Whether you engaged in a full materials adoption process during the 2019-20 school year or adopted materials quickly in light of interrupted schooling in spring 2020, the launch is critical to make or break the success of new materials. Strong rollout and early implementation efforts in the first 3-4 months can make the difference between materials being regularly used in the classroom or staying on the shelf.
Regardless of the adoption process that led to the selection of your materials, we have found these seven best practices to be game changers for a successful launch.
1. Ground your work in your instructional vision and ensure all plans and communication centers your system’s vision for great instruction in this content area. Connect each component of your launch and implementation plan to your instructional vision. You may need to revisit your instructional vision to articulate expectations for how it translates to remote learning. If you led an abbreviated materials process, it is not too late to set an instructional vision. For tips and inspiration, see these sample instructional vision statements.
2. Lead with strong, clear communication about the new materials to teachers, students, families, school leaders and district leaders. While it is always a best practice to communicate with parents and guardians, this year it is even more important. Students’ families and caregivers play a more active role during remote learning and need to know how these materials will support their childrens’ learning. Get creative with how to engage with families about materials. For example, Baltimore City engaged community members through a student-led Facebook live session. What tools do you have to reach more parents and community members?
For all stakeholders, share why these materials were selected and the process by which they were selected, connected back to your instructional vision. Use the EdReports review of your adopted program to highlight strengths and gaps of your materials, so your community develops a deep understanding of how these materials will support students and teachers.
Communicate expectations for use, both in the current context of potential remote and blended learning and during in-person instruction. Share the plan for rollout and early implementation so educators can see the whole picture. You cannot over communicate during this phase.
3. Be strategic about the messenger for each communication. As you plan for the initial message and subsequent communications and trainings, consider who can best reach each audience. If you led a robust adoption process, you can tap the many champions of these materials who participated in that process. If you led a more truncated process, ensure the messengers have plenty of time with the materials in order to understand their design and how they reflect your instructional vision.
4. Reach out to the publisher to learn more about the design and features of your adopted program. In the 2020-21 school year, you will likely need to adjust the materials to provide just-in-time instruction and address key concepts to address learning loss from the previous year. Ask for recommendations on what components of the materials are must-dos and which are may-dos; align those recommendations with your instructional vision to articulate clear expectations for use. Ask the publisher about the technology enhancements they offer to support remote learning as well as the training and support they offer, including on the technological capabilities of the program.
5. Don’t overlook the technical aspects of the rollout. Make a plan to distribute materials to teachers safely during the summer and to distribute materials to students if school is not in person in the fall. Teachers and site leaders will need an orientation to the new materials to understand how they are designed, how they reflect the instructional vision, and how to use them, including any technology features. Parents would also benefit from an overview of the materials and how to use them.
If this onboarding for educators would have taken place in a large in-person session prior to COVID-19, plan for what that initial training will look like in a virtual setting. We recommend a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences that will give educators time to explore and get to know the materials on their own, while also hearing common messages together. Try to limit any one virtual session to no more than four consecutive hours to maximize engagement.
6. Prioritize content-specific implementation support for your educators, grounded in the materials, on how to prepare for and deliver instruction. After the orientation to the new materials, provide teachers and leaders with professional learning on how to prepare for instruction at the unit and lesson levels. Include expectations for just-in-time instruction on key concepts students may have missed during spring 2020 as well as expected adjustments to lesson structure during remote learning.
Provide teachers opportunities to practice lesson preparation and lesson execution, including any adaptations required for remote learning. In addition to the initial training, teachers and leaders will need regular time for collaboration on lesson preparation and student work analysis. Teachers will need coaching and support from school and/or district leaders. Consider how you will provide those opportunities in remote and in-person settings.
A recent study by the Center for Education Policy research found most teachers received fewer than 1.5 days of professional learning on their instructional materials per year. While implementing new materials and especially when delivering remote instruction, this cannot be the norm.
7. Plan past the initial rollout of materials. Identify the key milestones and pause points in a successful year one implementation. Determine what data and evidence you will use to know whether you met those milestones. Consider what feedback you need to gather from educators and the mechanisms by which you will gather the feedback. In a year likely to include periods of remote learning, include a plan to track and support the use of materials during periods of in-person and remote learning.
Again, you cannot over communicate this plan with educators and community members. Implementing new materials takes time and hard work. Educators will benefit from knowing this is an ongoing process during which they will have training, support, and collaboration and that they will be able to provide feedback to inform the additional training and support they need for strong implementation.