School Leaders: Ensuring a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (Part 1 of 4)

What can principals do to prepare students for post-secondary success?

What Guarantees Do We Expect?
A guaranteed, viable curriculum increases students’ likelihood of post-secondary success. This is a given, but what does that mean, on a practical level, for the school leader? Today, we’ll consider this topic in part one of a four-part series focusing on the principal’s obligation to provide students with a curriculum that prepares them for adulthood.

The word ”guarantee” certainly evokes expectations, but in this context, it also brings up questions.

The word ”guarantee” certainly evokes expectations, but in this context, it also brings up questions.

•  What guarantees might come with a curriculum?
•  Do students feel confident in what we guarantee?
•  Do we expect this guarantee to provide value for the time they put into it?
•  Do parents find themselves expecting their children’s curriculum to have a certain worth?
•  Should we believe that attending a specific school or educational program and interacting with its curriculum causes children to reach a certain level of proficiency?

When it comes to education, most of us assume some guarantees – and expect the same of all teachers. Therefore, a guaranteed curriculum is one that is provided to all students, despite the district, the school, or the teacher responsible for delivering it.

Viable Curriculum
Let’s say I must choose between three hospitals in my community. I begin with a reasonable expectation that each facility has met the criteria necessary to allow it to provide medical care. In other words, I assume that the treatment provided is going to meet the needs of those being treated, making all three hospitals “viable” in my mind. With that already out of the way, I might choose a hospital based on other factors, such as location or comfort.

What then does it mean for a curriculum to be viable for all students? Shouldn’t it mean that we can expect students to be taught the skills necessary for success in their post-secondary endeavors?

We all want a curriculum that prepares students to enter:

•  College without needing remediation (an alarming number of students enter college underprepared)
•  Military service with the skills necessary to perform at an acceptable level
•  The workforce, capable of taking on a level of independence and performing successfully

How can school leaders provide a viable curriculum that prepares all students for all of these paths?

Has the Role of the Principal Changed During the Last Two Decades?
In the past, a principal’s main duties were to manage large groups and oversee school operations. There were no school report cards, teacher evaluation systems, heightened school safety protocols, or extensive parent involvement programs. All of these have come about over the last 20 years as the focus has turned toward making American schools more competitive in a global market.

The emphasis on hiring strong principals has now shifted to hiring people who:

•  Have a deep knowledge of curriculum and instruction
•  Are able to perform as instructional leaders
•  Have the willingness and skill set to act as resources to teachers

The Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model addresses the need for principals to be knowledgeable about curriculum. Common Core State Standards and other college and career readiness standards have strongly influenced curriculum development, increasing the amount of rigor required of students. Although high levels of rigor help students reach the level of preparedness they’ll eventually need, accomplishing this can be quite a challenge for teachers and school leaders.

In the School Leader Evaluation Model, the three elements of Domain 3  focus on building school leaders’ responsibilities in the areas of curriculum and instruction. Evaluation systems should measure the work we already do; they shouldn’t add tasks to our plates. School leaders are already extremely busy. Domain 3 is meant to capture, not increase, the work that’s already being done.

Principals, How Do You Make Sure That …

•  Teachers are implementing the intended curriculum?
•  Teachers are delivering standards-aligned material?
•  Teachers are providing a rigorous curriculum?
•  Students have access to the curriculum they’ll need for post-secondary success?

If you were to calculate the amount of time you spend on curriculum delivery, it would probably constitute a large portion of your workday. Just think about all you do to protect instructional time and develop schedules that enable teachers to cover material effectively.

Shouldn’t these things be considered in your annual evaluation?

One test score can’t capture everything a child knows about a particular topic, nor can it capture all that a principal does each day. Likewise, no evaluation model should be based on a score from just one assessment.

As we continue, we’ll talk more about the fair evaluation model that Learning Sciences Marzano Center offers school leaders and how it captures the work they do to ensure that all students in their buildings receive the most appropriate curriculum possible. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you don’t miss the rest of this series.

Leave a Reply