By Guest blogger: by Glenn “Max” McGee, former Superintendent, Palo Alto Unified School District

February 23, 2017

Choosing the right materials is one of the most critical instructional decisions that superintendents make.

When high-quality, aligned materials are used in classrooms, we know that we are setting up our teachers and students for success. When we get the decision right, we ensure that high- quality, aligned materials are being used throughout our classrooms.

If we get it wrong, we will end up spending time, money, and human capital on augmenting or fixing the content over the next several years.

By Educator, For Educator

Knowing which materials are aligned and high-quality has historically been a challenge; however, in Palo Alto when we approached curriculum adoption, we were able to rely on expert educator analyses from EdReports.org to support our adoption process.

We believed educators should be an integral part of the curriculum adoption process. They bring extensive knowledge of their students and what they need in classrooms to be successful. 

We also know that our educators do not have the time to sift through the hundreds of titles that claim to be aligned to the standards.

The EdReports reviews provided a useful filter for our team to identify which materials we wanted to learn more about through structured pilots and which we did not.

Using EdReports

As an adoption team, knowing how well the materials are aligned to the standards helped us to think of the work that will come before, during, and after we make a decision. My team and I thought of the EdReports review colors in this way:

  • GREEN: Materials that fully meet criteria, if implemented with fidelity, will provide students with the content and skills practice that will support them in reaching the college and career ready standards;

  • YELLOW: Materials that partially meet criteria, with some adaption or additional supports to augment the content, will support students to become college and career ready; and,

  • RED: Materials that do not meet criteria would need significant adaption or supplementing to ensure students are experiencing content that will support them in reaching the standards.

With that shorthand in mind, we then considered how and where we wanted to spend our team’s time. The key question we asked was: “How much do we want to create or purchase supplements to ensure that the standards are being addressed?”

Ultimately, the answer to this question led us to piloting three sets of materials: 2 “green” and 1 “yellow.” Through these pilots, we will learn which of these high-quality, aligned (or very close-to-aligned) materials best support our instructional priorities and meet our students’ needs.

Final Decisions

After such a comprehensive, evidence-rich process, the adoption team can make a recommendation will full confidence that the program will lead to high-quality, aligned materials in classrooms.

Having this full suite of information—the expert reviews and the data from our pilots—helps superintendents present the best case to the Board, parents, and other educators who were not involved in the adoption process.

Dr. McGee is the former Superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District. He is a former Illinois State Superintendent of Education, and has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent in three PK-8 Illinois public school districts.


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