By Jess Box
Managing Director, Business Development & Product


In the 2019-2020 school year, less than 32 percent of teachers with access to high-quality instructional materials said they used them at least 50 percent of the time¹ ². Studies show that standards-aligned curricula make a real difference in student outcomes and will play a critical role in accelerating learning and addressing gaps through and out of the COVID-19 pandemic. So if teachers have great materials, why aren’t they using them?

One key reason is whether and how educators were engaged in the selection of materials. Educator participation in a curriculum adoption process can make the difference between new materials gathering dust on a shelf or being used as the foundation of meaningful, relevant daily instruction. Too often, teachers do not have a voice in selecting the curriculum that will guide their instruction for years to come. As the adults closest to students’ day-to-day learning, teachers have a critical lens into what materials will best meet the needs of their students. 

Zooming in on Baltimore City Public Schools

When adopting a new ELA curriculum for K-8 in 2018, Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) knew that they could not fall back on previous selection practices. Standards alignment was a prerequisite—but so was educator and community voice. City Schools Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Janise Lane said: “Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be earned. This was the first time we had conducted an adoption like this, so it’s understandable that there was some reluctance on the part of educators and the community. It’s understandable that teachers weren’t sure if their expertise was being solicited to actually inform the decision. Our job was to show it truly was, to commit to transparency, offer genuine, effective avenues for feedback and engagement, and to communicate openly about what we were doing and why.”

"Trust doesn't happen overnight. It has to be earned."

Janise Lane, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning

As your district prepares for its next curriculum adoption, consider how the addition of educator and community voices can shine a new light on your process. Read the following excerpt from our case study on City Schools’ adoption to learn about how the district engaged educators, students, and families through every step of the work: Redefining EngagementHow Baltimore City Public Schools Transformed its Approach to Adopting Instructional Materials – Excerpt: Pg 4 – 8, Committed to True Stakeholder Engagement.

Key questions about engagement to inform your adoption process

As you read the excerpt, here are a few questions that can guide how you design your next materials adoption. 

For district leaders:

  • How have teachers been engaged in past adoption processes? Given that engagement, what might be teachers’ perceptions of the process? 
  • City Schools used several strategies to center teachers’ voices and ensure the views of many teachers were represented. What strategies are you employing to get to a similar level of teacher engagement with the process? 
  • Students and families have an important perspective on the materials that are the foundation for student learning. How are you incorporating their voices in the process? 

For teachers and school-based administrators:

  • What do you know about your district’s adoption process and how educators’ voices are included? Who could you reach out to to learn more? 
  • From your perspective, what characteristics of a new curriculum are most important for your students? Who can you share that information with to inform the next adoption? 
  • What characteristics of a new curriculum do your students and their families think are most important? Who can you share that information with to inform the next adoption?

To learn more about curriculum adoption best practices, visit Selecting for Quality: 6 Key Adoption Steps.

¹ RAND American Educator Panels, American Teacher Panel, "American Instructional Resources Survey", RAND2019_05may_AIR0519T, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, May 05, 2019.
² RAND American Educator Panels, American Teacher Panel, "American Instructional Resources Survey", RAND2020_05MAY_AIR0520T, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, May 05, 2020.