Decision-Making that Matters: 10 Ways Teachers Can Impact Curricular Decisions

A high school English teacher shares 10 ways classroom teachers can influence curriculum

As teachers nationwide gain experience with the Common Core State Standards, and as the expectations for achievement increase, teachers can play a lead role in influencing instructional materials decisions. While influencing the purchasing decisions of a school, district, or state may seem like a daunting proposition, here are ten small steps classroom teachers can take to have a big impact on the materials they use in their classroom:

  1. Deepen your understanding of the Standards — Knowing the Standards and how they build on each other is critical. Developing deep familiarity with the standards in the grade(s) you teach can help you know what to look for (as well as red flags) when reviewing potential instructional materials.
  1. Personalize your curriculum — Careful analysis of current materials and available resources allows teachers to make decisions about their curriculum on a daily basis, or even up to a year in advance. As teachers become more familiar with the building blocks of foundational standards and how to align materials to the expectations of college and career pathways, they can be more selective – choosing materials that have a direct correlation to the learning goals they have for their students.
  1. Ask for evidence – Teachers have a right to know if the materials they’re being asked to use with students have been vetted for quality, accessibility, and alignment to the Standards. As educators, you should ask that decision makers share the completed rubrics or review tools used in the review and selection process, so that you are clear on the strengths and weaknesses of the materials.
  1. Create your own supplementary materials – You can assist in creating supplementary materials or textual supports for existing curricular materials in order to make them more CCSS-aligned. This can improve the value and impact of your materials while staying within the financial boundaries of the district or school system.
  1. Share, share, share — If you have found a resource that is aligned to your state’s standards, offer to print or email it to colleagues. Explain how you used the resource and what results you achieved. I’ve found that local universities and colleges will often share resources for use at the college preparatory level.
  1. Make use of free resources — Sites with free open educational resources, like achievethecore.org, www.engageny.org, www.edutopia.org, and www.learnzillion.com, provide free Common Core-aligned units, lessons, and classroom materials.
  1. Reduce, reuse, revisit – With your knowledge of your school system’s budget restrictions and priorities, you may know that purchasing new materials may not be an immediate option, so set your goals accordingly. In the short term you can aim to reuse your existing materials, supplementing them to make them to improve their quality, and choosing to advocate for new materials at a more opportune time.
  1. Learn from successes and failures (and share with colleagues) — Openly discuss your successes (and failures) in the classroom — was it a “lead balloon lesson?” A “blown away lesson?” At the next PD meeting, bend an ear (or two) of your colleagues and share your experiences with the current materials you all are using. If there are lessons that are clearly not standards-aligned or activities that simply don’t go over well with students – share that with your colleagues so that they can amend their lesson plans to remove lessons that aren’t effective.
  1. Be vocal about what you want — Advocate for what you need in the classroom and convey those needs to administrators and/or publishers. Publishers often ship sample texts for review, and they welcome feedback. Administrators need to hear from the classroom about what is necessary to achieve and succeed as a school. Look for opportunities to speak with administrators, share your views in a public forum (through platforms like school board meetings, district newsletters or union blogs), and integrate yourself into the decision making process.
  1. Have confidence in your expertise — Remember that, as a teacher, you have a strong voice. You are immensely influential. No one knows your students like you do. You cannot be an advocate for your students unless you share your opinions, however. Be courageous in your advocacy and confident in your expertise. The first step toward influencing instructional materials decisions is to believe you deserve a seat at the table — and you do!

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About the Author: Lauren E. Trahan, Christian, wife, and mother of two, currently teaches English II at Erath High School in Erath, Louisiana. She has served as a Louisiana Teacher Leader Advisor, Louisiana Core Advocate, Stand for Children partner and has collaborated on curriculum and instruction decisions at the local and state levels. She enjoys working with professional educators and academic leaders to learn more about creating success in the classroom.