Is your state or district getting ready to approve new preschool curricula? Often times, the process is kicked off with the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP). While the process can vary drastically from place to place, a common element across all RFPs is that there is a lot of waiting, wondering, and worrying.
What programs will be approved? Will your current curriculum make the list? If not, how long will you have to research and choose a new curriculum? What will training look like? And so on...
If you love your existing pre-k program, the thought of having to switch to a new curriculum might come with a sense of dread. If you don’t have a comprehensive pre-k curriculum or don’t love the one you currently use, the chance to review a new list of approved programs may come as a welcome opportunity.
In either case, these six tips can help you stay ahead of the curve while the approval process for new pre-k program gets underway.
1. Spread the word
If you love your existing pre-k program, then make sure it has a chance to make the list by alerting your existing curriculum provider that your state or district is going to begin the process of evaluating new programs.
Don’t assume that the publisher of the program you love is aware of the process. Like anyone, notifications can get lost in email inboxes and important deadlines can be missed. Contacting your curriculum provider about an upcoming RFP is a great way to ensure they participate, which gives you a better chance of keeping the program that you love.
2. Start forming your committee
Once the approved list is released, the hard work of reviewing and evaluating programs begins. The weeks leading up to the announcement are the perfect time to begin identifying possible committee members. Some states and districts seek volunteers while others invite pre-k educators from within the community to apply for the role through an application and interview process.
Whether you’ve been through this process before, or you are new to your position, be sure to become familiar with your district’s existing guidelines and processes to ensure that you follow the right steps to forming your committee.
3. Identify your needs and goals
Familiarizing yourself with the criteria and language of your state’s or district’s RFP can be beneficial. In particular, take note of details like: the timeline, the number of programs that will be approved, the amount of time you will have to evaluate and select a curriculum, and what criteria your state or district is looking for.
Equally important is generating your own criteria. Start thinking about your current approaches to instruction. Ask yourself and others to identify what’s working, what’s not, and where there are currently gaps in learning and instruction. Also try to identify the areas in which you want to see your teachers and students grow? The more specific you can be with the exercise, the more easily you'll be able to recognize and choose a program that aligns with your goals.
4. Tap into your community
A great way to stay knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of various programs is to find out what curriculum others have used. So put your investigative powers to by reaching out to colleagues within your district and around the state.
Keep in mind there may be plenty of curricula that haven’t yet become popular in your state or district. That's because they were published in the years since your last adoption. Private pre-k groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are a great way to tap into the collective experience of educators from around the country and to become aware of these newer solutions.
Feeling a little shy? Not to worry. Conducting some online research using your keywords (the topics or issues that you identified in #3 above) is a great way to learn about curriculum designed to meet your specific needs.
5. Google some possible options
Armed with your list of peer recommendations and search results, it’s time to head to Google to find out which programs you might like. Don’t get hung up on pricing, correlations, and lists of program components yet—your state or district’s approval process will narrow the choices based on these important requirements.
However, assets like guided tours, classroom videos, testimonials, and case studies can give you insight into how a program looks and feels. Pay particular attention to the program’s organizational structure, ease of use, and overall effectiveness. Curious what makes a pre-k program the best? Read this article!
6. Try the instruction for yourself
Most publishing companies offer samplers. A select few will even allow you to try a full theme of instruction to fully experience the program. While you could wait until the approved list is released to test drive a program, the RFP timeline might not give you an opportunity to do so. So just be aware of the overall timeline and any "no contact" rules that your district or state have put in place.
7. Ask for references
Don’t be shy about requesting a list of references for any programs that you are researching. Who better to really tell you about the reality of using a pre-k program than teachers who actually use it?
In conclusion, RFPs and adoptions can be intense. Lots of paperwork, lots of options, and yet not always a lot of time to make a thoughtful decision. Staying ahead of the curve with a little pre-work and research can be super beneficial—empowering yourself and others to make the right choice once the selection process begins.
After all, the curriculum you choose will be used to prepare pre-k students for kindergarten for several years to come.