5 Steps to Evaluating Supplemental Curriculum Programs

January 27, 2022Brittany Granquist

The adoption of supplemental curriculum materials is one of the most impactful decisions that educators make. Instructional materials influence student engagement, assessment practices, lesson delivery methods, and teachers’ underlying pedagogical practices and efficacy. Using the five steps and rubric below, administrators can thoughtfully evaluate supplemental curriculum programs and ultimately invest in the resource that best supports both teaching and learning.

Step 1: Rank evaluation criteria

Amongst a landscape of hundreds of supplemental instructional resources, the only way to carve the path forward is to get very clear on what is important to your teachers and best for your students from the start. Create a team of decision makers that represent diverse and well balanced perspectives, including administrators, teachers and instructional coaches. The evaluation team should rank the following categories from most to least important: program organization, content/pedagogy, reporting, lesson delivery, and training/support. 

If it is tough, and it may be, ask tough questions:  

  • Is it more important that teachers are able to navigate through the program’s organizational structure with ease or that there are professional development and teacher support resources? 
  • Is the standards-alignment and mathematics pedagogy more critical than the program’s assessment capacity? 
  • Do teachers most value a program that assists with engaging lesson delivery and differentiation? 

Not all categories of evaluation criteria will hold equal weight for your district, which is why it is important that team members discuss and establish shared priorities from the onset of curriculum evaluation. 

Step 2: Define what teachers and students need

In order to get a clear picture of the “best fit” supplemental curriculum resource, the evaluation team should next identify specific “look-fors” to define observable targets and indicators that embody and align with district priorities. The more specific the “look-fors”, the easier it will be to gauge how potential supplemental programs measure up. We advise developing 3-6 “look-fors” for each of the evaluation criteria categories outlined in step one. No “look for” is more or less correct or incorrect, they simply depend on the many different factors that comprise your district.

Program’s organization in terms of a supplemental curriculum program’s organization, what are the “look-fors” that best capture your teachers’ priorities?

  • Is it that the content is logically organized so they are able to easily search and access supplemental resources? 
  • Do teachers give precedence to programs that incorporate accessibility for English Language Learners and students with disabilities? 

Even if this category ranks low on your list of priorities from step one, it is still important to collaboratively develop these indicators as it may be the differentiating factor between two contending supplemental programs.

Content and Pedagogical Offerings

What priorities are held around a potential supplemental  curriculum resource’s content and pedagogical offerings? This category is often a critical component to math educators, as they want to ensure that supplemental resources align with their standards, their personal mathematical teaching philosophies and district initiatives around mathematics education. What “look fors” best describe teachers’ pedagogical priorities in a supplemental resource?

  • Does the resource build conceptual understanding and procedural fluency, with an emphasis on strengthening students’ mathematical habits of mind?
  • Are there real world connections and explicit problem solving instruction?
  • In order to address the unfinished learning caused by the pandemic, does the resource provide plentiful lessons and activities designed for differentiation at all student readiness levels?

Reporting

With data-driven instruction continuing to inform many districts’ strategic plans, it is critical to examine how potential supplemental curriculum resources can assist teachers and administrators with reporting. The “look fors” in this category can depend on the core curriculum that has already been adopted, the age-range of students, district grading initiatives, and many more variables. 

  • Does the resource include adequate opportunities to assess and report student progress in real-time and post-lesson?
  • Are there built in opportunities for teachers to gather information to support meaningful differentiation?
  • Can administrators view and actively use data?

The team should define indicators that paint the “ideal” picture, being cautious not to undermine their vision at this phase of evaluation.

Lesson Delivery

A potentially differentiating factor for supplemental curriculum adoption centers around a program’s lesson delivery methodology. This component will arguably most directly impact teachers on a day-to-day basis. It is important to make teachers’ voices predominate in these “look fors.” 

  • Is it critical that your supplemental resource have the ability to seamlessly deliver synchronous and asynchronous lessons? 
  • Is it a priority that the program offer resources suited for a variety of instructional formats including whole and  small group instruction, independent practice, and collaborative group work? 
  • Do teachers value multimedia including videos, games, songs, manipulatives, etc.?

Hone in on what most closely addresses both teacher and student needs in your district.

To assist with the development of  “look fors” in step two, use our evaluation checklist and rubric. This resource was made for supplemental math curriculum adoption specifically, but can be used as a starting point or template for other subject areas as well. The evaluation checklist and rubric can be used throughout the process of evaluating supplemental curriculum programs by providing the clarity needed to support meaningful evaluation, dialogue and analysis. 

