The deal has been struck, the ink is dry on the new FY 2014 budget and educators from coast to coast are breathing a sigh of relief that sequestration – at least for the next two years – will not threaten their education budgets. But we educators are a cautious breed and it strikes me that in today’s education market there is still a compelling need to be both fiscally responsible and increasingly vigilant when “shopping” for a curriculum solution. The ongoing “new normal” in education funding has certainly created a generation of better educated consumers, well informed and clearly intent on ensuring that all products and services are evidence-based and results-driven. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”
As state and federal funding streams become increasingly discretionary and focused on data-driven planning and results, school leaders are clearly considering their options when making purchasing decisions. Having spent 20 years as a school administrator, I often think about what I would consider relevant and compelling in today’s funding climate. What issues would drive my search for a solution? What features would I look for in a software program? What questions would I ask a curriculum provider? Here are my burning issues and questions.
Issue # 1: Is there efficacy behind the product?
It’s a new day and a new time. Educators now demand tangible evidence that the instructional solutions they are considering are designed to work with student populations reflective of their district demographics.
- What internal and external evidence can you provide that demonstrates the efficacy of your product?
- What research was used in your product development, and was it aligned to the specific funding stream(s) I plan to use for this curricular purchase?
Issue # 2: Solutions designed to meet the needs of differing student populations
The need for instructional “safety nets” for students that have fallen behind their peers in meeting grade level standards is critical; and extended-day/extended-year options must be available for secondary students whose lifestyles or circumstances do not align with the traditional school day or calendar year.
- Does the solution provide support for differentiated instruction? Can my teachers work with a small group of children fully assured that other students are working in learning paths targeted to their individual needs?
- How are students placed into your program materials? Is there a diagnostic/prescriptive process for placement that identifies instructional skill gaps or accelerated achievement levels?
- Is all curriculum under a single management system so that personalized learning paths will address fundamental skills missed at prior grade levels or accelerate learning beyond current grade level placement?
- Does the solution provide support that can be gradually withdrawn until students are able to apply new skills and strategies independently?
- Does the solution have a spiraling curriculum that allows students to revisit topics at increasing levels of depth and complexity as they progress through grade levels and instructional content?
- Does the curriculum solution provide 24/7/365 access anywhere and anytime to meet individual student needs?
Issue # 3: The ability to align core curricular materials with those being used for multi-tiered intervention and/or credit recovery
We live in a highly mobile society, a fact that all too often has negative implications for students who must move from school to school, district to district, multiple times in their educational careers. The resulting consequence is that far too often these students enter curricular materials in new situations without appropriate data to inform placement.
- Does the solution provide diagnostic/prescriptive information to inform accurate placement in program materials?
- Does ongoing progress monitoring assessment inform student learning, instructional planning, and signal the need for intervention support, when necessary?
Check in tomorrow for Issue 4-6!