In this age of fast food, the fast fix, and the fast lane, I am proud to say that I work for a company that takes the time to be responsive to educator needs. In terms of school improvement and innovation, we are thinking about the same things that educators and parents are thinking about, because the majority of us are educators and parents, too. But just to ensure we are “on target” with product and professional development efforts, we routinely pepper our clients and staff with insightful questions like “What does success look like? . . . and my personal favorite, “What Keeps You Awake at Night?” And not surprisingly there is much consistency among the answers, issues, and concerns. Here are some of the top responses:
- Schools saturated with new vendors, new products, new services. How to gauge depth and breadth? Whom do we trust? How do we ensure ROI?
- BYOD is becoming increasingly prevalent in schools nationwide . . . who measures up in accessing the range of technology platforms?
- What products help prepare students for the tech features they will encounter with the new generation of assessments . . . will schools be ready?
- Which publishers can effectively work alongside open educational resources?
- Which publishers are in the classroom pre- and post- development, understanding how technology really works for teachers and students?
- How do districts recruit and retain good teachers?
- How do districts provide personalized learning opportunities for all students . . . at both ends of the spectrum . . . remediation and acceleration?
- How do districts leverage digital learning and technology to provide students with mobile access 24/7/365?
- How do districts build on student strengths, as opposed to remediating deficiencies?
- How do districts do fewer things better . . . and bring coherence and consistency to instructional planning?
In today’s education space there is compelling need to be fiscally responsible and increasingly vigilant in evaluating and implementing curriculum solutions. Educators should take pride in the fact that they are well informed and intent on ensuring that products are evidence-based and results-driven. At Compass Learning® we believe there are specific criteria that should help drive your search for products and services, and our product development processes and professional learning services are all designed to ensure that these criteria are not only met, but exceeded. If I were looking for a solution today, these would be some of my requirements:
Efficacy: There should be tangible evidence that the solutions you are considering are designed to work, and have worked, with the student populations served in your district.
Coherence: In many school districts, programs layered one upon another have contributed to a host of educational issues, not the least of which is the “curriculum chaos” that results when students work in multiple programs targeting the same skill deficiencies. Collaborative planning and instructional support is difficult to manage as students move from class to class and program to program. Can the solution replace and bring coherence to this “nest” of inefficiency?
Intervention: The need to provide instructional safety nets for students who have fallen behind their grade-level peers is well established. Extended day/year options must be available for all students.
Motivation/Engagement: The Gates “Silent Epidemic” report revealed that nearly half (47%) of the students that leave education behind do so because their classes were not interesting—they were bored and disengaged from their high school experience. In 2014, can we really afford to continue to lose students to coursework that is irrelevant and boring?
Professional Learning Services: Savvy administrators clearly understand that the best solutions are only as good as the fidelity of their professional training and implementation. Compressed and/or limited time for training and reflection significantly and negatively impact student and teacher performance.
Functionality, Automaticity, Ease of Use: To recruit and retain good teachers/administrators, simplify their lives. Assist with the management and organization of instructional tasks through product features and data analytics that are automated and efficient. In so doing, you erase much of the complexity associated with addressing the range of learners found in today’s classrooms.
Sustainability: The “New Normal” is now an established norm. Providing a range of funding options to meet initial and year-to-year costs is imperative, and identifying viable blended funding options is critical for meeting ongoing needs.
I am a tough critic when it comes to curriculum solutions, and some would say I ask the tough questions. And yes, for a number of years, many of those questions kept me awake at night. But not this fall. I am excited – energized actually – by the sense of possibility I see when I come to work each day. Curriculum solutions on point, people focused on the target, everyone with a common goal: STUDENT SUCCESS.
Let’s make it happen.