PORTLAND, Ore. — The largest district in Oregon is adopting both a brand new curriculum and instructional framework across all its schools.
Portland Public Schools (PPS) officials said it’s been decades since they’ve adopted a districtwide curriculum that puts everyone on the same page. They said the new curriculum is something the district has needed for a while and with the 2020 bond that passed, it now has the money to adopt new curriculum.
“Our data continues to show that we have persistent gaps among student groups along the lines of race and those gaps are unacceptable,” said Dr. Renard Adams, PPS’ chief of research, assessment and accountability.
Adams said the district is taking a three-pronged approach to achieve educational equity for all students in the adoption of a brand new curriculum, a new instructional framework for teachers and making sure teachers get training on both.
“Portland Public Schools is on track to implement updated, culturally-relevant curriculum materials in English, language arts and math at all levels by the start of the 2022-2023 school year," said Mary Wiener, PPS’ student success program manager. "And in all core subjects over the next three years, all students will have access to the same high quality coursework regardless of where they live."
District officials said teachers would be receiving extended hours in the summer if they choose to attend training at that time, since it’s not during their contract time. During the school year, they will have professional learning opportunities built into their 90 minutes of professional learning that takes place about 30 times per year, said district leaders. Twelve of the 30 sessions will focus specifically on the new instructional framework and curriculum.
So what will the changes look like? When it comes to curriculum, students of color will see themselves represented more. Beyond that, in regard to the instructional framework, district leaders said there will be more emphasis on how educators will teach and connect with students. Inclusion will be at the forefront. The district gave an example of what to expect at the elementary classroom level.
“We should see our students having more opportunities to talk with one another as part of their learning to make sense of the materials, whether it's math or reading," said Dr. Emily Glasgow, who works in PPS’ PK-5 academic programs. "We should see less, kind of, teacher upfront all the time, more students working with each other."
School officials said the districtwide instructional framework and curriculum will mean consistency across the board. Before now, teachers have often designed their own curriculum. That meant curriculum could vary classroom to classroom or school to school. District leaders said teachers will have training opportunities as well.
“We will offer learning sessions this summer to introduce the instructional framework and new curricular materials and teachers will have more opportunities throughout the year to collaborate with peers across the district who are implementing the same curriculum,” said Kristina Howard, PPS’ senior director of teacher professional learning.
District leaders said the whole process of adopting the curriculum has been robust, with more than 100 teachers, school leaders, community partners, administrators and students involved in giving feedback over the last couple months. They said materials are field tested and evaluated for not only academic standards but also bias and cultural relevance.
They said the bond that passed in 2020 designated a little over $53 million specifically for the adoption of new curriculum.