Welcome to the Curriculum A-B-C Blog

A blog on the policies and politics of curriculum and instruction across the nation by former educator and school board member Jocelyn Pickford!

Did you know that only about 30% of teachers nationwide have access to or are using high-quality instructional materials – and that teachers may spend up to 12 hours a week looking for these materials or creating their own? That is simply time we can’t afford if we are serious about accelerating student learning post-pandemic (after all, research shows that strong curriculum and instruction improve student learning). The good news is that many organizations – and leading states – are focusing on elevating quality tools. As unprecedented amounts of federal dollars flow to public schools, we can invest in tried-and-true practices proven to help students and educators. And it all starts with classroom instruction.

The field of education has never been more acutely focused on what we teach – and how we teach it. Neither have I.

I’m Jocelyn Pickford – a parent first and foremost. I’m also a school board member up for election in November. I started my career in education as a public high school English teacher and have spent the past couple of decades working in education policy. I like to call myself an aspiring public education expert, because I know how quickly things change in this arena and how important it is to ground myself in practical experience. For me, that experience has never been more challenging.

The pandemic has pushed education front and center in U.S. homes – including mine where I balanced parenting remote and hybrid learners while working from home for most of the last 18 months. From kitchen tables to makeshift bedroom and basement workspaces, families like mine have never had a closer look at student learning – both the content of lessons as well as teachers’ delivery methods. At the same time, the nation’s forced reliance on virtual instruction has pushed educators to search for more and different methods to reach learners online. Meanwhile, a heightened awareness of equity and social justice in our communities has led to heated debates about how these topics present in public schools. These are all issues I’m confronting as a school board member, policy professional, and a parent. And although we are wrestling with weighty challenges, there are quality materials available now that deserve more attention.

That’s why I’m excited to launch this blog as part of Curriculum HQ, a new website highlighting the importance of high-quality instructional materials and professional learning. All my roles in education have shown me that these resources are critical to the success of students, teachers, and families and that all communities should have accessible information about the materials that schools, districts, and states provide and promote. We need to understand what high-quality approaches are, where to find them, and how to advocate for them if they’re missing from our local schools.

That’s what this website is intended to do.

Let me start by clarifying exactly what I’m talking about. You may have heard the acronyms associated with this topic – HQIM or HQPL. This shorthand can be useful in education circles, but this is not a new concept. Teachers use instructional materials in their classrooms every day: they are the textbooks, activities, guiding questions, and home enrichment resources that students use to learn new skills and demonstrate understanding. They are complemented by training for teachers implementing curriculum at school and resources for families supporting learning at home. However, not all tools are created equal – and not all families have equitable access to the most effectives ones.

Leading organizations and campaigns like EdReports, Knowledge Matters, Student Achievement Partners, and others have been highlighting the impact of quality instruction and sharing examples of best practices for many years. With unprecedented attention on teaching and learning — not to mention record levels of new federal funds coming to states and districts — the time to ensure all educators and students have access to strong materials is now.

In the coming months, this blog and website will highlight leading examples of curricular approaches across the states and share tools for ensuring your community’s teachers and students have access to quality materials.

Now is the time to double down on what works in public education. We know learning loss is real. States like Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia are just a few reporting dramatic declines in student achievement through the pandemic. Students, families, educators, district leaders, school board members, and state policymakers all can advocate for proven classroom strategies to help overcome these challenges. Federal COVID relief funding can be immediately invested to accelerate, not remediate, student learning by putting trusted tools where they have the most impact – in the hands of teachers.

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Jocelyn Pickford is an education policy and communications specialist focusing on understanding and promoting practitioner-informed public policy across the private, public and non-profit sectors as a Senior Affiliate with HCM Strategists. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in a regular and special education inclusion classroom and is now a public school parent and member of her local district school board. Previously, Jocelyn led the design, launch and implementation of the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education to integrate teachers into the national education policy dialogue. Jocelyn’s passion for her work was seeded during her own public school education and took root during her classroom teaching experience in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she led action research and presented instructional materials to a variety of audiences. Jocelyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (CT), working as a professional writer and editor prior to becoming a teacher, and obtained her master’s in secondary education from the George Washington University. Jocelyn lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children.