Step 3: Implement a strategic evaluation

The real test of the quality of instructional materials is the learning they support in the classroom, thus, it is recommended that curricular resources be evaluated by teachers when possible. Evaluation processes should be clearly outlined for all stakeholders.  It is recommended that the process on the whole be developed and shared with participating teachers and staff in detail. Developing a folder on Google Drive or a HyperDoc to house information on the evaluation process will help teachers feel more comfortable and prepared.

To get started, decide how the curricular resource will be introduced; ideally there are targeted  training sessions held before and during the evaluation. Next, you will need to set the duration of the evaluation and expectations for how often teachers should use the tool during the evaluation. If your district has support staff such as instructional coaches, it is a good idea that they hold at least one observation of the teacher implementing the curricular program.

You should also select a reflection tool that teachers can use to evaluate the resource at the end of the trial period. We recommend evaluating teachers to complete our evaluation checklist and rubric to uniformly reflect on the program’s strengths and weaknesses.  By ranking each criteria using numerical indicators, and measuring the resource’s performance across many categories, decision makers will be able to have meaningful dialogue. The final aspect to consider is how to solicit student input. We find student input is invaluable in evaluating curriculum programs. In addition to the teacher evaluation tool,  you should also develop a way by which students can share their thoughts. 

Step 4: Analyze evaluation results

During the analysis phase, the decision making team and evaluating teachers should come together to discuss the supplemental curriculum resource’s affordances  and limitations. The strength of using a checklist and rubric is that it provides qualitative analysis of different criteria and promotes guided discussion around critical evaluation categories. Ultimately, the decision makers and administrators can gather each teacher’s rubric, compile the data in a central location, and, using student input and instructional coach observations, make a collective decision whether to adopt the supplemental curriculum resource. 

Step 5: Refine implementation

f the evaluation went well and your team decided to adopt the curriculum, your job is not quite over! Teachers implementing the supplemental curriculum program will need additional training and opportunities to check-in with their peers. We recommend scheduling at least one additional training and/or Q&A session as well as meetings where teachers are able to share their tips/tricks with one another and also reflect on implementation. If your district has instructional coaches, we recommend that these staff members receive additional professional learning so that they can provide the expertise and support needed to teachers who may benefit from more personalized assistance with implementation.

It is a good practice to regularly re-evaluate supplemental curriculum programs. Has the supplemental program led to improved student engagement? Has adoption helped teachers with instructional planning? Have student mathematics scores changed since implementation? What is the rate of implementation in the district and how can administrators work with coaches to ensure more fidelity? Re-evaluating the curriculum is not just about determining whether this curriculum continues to align with district needs, it is also about discovering if you can provide any additional support to teachers to ensure the curriculum is implemented with fidelity. 

What if your team decided not to implement the supplemental program after evaluation? This is a possibility if the feedback from the evaluation was predominantly negative and/or it was discovered that the supplemental program had unworkable deviations from district expectations. If teacher evaluation in step four was done with consistency, next steps will involve getting clear on pain points students and teachers experienced with the supplemental curriculum program, and identifying additional supplemental programs to evaluate that address these pain points. If your team of decision makers believe that the negative feedback is not substantial enough to move to another potential program, next steps might include more professional development around the resource and subsequent rounds of evaluation. Either way, it is important not to get down if the feedback is less than ideal. Rather, it is a unique opportunity to continue to find ways to best support your teachers. 

The adoption of supplemental curriculum resources is an impactful decision for administrators, teachers, and students. The process should be carefully planned from start to finish. By giving teachers and students a voice and ensuring diversity of perspective on your decision-making team, you will be able to make an informed, measured decision. Using our evaluation checklist and rubric is a great way to get a “head start” and ensure curriculum evaluation and adoption are data-driven and consistent. Charter your path forward with a simple goal in mind: to help your teachers take on the most important job in the world.

Interested in reading more about this topic? Check out this blog post: 10 Reasons why principals love Nearpod

References:

[1] https://www.nctm.org/News-and-Calendar/Messages-from-the-President/Archive/Diane-Briars/Curriculum-Materials-Matter_-Evaluating-the-Evaluation-Process/

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260392089_How_to_evaluate_the_quality_of_digital_learning_resources

[3]  https://storage.googleapis.com/edreports-206618.appspot.com/resources/8270005/files/k-8-math-rubric-082019-v1.pdf

[4] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/sst/evaluationmatters.pdf]

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