Katanna Conley, Ph.D.
The last time I did a curriculum implementation walkthrough with a district, the finding that stuck with me was both one of the most inspiring and the most frustrating. At schools where ELA scores were rising, the curriculum resources were in the hands of teachers and students alike. Books were open, student journals were marked up, stories were full of sticky note annotations. In schools where scores were stagnant or dropping, on the other hand, these same resources were pristine, unused, tucked away under desks or languishing on shelves. It was heartbreaking, frankly, to see materials that were clearly making a difference in some locations completely wasted and ignored in others.
The curriculum of a school is the coursework or academic content students engage with in a given class. It’s what they do in class, what they do for homework, what they’re assessed on, and what we count on to prepare them adequately for college and careers when they leave us. It is, in short, at the core of our work in education. Moreover, the United States typically spends more than $2 billion a year on textbooks alone (National Association of Educational Statistics text expenditure data, http://nces.ed.gov).
It takes no research or particular insight to observe that an unused curriculum is no more useful than having no curriculum at all. However, despite what is clearly a commonsense observation, I continue to see these valuable investments squandered completely.
For curriculum to impact student learning, it must be used, and used well. Otherwise, you’re wasting dollars, time, and the chance for that curriculum to help raise student achievement. To help you avoid this, here are four ways to keep a curriculum off the shelf and make sure it gets used to improve the academic lives of the students for whom it was designed.
A little bit about me: I'm currently the Content Director for College and Career Readiness at Public Consulting Group. I typically write about curriculum, instruction, and educational equity. I'd love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.