Unless there’s a political or ideological controversy, curricular decisions in schools and districts rarely make headlines. That’s too bad because these choices are immensely important.shows that curriculum plays a critical role in student achievement, and that upgrading curricular materials can be a cost-effective intervention. That’s particularly the case with early reading, where the is especially strong. State-led efforts have also proved promising: to incentivize schools to adopt and implement high-quality curricula was paying dividends prior to the pandemic, with students showing improvements on , , . Other states, like , have followed suit.
Obviously, curriculum reform isn’t a silver bullet. But helping districts and schools make wise curricular choices can pay off in the long run without being prohibitively expensive. Over the last several years, Ohio leaders have implemented several initiatives aimed at making it likelier that schools adopt high-quality curricula and instructional materials. Let’s take a look at two of those efforts.
The Ohio Curriculum Supports Guide
Thewas developed by the Ohio Department of Education in partnership with , an education nonprofit that works with teachers to “support great teaching and accelerate student learning.” As you’d expect from a nonprofit aimed at helping teachers, the guide is specifically designed for educators who are responsible for selecting curricula and materials for their school or district.
The bulk of the guide is based around aof “leadership actions” that educators should take as they work through the curriculum adoption process. The framework is divided into —selecting materials, preparing to launch, and teaching and learning—and each phase contains several “key actions.” For example, phase one includes the following:
- Plan your process
- Establish the vision
- Develop the rubric and prepare for reviews
- Review, pilot, and decide
- Procure and distribute materials
Each key action comprises an overarching goal, an explanation about why it matters, and several steps that team members must take to complete it. For example, the second action listed above—establish the vision—includes two steps: train the selection team and review committee, and articulate the vision of instruction and core beliefs. Each of these steps is broken down even further into guiding questions, notes, and resources.
The framework is a thorough resource designed to take the mystery out of selecting high-quality curricula. But the details don’t stop with the framework. The guide also offers a samplethat outlines how to progress through the framework, a designed to help educators and administrators work through the process as a team, a aimed at helping leaders determine the best place in the framework to begin, and .
To understand, it’s important to understand (ITCs). There are eighteen of these nonprofit public agencies in Ohio, and they are charged with providing technology and shared services to the state’s schools. These services include internet connectivity, fiscal systems, student information and EMIS services, and INFOhio.
The overarchingfor INFOhio is to ensure that every student in the state has “equal access to high quality digital resources.” This is accomplished by offering instructional and technical support to schools (mostly through professional development and training for teachers) and by providing educators and families with access to age-appropriate content and instructional materials. Whereas the Ohio Curriculum Support Guide helps educators select curricula for their school, INFOhio offers a digital and searchable library of materials that can be used for free by teachers, school staff, parents, and students.
INFOhio also offersin several forms. This is a hugely important development, as these reviews can provide district and school staff with objective, third-party evaluations that are crucial for wise decision-making. INFOhio’s review resources include the , which helps school leaders identify evidence-based strategies for school improvement, as well as that evaluate submissions to , Ohio’s digital platform for open access and open educational resources. It also includes , that allows educators to search for high-quality instructional materials that have been reviewed by , a national organization that boasts a network of more than 300 experienced reviewers from forty-six states.
To outsiders, the development of the Ohio Curriculum Support Guide and the advent of INFOhio might not seem like much. But for teachers and administrators charged with selecting a new curriculum for their school, the support guide offers step-by-step guidance that can ease a complicated transition. For parents and teachers looking for supplemental materials, INFOhio offers a plethora of free digital resources. And for schools looking to upgrade their curriculum to improve student achievement, INFOhio offers rigorous reviews on the many, many options that exist. These are critical resources that Ohio didn’t have before—and that’s a huge win.