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Access to Varied and Customizable Content, Curriculum and Assessments

STRATEGY: Provide teachers with access to resources for curriculum, assessments, and professional learning to support strong content knowledge and pedagogy.

One of the key responsibilities of school and district leaders is to ensure that the teaching staff has what it needs to teach effectively, including the right set of resources and other supports that are aligned to state standards, contain rigorous content, and address deeper learning competencies. There needs to be a strong set of curricula for all content areas, with well-aligned pedagogical aids, such as model lessons with supporting pacing guides and curriculum maps.

In addition, school and district leaders must ensure that programs, interventions, and tools are made available to address the varied needs of students from all backgrounds. This often means a variety of supports for personalizing and individualizing instruction for students from demographically different backgrounds, students with learning differences, and students who are English language learners.

Details

It is no surprise that the quality of the resources and professional learning available to teachers heavily impacts the quality of teaching and learning. Given the importance of those resources and learning opportunities, there is an ongoing need for vetted resources that are aligned with standards and research. There are many reasons why school and district leaders want to provide teachers with adequate resources and professional learning on strong content and pedagogy.

  • A teacher’s primary job is to provide the instruction and support that students need to be able to master content and skills. Having the right resources at hand means less time creating materials and more time planning and delivering instruction.
  • The consistency and breadth of materials matter. Teachers are not all trained in the same way, nor are they all trained to develop resources for all the students who need targeted support beyond the general classroom approach—students who are more advanced, for example, or those who have specific learning needs.
  • Rich and well-aligned resources allow teachers to collaborate more easily and effectively. If resources have been purchased or developed with all grade levels and content areas in mind, teachers can collaborate with their colleagues within a subject area, within a grade level, across grade levels, and in professional learning communities. In other words, effective vertical and horizontal alignment starts with the thoughtful provision of resources.
  • With the right and consistent set of resources, school and district leaders can better monitor and evaluate the delivery of content, identify and offer teachers the supports they need, and assess student learning based on a more standard set of knowledge.

Providing teachers with resources, curricula, and assessments that are aligned with rigorous content, professional learning, and research-based pedagogy is the most basic part of an infrastructure for school improvement efforts. It takes collective planning, thoughtful alignment of funding and other resources, and agreement among leaders to align their actions with school and district goals.

First Steps to Consider

There are many activities that must be undertaken to provide resources that are well aligned with the needs of students. As with any change, it is likely to get support and buy-in from staff if successes can be shared early on and during implementation.

Quick wins

  • Solicit feedback from teachers about the resources they need and use the feedback to invest in new or additional resources that support the goals of the school or district.
  • Ensure that resources are housed or stored in electronic forms that are easy to access by all staff who need them.
  • Provide effective models of the use of resources through links to videos, lesson plans, etc.
  • Implement a system for resource and information sharing among teachers and leaders.

First steps

  • Conduct a needs assessment and inventory of resources (human capital and other resources) to determine what the major needs of the system are.
  • Share information with educators and decision-makers in the school and district.
  • Share effective use of resources by citing data and/or stories as models of what the system expects.
  • Identify and use certain resources or models of instruction to ensure success for historically underserved students.
  • Gather information about evidence-based and best practices for school improvement.

Complexities & Pitfalls

  • Getting school leaders and department heads to agree on the most suitable resources and professional learning, given the vast number of needs that usually exist.
  • Pooling and prioritizing funding, across departments, to meet school- or district-wide goals.
  • Securing adequate resources for all schools and distributing them equitably based on the groups of students in each school, the amount of training and coaching support that each school’s team will need, and the amount of funding available.

Guiding Questions

  • What are the priorities of the school or district?
  • How does the school or district decide on the most appropriate resources? How is research and evidence used to guide the decision making?
  • How are funding streams currently allocated, and is the current process the most reasonable and effective?
  • What mandates are there around funding?
  • How does the school make decisions about resources and professional learning? Who are the people involved?
  • Does the instructional staff help determine what is put in place?
  • What policies, procedures, or practices might need to be in place to effectively make decisions, allocate funding, and provide oversight for implementation?