If the curriculum your district spent X dollars on two years ago is bad,* then sticking with it because you spent X dollars on it two years ago doesn’t make sense.
The X dollars is a sunk cost — money you can’t recover, whether you stick with the curriculum for ten more years or you abandon it tomorrow. When we continue a behavior just because we spent unrecoverable money on the behavior in the past, we engage in the sunk cost fallacy. We’re susceptible to this in all parts of life, but it’s uniquely deadly when we do it with curriculum decisions because of how many people it adversely affects.
The question to ask in these kinds of situations is: based on what we know now, would we spend the X dollars on this curriculum today?
If the answer is no, then make prudent haste in pursuing the new and better curricula. And that word prudent should be size 48 font — I mean it! This time, rethink your due diligence, e.g., don’t open-invite people to the curriculum committee. Don’t ask for the opinions of all stakeholders — we're in the education profession, not the please-everybody one. Consult the research, consult the case studies, consult the experts who have no money to gain from your decision but who have a reputation for helping you make a good one. And for goodness sake, consider options that don’t cost X dollars! There are many good ones that cost a fraction of X.
*Bad could mean:
- It’s been disproven by better research.
- It’s an inefficient path to mastery and a more efficient path has been found.
- Your experts have found a significantly stronger alternative.
- It clashes vertically — e.g., the K-2 curriculum overlaps unhelpfully with the 3-5.
- It’s got silo-ized gaps that make no big-picture sense — e.g., language knowledge is taught and practiced in grades 5 and 6 in some of the classes, and then language knowledge is taught through inquiry in grades 7-8, and then it’s explicitly taught again in grade 9, and then it’s not in grades 10-12 due to teacher preference.
- It’s otherwise incoherent.
**Before you do any more curricula adoption, your team should read The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler. Wexler provides an intelligible, robust overview of the things you need to know in order to make your next curriculum decision a good one, including:
- The most recent consensuses of cognitive science (which are not taught emphatically enough in most schools of education and are therefore often missing from our professional literature and our professional development)
- The history of the United States' standards movement and how it has led to a self-defeating K-12 debate about skills v. knowledge (and therefore why your next curriculum choice may need to be guided by something more timeless than [insert latest standards here])
- The research-lite ideologies upon which much of our professional discourse is built (and how these can be traced as far back as a 1762 romantic treatise by Rousseau)
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