School Leaders: Making Sure a Standards-Aligned Curriculum is Implemented (part 2 of 4)

How can principals ensure students receive a rigorous, standards-aligned education?

As we discussed last week, school leaders play a significant role in assuring all students access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Element 1 of the Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model focuses on this responsibility, adding that school leaders must also provide a program of study that is aligned with state standards and rigorous enough to ensure post-secondary success for the students.

School leaders often play a small or non-existent role in identifying, adopting, and developing education maps. Why, then, should they evaluate how well teachers put the new curricula into action? Here’s why: because one of the most significant links to student achievement is the principal’s ability to ensure implementation.

Let’s look at the difference between intentions and implementation . The intended curriculum includes guidelines, such as maps and year-at-a-glance timelines, which were developed to ensure alignment with grade-appropriate standards. The implemented curriculum, however, is what teachers actually do in the classroom. This is where school-level leaders have the greatest impact.

As a school leader, your job is to make sure that:

• Students receive instruction aligned with grade-appropriate standards
• Teachers make necessary transitions to implement rigorous college and career readiness standards
• You’ll be able to provide evidence that you have done these things

First, consider how you monitor instruction. Meet with your teachers to evaluate whether their dominant instructional practice meets the critical needs articulated in your school goals and in the individual goals your teachers monitor for their students. In addition, determine whether or not they’re delivering the instruction that was part of the intended curriculum.

As you monitor, keep questions like these in mind:

• Where should they begin in their instructional sequence?
• How can teachers avoid wasting time teaching material the students already know?

Although these areas of concern predate the influence of the Common Core State Standards, value-added measures recently imposed at a state level have put them at the front-and-center for many schools.

Showing Evidence
Every day, you do countless things to help teachers use adopted material and stay aligned with grade-appropriate standards. You also help them provide students with the resources and timing they need to learn the material. Showing evidence of what you do, however, can be the tricky part.

As a remediation teacher, I used to wonder if working exclusively with struggling learners caused me to lose sight of what children should be able to do. Attaching the standards as the criteria helps teachers measure children not against their group, but against more objective criteria. It also helps your teams of teachers, as they meet to review assessment data and student artifacts. With an articulated standard in place, teams are better able review the performance and tie it to learning opportunities and in their instruction.

Value-added measures have shifted our attention toward growth. On a practical level, this may materialize as students’ status scores and growth scores. You can get valuable feedback from asking students to compare their scores to their pre-test results and let you know which information they feel should be covered more slowly and what supplemental information could enhance and deepen their learning.

Artifacts from discussions with groups and individual teachers become evidence of your monitoring and of your support of curriculum implementation. Those discussions also provide teachers with artifacts, as they reflect on the effectiveness of lessons, units, and instructional strategies. Domain 3 of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model focuses on these strategies.

Collaborative Planning
As your teams begin to explore the rigor of new standards, it may help them to participate in collaborative planning. Old lessons, which did not incorporate the complexity of today’s standards, will no longer do. Teachers must develop new, standards-aligned instructional units and lessons and identify new resources that they may not have used in the past. As an instructional leader, you can facilitate these transitions by encouraging and supporting a collaborative planning effort. 

Knowledge utilization is at the highest level of complex cognitive processing in the new taxonomy. When a collaborative team explores a more rigorous level of learning, the resulting artifacts become additional sources of evidence for this element of Domain 3.

The strongest principals don’t stop at performing the tasks traditionally associated with school leaders – they also lead the curriculum implementation process in the classroom. Because you may spend a great deal of time focusing on this area in the coming months and years the Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model covers it.

School leaders, what role do you play in making sure your school’s adopted curriculum is implemented properly? Do you encourage teachers to meet and review artifacts and evaluation data together? Please share your thoughts in the comments below – and be sure to follow us on Twitter or Facebook so you don’t miss the rest of this series.

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