July 19, 2024


Education, What Else?

Curriculum Evaluation: What to Assess and Understand

6 min read

Curriculum evaluation is much more than a content review. An evaluation must consider the nuances of the entire development cycle, from conception to maintenance. Still, content, instructor delivery, and student performance make the news. But, focusing evaluation only on those three areas fails districts and, more importantly, students. Curriculum evaluation relies on complex processes. Therefore, most evaluation models do not account for the nuances of the development process. Leaders consider these details when evaluating curriculum.


Compare Intent Against the Results for Curriculum Evaluation

The primary question of an evaluation seeks, “is the curriculum delivering what the school intended?” Leaders review intended results versus actual performance. It is a difficulty for districts whose funding may be tied to performance. So, leaders must work with key players before beginning the evaluation process. Likewise, leaders must prepare staff, school boards, committee members, and parents for the audit results. Still, content creators face how the curriculum might fall short. This gap can be threatening.


Highlight the Principles and Vision When Evaluating Curriculum

Educators and school boards may fear failure when performance and funding are tied to the evaluation results. Also, leaders can help by having a clear intent of the curriculum posted. Leaders highlight principles and vision statements, which create a common language to remind everyone of the plan. Most importantly, they can reassure instructional staff and content creators that the process focuses on improvement, not blame. Besides that, leaders remind stakeholders that the curriculum intends to meet all students learning needs. Yet, leaders must manage stakeholders’ expectations while simultaneously soliciting their input for the evaluation success metrics.


Educate and Involve Key Stakeholders for the Curriculum Evaluation

The current political climate has drawn the public’s attention to the curriculum approval process. So, leaders must know key stakeholders and what they know about the education profession. Moreover, leaders must know how to include governors, state reviewers, school boards, and parents in the evaluation process. Yet, they may not have an educational background. Teachers, content creators, and leaders must prepare to explain to stakeholders how the curriculum works. They must explain foundational concepts, terminology, and definitions. For example, the field of study, the program of study, and the course of study serve very distinct roles within the curriculum. Most importantly, leaders must educate stakeholders about the success metrics of the learning needs of each student. Before that, leaders must prepare to explain how curriculum evaluation works.


Understand the Criteria for the Curriculum

Therefore, evaluate the curriculum against an established set of criteria. School districts will set these criteria. Yet, this task is time-consuming and tedious. Besides that, the evaluator should be an expert in the field. They should know the pros and cons of the various evaluation models used to measure curriculum effectiveness. Otherwise, districts and educators will not benefit from going through the process. Also, the process must be consistent. So, using established models helps everyone involved in the review. Each model has strengths and weaknesses that leaders must consider before deciding how to proceed.


Leaders Review the Measures for the Curriculum Evaluation

Leaders must understand what points to measure and how to measure a curriculum. Yet, leaders share the selection criteria that lead to sustainable improvement. Besides that, leaders respond to the particular concerns of local, state, and national stakeholders with appropriate data to make decisions. The government invests billions of dollars into education. Moreover, the lack of research and quality measurements has led to unclear results. So, leaders face the heavy task of making valuable distinctions between items with merit and worth for their schools. Also, criteria and metrics use quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate and analyze data. Still, more effective and accurate ways to measure the benefits of the curriculum can result from clear evaluation criteria.


Check the Assessments in Connection to Student Performance

So, student performance is another area that gets much public press. But, assessment is more than test scores. Yet, stakeholders may not be aware of the power of adaptive assessment. So, leaders can prepare to present the plusses of adaptive assessment. Technology in the classroom lets teachers meet students where they are on their learning journey. Technology lets teachers assess student performance in real-time. Teachers can assign content based on the student’s performance level, not their grade level. Educational technology constantly changes


Besides that, districts have concerns about student data privacy that leaders should prepare to address. Still, the flexibility teachers love poses challenges for researchers. They cannot validate the effectiveness in the classroom before the tech changes. Yet, the tools do drive student engagement. The tools give teachers the flexibility they need to meet individual learner needs. Besides that, technology lets administrators see how teachers are delivering the content. Administrators can use performance to see if the teacher or the content is responsible for poor student performance.


Assess the Curriculum for Different Learning Styles

The instructional approach can make or break classroom learning. Good leaders know that instructional delivery comes in many different modes. For example, a criterion of curriculum evaluation is how many different instructional methods are used to teach the content. Ask if the curriculum does that for the district. How? When? Also, how are the different learning styles addressed? Again, these are terms specific to education. So, leaders may have to show stakeholders the different types of instructional deliveries. Leaders can guide criteria selection to meet the district’s daily, pressing needs rather than one-off needs. For example, some stakeholders may be reeling from pandemic emergency remote instructional delivery. That experience soured many views. So, leaders should ask if portability is a criterion for their district. Does the curriculum need to move between instructor-led and virtual classrooms without notice? Also, leaders and content creators should invest in training teachers in the skills to deliver the curriculum as intended. But, first, leaders should start with quality content.


Seek Expertise From Consultants

Content evaluation is when the public review of the curriculum wants to begin – especially on hot-button subjects. Content has made the news cycle as of late. But, starting with content leaves out a lot of the evaluation process when steps are skipped. Yet, results happen if leaders can move stakeholders through the heavy front end of defining the measurement criteria and committing to the curriculum’s intent. Leaders will get a more accurate view of their curriculum. Most importantly, a quality curriculum must answer many complex questions, from standards alignment to the content’s relevance to students.


Therefore, districts can use consultants to guide their creation teams through answering these tough questions. Outside facilitators offer schools expertise in comparing how well the curriculum uses the educational methodology research has proven works. Sure, quality content can reduce some of the noise surrounding performance when used appropriately. However, reliable, validated development methods are a foundation for future measures. Now, leaders can evaluate their development consistently year over year. They get an accurate picture of their strengths and gaps. Then, leaders can take steps to improve the curriculum. They can point homegrown development teams in a direction that aligns with the vision. Most importantly, leaders must understand how to guide their team through the evaluation process by helping them define what quality content.



Leaders must develop and evaluate the curriculum to meet the school’s vision. Curriculum evaluation begins by identifying what is important to the stakeholders. But, the curriculum has to meet the demands of many different groups. Often, stakeholders are not education professionals. So, leaders must ensure stakeholders agree on how to measure success. Besides that, reviewers should frame the evaluation in the spirit of improvement, not punishment. Also, leaders may benefit from working with expert consultants to measure the success of their curriculum development process. Experts can guide content creators through an eclectic mix of evaluation models. Still, the process must meet the expectations of the decision-makers, whether it is state governors, school boards, or teachers and students themselves. But, in the end, the specific success measures and selection of curricula rest with the district. Leaders must give educators the curriculum they need to meet the needs of the students.


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