Good Choices

NewAndImprovedChoosing textbooks and series has always been an important decision. Now, as ELA and math are changing everywhere, all at once, everyone is considering a big purchase. Teachers are clamoring for resources to support the Common Core. Publishers are employing a full court press with new and re-labeled materials. New York State Education Department is purchasing curriculum modules that districts can choose to use. Yikes! The pressure is on to make decisions! That means it is more important than ever to employ a careful, deliberate process. Most of the time, we just invite some publishers in to show us their bells and whistles and declare a winner. Sometimes, we get our best and most eager teachers to pilot a bit. Other than these practices, however, we don’t do much else before making these significant financial and long-term decisions. We recently hosted the Curriculum Decisions? Materials Selection?  workshop at OCM BOCES Instructional Support. Connie Muther, author of this approach and frequent contributor to Education Leadership has retired and has handed off her work to Ann Glass who spent two days reviewing this truly comprehensive approach to materials selection. Participants received a binder-full collection of advice, research, resources, and examples to use when facilitating the materials decision-making process. This process takes us to a different paradigm. This very thorough process includes these and other steps:

  1. Planning the Process
  2. Adoption Policy Consideration
  3. Prerequisite Decisions Before Beginning
  4. Committee Formation
  5. Committee Training and Preparation
  6. Review of Research/Trends/Latest Thinking (What Works)
  7. Curriculum Preparation
  8. Needs Assessment
  9. Force Ranking
  10. Defining the Good/Bad Ideal
  11. Initial Screening
  12. Publisher Organization
  13. Topic Comparison
  14. Story-Sort Comparison
  15. Vertical Trace
  16. Horizontal Trace
  17. Considering Technology
  18. Recording and Reporting Evaluation Results
  19. Negotiating with Publishers
  20. Planning an In-Depth Evaluation
  21. Implementation
  22. Monitor & Adjust

Most of the time, we just do steps 4 (form a committee) and 19 (negotiating with publishers) and then complain about the choice we made. All too often decisions are based on the razzle-dazzle technology and ancillary materials rather than the actual text and how good a job that text does helping to explain a difficult to teach concept. Stop! Before you make decisions about textbooks, series, and curriculum modules, be thoughtful and deliberate! Don’t fall for the sticker placed on top of the old textbook. You can consider this process to be “satisfaction guaranteed!” Craig,-Jeff_WEBJeff Craig Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Services

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