Curriculum-Aligned Professional Learning at Statewide Scale

Our community has long preached the importance of pairing high-quality curriculum with professional learning that is specific to those materials, giving teachers the What, the Why, and the How for strong instruction. Research has shown that this approach has a strong evidence base, whereas professional learning alone is unlikely to raise student outcomes.

We pair our curriculum work with curriculum-specific professional learning in our districts. Yet many of our colleagues are in Tennessee, a state that is applying the curriculum-aligned professional learning model statewide. Tennessee’s Reading360 training is intentionally designed to incorporate instructional materials, and practice with those materials, as a part of statewide training. As Scott Langford has recently written, the strong outcomes in Tennessee are likely attributable to this thoughtful investment in its educators.

How did districts experience this training, and how did it enhance and reinforce the work with high-quality curriculum in Tennessee districts? What are the outcomes in local schools? Hear from educators in three Tennessee districts on these important questions.

Our founding member Robin McClellan, who was at the Tennessee Department of Education during the rollout of Reading360 training, moderated this conversation.


  • Richard VanHuss, Director of Schools, Elizabethton City Schools
  • Travis Hurley, Principal, Elizabethton City Schools
  • Trey Duke, Director of Schools, Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Quinena Bell, Principal, Murfreesboro Schools
  • Jonathan Criswell, Director of Schools, Milan SSD
  • Nicole Claybrooks, Second grade teacher, Milan SSD

Moderated by Robin McClellan, co-founder of Curriculum Matters and Director of Partnerships, Rivet Education.

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The Shift from Fountas & Pinnell to Research-Aligned Reading Instruction

In the wake of the troubling EdReports reviews of Fountas & Pinnell and Reading Workshop, many districts are considering a switch away from balanced literacy programs, to materials that better align to reading research.

Given the popularity of these programs, many districts worry that this will be a difficult shift to make. Previously, we hosted a webinar on the shift from Reading Workshop, in which our colleagues shared their stories from their first year of making this transition, and the conversation seemed valuable to the field.

In this event, we hear about the experiences of educators who’ve made the shift from F&P: 

  • What concerns about F&P – or about balanced literacy generally – prompted the change?
  • What did school teams experience when shifting to high-quality curricula?
  • How did school and district leaders build support for the change? How did they support educators in making the shift?

On Wednesday, February 16, Jennifer Hogan led a conversation with education leaders who have seen these shifts firsthand. You can watch a recording of their conversation below and download the presentation.


  • Moderator: Jennifer Hogan, Pentucket Schools
  • Victoria Thompson, Principal, UP Academy Holland
  • Elizabeth Wolfson, Reading Specialist/Instructional Coach, UP Academy Holland
  • Mandy Hollister, ESL Teacher/Coordinator/Instructional Coach, UP Academy Holland
  • Michael Paff, School Psychologist

Watch a Recording

Download the Presentation

Teaching Black Boys in Elementary Grades – a Conversation With Dr. Alfred Tatum

Dr. Alfred Tatum believes advanced reading and writing has become taboo – especially for Black boys. He seeks to refocus on the life of the mind in elementary schools. How do we refashion classrooms as intellectual spaces, and writing as an intellectual exercise, beginning in the elementary years?

Tatum brings fresh evidence to these questions in his new book, Teaching Black Boys in Elementary Grades. He spent two and a half years conducting research with 131 Black boys in pursuit of higher reading outcomes, and his book translates his learnings into a tangible, multi-dimensional reading model grounded in daily instruction.

On Wednesday, December 8th, Yvette Stewart hosted an open conversation with Dr. Tatum and the Curriculum Matters community on how we foster advanced levels of reading and writing for Black boys – and for all children. Where is the high-quality curriculum movement on the right track, and where can it continue to grow to meet these goals?

You can watch a recording of their conversation below.

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Revisiting Concerns About Reading Workshop

Amidst growing critique of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program ‘Units of Study’ materials, the authors have announced that a revised version will be available for purchase for the 2022-23 school year. The nature of the revisions has been somewhat unclear, and many in the field have raised questions.

This webinar unpacks the changes that have been announced by TCRWP to date, all of which affect Units of Study in grades K–2. 

