Inviting stakeholders into a district’s curriculum adoption process can build relationships, increase buy-in when decisions are made and lead to the inclusion of materials that better represent school communities, panelists said during a webinar hosted by EdReports on Thursday.
In EdReports' fourth webinar on “Adopting Materials Through an Equity-focused Lens,” staff with Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools explained how they used a curriculum audit, feedback sessions, focus groups and teacher training to make its adoption process transparent and inclusive.
As school system leaders take approaches to include equitable instructional materials, they should consider opening up the process to teachers, families, students, and community members to help address the needs of students who have been the least served.
Baltimore City Public Schools, which has 54,000 students, began its English Language Arts curriculum update with an audit and teacher survey in 2018. The school system shared those results with the school community and area residents through several information sessions, said Janise Lane, executive director of teaching and learning.
“The more we started sharing, the more interest it drew,” Lane said.
First-grade teacher Samantha Ashby was a member of the work group that considered curriculum options. Ashby called the work of selecting a curriculum “empowering” but full of pressure, because she was helping make instructional decisions that impacts many of the district’s students. The district’s streamlined process and EdReports' pre-vetting of materials helped the team organize the work, Ashby said.
When it came time for her to review the curriculum options, she considered whether the materials were representative of the community, and if “multicultural students were able to see themselves and their peers in the text while learning.”
To get widespread community feedback about the curriculum options, the district held digital engagement sessions, brought materials to different parts of the district so community members could view the printed texts, had a student-led Facebook Live session, and held Feedback Cafés where teachers drank coffee while providing their input, Lane said.
The stakeholder engagement efforts opened the door for two-way communication and helped teachers feel safe in voicing their opinions, Ashby said.
The final adoption of the Great Minds’ Wit and Wisdom curriculum was shared with the community and was introduced to teachers through professional development sessions.
“After this process, [the district] started having more engagement for teachers,” Ashby said. Now, the district asks teachers their opinions on various topics throughout the year, “where that wasn't the case before,” Ashby said.