Your Guide to a Successful Adoption Process

Savvas Insights Team
Your Guide to a Successful Adoption Process

Adopting a new curriculum can be an exciting and important time for school districts. It means the district and its leaders have discovered a need and they are taking steps to address it. It can be a challenge, however, to find the highest-quality educational materials that meet the districts’ variety of needs while also having the support of every member of the school community. This is an important process that requires managing change and key resources such as budget, people, and time.

Savvas Making Your Curriculum LastIn order to manage this process well, and for districts to feel confident that what they choose will be the best fit, it’s crucial to have a clear and thoughtful pre-adoption strategy. So, we sat down with the Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team who work with districts every day. Here are their recommendations, based on research and their own experience as educators and in partnering with school districts to successfully adopt and implement new curriculum across the country.

Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team

Defining Your “Why”

After identifying school and district needs, but before starting the search for new materials, the team strongly recommend the first step be to find your “why.” Ask yourselves, Why are we choosing a new solution? Why do we need to move in a direction that impacts student outcomes? Understand your “why” and weave it into every step of the adoption process, from creating goals to making the final decision.

Once you have your “why,” use it to create a vision statement and then use that statement as the vehicle to help accomplish your goals. Be sure the vision is clearly communicated to the group who is assigned to review materials from the very beginning. If the materials under review do not align with the vision then it’s not the right fit.

Creating an Adoption Committee and Keeping It on Track

A great place to start in the pre-adoption process is to identify a group of stakeholders who will do the research and ultimately recommend what materials to adopt. Many districts invite members from every part of the schoolwide community, such as classroom teachers, building administrators, coaches, parents, and students to serve on an adoption committee to create goals and review the educational materials being considered for adoption.

diverse group of educators discussing pre-adoption process

It can be very beneficial to have insights from the many different lenses represented by the members of a committee. For instance, classroom teachers will be able to look at the materials from an everyday-use lens, while parents can look at the quality of the school-home connection, and instructional coaches can consider the quality and quantity of the professional support that’s offered.

With so many people at the table, however, there are bound to be a wide variety of needs, and choosing something that meets all of those needs can be a challenge. Here are a few strategies that our Educational Consulting Leadership Team recommend to help keep the group on track from day one:

  • Assign a designated instructional leader who can act as an anchor for the group and who can help keep conversations productive and focused.
  • Create time and space for productive conversations. Schedule ample time at regular intervals for the group to meet in a space designated for them and include an agenda or focus for the conversation.
  • Create a timeline with clear, explicit action items for the pre-adoption process to prevent the search from going on and on. Decide on a deadline where you make a decision based on the data you’ve collected.
  • Define a consensus. Decide ahead of time what percentage of votes will decide on what program to adopt. For example, you may decide that 80 percent or more of the stakeholders need to be in consensus to move forward with an adoption. Once you establish the number, communicate it clearly and widely so everyone is aware well in advance.

It’s important to note that some districts aren’t able to use a committee in its pre-adoption process, but these recommendations can be helpful to any group of reviewers and decision makers.

Create Goals and Assess Needs Starting with the End in Mind

When assessing what you need in a new curriculum and defining the goals you want it to meet, our consultants say that the best place to start is by looking at where you want to be at the end. Define what it is you want to achieve in student academic behaviors as a result of a new adoption.

It’s also beneficial to take a deep dive into your history and look at what worked and what didn’t. There may be materials and strategies that have been working to, for example, keep students engaged, and that you want to be present in a new program. On the other hand, there may be strategies used in instruction that were counterproductive and that you will want to avoid. Examine the student data from past state tests and assessments and compare it with where you want to go.

“Curriculum implementation is more successful when districts get teacher buy-in early and allow them to have a voice.”

Create a rubric from your needs and goals that you can use as a checklist when evaluating educational materials. Record everything into a living document that you know you can revise as needed. Use it as a guide during all stages of the adoption to help make decisions and gather data.