In many regards, Units of Study will remain unchanged – including aspects that were reviewed poorly by literacy experts last year and by EdReports in October. Our panel details what’s not changing about the program – and the implications for student reading success.

Our speakers also reflect on balanced literacy programs beyond Reading Workshop, as the issues are not exclusive to one program.

Matt Warford of Aldine ISD – a district that shifted from Reading Workshop to high-quality curriculum last year – moderated this conversation among educators and literacy experts.

You can watch a recording below and review the slides from the conversation here.


  • Carissa Berliner, Literacy Coach, New York City DOE
  • Margaret Goldberg, Literacy Coach, West Contra Costa Unified School District and co-founder of Right2Read Project
  • David Liben, Consultant, Student Achievement Partners
  • David Paige, Professor of Literacy, Northern Illinois University

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Level Up Professional Learning

The creative professional learning approaches in Aldine and Sumner County have been earning cheers in social media, and we want to learn more! Each district is refining a model that we can all borrow.

In Aldine ISD, grade level teams have been doing Lesson Rehearsals, allowing each teacher to try out his or her instructional approach and receive feedback from the group. Everyone benefits from this modeling; the Aldine team has been refining the approach for a year, and they’ll detail both their model and learnings.

Sumner County coaches are using Swivl to record lessons in action, which are then reviewed with teachers for truly tangible feedback. Coaches also record their coaching sessions, then coaches debrief their coaching moves with each other! By capturing exemplary lesson and coaching videos, the Sumner team is building a library with many potential uses. Team Sumner will give us a glimpse of this work.

Each these approaches fosters powerful “on-the-job” professional learning, with a healthy dose of community-building!

On October 21st, we heard from the Aldine and Sumner teams. Watch a recording below, and join our Slow Chat on this topic on October 25th in Twitter.


  • Demedia Edwards, Director of Literacy, Aldine ISD 
  • Gloria Guerrero, Literacy Coach, Aldine ISD
  • Kyle Craighead, Student Growth Coordinator, Sumner County 
  • Rachel Sowder. Lead Educator, Sumner County

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Delaware, The Small State With Big Curriculum Outcomes

This year, we noticed an unmistakable trend: we kept adding districts to our network from Delaware, and each district had seriously impressive outcomes from work with high-quality curriculum!

The stories in Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Laurel, and Seaford are each individually compelling – and collectively, they make a powerful case for curriculum as a change agent, to improve instruction, drive impressive reading and math outcomes, and to fuel quality professional learning for teachers.

On August 3rd, leaders from our four Delaware districts shared their curriculum journeys – both the success stories and the learnings along the way. They also explored the question: why is high-quality curriculum work taking off right now in Delaware?


  • Ashley Giska – Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Laurel School District
  • Kelly Carvajal Hageman – Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Seaford School District
  • Lavina Jones-Davis – Director of Elementary Education, Brandywine School District
  • Jennifer Nauman – Assistant Superintendent, Cape Henlopen School District

Related Reading

You can read more about Delaware districts’ success stories in The 74, which has been featuring their work in a series of Curriculum Case Studies, as well as on the Knowledge Matters School Tour site:

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So, You Want to Accelerate, Not Remediate. Let’s Talk About HOW.

Many educators are aligned around the instructional goal to “accelerate, not remediate” as students return to school in the fall. We know that we can best address unfinished learning by keeping the learning bar high, rather than watering-down instruction out of fears of student learning loss.

What does this mean in practice, though? 

Leaders from Curriculum Matters, TNTP, and Zearn unpacked this approach in our July 27 webinar. We got tangible – participants spent time delving into exemplars in math, ELA, and science. We also talked about how to accelerate with English Language Learners. 

You can watch recordings of the event below, including all breakout rooms. As a pre-read, we highly suggest the Accelerate, Not Remediate report from TNTP and Zearn.


  • Colleen Stearns, Vice President of Curriculum & Instruction, IDEA Public Schools
  • Dan Weisberg, CEO at TNTP
  • Neena Hendershott, CMO at Zearn
  • Kristin McQuillan, Project Director at TNTP
  • Stephanie Ely, CAO at Zearn
  • Jamila Newman, Partner at TNTP
  • Mary Pittman, Director of Mathematics at TNTP

Watch a Recording

Full webinar, including the Math breakout room (from 31:30 until 48:15):

ELA breakout room:

Science breakout room:

The Trouble With Basal Bloat: An Important Discussion of the Wonders Review

Recently, Student Achievement Partners published an important review of the Wonders curriculum (read more in EdWeek). It put a spotlight on some known concerns with the program, like its weak support for knowledge acquisition.

