We have previously raised our voices about these shortcomings. Brain Kingsley cited the research-alignment gaps of Reading Workshop – as well as Fountas and Pinnell – in his Science of Reading article for AASA’s School Administrator magazine. 

Many of us have much to say on this topic! For today, here’s our hot take:

Every teacher deserves research-aligned curriculum. We believe many districts continue to use unaligned curricula  because they don’t realize that excellent alternatives exist. Nearly all of the curricula used in our districts are new in recent years, which is why we speak of a “curriculum renaissance.” As districts reconsider their use of Reading Workshop, we hope they will check out these high-quality options. We often share the work in our districts using the #CurriculumMatters hashtag, an easy way to get a window into our schools.

The Shock of the Seven Percent Stat

The “curriculum renaissance” has been slow to reach classrooms. One striking stat spawned conversation: only 7% of elementary teachers use high-quality curricula. (The fact that Reading Workshop is used in 20% of schools is one factor.) 

It recently struck a chord: Parents expressed dismay. District leaders shared pride about being “in the 7%”. Our favorite comment came from Superintendent Goffney: “Years from now, educators will look back and wonder why only 7%.” Amen!

A Trend in Battlefield Adoptions

Some districts have accelerated curriculum adoptions during the distance learning era, specifically to aid teachers with the challenges of distance learning. Nakia Hardy and Scott Langford discussed this trend in a recent EdWeek webinar. A diverse group of panelists reflected on the numerous ways that curriculum has eased the burden of these times.

You can watch a recording of the webinar, High-Quality Curriculum: Suddenly the Essential Distance Learning Tool, on demand. 

In Praise of Curricular Coherence

Robin McClellan and two of her teachers joined EdWeek’s Sarah Schwartz in a webinar about their shifts to remote learning – and back again to the classroom – this spring and fall. Between hybrid schedules and the need to offer distance learning options, a common curriculum has become even more essential to keep instruction on the rails for all students. 

You can watch a recording of the webinar, Teaching on a Hybrid Schedule: How to Balance Remote Learning and In-Person Classes, on-demand.

Props From EdWeek

We were delighted to see our work shouted out in EdWeek!

In a recent piece on the PD landscape, Catherine Gewertz noted “a renewed focus in K-12 circles in recent years on the importance of high-quality instructional materials. Many organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and Curriculum Matters, a network of district leaders committed to high-quality curricula, have worked to define and publicize that idea.” 

Janise Lane is quoted in the article; her blog on the need to illuminate the opaque PD landscape makes an excellent companion read.

Hat tip to our squad-mates for raising their voices in support of excellent instruction!