States have a lot on their plates as they prepare for the 2020-21 school year, and the list is only continuing to grow. State leaders are navigating changing budgets and helping their communities address systemic inequities while seeing COVID-19 rates bouncing up and down as schools reopen and adjust. Getting through the school year safely and fairly – whether virtual or face-to-face – is likely a top priority for any education policymaker.
Another important consideration is how teaching and learning will be impacted in the upcoming school year. If students are going to have continuity of learning this year, educators likely need effective instructional strategies for virtual or in-person teaching and high-quality materials with clear guidance around how to best use them can help accomplish this. This topic is important especially as teachers and students are establishing their relationships and building a foundation for learning to accelerate regardless of modality.
Below are a few of my thoughts as a former state leader on how state policymakers and school leaders can support high-quality curriculum:
- Consider simplifying and streamlining what leaders are asking of our educators. Providing clear guidance around what expectations are for this year and giving educators – including district teams – the time and space to plan can help with this, but it may mean narrowing state asks and resources.
- Provide clear and simple guidance to ensure all content is standards-aligned and offer examples of what that may look like for in-person and virtual settings. Educators may be sourcing new materials to find content that is more culturally relevant, speaks to current issues or that better fits a virtual environment, and they will likely need support in this. States can also encourage districts to specifically articulate what content their teachers should utilize, and they can provide a template or examples of how educators could plan to focus on curriculum and standards recovery this year.
- Consider whether existing timelines for textbook adoptions or statewide materials could be revisited as states regroup on funding and long-term plans. If strong materials are already in place, consider whether implementation could be strengthened through dedicated teacher leader positions and funding and time for job-embedded professional learning on curriculum instruction. These teacher leaders could focus on coaching educators on blending high-quality content with highly effective instructional practices and offer development opportunities for principals and school leaders to increase their buy-in and understanding.
- Provide examples of districts and schools that are comprehensively supporting educators in blending what they teach with how they teach – virtually and in-person – whether that is through district- or school-led initiatives, job-embedded coaching and PLCs, or other professional learning. Providing these exemplars offers a tangible image of best practices and can make high-quality curriculum implementation feel attainable and less daunting to leaders.
Now is the time that state policymakers can empower districts to transition to a strong curriculum and provide a system of ongoing support to ensure that teaching and learning remains a top priority during the pandemic.