The review also illuminated an issue that has implications well beyond Wonders: basal bloat.  When a curriculum is loaded with so many bells, whistles, and options – particularly when they are of varied quality and relevance – a teacher can easily wind up teaching the weak stuff and miss what’s good (and aligned). We  think this is a serious problem in the industry that deserves unpacking.  

On July 12th, Janise Lane hosted an open conversation with the authors of the Wonders review to discuss why basal bloat is a problem and how districts might address the issue. 

Speakers included:

  • Sue Pimentel, Founder, Student Achievement Partners
  • Meredith Liben, ELA Designer, Student Achievement Partners
  • Sonia Cabell, Assistant Professor of Reading Education, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University 
  • Janise Lane, Executive Director or Teaching and Learning, Baltimore City Schools

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Meet the Curriculum: ARC Core

On March 23rd, Whitney hosted a webinar about the ARC Core curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Whitney Oakley, Chief Academic Officer, Guilford County Schools (NC)
  • James Hopkins, Principal, Durham Public Schools (NC)
  • Taylor Milburn, Literacy Coach, Durham Public Schools (NC)
  • Phamalae Cummings, Multi-Classroom Leader, Guilford County Schools (NC)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on ARC Core:

“ARC has multiple benefits from a common curriculum, a database that tracks student progress, a database that houses online resources, and a live coach that supports teachers. It is a framework that helps teachers have a baseline to soar with creating common core standard lessons.  The classroom libraries are amazing!” –Pharmalae Cummings

“Content building and culturally sustaining representation is important and evident in ARC Core.  Intentional master scheduling, investments in professional learning and close attention to needs around explicit instruction should be addressed on the front end of implementation.”  –Whitney Oakley

ARC Core delivers a research-based approach that ensures students build knowledge while developing a love for reading. The diverse assortment of books is second to none–and teachers can’t get enough of the resources! –James Hopkins

“ARC Core has allowed all of our K-5 students to be exposed to complex text that intentionally builds knowledge over time. Kids get so excited about the topics and love to read, write, and discuss what they’re learning about in class. With the whole school using ARC Core materials, we’re able to collectively share data and instructional strategies across grade levels and specialty areas.”   –Taylor Milburn

Watch a recording:

Meet the Curriculum: Bookworms

On March 18th, Ashley hosted a webinar about the Bookworms curriculum featuring users of the curriculum.

Speakers included:

  • Ashley Giska, Asst. Superintendent of Teaching & Learning, Laurel School District (DE)
  • Kathleen Chaucer, Principal, Ballston Spa (NY)
  • Jolene Hansen, Literacy Coach, Ballston Spa (NY)
  • Sarah Kemp, ELL Specialist, Laurel School District (DE)

Each of the speakers shared a ‘hot take’ about the materials, and we’ve collected them below. We hope you will watch the recording, and enjoy our companion webinar, Understanding the Curriculum Landscape in 2021.

Our Hot Take on Bookworm:

“Getting to see the impact of high quality literacy instruction- even in year 1- has been outstanding. I am incredibly proud of the learning that our teachers and principal team have experienced and of our growing knowledge and understanding of how we can teach all students to read and write well.” – Kathleen Chaucer

“I feel that it has given teachers and specialists the opportunity to better collaborate with one another and target the student’s individual needs. The students seem to have a stronger foundation in decoding and phonics while their love for reading and interest in authentic texts has also improved.” – Sarah Kemp

“Bookworms has improved teacher efficacy, student knowledge building, and love of reading. It establishes a true culture of literacy in the school.”

– Ashley Giska

“Bookworms has given our students a structured high volume approach to meaningful literacy! The students are excited to have “real” high interest books in the their hands, which has increased their engagement. The consistency among grade levels, as well as, the simple, repetitive routine in all grade levels has really helped to streamline services to help our students be successful. Watching our students progress in their foundational skills has been truly amazing!” – Jolene Hansen

Watch a recording: