08 November 2005

When Is Group Process Better Than Just Me?

I made an executive decision recently regarding the upcoming materials adoption process. I've decided not to have the group set the criteria. Time will tell as to whether or not this was a wise choice on my part.

Most of the time these adoption cycles start up, a committee meets, hashes out what the philosophy of things should be and develops associated criteria. Then they go look for programs to match the criteria. I do feel as if this would be a valuable process. Why am I throwing it out? Because we have standards now. We are told what to look for in terms of curriculum and what students whould be able to demonstrate with their work. We are not provided with whatever the best instructional approach is, but this needn't be a lengthy discussion point.

I have adapted a process used by BSCS. We'll have five categories: content, work students do, work teachers do, assessment, and other (cost, material/technology needs, etc.). I have described indicators for each (which reviewers will rate on a scale from 0 - 5 in terms of their presence/quality in the materials) and weighted the categories. I'm hoping that the group will swallow all this without a fuss.

What I haven't done is limit the materials they are allowed to look at. I have nearly 8 different programs for each grade level. There are "traditional" textbook programs...newer unit-based versions...and still other programs that are more concept and inquiry-based. I'm hoping that the group will pick the "concept/inquiry" stuff. You may be thinking that I rigged the rubric in order to make those rise to the top, but I really haven't. Even if I'm directing the criteria, I want teachers to be able to go back to their buildings and tell their cohorts that they had a chance to look at as many different options as we could find---and why we rejected the ones we did. I don't want any "Central Office wouldn't let us..." comments floating around for the next umpty-squat years.

Still, I wonder if I should make the process more open concerning the establishment of the criteria. One of the biggest factors in my decision is really just that of time. Being able to schedule and pay for subs is not easy or cheap. Would I rather have us focus on making the criteria or selecting good materials? Materials wins out in my mind.

We will meet one week from today. I have a bit more time to stew and adjust plans as necessary. I think I've made the right choice.

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