Originally published online in Education Week.
To the Editor:
The authors of the recent Commentary about curriculum reform ("Don't Give Up on Curriculum Reform Just Yet," April 10, 2019) are right that the "Learning by the Book" study from Harvard University, which found disappointing outcomes stemming from the adoption of more rigorous curricula, is not a reason to give up on the promise of such materials. They're also right that an investment in professional development for teachers is necessary to make the most of these new materials. But, it's not just more professional development of any kind.
"Igniting the Learning Engine," a study of four school systems that I co-authored with David Rosenberg and Genevieve Quist Green, found that there are three key success factors needed for schools to take advantage of new curricula: expert-led staff collaboration; frequent, growth-centered feedback; and differentiated learning time and teacher attention.
For example, expert-led staff collaboration looks like organizing teachers into teams who share the same content with at least 90 minutes a week of collaboration time, led by content experts. These instructional leaders must be well trained in techniques for facilitating adult learning and they need to deeply understand the content they are supporting teachers to use. They must work closely with their teacher teams to fully comprehend the instructional shifts required of the curriculum, plan lessons around it, and adjust instruction based on skillful assessment of what students are learning. This model of collaboration is different from many versions of teacher collaboration that are focused on learning new concepts or perhaps school improvement planning, but not necessarily on the daily work of teaching.
The authors suggest that "systematically identifying the package of supports that teachers need to make full use of stronger materials" can lead to progress—but that package of supports must include the three key success factors.