Chicago adopted the Skyline curriculum. Now what?
Curriculum requires aligned support to get real results
We’re in the midst of what some call a “curriculum renaissance.” A growing number of school systems recognize that quality materials can expand access to challenging and engaging teaching by setting a common foundation for lessons, therefore closing gaps in opportunity. Curriculum writers are meeting this demand with more low-cost, standards-aligned options than we have seen in decades, making the choice to shift materials less costly for school system leaders.
Still, curricular materials are a mere tool. With materials in hand, teachers must use their creativity, professional training, and knowledge of their students to craft engaging lessons. So what does it take to accomplish frequent and skillful use?
That central question is a big part of why Leading Educators exists. We know that skillful use and adaptation of materials takes time, practice, and collective buy-in to succeed. School systems come with their own unique cultural dynamics, people, conditions, and values. Those that have succeeded with new materials took the time to build curriculum-specific professional learning capacity and strong habits.
Curriculum Implementation in Chicago
We’re excited to see this work underway now in Chicago as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) starts to implement its new Skyline curriculum. The Skyline curriculum sets a new standard for instructional materials. It builds upon grade-level standards and learning science to uniquely connect with the identities and experiences of Chicago’s students. If successfully adopted, it could equalize opportunities for students to do challenging and relevant work and become a blueprint to equitable outcomes for districts nationwide.
Leading Educators is working with a subset of CPS schools to design support for school adoption and implementation. Each school makes its own decisions about which content areas and grade levels participate in Skyline adoption. So, a professional learning system will offer subject- and grade-specific knowledge building, collaborative practice, and opportunities to continuously improve use.
Stephanie Hirsch and Jonathan Ben-Isvy recently wrote about these efforts and CPS’s decision to invest in curriculum-based professional learning in The Learning Professional. Two years ago, more than a third of teachers spent more than five hours each week searching for instructional resources. Eighty-five percent of these teachers said that the district should provide unit plans, lesson plans, and resources for teachers.
Now as CPS rolls out curriculum for six content areas, schools will receive differentiated supports based on their own self-assessment. Using structures described in more detail in The Elements, we will support a cohort of schools this year with professional learning design, instructional coaching and observation, and planning. We look forward to sharing highlights and lessons learned as the partnership progresses.