Do Your Research

Staying current in educational research is critical to our Educational Consulting Leadership Team's everyday work, and they stress that research should also be a critical component to any adoption. They recommend making sure that third-party research has been done on the materials you’re looking at in order to evaluate its efficacy, but also that the instruction used in the materials is based on what current research says is most effective. Here are ways you can research the materials to help inform your decisions.

  • Research educational resources through third-party organizations, such as What Works Clearinghouse and Ed Reports. These organizations evaluate product services from many different lenses, including efficacy. They will provide ratings and data that will support a successful implementation.
  • Look at educational research on instructional best practices and make sure those best practices are embedded into the instructional strategies of the materials you’re reviewing. Make sure the instruction is based on research that is proven to move the needle, e.g., the gradual release model and the science of reading.
  • Know your state's standards to ensure that whatever materials you choose align with them. It’s also important to stay updated on any instructional shifts in those standards.
  • Talk to the vendors who publish the educational materials to find who aligns most closely with your needs. Sit down with them and have a discussion. Be very clear about what you want and how you want to use it. It’s also good to think about how their programs will blend with other programs already being used within the district and discuss whether or not they will work together. Make sure the vendor is also able to articulate how their programs align with your standards and how the standards unpacks inside the built-in lessons and routines.
  • Talk to your district partners, especially neighboring districts. Research to determine if they are having the results you want to see for your own district. If they are seeing positive results, and they have the same demographics, take a closer look at their curriculum because if it’s working for them, then that curriculum is proven effective. Ask to go see it in action. It’s not uncommon for neighboring districts to visit one another to see what a “day in the life” looks like.


Getting Buy-In

In the experience of the Savvas educational consultants, the districts that get great buy-in are those that see the healthiest and the most successful implementations. Here are strategies they have seen districts implement to get buy-in from teachers within the school community.

  • Involve teachers. Give them a voice when it comes to goal creation and decision-making. They are, afterall, the people who will be using the materials every day.
  • Communicate the importance of standards. Instructional leaders should work with teachers in the pre-adoption or piloting phase to support understanding of the role their state standards play in the process of choosing a curriculum.
  • Plan on a phased implementation. Research recommends a phased implementation when rolling out a new curriculum. For example, districts may want to consider starting with K-2 first, in a K-5 adoption. Then, rolling out 3-5 the following year. This will make it easier for teacher leaders and coaches to manage.
  • Consistent communications about expectations and standards. Be sure everyone is aware of the plan and the goals for a new adoption. Consistent messaging will ensure that everyone in the district is aligned on the goals. Make clear how you intend to use a program so when it’s time to monitor progress you can see whether or not it’s being used the way you intended.

Guide to a Successful Adoption Process Checklist

Access a printable version of this post to use when you're ready to start your pre-adoption process!


Meet the Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team

  • Allison is an educational consulting manager who is responsible for the operational management and quality assurance of consulting services across a region spanning 18 states. She has a background in supporting implementation of successful instructional frameworks both domestically and internationally for over 15 years.
  • Amber is a Savvas Partnership Plus manager who oversees consultants serving districts as long-term partners (12+ months) as they foster change in teaching and learning through Savvas curriculum implementation support, professional learning, and instructional coaching. She has a 15-year background in education.
  • Heather is an educational consulting manager for the New England, New York, Liberty, and Mid-Atlantic markets. She has over 27 years of diverse experience at the classroom, building, district, collegiate, national, and international level.
  • Hershene is an educational consulting manager who works with schools and districts around the Southeast, Florida, Southwest, and Tennessee Valley Regions providing support in the implementation of various core curriculum and intervention programs. She has more than 20 years in education.
  • La Keshia is an educational consulting manager who has an array of experience in public schools as well as the publishing and assessment sectors of K-12 education. She has served as a district administrator in Detroit Public Schools, supporting school turnaround and in the Office of Innovation.
  • Lee Anne is the Savvas vice president, educational consulting responsible for leading our team of education consultants that support our national and international partnerships. She has been in education for twenty-two years and brings her passion for serving all students through a differentiated and strengths-based approach to this role.